Now I Realize, Monster Inside, Not Soulmates

Now I realize

The road I’d driven on

The one I put on for

Was marvelous, it’s origin is

The genesis of my abiguisness

Is known throughout society

where I was raised through the good and bad of poverty

The hood made me tuff

So the jail walls is a bluff

The person I convey is a bluff too

Inside of the man,

stuck in the can

rust on his shoulders

crust in his eyes

it’s just a kid who met his demise

 

 

Monster Inside

It wasn’t fair that everyone had new shoes

And true religions

I was stuck with baggy jeans and hand me downs

Seem like noone seen me frown

My Pops wasn’t around

Moms was in the streets

Grandmom didn’t know what to think

12-years-old, trying to find manhood

Face 2 Face, with something I knew nothing about

I was destined to fail

White folks misunderstood what they thought

was depression for oppression

Through me in the cage by the time I was free

A monster was formed inside of me

Pissed off at the world, his rage had only grew

When I was free, so was the monster inside of me

I hadn’t known the rules of society

So, it wasn’t long before

The monster and me were tamed again

He needed someone to blame

Because the burden was too heavy for himself

The man in the monster wants freedom

But the monster won’t leave him

There is a war raging between them

I hope the man beats him.

 

Not Soulmates

I’ve been told

What they say, hides

behind our eyes

is our soul

I’ve known since looking

into your eyes,

yours belongs with mine,

For a while it was great,

unbenownest to our fate

We were in love

but not soul mates

 

 

I’ll Smile if you Smile

we were trying to get back to words

as you left me watching as you flew toward the sky

I guess I held too tight to your rope because it broke along with you

but you were already broken when I found you at the end of the road

or was it you who found me at the beginning of the road

im not quite sure anymore

 

I guess it took more than words to bound your wounds

because many didn’t even penetrate the surface

even when I saw you start to crack all I could do was stand back

and i watched the pieces fall i was helpless

I was small

 

I tried to be the hero

I tried to fix your broken bits

but how can you clean up shards of glass if you yourself

are falling through the jagged cracks

 

I cared more for you

then for myself

I asked you

no I begged you to smile

to laugh

to live

 

but you said no

I said I would smile if you did

and I haven’t smiled since

How To Kiss Death

I don’t believe in

History class for the same reason

I don’t believe in

ghosts:

 

maybe, just

maybe if I don’t believe

in it,

it will go away.

maybe, just

maybe if I don’t think about

it,

it will

cease.

to.

exist.

 

History class,

that is.

ghosts will always linger

somewhere. everyone

knows that.

 

it’s not that I don’t

like

History,

it’s just that I don’t…

fine,  I don’t like History class

there. I said it. quote me.

it’s not the teacher or the homework.

(I mean, I get As and B+s)

I study! I have fun!

 

but how do you

believe in something that

you don’t know it positively happened?

yes, evidenceblahblahblah,

but I wasn’t there!

(fine, I’m a narcissist.)

 

and we don’t know it happened!

like we don’t

KNOW that ghosts

really exist!

 

History and ghosts.

two things that go well together:

put in some

Genocide, one cup of

Evil, a teaspoon of

Heroism, a pinch of

War with some sugar on top,

Sugar that tastes like blood.

 

Because that

is

what

History is.

Genocide and Evil (a bit of heroism) and War and Sugary Blood.

and, like Halloween,

Death and ghosts come out

of the shadows

in the night.

but mostly death and

I wish there was a book

in the library, called:

How to Kiss Death

 

and I wish this because most people don’t

understand why they die.

it’s because they won’t accept Death,

because they don’t want to become just another

spot on the map of History

 

page one:

 

there’s no going back,

but once you go back you’re on Death’s list.

suddenly, swiftly, Death will attack.

and then, big and bolded, chapter one: How to Kiss

 

you should wait in the shadows

until Death comes, pitying you,

and you cry from your sore mouth

and bleeding lips and broken heart,

Death will cease your fears and your worries and

Death will Kiss you and all of your dreams will come true and

Death will help you and hurt you and make you better than you ever were and

Death will kill you but it will be worth it and

Death will Kiss you with its salty lips until

Death sucks all of the pain out of you,

Death stops the crying and reverses the clock and

Death will help you-

and then I closed

the book

and

shut

my

eyes

tight.

 

because, well, Death?!

No one wants to think about Death!

 

(oh, but, like, sorry if you’re maybe thinking about death right now…?)

 

and if I don’t think about it,

maybe, maybe it will go away,

Death might sneak back to the dusty corner

it came from, and it might go back from where it came from,

Death might retreat from History and History might not

be full of ghosts and ghosts

might Kiss Death back–

 

but I don’t think about those things,

it’s bad to think about– or is it?

 

is it bad to plan your future,

to remember your past, to acknowledge

the dead who

Kissed Death back

 

yes, it is bad,

yes.

 

maybe, just

maybe if I don’t believe

in it,

it will go away.

maybe, just

maybe if I don’t think about

it,

it will

cease.

to.

exist.

 

but,

it is good to delve in,

for another bite,

another lesson,

another Kiss.

I open the book;

Chapter two:

 

Don’t Resist.

Cartography

No. 1

Awakening, I saw:

The first thing I ever loved was a pigeon through my window, when I was fourteen and hated Juliet because she was my age and had killed herself

And where did that leave me?

Believing that gods were only in love because they wanted to take our curved ribs- if I was made from Adam’s rib, I was cracked

Maybe our womanly ribs were too soft to hold up our bodies, maybe we were bags of jelly scrambling for a foothold, our armour becoming our structure because it doesn’t work;

Our ribs never really protect our hearts.

It turned to watch me, curled by the window, waiting in the darkness like a shark.

One eye fixed on me, red like acrylic paint half dried, glossy yet faded, uneven

And that was the first time I was in love- I loved girls and I wanted boys, like the man who died amongst the bleached bone white sands, unable to chose between love and life, and so I starved

And so I loved

And I like to think it loved me back- but then again it was a very dusty window.

And I was a very romantic little girl.

 

No. 2

My mother:

She was all sharp edges, but delicate as paper, addicted to fire, determined to go down blazing up like a Japanese lantern

A woman who could walk in triangles and never leave the centre.

When she tucked me into my clean comforters, she whispered that there was no such thing as silence, and I held my breath and listened as my heart fluttered against my ribs:

After all our cages protect us and our traditions ground us. I was lost.

 

No. 3

I dreamed:

Once I went to a feast in Jesus’s castle and there was a table piled with food like presents and it smelled beautiful and warm and all emraldy- though I never smelled an emerald; it was what emeralds should smell of- but I didn’t recognise any of it so I sat and starved.

Jesus came up to me- yes, He does wear those sandals- and said it was ok to want to be a man and a woman all at once and gave me grapes nestled next to the canned beers in his fridge.

We talked for a long time about why castles are inconvenient, and He patted my hair and said that this was it and He told me it’s ok to be scared:

“I cried on the cross.”

He really was wonderful. He showed me the tattoo He had gotten because He was mad at His father- a tiny cross hidden by His ear. And He showed me His scars and they were small and unexciting, and I dreamt I showed Him mine although my wrists were at least five years too young.

I told Him I loved Him and He told me sternly I was too young to know what love was, and to tell Him in five years when I had decided whether or not to believe in Him.

I looked for Him but didn’t find him again.

 

No. 4

My room:

A dark place that never failed to surprise me

As if I had been walking in the dark for ages and had only just realised the sea had been crashing down on me on all sides

Monks and zebras floated on clouds in the walls, appearing in the paint sponged thick and chipping.

In the shadows, under the beds, there were always green hairy armed monsters waiting to grab me until I realised that my monsters were much more concrete and much more subtle

Frankenstein told me people are mirror faced and believe in what they reflect, and that love makes you crazy.

Dracula told me flesh and blood didn’t have enough bones

In the dark I cried

My salty sea blood throbbing in my eyes as I dreamed dreams that tormented me in an unfathomable way

Always, I fell

Sometimes I jumped.

Or I fluttered past ladders that spun in the dark

 

No. 5

Upstate, at the cottage:

I danced on the beautiful dock that sliced through the lake- submerged like someone had said

hey, hey, hey

I don’t have enough stone to raise my dock out of the water but fuck it

I can walk out to the middle just the same

So fuck it

I’ll build it anyways.

And he did.

 

No. 6

My mapping is done:

Remember when we were young?

They like to say remember when

but no, no I don’t

I forget because I was young and it is not for the young to remember,

I am not a hard-drive, I am pink icing and blue jelly

That bounces around because it can

Because it hasn’t hardened into bone, because it is buoyant and has no anchor to remind it where the ground is

Because I still have more to know than I have to remember

This is my protest; let me rust.

Soot

As Emily trudged to school, low grey clouds loomed overhead, a precise reflection of her sullen mood. Her backpack weighed heavy on her shoulders as her footsteps scuffed the slimy ground.  Looking down at her muddy, sandaled toes, she wondered if the backpack had been a splurge better suited to her feet.  The mud quickly dried and became unpleasantly hard, caking between her toenails and even fingernails as she tripped over a hidden rock.
At least this should be over by the end of this year, she thought grimly.  Her father said that she could work in the tobacco field with him once she finished tenth grade, and he would homeschool her.
On the other hand, I’m not looking forward to spending more of my time farming.
The few hours she spent a day helping her father in the fields were dull, though at least they weren’t as fraught with confusion and anxiety as her typical school day.
Arriving at school, Emily stepped over the threshold, painfully aware of the mud she was tracking across the linoleum floor.  She noted a new banner hanging across the doorway in bright colors.  The banner read something in Turkish.
Yedinçi Sinef Için Yeni Orğetmen
“Yedinçi Sinef”- That means seventh grade.  “Için” was “for”, and “yeni” was “new”.  The last word was lost on her.
“Or . . . orğet,” she breathed out, trying to fashion some kind of meaning out of the clunky sounds in her mouth.
“Move it,” a kid growled behind her in Turkish.  He was a Turk who had been born in Germany and moved here because of his parents, both of whom worked in the U.N.  They were nice enough; their kid wasn’t, still resentful about having to move to this cash-strapped place.
Emily quickly moved out of the way and muttered an insincere apology under her breath.

The bell rang, and Emily headed to her first class, where the teacher handed out a paper Emily could have sworn was meant to be gibberish and told them to write their name as the inspirational posters plastered over the peeling paint stared at her judgingly.  Simple enough, but Emily hated the task.
Grudgingly, Emily printed her name on the paper, wondering for not the first time why her parents had given her a Western name.  With her friends, she still stubbornly referred to herself with a Kurdish name.
 An American name won’t take away our poverty, so why bother?
She looked at the empty seats- two to her right, five in the front of the room, and four in the back,  Ten of the students in her class had dropped out of school to work.  The sixth had been kidnapped by the PKK, a radical Kurdish party.  Still safe, most likely, but Emily didn’t know for how much longer.
Looking around at the other five empty seats, Emily thought about how she’d be a member of that club in just a few months.  She was lucky, though: unlike the people in the five empty seats, she had a job she could go to, instead of trying to conjure one out of thin air.
She still wasn’t sure if farming was better than school.
Picking up her backpack for the next class, Emily went through the hallway, sticking close to the stone wall to avoid the jealous looks of the people who didn’t have predetermined jobs.  There were a lot.
In the next class, this one with a multitude of posters depicting each letter of the alphabet with a corresponding picture, Emily sat down next to her friend Aran, whose older brother also owned a tobacco farm.  The teacher began his daily mantra of  ¨In order to learn, you must speak Turkish fluently.¨
¨Yes,¨ murmured Emily to Aran in Kurdish, ¨Because it’s so easy to learn another language.¨
The teacher shot them a glare.
Aran giggled.
“You must pay attention to me,” began the teacher, cutting himself off when he realized Aran was giving him a questioning look.  “You must pay attention to to me!¨ he repeated, louder.
“I don’t get why he thinks that repeating the same thing louder is going to make us understand it,” remarked Aran.
“Because he’s a teacher,” replied Emily.  Which was true, in a sense.  All of the teachers in the school acted a lot like this one did.
On the way home, walking with Aran, Emily pondered possible responses for the teacher, until laughter formed inside both of them and bubbled out of their mouths, bubbles that burst as soon as they reached Emily’s home.
Most of the field was black and burnt, and, in the middle of it were the crumbling, sooty remains of her house.  A sharp scent of smoke filled the air.
Emily blinked, and blinked again.   As if the destruction in front of her was just a heat haze that would disappear if she wished hard enough.
She squeezed her eyes shut.  That’s not real.  That’s not real.  She opened her eyes,

A black chunk of the roof fell off
Where was her father?
Oh!  He was working in the fields.  That was it; he had to be. There was no way his body could lay in the middle of that wreck.
Next to her, Aran whimpered.  “What happened?”
“I don’t know.”  Her voice was strangely free of emotion.
For several minutes, they stood in silence, watching the place Emily had spent half her life crumble to dust.
Emily stepped into the field and headed straight for the house.
“Wait! The house isn’t safe anymore!”
“And?”
“You might get hurt,” said Aran, with an equally puzzled and concerned expression.
Emily stalked off without bothering to answer.   A section of the house fell to the ground right before her.  Emily simply trod over it and continued on.
The inside was new-moon dark. Emily made her way through the shadowed hallways to what was- well, used to be-  her room.  Almost all of her belongings had burned.  She picked up all that had survived; a small, battered doll.   It had black hair, burnt by the fire, and tan skin.  Her heart felt like it had been scooped out with a rusty spoon, leaving the remaining part to fester.  Emily backed out of the room.  The soot and ash was making it hard to breathe.   She was already taking ragged gasps.  The smell of charred wood and fabric clogged her nose.  She fled down the hallway.  Her sandaled feet scuffed on the ashen floor.
Suddenly, her toes struck some sort of obstacle, sending her sprawling.  Clumsily she got up, looked at what she had tripped over, and promptly screeched.  It was a corpse, almost burnt beyond recognition, but the battered rusted necklace chain sticking out of his pockets, her mother’s favorite piece of jewelry before she died, was more than enough for her to identify it as her father.
A mixture of emotions churned in her heart gathered and coalesced into a giant lump in her throat.  She lay across the body and hugged it, moisture forming in the corners of her eyes.  She didn’t bother to fight it.
After a period of time that could have been a few hours or a few heartbeats, Emily reluctantly got up.
A glimmer in the side of the hallway cut off her train of thought.  She picked the source of the glimmer up, inspecting it in the palm of her hand.  It was a small, indented device with fins at the end.  Slowly, she recognized as a piece of a cluster bomb-her father had taught her about those-that was specifically designed to start fires.
She turned the object in her hand, suddenly noticing some words printed on the sides.  PROPERTY OF THE TURKISH REPUBLIC, it said.  Emily clenched it in her hand.  She felt the fire that had burned her house and father sear in her heart, scorching away the grief and frustration, all the while burning across the red-hot coals of her anger.
Emily emerged from the once-house, blinking at her bright surroundings.
“Are . . . are you okay?”  Aran asked tentatively.   She stood halfway across the field, the burnt tobacco reaching halfway up to her knee.
Walking to meet Aran,  Emily handed her friend the bomblet.
“Oh.”
Emily left.  Her urge to do something, to hurt someone, was overwhelming.  She didn’t want to drag Aran into it and hurt her.
The mud squelched beneath her feet as she walked away.  She had no idea which direction she was going, nor did she care.    The mud eventually gave way to grass, then to hard dirt.  The sun was filtered out by the canopy overhead.  The ground was rocky, but it looked inviting; she had been walking for who knew how long.
No, I can’t think of sitting down.  I have to get revenge . . .
Somehow.
The bus arrived perhaps an hour before the moon was due to touch the horizon.  It was small, filled with an acrid scent of exhaust and covered in graffiti, just like its station.  The bus driver didn’t seem surprised that his only passenger that night was a child covered in dirt and carrying no luggage.  He just asked for his money- it turned out the bus was going to Erzincan, which, she remembered from her geography lessons, was a city on the way to Ankara.  She handed him his fee, fifteen lira, and sank down onto the torn upholstery, trying to ignore the parched feeling in her mouth and the growling in her stomach. She fell into a light sleep.
A few hours later, the sun’s bright rays woke her.  She tried to close her eyes, but even then her eyelids were filled with an unpleasant shining red.  So she grudgingly blinked them open, wiping away the goop.
The bus halted suddenly, lurching forward.
“Sorry!”  the bus driver called out from the front.
Looking around, Emily noticed several other people had joined the bus.  A man sitting behind her was holding his nose over some offensive smell.  Emily hoped it wasn’t her.
But when the bus came to a stop and she got out, Emily was forced outside her reveries.  She had six lira left, she realized.  That would barely cover water.  She wouldn’t have enough money for food. And transportation?  Forget it.
She noticed with interest how people passed the beggars on the sidewalk. They either plowed ahead, gaze fixed on the horizon, or slowed to barely a crawl, head bowed.  Either way, all of them pretended they didn’t see the beggars.  Perhaps they didn’t.  Perhaps they were so used to the sight of beggars that the ratty clothes became just another blot on the sidewalk, with only their subconcious registering the faintest amount of guilt.
 Still, though, the beggars had somehow accrued some money.  Emily responded to observance with disgust.  No way!  I’m not going to beg!
 You could always take their money.
At this statement, she could almost feel her body divide and fight within itself.  On the one hand, she really needed the money.  On the other hand, taking valuable objects from people who also really needed them was morally questionable, to say the least.
She still really needed the money.
So against her conscience’s objections, she waited until the dead of night, when her stomach was screaming with hunger, and quickly snatched up a small plastic cup filled with lira next to a person stretched out on the sidewalk.  Her heart was palpitating, though there was no one in sight.
I have to get out of this place.  Nothing was going to be open at this hour, anyway.  She would have to wait to buy food.  There was a city, Sivas, she remembered, on the way to Ankara.  She knew there would one station for buses going to Sivas in the cluster of stations in the center of the city.
The moon began to rise and, as the sky lightened as she waited at the bus station, Emily got more and more fidgety.  While she knew there was no way she could be recognized as the person who took the money, that didn’t stop her guilty conscience from forcing wild dreams of the person’s vengeance on her.
 Once the moon touched the horizon, Emily got up and began to pace back and forth.
 Please come now, please come now, please come now . . .
As the sun arrived and as Emily’s heart began to reach a record number of beats per minute over the imagined possibility of an omniscient angry homeless guy, a bus came.  The doors had barely opened when Emily ran onto it, bouncing on her heels and glancing around.  She had gotten halfway down the mostly empty bus before she remembered to give the driver his fee.  Guiltily, she dug into the cup, careful not to reveal it to anyone, and handed the driver his fee, ten lira again.
As she made her way down the bus aisle, she noticed several people wrinkling their noses.  This time, Emily didn’t bother to hope it wasn’t her.  She had been wearing the same battered clothes for two days now, through mangled buses and filth-covered alleys. Of course she would be the source of the smell.
As Emily sat down, the bus lurched forward.  Bile rose in her throat.  If only she’d had enough money to take the train.

It took three hours to get to Sivas.  Three horrendous hours.  Emily tried to sleep, but her body decided that the few hours of sleep yesterday were plenty..  So she was left staring at the blue-with-a-purple-floral design fabric of the seat in front of her, doing her best to not descend into grief or despair.  She couldn’t think about going home and hugging her dad, or even just sitting in her room.  Most of all, she couldn’t think about why she couldn’t do that.
 That worked about as well as you’d expect.
 Just a few minutes into the bus ride, her emotions were churning once again, both freezing and burning her heart, until Emily decided that the freezing was far too uncomfortable.  So she let the coals burn, and exited the bus with a scowl and a searing heart.
 Apparently, the city center wasn’t too far far, because even at her weak jog, she reached what appeared to be the main plaza in a few moments.  But while the plaza and the mosques around it were intricately designed and beautiful by anyone’s standards, they weren’t what caught Emily’s eye.
A bit farther down, past the mosques and commercial buildings, was a building that wasn’t much more than ash, a building that reminded Emily of the place she had spent her life.
Blinking, she forced away the memories and approached the building in an almost trance.
Emily shook her head.
Okay, what did that?  The damage looked like it had been caused by a giant version of an incendiary bomb.
 Approaching the building, Emily saw that there were men giving out pamphlets that she assumed told about what happened at this site.  She glanced longingly at them, knowing that she wouldn’t understand a good chunk of the pamphlets, and chose instead to eavesdrop on a nearby tour.
It took just a minute or two of listening for her to glean that the building had been burned down because one religious faction had disliked another religious faction that was performing in the building.
Do extremists have nothing better to do?
She turned on her heel to look for transportation to Ankara.

Something was tugging at her shirtsleeve.  It was annoying and insistent.  But Emily couldn’t be bothered to summon up the effort to turn around and look at the source.
 “Tired,”  she mumbled thickly.  The word was heavy in her mouth.  She vaguely remembered having stumbled into an alley in Ankara and falling into an exhausted sleep.
 The tugging continued.
 Grudgingly, Emily looked up.
 A man was towering over her.  His features were blurry, but slowly coming into focus.
 “Ma’am, I’d like you to come with me,” he said.

Emily’s eyes snapped open.  “Why?”  she asked defensively.
He stared at her.  Sunlight glinted off a gun he held in his holster.
Emily gulped and stood up.
“All right, I’ll come.”

Not like I have much choice, she thought, eyeing the gun warily and wondering what sort of place would require an armed escort.
The place she was being taken, unsurprisingly, proved to be as unpleasant as the escort, a building comprised of not much more than a large room full of beds and peeling green paint.  Most spots were occupied, marked by dirty grey blankets and a sour stench.  She was pushed by the guard to an empty bed in a corner.  Not knowing what else to do, Emily plopped down and waited.  No thoughts crossed her mind.  The guard left the room.
She sat for hours on the edge of the bed without thinking. Even when a man dropped a bag full of toiletries and clothing on her bed, she took no notice. The sun had started to set before a single thought appeared in her mind:  What am I doing here?
She had set out with the vague goal of revenge, but it had been well-fueled, and still was.  Emily scowled.
A small, rational voice in her head began to criticize Emily’s choice, but was quickly overridden by the wave of emotion that went They killed my family!
Cold seething anger was really good for plotting.
Emily began to consider her revenge.

She listed in her mind all the options she had to inflict the most possible harm before realizing that she had no weapons nor any idea how to get one.
Well, fists were good enough.
And she knew where she wanted to go: the main government building.
The only trouble left was trying to figure out how to get inside the building, a bit of a problem, mainly because Emily didn’t know where the building was to start with.  Well, that can wait until later, Emily thought, lying down on her bed and falling asleep without bothering to clean herself up.
It seemed like seconds later that the sun began streaming through the window.  Emily simply rolled over and went back to sleep.  After all, while she had something to do, she also had all the time in the world.

The sun was halfway down the sky when Emily finally got up and cleaned herself.  The soap was scant, she noticed, but it would do.
With some glee, she noticed a map.  That should tell her exactly where all the buildings were.
She opened the map quickly, fumbling with the paper.  At the the top was a warning about the PKK.  Didn’t I see that before?  Emily thought.  Oh, well. She had other things to do.
The map was rather simple.  It took about a few minutes for Emily to locate the closest major government building, and it would only twenty more for her to walk there.  The trouble was now getting in.
But leaving the shelter, Emily noticed something.  A heap of smelly blankets on a bed, moaning softly.
She promised to herself that she would never become a pile of blankets.
At the building, Emily decided to tag along on a tour of extremely well-dressed people.  They entered the well-dressed hallways.  The tour guide pointed out various portraits and decorations and the meanings behind them, which Emily didn’t care for.  Finally, the tour guide mentioned that there was an “important government meeting” behind the door on her right, which Emily did care for.  She hung back, pretending to observe the walls, until the tour was out of sight. She stared at the door that rich officials sat behind and pulled her lips back in an animal-like grimace.  Her heart felt like it would explode with the sheer force of hate.
 You’ll pay.
 She barged through the door.  There was a table full of crisply dressed people, all wearing suits and yelling unintelligible words.
 Emily punched one.
 On second thought, that hadn’t been a very good idea.
 It should have been expected that there were guards of some sort.
 It should have been expected that the guards would fire on what was clearly an attack.
 There certainly wasn’t time to dodge, but there was time to think.
 To notice the chart in the corner talking about the PKK.  To remember that the PKK was an organization currently fighting the government.  The one on the map, and the one on the second cluster bomb.
She hadn’t been targeted.  Just caught in the middle of a war.  And she hadn’t been seeking revenge, either.  Just escaping.  Escaping from the life she had thought to be trapped in, then escaping from the sooty remains of that life.
 Bullets didn’t travel that fast after all.

Animal Wedding

The young doe looked spectacular in her snowy dress, its train gliding elegantly across the carpeted floor.  Her chestnut coat was scrubbed to a shine, and she hardly made a sound as she was walked down the aisle in her white booties.

All of the guests had been dressed in only the finest attire and were gossiping madly about the new couple:

Black top hats had been fitted onto the prickly heads of the three porcupines, and the two portly walruses were adorned with monocle and cane.

The lioness exhibited a scarlet gown that had been living in a closet all year, waiting for just this kind of occasion, and the penguins wore seersucker button-downs.

The egret was delighted to show off his navy blue herringbone suit, even though it made him quite hungry; the caimans grinned devilishly in houndstooth.

The tyrannosaurus watched the whole procession from afar, downcast because he was not invited (at the capuchin’s bat mitzvah, he had eaten all of the mini quiches).

No one acknowledged that sad, skeletal monstrosity:

The red river hogs were too busy fighting over a pair of Prada heels.

Four bighorn sheep were butting their way to the front row of fold-up chairs in plaid slacks.

One fun-loving grizzly in a neon blazer made her way through the noisy crowd, asking the partygoers for their phone numbers.

The gibbon boasted a polka-dotted bow tie; his velvety arms stretched outwards to hold a Bible.  He was to be the officiator of this holy matrimony.

And it was impossible to ignore the blue whale who hovered cheerfully over them all in a slim-fitting, yellow blouse.

The human stood beaming at the end of the aisle in his blue coveralls, proud of his work.  Everything was in place, and his bride looked as gorgeous as ever.  He loved the way her furry ears poked out from under the shimmering veil, the way her lifeless eyes reflected his own.

But of course! He had forgotten: she needed to be standing.

Bob – for that was the human’s name – rearranged his fiancé’s corpse so that she stood upright on her two hind legs.  He gave her a kiss on the cheek and then fussed with her body some more.  After making sure she was stable, he hurried over towards the entrance doors to close them; this was to be a relatively private affair.

Bob hummed “Here Comes the Bride” to drown out the clamor of his pounding heart.  His low voice bounced off of the emptied glass enclosures and echoed throughout the museum.

He returned to his betrothed and took his place with her under the altar.  He awaited the gibbon’s blessings, frowned when he did not receive them, and then pried the holy book from the animal’s cold hands to read from it himself.

The groom cleared his throat nervously and wiped the sweat off of his forehead.  “Dearly beloved.”

He stopped and took a deep breath.

“Dearly beloved: we are gathered here today to celebrate–”  A surge of nausea swept over him.  He closed the Bible.

Moonlight poured through the large windows and illuminated the faces of the invitees.

The human, standing before a sea of statues, decided to speak his mind.

“We are gathered here today to celebrate our kinship.  We are gathered to celebrate our kinship,” he repeated for emphasis, “because, in today’s world, each human is an island; because my mother cares for me no more than my co-workers do; because people ignore each other on the subway.  Love is but a game of cards we play to distract ourselves from the unrelenting ennui of our daily lives.  Win some, lose some – It’s all the same.

“Everything is so horribly fickle, but we eat it all up so willingly.  This great city is populated by a mass of walking and talking museums.  Each dinner, each movie, each fuck is awarded its own habitat.”

Bob beat his fist on his breast.  He was stronger now.

“And they are be well-maintained habitats at that.”

He inhaled deeply.

“My friends, we are gathered here today to witness a real marriage of two very real individuals.”

Bob turned to his intended and produced a silver ring he had purchased at a stoop sale for two dollars and fifty cents.  On it, Claudia was inscribed.

The groom’s words were smooth and rehearsed.  “This ring is a token of my love.  I marry you with this ring, with all that I have and all that I am.”

He took her hoof gently with his free hand and tried slipping the band onto it, but to no avail.

Bob glared determinately at the ring, then at the doe, and then back at the ring in sincere contemplation.  He did this for quite a while before he fell to the floor with a pained sigh.

But wait!  Maybe…

The human pounded the dainty piece of jewelry against his bride’s foot.  Hard.  Then her ankle.  Then her thigh.  Her neck.  The side of her face.

No.  It had all made sense in his head.  His darling’s fur was disheveled, and bruises decorated her figure.

Bob’s knuckles stung; so did his quiet tears.  He flung the wedlock’s consummation across the dark hall.  It tottered aggressively, but only for a moment, before becoming inanimate once more.

 

 

A Prayer for Elizabeth

 

Scene 1

(Scene opens. JULIAN is sitting at a desk in his empty bedroom there is a stack of books and a pair of headphones on the floor)

 

JULIAN

Dear Elizabeth. I had a crap day at school today. Some moron bumped into me after I got my lunch and my tuna salad spilled all over my shirt. The Grateful Dead one with the stripes. I was gonna throw it out anyway because the skulls scared Amy. Amy’s a grown ass woman and she can’t handle a skull? But like whatever, I’ll get a new one. I’ll get twelve new ones. I’ll buy every single fucking skull shirt just to piss off Amy.

 

(JULIAN kicks his headphones on the ground)

 

(The stage goes dark, the light goes up to CLAIRE in an empty room kneeling with her hands clasped looking up)

 

CLAIRE

Dear God. I am asking for your forgiveness. I missed church this morning.

 

(CLAIRE looks down sorrowfully, then looks back up)

 

CLAIRE

But in my defense it was for an entirely worthy cause! You see, last night there was a boy, a very troubled boy, my neighbor actually, he was in an unhealthy state of… intoxication and he needed to find his way home. When I had returned home after bringing him back safely, It was very late and I forgot to set my alarm and by the time I had awoken from my post-rescue slumber my family had already left for church.

(CLAIRE takes a deep breath)

I realize that my actions were unjustifiable, but all I can ask for now is forgiveness. God bless that boy’s poor soul. And his family’s too. God bless Mother, Father and Gregory. In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 

Scene 2

(the scene opens with JULIAN, AMY and CARSON sitting around a table)

 

AMY

Julian, elbows off the table.

 

(Julian looks up, and then back down while his elbows remain on the table)

 

AMY

Julian, did you hear me?

 

JULIAN

Yes Amy, I heard you.

 

CARSON

Then why are your elbows on the damn table?

 

(AMY rests her hand on CARSON’s shoulder to calm him. JULIAN removes his elbows from the table)

 

CARSON

You weren’t at church today.

 

(JULIAN shrugs)

 

JULIAN

I overslept.

 

AMY

It’s never too late to reach out to God.

 

JULIAN

Bullshit.

 

AMY

Julian! Carson, how can you sit by and allow this behavior?

 

CARSON

Julian, go to your room.

 

JULIAN

Gladly.

 

(JULIAN stands and pushes his chair out of way)

 

AMY

Make your bed and tidy up the living room, will you? We’re having dinner guests.

 

(JULIAN exits)

 

AMY (calling after JULIAN)

The living room is that way!

 

(AMY points stage left, then rolls her eyes. AMY stands and pushes in her chair)

 

CARSON

Dinner guests?

 

AMY
Robert, Janette and their children. Carson sweetie we already went over this!

 

PAUSE

 

AMY

I’ll be in the kitchen doing the dishes. Talk to your child, please?

 

(CARSON and AMY exit in different directions)

 

Scene 3

 

(JULIAN is sitting at a desk holding a journal)

 

JULIAN

Dear Elizabeth, It’s March 27th. Exactly two and a half years since you died. 21,914 hours.

(Pause)

I haven’t slept in days. Last night, I was lying in bed, and I shut my eyes, and I cried. I cried because I miss you. I cried because I need you and because I’m hurting. I cried because (BEAT) sometimes I think you wanted us to get hurt. I cried because you didn’t love us-me, you didn’t love me enough to stay. I cried because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do, Elizabeth.

 

(The stage does dark, the light raises on CLAIRE on the ground with her hands clasped)

 

CLAIRE

Dear God, it’s March 27th. Exactly 11 days since I got my braces off. 264 hours. I was the last one in the 9th grade to have their braces off, but I have interpreted that as a sign. You were testing my patience, and I remained faithful, even in my darkest hour when I almost bit Dr. Kalswell. Thank you for blessing me with beautiful teeth, if only the same would happen with Gregory. God bless his youthful soul. God bless mother, and father and the great state of Ohio!

 

Scene 4

(The scene opens with a dimly lit room with a long table stage right. CARSON is sitting at the head of table. ROBERT, JULIAN and GREGORY are sitting on the left side of the table, JANETTE, CLAIRE and AMY are sitting on the left side. They are eating.)

 

ROBERT

Amy, this very well might be the best roast beef in all of Columbus.

 

JANETTE

You’re gonna have to fight me for that title!

 

(Laughter)

 

AMY

Thank you Robert. It’s always a pleasure to have you and your family over. Isn’t it Carson?

 

CARSON

Um, yes yes. Lovely company. Robert, have you finalized that deal with the Roger’s?

 

ROBERT

I’m trying. But with a bit more urgency this time. After we lost the big sale in Cleveland-

 

JANETTE

Business is not for the table.

 

(JANETTE adjusts the napkin on her lap)

 

JANETTE

Julian, look at how you’ve matured! Is that facial hair, I see?

 

(JULIAN looks down. CARSON, ROBERT, JANETTE and AMY laugh)

 

AMY

You would see him more if he left his room and went to church. You know, Julian, you would have liked last week’s sermon.

 

ROBERT

Ladies, can’t you see you’re embarrassing the poor boy?

 

JANETTE

I remember when you were just a little boy and you used to have that grand swing set in your yard! Can you believe it’s been four years since we moved?

 

ROBERT

Four wonderful years!

 

CARSON

Has it really been so long?

 

ROBERT

Well we reconnected after Elizabeth-

 

JANETTE

Robert!

 

CARSON (softly)

No, no it’s alright.

 

AMY

Julian, how about you show Gregory and Claire your bedroom? (to ROBERT) he has lots of fun posters.

 

(JULIAN looks at CARSON, sighs and then stands, pushes in his chair and begins to exit)

 

JULIAN (to GREGORY and CLAIRE)

You coming?

 

(GREGORY, CLAIRE and JULIAN exit)

 

ROBERT

Carson I didn’t mean to-

 

CARSON

No, no it’s alright. She was always a big hit with dinner guests. I don’t know if you remember but five years ago, we hosted a new years party. She bought a karaoke machine and the two of us belted out Elton John the whole night long.

 

(AMY stands and removes two plates from the table. JANETTE stands)

 

JANETTE

Amy let me give you a hand with those dishes.

 

AMY

Oh, thank you.

 

JANETTE

Now, you just have to tell me where you got those shoes! I haven’t seen pumps like those since my college years!

 

(AMY and JANETTE continue their conversation silently while walking stage left. The light shifts to CARSON and ROBERT)

 

ROBERT

I like her.

 

CARSON

Pardon?

 

ROBERT

Amy, the girl, I like her. She’s a keeper.

 

CARSON

Yeah, shes great. Plus she makes a mean roast beef!

 

ROBERT

She’s also easy on the eyes

 

(ROBERT and CARSON laugh)

 

ROBERT

So, you haven’t made it official?

 

CARSON

What?

 

ROBERT

You know, I don’t see a ring

 

CARSON

Oh, well we haven’t really thought too much about-

 

ROBERT

Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that you two have been living together for almost a year now. Right?

 

CARSON

Yeah, it’s just that…I guess I don’t think we’re ready.

 

ROBERT

It’s the sex, isn’t it?

 

CARSON

What? No. – I mean

 

ROBERT

You can be honest, I won’t judge. God won’t judge.

 

CARSON

What’s this God bullshit coming out of your mouth? You haven’t gone to church since the stone age. (PAUSE) And the fact of the matter is, I’m just not ready for that kind of commitment. I mean (PAUSE) marriage? It just feels too soon.

 

ROBERT

Elizabeth has been gone for what; 3 years?

 

CARSON

Two and a half. Exactly two and half, this day.

 

ROBERT

Do you hear yourself Carson? You’re stuck in the past. Now I know this is not my place, but hear me out when I say that the girl won’t stick around much longer if she knows theres not gonna be any commitment.

 

CARSON

I didn’t say there wasn’t gonna be commitment, I just said not yet.

 

ROBERT

You’re just scared.

 

CARSON

Don’t tell me how I feel. I’m not scared, I’m just not …ready, alright?

 

ROBERT

Fine, fine. I’m just saying, a single man of your age, it’s difficult to find a decent woman

 

CARSON

You did pretty well yourself with Janette.

 

ROBERT

Oh shes wonderful, until she blows all my money on stretching out her forehead and making her mouth bigger.

 

(They laugh)

 

ROBERT

But seriously, if she wants get herself a job and spend her own money on those colorful powder sets, be my guest! But my money? Hell, I have a family to provide for!

 

CARSON

Women, (sigh) truly a species of their own.

 

Scene 5

 

(ROBERT is sitting on the bed. CLAIRE is sitting on the ground holding a poster. JULIAN is lying on the ground with his headphones in, listening to music)

 

CLAIRE (to JULIAN)

You call these fun posters?

 

(CLAIRE holds up a Led Zeppelin poster. JULIAN removes his headphones)

 

JULIAN

It’s vintage

 

CLAIRE

It’s ugly

 

JULIAN

You just don’t know good music

 

CLAIRE

I know plenty of good music

 

JULIAN

You’re young and seemingly uncultured.

 

CLAIRE

You have no right to speak to me that way!

 

(CLAIRE folds her arms)

 

JULIAN

Listen little girl, if your gonna throw a fit I’ll gladly show you the door

 

CLAIRE

Your parents would not be pleased to hear of your lack of hospitality.

 

JULIAN

(mockingly) ‘My parents’ don’t give a shit as to how ‘hospitable’ I am.

 

CLAIRE

With language like that it’s no wonder I don’t see you at church.

 

JULIAN

You’re one of those Jesus freaks?

 

CLAIRE

Jesus freaks? You can’t call me that just because I don’t waste my life with alcohol like you.

 

(JULIAN sits up, and looks to GREGORY)

 

JULIAN (to CLAIRE)

Keep it down, will ya?

 

CLAIRE (to GREGORY)

Gregory, will you help mother with the dishes?

 

GREGORY

But I don’t want to

 

CLAIRE

Gregory, dishes. now.

 

GREGORY

But I-

 

CLAIRE

Gregory when you go to hell because you wouldn’t help the woman who gave you the gift of life-

 

GREGORY

Fine. But I’m telling mother that you yelled at me

 

(GREGORY exits before CLAIRE gets a chance to respond)

 

CLAIRE

He can be so annoying sometimes. Like people need to learn not to talk back to-

 

JULIAN

You’re not going to tell anyone.

 

CLAIRE

What?

 

JULIAN

Tell anyone about our run-in last night and I swear to God I will find you and-

 

CLAIRE

And what? I don’t even think you remember what happened last night because you were too busy regurgitating everything ever on to my new blouse. Just saying. Plus, you should be thanking me for practically saving your life.

 

JULIAN

Saving my life?

 

(JULIAN laughs)

 

CLAIRE

It’s not a joking matter! You could have had alcohol poisoning and died! And no one could have been there to save your dying soul.

 

JULIAN

What do you know about alcohol poisoning? Better yet- what do you know about soul? What are you, eleven?

 

CLAIRE

I’m a petite fifteen! And I refused to be treated unjustly due to my appearance.

 

JULIAN

Listen, kid. You stay out of my business and I’ll stay out of yours-

 

JANETTE (from off stage)

Claire, come down sweetie. It’s time to go.

 

CLAIRE

Well this has been pleasant

 

(CLAIRE exits)

 

JULIAN (calling after CLAIRE)

Wait, kid! Um, Claire! We never made our agreement.

 

Getting Ready

Characters:

TRUMAN – A senior in high school who is in the middle of a pre-college crisis. He is struggling to find a true sense of independence.

DIANE – A sophomore in high school who witnesses Truman’s crisis unfold and lets him take up as much space as he needs to. She is a caring sister who is surprisingly wiser and more mature than her brother.

(We see TRUMAN fixing his hair in the bathroom. DIANE enters and bangs on the bathroom door with her umbrella.)

DIANE

Hey, Truman. Are you in there?

TRUMAN

No.

DIANE

Come on, it’s raining like crazy outside.

TRUMAN

Sorry.

DIANE

Are you still getting ready?

TRUMAN

Don’t come in.

DIANE

Mom and Dad say we have to go now.

TRUMAN

I’m not ready.

DIANE

Your hair looks fine.

TRUMAN

Let me fix it.

DIANE

Shouldn’t I be the one who takes an hour to get ready?

TRUMAN

I don’t know. Should you?

DIANE

Look, I’m coming in there and–

TRUMAN

You better not. I’m taking a shit in here.

DIANE

You just said you were fixing your hair.

TRUMAN

I can multitask.

DIANE

I don’t buy it. I’m going in.

(DIANE enters the bathroom.)

DIANE

Just as I thought. Bravo.

TRUMAN

You’re so annoying. Get out.

DIANE

No, you’re the annoying one. I’m hungry. I want pizza. Your hair looks fine.

TRUMAN

Just let me fix it.

DIANE

What’s the special occasion?

TRUMAN

None of your business, Diane. Go back outside.

DIANE

No! Tell me now or else I’m calling Mom and Dad and they’ll ask you about your personal issues instead.

TRUMAN

Fine. Emily is going to be at the pizza place celebrating Charlie’s birthday.

DIANE

And if you come in there with fantastic hair, she’ll take one look at you– her fifth grade boyfriend– and dump Charlie right then and there, on his birthday and everything. Because she can’t hide her love for you any longer.

TRUMAN

Very funny.

DIANE

Seriously, Truman. You need to get real here.

TRUMAN

I can’t get real here.

DIANE

Why do you still think about Emily?

TRUMAN

Because we’re perfect for each other.

DIANE

Don’t give me any bullshit.

TRUMAN

Well, it’s true. She lives right across the street and her dad and our dad have played golf together for years.

DIANE

And you want Dad’s approval, so if you date Emily then you think you’ll get it.

TRUMAN

Maybe.

DIANE

(pointing her umbrella at him and tapping his shoulder with it) I knew it.

TRUMAN

(pushing the umbrella away from his shoulder) He was proud of me in fifth grade, when I was so good at baseball and wore that Penn sweatshirt every day.

DIANE

But now he’s not.

TRUMAN

And it sucks, but I don’t want to go to Penn. I shouldn’t have to go. Brown is a great school, too.

DIANE

I agree. Why should it matter?

TRUMAN

It shouldn’t, but it does to Dad. Apparently, if I went to Brown, then I wouldn’t be “keeping up his legacy.”

DIANE

So you think if you do some of the things you did in fifth grade then you’ll win him over again? Even though Dad’s been dead set on you going to the same school he went to since you could walk, you think that if you get a new girlfriend that he likes, all his disappointment in you will be magically washed away.

TRUMAN

Pretty pathetic when you put it like that, isn’t it?

DIANE

Yeah, so will you quit this Emily bullshit? Just go to Penn if you’re really that desperate for Dad to be proud of you again.

TRUMAN

But I should stick to my principles, right?

DIANE

Right.

TRUMAN

Even if Dad hates me for it?

DIANE

Oh my God, Truman. It’s time to build a bridge and get over yourself, my friend. Make a choice.

TRUMAN

I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of time before I have to either accept Penn or Brown.

DIANE

Honestly, if that’s your biggest problem in life then you’re doing just fine.

TRUMAN

Well, I’d like to see how you handle this in a couple of years.

DIANE

Trust me. I will never have to handle this.

TRUMAN

Seriously–

DIANE

Just make a decision. Follow your heart. I want pizza. Can’t you think about this later?

TRUMAN

(sarcastic) Wow, impressive. I have it all figured out now. You should be a shrink.

DIANE

Actually, I did psychoanalyze you quite well, especially given that it only took me a minute to catch on to what your crisis is this time.

TRUMAN

What’s “this time” supposed to mean?

DIANE

Nothing. You just take up a lot of space sometimes. But that’s okay. We love you for it.

TRUMAN

What?

DIANE

Anyway, you know it’s not Emily anymore.

TRUMAN

Wait. Can you repeat what you just said before? About me taking up a lot of space?

DIANE

I didn’t mean it like that.

TRUMAN

It’s fine. I’m not asking because I’m mad at you for saying it. I just want to know what you meant.

DIANE

Okay. I mean that you’re debating between Penn and Brown because Daddy wants you to go to Penn but you’re leaning toward Brown. Some people are worried about getting into any college at all– like me– so you should be happy about getting into two Ivy League schools.

TRUMAN

You’re going to get into college.

DIANE

Well maybe I’m not. Dad never told me that he wanted me to go to Penn because he knows that I would never be able to get in.

TRUMAN

That’s not true. I think it’s just different with daughters, that’s all.

DIANE

No, that’s not it. I’m not smart.

TRUMAN

That’s not true. You’re smarter than me right now because you’re able to help me solve my problems when I can’t even figure it out.

DIANE

But I don’t get good grades. I’m not really good at much, to be honest. So that’s why he doesn’t put pressure on me like he does with you.

TRUMAN

Believe me, you don’t want Dad putting pressure on you.

DIANE

Not saying that I do, but I would trade with you in a second. Your problem isn’t as big as you think it is.

TRUMAN

True.

DIANE

All you have to do is get some independence. And that’s easy for an eighteen-year-old guy to do.

TRUMAN

I guess so.

DIANE

So just try to do the right thing. And I know we both know what that is.

TRUMAN

What is it?

DIANE

You’re not a fifth grader who’s going to be satisfied as long as Dad is proud of him. You’re a senior in high school now and you’re going to be great out there. It’s your life so you’ve gotta take control.

TRUMAN

Thanks. I know you’re right.

DIANE

Me too.

TRUMAN

I’m going to Brown. But hey, forget about me. You wanted pizza, right?

DIANE

You don’t even know.

TRUMAN

Yeah, let’s focus on you now.

(TRUMAN and DIANE exit.)

Up In The Air

I have trouble getting my dresser drawers open these days. I have trouble opening the doors in my house, putting my clothes on, picking things up, basically doing anything that requires getting a grip on something; physically and/or emotionally. It’s probably because I’ve just been so sad. The saddest I’ve been in a while. So sad that I can’t complete everyday tasks. It’s like my emotions have just stopped varying and I’m only feeling one way all the time, and I know that’s not human. I could try to fix it, but the problem is I can’t remember why I feel like this in the first place.

Did I ever know why? Was there ever a reason? The past few days have been a blur and I can’t seem to stay in sync with my surroundings anymore. What’s wrong with me?

This morning I waste a good ten seconds of my time to get my drawer open, twenty-two seconds put on my clothes and get ready to go to school. I’m too upset to talk to anyone, even my parents, but that’s okay because they’ve been ignoring me too. It’s like they don’t even notice me, but that’s also okay, because I can tell they’re sad about something too. Last month a close friend of my parents’ moved away. My dad got over it quickly, but Mom was really sad about it. When my mom is sad, she isolates herself from reality. I’m almost positive she was beginning to get over it, but who knows? She could have shifted back into the depression at any point without my knowledge. Why on earth could that be? Does she not know why either? Are we experiencing the same thing? This thought hasn’t crossed my mind before so I go up to my mom, who is sitting glumly at the dining room table, reading the paper.

“Mom,” I say, taking my chances. I know she won’t respond but I’m a little more eager to get some answers from her this time, so I press on.

“Mom,” I plead, but as expected, she looks up from the paper, sighs, briefly buries her head in her hands and continues reading the whatever depressing news is in today.

I get the door open after four tries, (a new record,) and go to the bus stop. God, I’m such a mess.

I wait for the bus along with all the other talkative students in my school, but none of them are talking to me. Not even Lucy and Ben. They don’t even see me. They aren’t even talking to each other, they’re just sitting next to each other with their faces sad and their fingers intertwined. When I think I’m too close to them, I back away, because we had a fight last week and I bet they’re still mad at me. I still am a little annoyed with them, but my boyfriend and girlfriend best friends are looking sadder than I’ve ever seen them, and it breaks my heart regardless. Suddenly, Lucy takes out her phone and unlocks it, revealing the picture that we took at Georgiana’s sweet sixteen. She glances at it and then buries her face into Ben’s shoulder. Ben kisses her on the forehead and rubs her back. I never thought they would be that sorry. Just to play hard to get, I leave the premises. The bus approaches and I go up the stairs behind a few other kids.

I watch as they insert their MetroCards, retrieve them and find a seat. As I am about to do the same, the girl behind me shoves me to the side and away from the paying area. I can tell she didn’t see me, but she didn’t react at all. I soon realize that this girl is Ariel Winters, who has hated me since sixth grade. However, I still think it’s weird that she didn’t glare at me afterwards. No one saw it happen, so I sneak my way towards the rest of the seats, because who doesn’t want a free bus ride? The peculiar thing is the bus driver doesn’t notice either, which makes me feel uneasy, but even so, I sit down on the cold, blue bus seat.

I get to school and head to my first class, an acting class for all the seniors rehearsing an audition for Juilliard in the drama department. I’ve been working on my monologues for weeks and the auditions are next weekend. According to Ms. Tristan, I couldn’t be more prepared, and she said last week that she’s going to try to focus on everybody else since they need more help than I do. Even so, Ms. Tristan always makes sure everybody has their turn by the end of the class period.

I walk in and sit down. I’m the first one there, even before Ms. Tristan. Ms. Tristan always comes after everyone is here. A group of my classmates come in talking, and among them is Damien, my crush since middle school. I know he doesn’t like me back, because I got one of our mutual friends to subtly ask him in seventh grade, so that’s been taken care of. I never stopped liking him, though. He never really talks to me, but we exchange our pleases and thank yous when holding the door or undergoing other everyday exchanges. We don’t have any kind of relationship at all, which saddens me every time I think about it.

Everyone is finally in the room, but nobody sits down until Ms. Tristan comes in with her iPad and red horn-rimmed glasses perched on the tip of her upturned nose.

“Settle down, settle down,” she says with her uppity, theatery tone of voice. “I suppose you’ve all memorized your pieces and are ready to perform them in tip top shape, yes?”

The class lets out a disgruntled mix of yeahs and ehs. Damien sits down next to me in one of the chairs that is organized in the semi-circle. I smile to myself since his chair is unusually close to mine.

“Marcus, remind me when your audition is?” Ms. Tristan asks.

“The eleventh,” Marcus replied. “Nine thirty.”

A thought strikes me. That’s when my audition is. January eleventh at nine thirty. The first one of the day. He can’t have my same time. That’s impossible. I must have read the date wrong. I’ll have to check the website.

“Alright, Clarissa. Give us your first one.”

Clarissa stands up, goes to the middle of the circular choir room and performs her monologue. Eventually everyone does their pieces but Ms. Tristan never calls on me. She told me last week that she wouldn’t work as hard with me, but she would still ask me to perform during class. The period ends and I sadly leave the choir room without having done my monologues. I wind up walking out next to Damien. I go to open the door for him. As far as I know, the door knob is in my hand and I am smiling my politest smile, but I don’t realize that the door is still closed until Damien brushes past me to open it. I sigh and go through the door after him.

I don’t understand how my sadness interrupts my daily actions this much. It’s quite annoying, but being annoyed saddens me even more. It isn’t even that I’m capable of feeling another way. When I try to be in another mood, it’s like I stop in my tracks and turn back around.

By second period, I decide I’m too out of it to trudge through a day of school. I can usually push through a Monday, but there’s something about today that is just too exhausting. My sadness is almost so tiring that I can barely stay alive. After math, I go straight home. It’s not like I get good grades anyway. I can see there’s no point in me being here.

I get home and I see my parents are asleep. I decide to lock myself in my room and practice my monologues. I finish the first one, but then I remember what Marcus said about his audition date.

I run to my computer and pull up the Juilliard website. I go to the page where they list all the names and dates of the applicants in chronological order. I skim the list three or four times and I don’t see my name. I feel the anxiety and fear rising up inside of me, mixed with my sadness. I don’t feel this way only because my name has miraculously disappeared from the application list, but because now I remember what happened two days go. I remember why everything has been so off since that fateful day, and why I’ve been so sad and invisible. Two days ago was the car crash. I hear the doorbell ring, but I stay where I am. Why should I answer the door if I’m just a ghost?

 

 

An Address to Remember

While the big kids were hunting, gathering food, and making shelters, I sat all alone alone on the deserted beach. Huge waves were crashing down, just like the tears on my smooth face. I was not at home. I was nowhere near home. Did anyone know where we were? The hope of rescue seemed… not possible now, since there was a lurking beast that was probably destined to eat all of the boys, including me, Percival Wemys Madison. The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthonys, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-. I always forgot the telephone number. But what good use was it anyhow, stranded with no connection to home sweet home? All I remembered of home was the address. Not even how my house looked, where it was, or who my parents were. Nothing.

I sat, scrunched up so that my face was squeezed next to my knees. My shorts were in bits and pieces, barely covering my privates. My shirt, filled with rips and holes, did not keep me warm from harsh cold winds that were blowing. I lied down, eyes trying to shut, mind trying to remember what home was like. I heard a noise. It was not one of the big boys, whose names did not stick like my address, but a monster. The beast?! I thought to myself. An uneasy feeling went through me, my stomach ached and rumbled. Was this the end? Was the beast going to eat me alive? I pondered these questions and tried to think of happier thoughts.

Although very afraid, I picked up my head from the ground, looked up to see a creature lurking from the water. Whatever it was, it was something like the beast everybody had been chattering about. I didn’t know what to do. Was I to run away and let the boys know? What if the beast followed me and found the rest of the boys? I ran, but my little legs only took me so far. I kept going, not wanting to be taken away by this horrid figure. The fat boy, the one that they all hated, was the first boy I saw. I had to tell him. He seemed knowledgeable, and if I didn’t tell someone, this beast was going to haunt my dreams that would be soon become nightmares.

Although extremely fat, this boy, whatever his name was, was nice enough to listen to what I had to say and didn’t treat me like I was some little boy who couldn’t do anything or didn’t know anything. I could do stuff, I knew stuff! Fatty, as I now remembered, was stunned to hear what I said. He was in shock, but he believed me and didn’t laugh at what I saw.

I looked around after Fatty had left me and saw that he and the chief conversed for a while, and suddenly I saw the conch. I don’t know why, but the conch in this moment reminded me of home… Some noise I would hear every hour… What was it? Everything was unclear except for my address; Percival Wemys Madison. The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthonys, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-. This was a sign that a meeting was going to be soon, and I didn’t know how this was going to go. I hoped to tell all the boys about how I saw the beast coming out of the water, but I would probably get humiliated by them. This is because I’m just some younger kid who is afraid of a huge beast that they are all probably afraid of inside but are too wimpy to show it on the outside. They are big, tall, some were fat and others were skinny but they towered over me. Maybe they were the real beast. Was it a boy just lurking out of the ocean? I thought for a quick second. I shrugged my shoulders and waited for the night meeting to begin.

The sound of the conch, loud, was beginning to become unpleasant after hearing it so many times. This was the first meeting I was somewhat nervous about and was the first one during the nighttime. If Fatty told them about what I saw they’d probably all laugh at me in great disbelief. I knew it even now before it happened. But I saw something–I know I did! And what else is huge and comes out of the water from nowhere? All the big boys gathered along and sat where they wanted to, and I sat with some other younger kids, barely being seen with the thick grass that was very tall, blocking some of our vision.

After Ralph tried to discuss many things, they finally brought up the beast. Fatty signalled that I was the boy who said something and there was already a little laughing from the boys. Younger boys around me furiously pushed me and I stood knee-deep in the central grass, trying to look at my hidden feet.

Ralph asked me, “What’s your name?”

I didn’t want to answer. Then Fatty asked me the same question, “What’s your name?”

Again, I didn’t answer. Because of the silence, the big boys around me broke into a chant saying “What’s your name? What’s your name?” I was very intimidated. Why did everybody care about my name? I bet they did not know any of the other small kids name. They didn’t seem to care about us… But finally, I said it.

“Percival Wemys Madison. The Vicarage, Harcourt St. Anthonys, Hants, telephone, telephone, tele-” After saying this, the thought of home made me weep. Tears ran down my face faster than they had ever, and my face puckered. Even when one of the boys shouted shut up, I would not shut up! My tears kept flowing and my crying continued caused by the thought of home. Much laughter came from the boys during this. Next, they kept asking me about where I saw the beast, so I told them: from the water. This also caused an uproar and by the end of this all, I had given up. I sat back down on my log, my place in society, and tears did not flow anymore. I smiled to myself, hoping that I could one day be back at that address. Reciting the few words of my address yet again, I forgot the large island I was on filled with frightening barbaric boys. My address made my tears of fear and sadness into tears of joy; my address was the one thing that made me think we would be rescued from this place one day. Luckily this address was one that I would never forget, so that hope always stayed in me, until the very last moment I spent on that island.

Forced Poem

How do you write a poem?

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing

Do I just keep hitting the return key after every sentence?

Is a line break between two stanzas like a paragraph?

So anyway,

Poems are really ridiculous.

I don’t see it as writing

Even though it technically is

Because

Doing

Things

Like

This

Is somehow allowed

And I can,

for some reason,

write

LIKE THIS

    and        make thewordsdowhateverIwant         them to do

AND I Can Make Every Word Start With A Capital Letter

or a lowercase letter

and I can start every

“Sentence” with some odd word

that would usually give me a headache

Due to lack of proper grammar

Which most poems have

I can shape it

With patterns

an

d

Have letters in different p l a c e s

I! Can! Also; place pointless…punctuation?

Even if it doesn’t

re

ally

fit

 

“I know that writing is about creativity”

And let me tell you

Poetry is creativity

‘But’

In my opinion

It’s creative in a bad way’

The only way that creativity can be bad

and I feel as if

it takes

more

to

Write a story,

Whether it be a short one;

Like a short story,

Or a long one;

Such as a novel,

{{Because every word needs to make sense}}

And stories are more powerful and touching and motivating

Or not motivating!

And stories can impact someone’s life –

Especially when the reader finds a connection with one or more of the characters

Especially if the author also

finds a connection

With one or more their characters

But poems:

Are just moments,

That the reader,

In my opinion

Can’t take away from

Or learn from

And I have proof:

I have never been motivated

Or touched!

Or changed!

By a poem

 

And I’m sorry if you’re insulted by this!

But,

according to poets

Poetry is about expressing yourself…

And I’m doing just that

I’m expressing how I feel

 

I’ve been told that my writing is poetic –

(But I don’t agree)

Because I hate that word

Because it can mean so many

things

 

[Technically]

I could say that this is poetic

{and}

I could say that the most

Heartfelt and amazing simile or metaphor

Is also poetic

And both

Are completely different things

 

Sure

I could type up one or two

Really good “poetic” lines

And ?it could be considered a poem

The lines don’t! even have to relate

As I’ve noticed in times before when reading other poems

And hearing other poems

And it would be an amazing poem

If that’s even possible

But why would I do that

If I could use those lines in a story?

Where the lines are taken to heart

Where the reader carries those lines with them

Where they associate that line with a character

And where it means something more than just a        really good line

Tired From Tomorrow

Today feels like Yesterday. Tomorrow

I presume will imitate Today.

Today never was going to be promising.

So was Yesterday.

Tomorrow doesn’t look bright.

 

The sun was on time.

Today was not ready. Nor was I,

I envied Yesterday, who would find the

deepest of slumber for all of tomorrow.

Today and I mourned for Yesterday

And Tomorrow patiently waited for the sun.

Hidden Worlds

All my life I have loved being outdoors.  I loved the rain and the winds.  I loved the dew in the morning with little rainbows glittering all around.  And even though it scared me, I loved the feeling of risk being out in the wilderness.  Something feels complete about me when I’m running wild.  I thought it was perfect out in the woods, and that nature was not affected by the big bad world.  I childishly thought nothing could disrupt or harm nature.

I have always loved the mountains.  Their long graceful shapes climbing upwards to the sky.  The wilderness of trees that stretches across them like a long flowing cloak.  Their gray rocky peaks that just touch the clouds.  They are just so massive and old, they have seen so many years pass.  I feel like they watch over me when I’m out in the wilderness.  When I look up at the mountains, there always seems to be something more to them, something hidden in those shadowy woods.  Something magic.

One day I was hiking up the notoriously muddy Mt. Animus with my family.  It was a stormy day, and dark mist rose above my head and spiraled through the treetops.  The deep purple of the sky turned everything to shadows and made the bright greens of the forest a dark, droopy grey.  The air hung heavy on my shoulders as I hiked upwards.  I was a little bit behind my sunny-blond brother who was racing up ahead.  Whenever I scrambled over a slippery blue moss-covered rock, I could see his golden head bobbing in front of me like a lantern in the night.  My parents were a little bit behind me, the heavy fog slowing them down.

I had been taking photographs with my little red plastic camera.  Last night’s constant drizzle had woken up the world.  Fiery orange mushrooms sprung up from the sponge-like ground, and sky blue lichen was bouncing out at me from all sides of the trail like a whimsical pop-up book.  The small bright flash of my camera brought out the colors in the ground, but most of these little wonders were hidden under drooping ferns.  I had to search along the sides of the dirt trail for sparks of brightness in the spongy mud.

Over the course of the hike the fog started to thicken and swirl like homemade whipped cream.  It became increasingly difficult to move and beads of sweat started clinging to the tip of my nose.  My camera fogged up, and my smile turned into a grumble as my wildlife pictures became increasingly blurry.  I wondered how far it was to the summit.

Water droplets started sliding down my glasses bursting into disorienting rainbows whenever I took a photograph.  I took my glasses off to wipe the layer of steam that had accumulated on them, when out of the corner off my eye I saw one of my favorite plants.  “Indian Pipes” are peculiar creamy white plants shaped like clay pipes.  Everyone thinks they are some kind of mushroom, but they are normal plants without the sparkle of green.  They have no chlorophyll inside of them to photosynthesize and create sugars.  Instead they soak up nutrients from the earth.  I love them because they are different from the plants we see every day.

I walked over to a little patch of Indian Pipes just to the left of the trail.  They had sprouted in a perfect circle, which didn’t seem natural to me.  Still, it would make for a good picture.  As I crouched down next to them, I slipped on some wet moss and my precious camera went flying.

“You okay Colly?” came my little brother’s voice from up ahead.

Grumbling I got to my feet.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said grumpily, “But I can’t find my camera.  Could I have some help?  I can’t see a thing with this mist!”

And with that my little lantern came bobbing into view.  But even his wide sapphire eyes couldn’t find my camera.  We searched until Mom and Dad came into view, when I stopped.

“It’s no use!” I cried despairingly, “It’s gone!”

I threw my hands down, accidentally brushing against one of the odd little Indian Pipes and the world faded to black…


When I woke up the world was a blaze of light and the air was clean and dry.  I didn’t open my eyes, but the brightness cast an orange glow through my eyelids.  I felt warmth wash over me and good smells overwhelmed all other senses.  Could that possibly be cookies baking?

I was about to crack open my eyes and ask if I could have a cookie or two, when common sense got in the way.  Wait a moment, I thought, I’d been in the woods.  And this was definitely not Mt. Animus.  A wave of terror crashed over me like ice-cold water.  Where was I?  Had I been abducted?  Kidnapped?  Where was my family?  After terror came panic.  What on earth was going to happen to me?

Then came wonderful clarity.  This situation couldn’t be too awful if cookies were involved.  I cracked open one eye, then another.  I was in a round room with walls the color of fresh cream.  The smell was wafting through a spherical doorway in front of me that strangely started a couple feet above the ground, and the light was coming from straight behind me.

        Suddenly a loud chatter burst out behind my head and the light started vibrating and bouncing around the walls.  I jumped with a start and turned to face something I had never seen before.  The creature standing, no floating, in front of me was a glowing, vibrating humanoid.  The creature was floating inside a little bubble of brightness.  After I got over the shock of the beautiful bubble, I stared in awe at the bizarre creature inside.  It had a small rotund body with wonderful wide eyes, just like my brothers, but neon green.  Small feet stuck out beneath it, although I didn’t know what it could possibly use them for since it seemed to be able to fly.  Similarly sized arms poked out from it’s sides.  It had huge half-moon ears, like a koala, and what appeared to be whiskers sitting atop a little wet heart-shaped nose.  Immediately I knew it could do me no harm, although I couldn’t understand a thing it was saying.

        “Excuse me,” I said clearly and politely, “But I can’t make out what you’re saying.  Do you speak English perhaps?  Or Latin?  I think I can make out a couple sentences in Latin.”

        It cocked it’s head at me, which sent its whole body cartwheeling sideways.  Then it started to speak in a very squeaky, high voice.

        “Apologies for my confusion young miss, I was speaking Lenape.  The last visitor we had spoke Lenape, and a kind fellow was he.  You, on the other hand, appear to speak English.  Good language, English.  But I can’t keep all those pronouns straight.”

        It spoke very quickly and when it was finished I stood in awe.  This little glowing orb spoke English!  It blinked twice then continued, “My name is Phyll spelled P-H-Y-L-L.  My good name is short for Chlorophyll.”  He gave a little bow, which sent him rolling forwards in a summersault.

“Nice to meet you,” I responded, in a shaky voice, “I’m Colly.  Spelled C-O-L-L-Y.  Short for Oecologia.”

“My that’s a pretty name,” he said cheerfully, “Colly reminds me of cauliflower.  Cauliflower is food.  Food reminds me of sugar.  Sugar is sweet.”  And he went on making strange comments like this for quite a while.

“How did I get here?” I interrupted all of the sudden.

“Ahh…” said Phyll calming down, twitching his whiskers and giving me a sideways look, “I knew one as young and curious as you would eventually ask.  Before I tell you, where do you think you are?”

I glared at him, infuriated, “How am I supposed to know?!  I was in the woods with my family near this lovely little bunch of Indian Pipes trying to find my camera when I blacked out and woke up here!  And now I’m having a conversation with a glowing ping pong ball!  Not to mention that it can fly!”

“Hold your horses missy, I didn’t mean for you to get all heated up.  I just find it interesting what visitors think.  I’ll tell you eventually.”

I decided that the best way out of this was to cooperate, “Okay.” I said calmly.

“Did you notice anything odd about those so called ‘Indian Pipes?’” he asked with a twinkle in one of his rather round eyes.

“Well, they were in a circle…”

“Those plants are magical.  Magical portals, yes they are.  And that by touching them you were transported here.”

“Where is here exactly?” I asked.  I doubted very much that the plants had been magical.

“We are presently inside one of the ‘Indian Pipes.’”

It took me a couple seconds to process what Phyll had said.  Then a million questions popped into my mind.

“That’s impossible!” I shouted a little too loudly, “We couldn’t fit inside!”

But as I looked around, I knew it was true.  The white walls of the room were fibrous and looked as though they were made out of plants, and Phyll did look a bit like the microscopic bacteria we studied under a microscope at school.  Did that mean I had been shrunk?  At this point I believed anything was possible.

Phyll smiled seeing my eyes widen as I began to accept the magic that I had just encountered, “Welcome to Vegrandis, a world within a world.”


        Soon Phyll had explained that Vegrandis was one of many minuscule magical worlds inside plants.  These worlds were inhabited by the Parvi, Phyll explained.  Phyll was apparently the head of national affairs in the city of Vegrandis, and often interacted with other nations of Parvi.  Then, after a rather lengthy explanation of the wonderful democracy they had over in Minimus (also known as a clump of mountain sorrel) and a monologue about how awful the old dictator of Vegrandis was (which nearly sent me to sleep, which is saying a lot since I was listening to another species speak), we set about with the “grand tour.”

        We stepped onto a balcony overlooking a huge room filled with other Parvi.  Steam rose from little miniature clay ovens that lined the walls and the air danced with the scent of homemade cookies and pies.  I could smell sugar and butter all over the room.  Sweetness danced in circles around my head.  It was a miniature heaven on earth.

The little Parvi were doing what seemed to be an intricate dance, but turned out to be baking.  Each one had a tray of dough, which they watched over until they slid it into one of the ovens.  All the creatures shared a resemblance to Phyll, although they varied in shades of cream.  All of the Parvi glowed and bobbed, just like Phyll.  Each had their own task of carrying trays heaping with baked goods or stirring bowls of batter.

“Since our mother plant cannot photosynthesize,” explained Phyll, “We bake for her to keep her healthy.  She needs the extra sugars since she supports all of us Parvi.”

        Then Phyll bobbed down a flight of sugar-covered stairs and began to point out different steps in the process of baking.  He also introduced me to all of the friendly Parvi in the room.  They all had smiles on their faces and butter smeared onto their bubbles.  Just seeing their joy made me happy too.  Several cookies later, we arrived at a large door.  I was in a rather jovial mood with sugar and frosting stuck to my cheeks and a smile on my face.  But as soon as Phyll saw that door, his wonderful smiled faded and soon mine did too.

        “There’s something I have to show you, young miss,” he said solemnly, “And I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

        He knocked three times and the door swung open.  We entered a dimly lit room with a few other Parvi inside, all with equally concerned faces.  The source of their concern was soon apparent.  A transparent syrupy liquid had seeped through the wall and formed a lake, and everything the liquid touched shrivelled up and turned brown.  I rushed to the lake that was killing this wonderful world and looked at the damage at my feet.

        “Who would do something this awful?” I cried, tears springing from my eyes at the sight of the wreckage.

        Phyll cleared its throat, “Um, I’m sorry to tell you young miss, but you did this.”

        “What?” No, that wasn’t possible.  I couldn’t have done something this bad.

        “Your people.  Humans.  You have a system that makes you pollute without knowing it.  You don’t mean to, but you can destroy entire worlds by accidentally spilling something or letting something blow away in the breeze.  Don’t worry, we’ll be able to patch this leak up in a couple of weeks, but you need to know that you humans did this.  You love nature young miss, but you destroy it with your love.  There is a whole lot of pollution out there killing your world and ours alike.  It’s up to you to stop pollution from destroying everything we love.  I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I can’t do a thing.  Us Parvi aren’t polluting the world.  Your cars and factories are the ones hurting us all.  So please.  Help us.  All of us.”

And he gave me a deep and sorrowful look, and I knew that helping the world was what I was supposed to do.  All of the worlds.  Because, who else will?  The birds can’t save the sky and the fish can’t save the sea and even the Parvi can’t help.  But we wonderful, terrible human beings can save the world we love so much.  Because right now, we are the bad guys.  But we can also be the heros.  And heros need to make a stand.


To get back to the “big world” Phyll took me into the same circular room I woke up in.

“It will be the same moment when you get back to your family,” he said, “Time moves slower in the big world.  Your parents won’t realize you were gone.”

Then, to my alarm, his shining bubble disappeared with a pop and Phyll toddled over to me on his little round feet.  He attempted to give me a hug, but since the hug was around my knees I lifted my new friend up and gave him a real “big hug.”

“Thank you for showing me your world.” I whispered in a koala bear ear.

“Oh you’re welcome missy.” Phyll whispered back and slipped a little something into my hand, “Do make sure to come back.”

After I promised to come back (which meant hiking Mt. Animus a whole lot), Phyll instructed me to crouch in the same position I was in when I entered Vegrandis.  Then he opened a small cupboard, pressed a button inside and my consciousness started to fade.

“Goodbye!” I heard Phyll shout.

I was about to respond, when the world faded to black again…


When I arrived back on Mt. Animus in the same position as before, with my family all around me, I almost laughed.  Could that have been real?  I looked down at the object in my hand.  It was my camera!  It had gone through the portal!  No wonder I couldn’t find it.  I flipped the camera over.  Scrawled in what appeared to be the glowing essence of a Parvi bubble were the words:

Cauliflower girl-

I’ve enchanted this camera so when you take a picture, it transports you to Vegrandis.  Come as often as you wish!  And remember, you can save the worlds.  All of them.

        -Phyll

        Smiling, I slipped the camera into my pocket.  No more trips up the soggy Mt. Animus,  I thought.

        Out loud I said, “I guess I’ll have to save up for a new camera.  It’s really too bad.”


        Now I know about the harm that can be done to the natural world.  Now I know that the mountains aren’t only a safe haven, they are a place that needs to be saved.  Now I can go out into the world with a goal to help save our wonderful natural world and all the crazy-amazing creatures that live in it.  Because the world isn’t gonna save itself.  That’s what heroes are for.

Latin Names

Animus means mind or imagination

Oecologia means ecology

Vegrandis means tiny

Parvi is the plural of “parvus” which means small

Minimus means very small

Clench

He carries the illusion of being prepared in the form of neatly compiled notebooks and folders. His bloated backpack is a precautionary tale to himself. Extra pockets to hold his insecurities and other insignificant items. A book on philosophy and mathematics weighs down an already heavy load, acting as verification of his intelligence.

He carries urgent reminders that are easily forgotten. Notes to self that are underlined and circled and highlighted. During class he sits upright, brainstorming a highbrow comment to share while small-talking his peers with a pretense of confidence. He methodically wipes his thin brimmed glasses with microfiber eyeglass cleaner in his spare time. But these mundane activities can only distract him for so long.

Fiddling his fingers, he aches for a squeeze. He has self-diagnosed himself as being prone to boredom as well as having a bad case of ADHD. A disposable and newly acquired therapist has prescribed a stress ball for his “illness”. Hesitant of drawing unwanted attention to himself by squeezing the ball in the midst of class, he opts for subtly pressing his palms together under the desk. He holds eye contact with the teacher and his classmates as a sign of respect and attentiveness, but all he hears is the soft hollow noises created by his moist palms coming together. In between classes, he sits on the toilet elated and relieved to squeeze in private.

He starts off with soft squeezes affectionately looking at his red ball. Then it intensifies. His stubby nails deepen inside of the ball and his squeezing rate quickens. “Yes, yes, yes,” he thinks. The bell will ring soon, but for now, he is squeezing. He counts down from ten. Ten last squeezes and then he’ll go. In these moments of privacy, he is most content. When around others he is most alone.

The heaviest weight is the one felt perpetually. An inexplicable sense of inadequacy. He files his nails and cleans his glasses and makes sure his fly is zipped, but he feels a mess. At night when he can’t focus on the silence, he feels parts of himself itch unexplainably. He tears away at his skin wishing the sensation would subside, only to wake up to a wounded body.

 

Being Nice

The sun beats down my spine, sweat drips through my hair, and my feet burn with impatience. Camilla walks slightly behind me, my body slanted towards her as I walk down the path. We’re silent; she’s annoyed that I made her leave the lake, and I’m fuming inside because everyone got to the Slip ‘N Slide a half hour ago and it was my turn to stay behind with her. Each time I get impatient, she smiles at me, knowing it’s working. We achieve our victories together: she shows her resolve by taking as long as possible; I bite my tongue and teach myself to be patient.

Camilla has Down syndrome. I don’t know when she was diagnosed, I don’t know how her parents have dealt with it, I don’t know what her day-to-day life consists of. This is what I do know: for the next week, I’m one of Camilla’s camp counselors. At Frost Valley, we have a village called MAC: “mainstreaming at camp,” which is designed for young adults with developmental disabilities to “mainstream” and hang out with other kids who don’t have disabilities. The goal of the program is to introduce all campers to people who are different than them, and to provide kids with a great camp experience who might not otherwise have one. I know that I’ve wanted to work in MAC since I was thirteen, and that I love just hanging out with these smart and funny kids. I know that Camilla’s favorite movie is Frozen, that she loves music about sex and drugs, and that she’s my age. I know that her favorite game is one in which she molds my body into some twisted mess, and then makes me dance my way out of it.

After an hour, we get to the Slip N’ Slide, greeted by a gaggle of twelve year old girls, yelling for Camilla. Camilla: the girl who smiles whenever you do, the girl who doesn’t put on her shoes, the girl who wears tutus. They run up and hug her, tell her how cute she is. She’s four years older than them. I stand beside her as they shower her with misguided love. Even as they baby her, they mean well. I know this. I fight the urge to pry them from her, to say, “You’re teaching her that it’s socially acceptable to hug every person you see! You aren’t helping her!” Not bullying isn’t enough —  being nice isn’t enough. I realize last year, as a camper, I was as misguided as they were. They aren’t helping.

Loving someone when they’re cute and fun is easy. These girls love Camilla as she hugs them, as she passively sits while they braid her hair, as she smiles while they talk at her. They tie her shoes for her because they think she has a physical disability, too. They don’t want to say no to her.

When the girls leave, she gestures at me to put on her shoes for her. I tell her no, and we sit for twenty minutes while she contemplates her options. She cries, she begs. “You can do it yourself, Camilla.” She tells me I’m mean, she screams. “You can do it yourself, Camilla.” A fly buzzes lazily in my ear. A blade of grass bends beneath a soft breeze. The importance of time fades in and out.

“Do you want to tie your shoes in one minute or two?”

Silence.

“Do you want to tie your shoes in one minute or two?”

“Two.”

I set the time timer for two minutes, the red band helping her to visualize how much time she has left. When the red is entirely gone to leave only white, I look at her again. We’re both silent as she puts on her own shoes easily. We keep walking; I ask her about the books she’s reading, who her favorite superhero is, which Avenger she thinks would win in a fight. We sing her favorite song, “Jenny from the Block”, and stop to look at a beetle on the side of the path. Her shoes are on and everything is forgiven; she holds my hand and nuzzles my arm. Every day there are moments when we must both be hard on each other, but as soon they’re over, we go back. I keep her life structured, I make her do things herself, but I am still a fun counselor, I am still a friend. She knows I love her. It doesn’t matter if she feels the same way, although I know she does. I love her.

That night, at the camp dance, we walk in together. My friends wave as we pass, holding hands with their cute seven-year-old, non-MAC campers. They all stand together, joking and laughing under the lackluster disco ball somebody has put up on the ceiling. I stop for a minute to say hi while Camilla goes over to some other kids. My friends tell funny stories of campers wetting the bed and cutting each other’s hair. I soak in stories of camp that match my own from when I was a camper. It all feels so familiar — I know each story before they even leave my friends’ mouths. I laugh along and tell them how I had to play catch with Rachel for five hours one day after lunch, how Camilla tried to grind with another camper to a Justin Bieber song.

“It must be so hard.”

I don’t take in what my friends are saying. I’m doing a lot, but I can balance it now. I used to miss my friends, my “normal camp experience”, craving the cushion of familiarity. But I can do it: I know how to meet my campers’ needs, and how to respond to their anxieties. I can wholeheartedly sacrifice my time, my own interests to make them comfortable and happy. I am an active force in their lives; I love them when it’s easy and when it’s hard. I now know that just being passively nice is never enough.

I step out of my comfort zone and into the disco lighting, weaving my way through the crowded dining hall until I find my girls. Camilla, Rachel, Emma, Justina, Isabella… they invite me in, making space for me in the circle. After one song, a few counselors and I bring some of our campers into the room off to the side of the dining hall; the music is too loud and is causing some of them to have panic attacks. My friends dance. I deep squeeze Rachel’s hands to ground her. I hear someone laugh from the other room. I press down on Camilla’s shoulders in a soothing rhythm so she has something else to focus on. A dance contest starts. I hand a sensory tool to Emma to play with while we sit. We’re all together in half-silence, drawing in some coloring books and joking around. The music drifts through the bottom of the door and whispers all around us. I come to let some things go. I leave my watch in my backpack, I let the music play without me, I color the same picture for hours. My impatience is not gone, but coaching myself to forget it has become worth it. My friends are somewhere in the next room, but I’m right in the center of where I want to be.

Ku Ku’s Adventure

chapter 1
Ku Ku is a robot that is armed for fighting and building. He is a funny talker. He used to go to school for robots. He used to be a miner.

chapter 2
Pot Rib is a good guy that got brainwashed into a bad guy when he and Ku Ku were mining together.

chapter 3
One day, Ku Ku was happily hugging his gold bars. There was a knock on the door.
“Can I come in and see your gold?” asked a voice.
“Who are you?” asked Ku Ku.
“I’m your brother,” Pot Rib said. Pot Rib came in wearing a shirt with a pink face, which is the same shirt Ku Ku’s brother wears. Pot Rib looked at the gold and took it. Then he ran out the door.
“I’ll get you for this, Pot Rib!” said Ku Ku. There were 50 gold bars. It cost 999 billion dollars!!! Ku Ku was sad.

chapter 4

Kuku tried to get the gold back. He ran after Pot Rib but he couldn’t catch him. Pot Rib was already running into his ship.
“This isn’t over, Pot Rib,” he yelled. When Pot Rib heard that, he was scared.
Ku Ku had to make something that could find Pot Rib. He had no money so he tried to find some metal to build a machine. When he was finished finding scraps of metal, he built a rocket ship to go to the other side of the world. He flew to the other side of the world. He brought a pistol and a sword with him. When he arrived, he tried to find Pot Rib. It took him a month to find him. Pot Rib was in his evil lair in the center of planet Druidia.
When he found him, Pot Rib was making a brainwasher. Ku Ku stopped Pot rib, and they started fighting. Ku Ku used his magic power to burn Pot Rib, but it didn’t do any good. Pot Rib was strong. When Pot Rib hit Ku Ku, it hurt him. He managed to get up and used all his strength to kill Pot Rib. Then Pot Rib died. Kuku found his 49 gold bars in Pot Rib’s evil lair. When he found it, he went home.

chapter 5
When Ku Ku came home, he saw something was wrong. He was missing a bar of gold. He went back to Druidia to find the bar, but Pot Rib’s lair was gone. Ku Ku was sad that he lost his bar of gold. When he thought back in time he remembered Pot Rib had another evil lair on planet Earth. So he thought he should check that one out, too. Then he went back in his rocket ship and flew back to Earth to find the other evil lair. When he got there, he broke through the door and searched the whole evil lair. It was very big, so it took him a long time to search.
When he found a secret room in the secret lair, Ku Ku found the missing bar of gold. It was turned into ashes because Pot Rib was trying to make something out of it. Ku Ku had to concentrate to use his magic powers to get the gold back into one piece, but it didn’t work. The gold was still broken.

chapter 6
Ku Ku went home and went back to work in the mine. He earned another gold bar and was happy again.

¬THE END¬

Glen Coco

August
a new school
a gorgeous new English teacher
a single eyelock
arousal

September
you say to come back when I’m 16…
LuLuLemon yoga pants
hands on education
suppressing

October
they say
you say I’m delusional
they tell me I’m obsessed with you
disillusionment

November
you were clever
always covering your own ass
did you ever give a damn?
deceived

December
slashes covering my arms
swimming in separation
now I know how Juliet felt
forbidden

January
drowning in my thoughts
you are standing three feet away
screaming learn how to swim
a realization?

February
the daily panic attacks send me to my third new school
and I am still constantly wondering–
how are you?
hospitalization

March
6 Suicide attempts
97 lines drawn with razor blades
1 residential facility
53 days

April
the author could not write about this month
due to her presence in constant intensive therapy
resulting in no free time to do so because of it

May
they say I have no proof
you never answered my phone calls
they dropped the lawsuit
a realization?

June
moving forward
finding peace with my emotions
trying to survive
recovery?

July
“The child is grown
the dream is gone
and I have become
comfortably numb”

August
another new school
a nowhere near forgotten English teacher
our eyes will lock again
January 26, 2017…

The Medal Mystery

Chapter 1

Hi, my name is John. I am an Olympic swimmer. My life is pretty strange. First, I was born and adopted by animals. I could slither, run, swim, and swing on branches really fast.

Next, I lived in the forest of Brazil.

Third, the second day I was born, I had a tattoo on my arm.

My parents died the same day.

Next, in the last two years, I have been living with animals.

Before that, I was living with my aunt and uncle. I left them because they were extremely mean. So I built my own house. Now I live in my own house with maids and servants.

I have 10 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 20 bronze medals all for swimming. I have been swimming at the 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, and 1992 Olympics.

Now my house is in a city called Los Angeles. It is usually noisy because there are a lot of tourists. I am 29 years old. I have been to a lot of places in the U.S. and other countries. I like being a swimmer.

Chapter 2

Life in the last two years has been normal until now. Today is July 30th, which is my birthday. Today should have been fun and exciting, but instead it was sad. When I woke up, I saw that my medals were missing!

I asked my servants, “Did anyone see someone mysterious in here?”

One of my servants asked me, “Why?”

“Why!” I said, “Because my medals are missing.”

Then I found a note which read, “I’ll meet you again!” Then I found a series of other notes that led to Joey’s room. Joey is one of my servants.

Joey said, “I didn’t take it. I swear!”

Next I checked each of my servants’ rooms for any medals, but I didn’t find any.

Then Joey said, “Maybe you should check the news for a medal thief.” And when I turned the TV screen on, I saw a picture of the medal thief! He was tall and strong, but the TV didn’t show where the thief lived or what his name was.

So then I went over to my detective friend’s house. He asked me what happened, and I said a thief broke into my house and stole my medals.

My friend told me to go visit the police station. I went over to the police station and talked to the chief. I told him that somebody stole my medals, so he said he would come over to my house to find other clues.

So later that day he came over and looked, but he didn’t find anything. I showed him the note, but he said that he would keep it safe and look for other clues about the note, and if he found any clues he would call me.

When he left, I was very upset. That night I had a very big meal so I wouldn’t be upset. After that I watched TV and went to bed. But then, I woke up later that night and heard a mysterious voice which told me to come over to the other room. It turned out it was Joey the servant saying that he had discovered a new clue!

Chapter 3

Once I asked Joey what happened, he said that he had heard some mysterious sound outside. I looked outside. I saw two bad guys that looked like they were the ones who stole my medals.

I told Joey to tell the other skilled gunmen, my servants, to get some guns from the gun room so we could scare them. All of the servants hid behind something. I opened the door and ran to the couch nearby to hide. The criminals were very happy because they saw a ton of gold on the floor. Apparently they did not know that the skilled gunmen were behind the couch.

Once one of the criminals touched the gold, 20 police officers and my servants took out the guns and scared the two of them. The criminals left so quickly that they dropped one of my medals. I called the police chief and told him that I found a gold medal.

I arrived at the police station, and I gave the medal to the police. He told me he would look for more clues.

Once I left the station, 10 robbers captured me. A gangster told me that his name was Fernandez. He said that his gang was European. Next they put me to sleep and put me into their car. Then they sped off in their Lamborgini to Denver where their meeting spot was.

Chapter 4

Once I woke up, we were in Aspen, Colorado. When we arrived, I got locked inside a cell. The cell was damp and cold.

The next morning, I woke up to find myself still inside the same cell. I had forgotten that I was in Colorado. Once they gave me breakfast, they said to me that I had to take out $200 to get out of jail. I looked into my wallet. I only had $199.99! They said I somehow had to find an extra cent without leaving my cell, and that I had to give them the money before next Tuesday. That was five whole days away.

Once they left, I took out my knife, made a hole, climbed out, and went to the airport. A plane was going to L.A. in half an hour. When I looked around I saw a gang of bad guys coming for me. They were carrying pistols. I also saw a group of police officers. Once the bad guys ran past, the police took out their handcuffs and handcuffed them.

Then I went on the plane. When I was on the plane, I remember I heard the bad guys yell that the medals were back in Hollywood. On the plane, I planned my way of getting the medals back. Halfway to Los Angeles the plane ran out of gas, so I was stuck in Las Vegas. An hour later we went on a new plane to LAX.

When I arrived at LAX the police chief called me. He said that he found the thief and that tonight he was going to travel to Europe to sell the medals. I didn’t have much time! So I went over to the robber’s house but he wasn’t there.

Chapter 5

I saw an open window, so I crawled into the robber’s house. I saw my medals. I quickly grabbed them, but as soon as I took my medals, a voice said, “Going somewhere?” and closed the door.

The robber said that he wanted a fight. He tried to punch me, but he hit the wall instead. His hand started to bleed. I punched him. I also kicked him. I took out my phone and called the police station and told them that I found the medals and the thief. I was stuck inside the house.

Fifteen minutes later, the police arrived. They rescued me from the house and arrested the thief.

The thief escaped. He ran two blocks. Then he arrived at the airport. He jumped onto a plane that was going to Paris, France. So we got onto the next airplane that was going to Paris.

Once we arrived, we looked for the the thief. We couldn’t find him. I thought he must have changed his clothes. I looked around. I found the robber behind a stall full of potatoes. The police caught him, and asked what his name was. The robber said, “I’ll never tell you.” The police found his name on the side of the jacket. His name was John Paul. It said that he was from Texas. The robber said,”I used to be a good guy, but then I was interested in an academy. I did not know that it was an academy for criminals. Can you forgive me?”

I said yes.

Then we boarded a plane back to Los Angeles. The police took him to the LA county jail.

I went home and told everyone what had happened. I was happy.

The End

The Sorcerer

Her journey would be long

She was new at kindling a fire

The flames were hungry but found no nutrients in the sands

 

Her journey would be long

As if a sorcerer, she rose her hands in the air, calling upon the earth

The cold took hold, choking her in the darkness

 

Her journey would be long

Without a fire, the night would be almost unbearable

But not for long– soon the sun would rise, setting the temperature aflame

 

Her journey would be long

She stuck to wrapping a skin around her body

The fat offered warmth

 

Her journey would be long

The yellow sun started to pulse, a deep orange and blinding white

Hot and beautiful

 

Her journey would be long

She started moving in her sleep

Strangled movements

 

Her journey would be long

Awake again, she glanced backward

She pawed through the sand

 

Her journey would be long

With no signs of water, she could die

But she would rather die trying

 

Her journey would be long

But she made it alive

And survived

 

 

Nobody in this Story Is a Cannibal

(No props will be used except the two chairs, everything else must be mimed)

 

Two guys (mid to late 20s) sit on chairs, an equal distance apart. They both talk directly to the audience and they never look at one another.

 

ADAM

We’d stay up all night, talking. On our phones. We’d just wait until midnight came. That was our signal. Midnight meant that we had to power down and go to sleep.

 

JAMES

Sometimes, we’d just stall for a while. We never wanted to stop talking, but, we’d sometimes run out of things to say. We’d fill our conversations with padding, useless shit. Always keeping our eyes on the clocks, and then the minute it changed from 11:59 to 12 it was over. At midnight we’d stop talking, and that’d be it. We’d stay up for hours, waiting, dreading, midnight.

 

Adam and James pick up their chairs and place them at the bottom of center stage, Adam exits stage right. James sits down in one of the chairs, as if there’s a table in front of him.

Adam walks through the door, as if not to disturb anyone. He goes to the fridge and grabs a pitcher of water. Adam appears not to notice James.

JAMES

You want dinner?.

 

Adam does not respond.

 

JAMES

It’s sitting there. In the oven, I mean. It’s black and crusty now. Want it?

 

Adam still does not respond.

 

 

JAMES

The timer went off, but I ignored it. I finally pulled the lasagna out of the oven when the fire alarm started screaming. The batteries are on the counter over there.

 

ADAM

James. What’s this about?

 

JAMES

What’s this about? Maybe the fact that you’ve been gone, for a few hours.

 

ADAM

So?

 

JAMES

Do you know how long I was sitting here?

 

ADAM

What?

 

JAMES

Do you know how long I was sitting here?

 

ADAM

I don’t know, a few hours.

 

JAMES

Five. I have been sitting at this fucking table for five hours.

 

ADAM

So?

 

JAMES

I’ve been here since seven, when you said you’d be home, when you’re always home. I just kept sitting here thinking, that you were gonna be home at any minute. Do you know what happened, Adam? Do you?

 

ADAM

I never showed up.

 

JAMES

Yeah, you never did.

 

ADAM

So, I’m here now.

 

James and Adam break out of character and reset the chairs back to their original positions.

 

JAMES

The first time I knew he liked me we were sitting on his couch, playing Mortal Kombat and he just reached for my thigh. But, it wasn’t like that, it was less about sex and more about touch. There wasn’t anything erotic about it, it was more about wanting to just be near someone. To share their energy. It was, it was pretty sweet. He was always so weird, so unintentionally awkward, seeing him like this. Seeing Adam vulnerable, watching him put his feelings out there, it was, it was something.

 

ADAM

There’s a weird sense of emotion that runs through you when you just go with your gut. When you feel this urge rise up inside you, and you ask yourself “is it worth it?” Then all the possible outcomes start racing through your head at ridiculously fast speeds. It’s a great feeling to just, you know, do something that you actually wanna do. Not having to run every thought by your inner critic for approval. Just doing something for the hell of it.

 

Adam and James put the chairs back in the apartment setting.

 

JAMES

It doesn’t fucking matter that you’re here now.

 

ADAM

Stop freaking out, man.

 

JAMES

Don’t call me “man.” We’re not having a conversation, we aren’t two bros talking about their days, we’re not supposed to be friends right now.

 

 

ADAM

God, you always do this, you put people into little boxes, you organize us, you, you just try and fit everything into a tiny little compartment so everything can go your way. Do you want to know something? Do you?

 

JAMES

What?

 

ADAM

Right now, we aren’t supposed to be anything. We are having a conversation. And we are friends, alright. You’re so stupid sometimes, you try and make everything work in your fucked up favor and it’s never going to work. So stop it, stop saying what we can and can’t be, stop directing everything I say or do or think about doing because it’s stupid. You’re stupid. (pause) I’m going to bed.

 

JAMES

Fine, leave. Go to bed, see if I care. You know what I’m gonna do I’m going to take all of the food in the fridge and stuff it into the oven, then I’ll tape it shut and crank up everything as high as it can go then the building can fill with smoke and then everyone can asphyxiate.

 

ADAM

Fine. Kill us all, see if I care.

 

JAMES

I will.

 

ADAM

Good.

 

JAMES

I’m gonna do it.

 

 

ADAM

No, you’re not going to do it. You’re just saying stupid shit to get me to feel bad for you, to understand your pain. Well you know what, I don’t give a fuck.

 

 

JAMES

C’mon, this isn’t us. Why don’t we go into the bedroom, and I’ll let you do anything to me. Or. On me.

 

 

ADAM

Do you know how sex with you feels? It’s disgusting. It makes me feel disgusting. It’s awful, and it’s gross, and it feels like punishment. I hate it, I hate everything about it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

 

Chairs return to side-by-side positions

 

ADAM

The first time we had sex, it was awkward, it was weird. There was so much we didn’t know about each other’s bodies. Constantly asking if the other felt ‘OK’

 

JAMES

There was tension. And fear. But also passion and care. A weird concoction of different emotions. A balance of acids and bleach. Cancelling each other out, the bad and the good. The hate and the love, everything. It was something like, lightning in a bottle. Never could happen again. It was perfect.

 

ADAM

The second time, we were more adjusted to, well, everything. That’s the thing about sex, it isn’t romantic, or loving. It’s everything. It can be beautiful and passionate, but also disgusting and awful. I guess that’s what makes sex so cool.

 

Back to apartment.

 

JAMES

You hate it?

 

ADAM

Yes, I hate it.

 

JAMES

Alright.

 

ADAM

Sorry. I am. You know that I..that I care about you.

 

JAMES

But you don’t love me, right

 

ADAM

When did I ever say I didn’t love you?

 

JAMES

Right then, when you stuttered.

 

ADAM

I was thinking.

 

JAMES

You weren’t thinking.

 

ADAM

Fine, I wasn’t thinking.

 

Pause.

 

JAMES

You think I’m dumb.

 

ADAM

I don’t think you’re dumb.

 

 

JAMES

Yeah you do.

 

ADAM

I don’t.

 

JAMES

Yes, you do you’v-

 

ADAM

I think you’re very smart.

 

JAMES

You always thought that I-

 

ADAM

I don’t think that you’re dumb.

 

JAMES

That I was an idiot, and that I wasn’t-

 

ADAM

Shut up. Stop talking, please, just shut up.

 

Chairs move back to side by side positions.

 

JAMES

I wanted red hair in high school, like, I really wanted red hair. But Adam told me that I’d look like an idiot, what’s the point, I basically am a idiot.

 

ADAM

He bought this weird hair dye off of Amazon, and a bleaching kit too. I swear he looked insane. Then he started getting tattoos. What he called art ruined his body, it made his skin ugly.

 

 

JAMES

I was told that changing my hair was unnatural, that I would be gawked at and nobody would ever take me seriously. No one ever asked me how I’d feel, how having exciting hair would make me feel. They were trying to protect me, that’s what they said, that they wanted to protect me from what. I didn’t care if anyone leered at me while I walked down the streets. I didn’t mind if people called me freak, I was a freak, I am a freak.

 

ADAM

We were walking down the street, holding hands, and this old lady just stared at James. I knew it was because of his hair, that stupid fucking dye job.

 

JAMES (Looking directly at Adam)

Maybe it’s because we’re gay, Adam. Did you ever think of that?

 

ADAM (In response to James)

You looked like a fucking retard.

 

JAMES

Did you ever stop and think about how happy I was with my hair. How it made me feel beautiful.

 

ADAM

You didn’t look beautiful, you’re beautiful when you don’t have some weird chemicals in your hair or ink shoved in your body.

 

JAMES

But I felt beautiful, I feel beautiful. I don’t care what you think about what I’ve chosen to do to my body and-

 

ADAM
Stop it. James you have got to understand-

 

James gets out of his chair

 

JAMES

Stop it, stop doing that, please. I hate it when you talk to me like I’m fucking five. I’m not five, so stop treating me like I’m a child because I’m not a goddam child.

 

ADAM

You’re right. You’re not a child. But you-

 

JAMES

There’s always a fucking but. Why can’t you just admit that I was right, just once.

 

Neither of them say anything, for a very long time.

 

JAMES

Just tell me. (pause) Why you were out until midnight.

 

Adam says nothing.

 

JAMES

Please?

 

ADAM

I was in the park.

 

JAMES

The park?

 

 

ADAM

Thinking. Sometimes, late at night, I go into the park and I lay on the grass and I just think. I look at the sky, I look at the stars. I just think.

 

James picks up a chair and sits down.

 

JAMES
Do you think I’m an idiot?

 

ADAM

What?

 

JAMES

Do you think that I’m an idiot, because you think that I’m going to believe that you go into the fucking park to think for hours on end. That you lay on the grass, in the dark and-

 

ADAM

Shut up! Just shut up, please. God.

 

JAMES

No. Listen to me.

 

ADAM

No. Just listen to me. Please.

 

JAMES

Just tell me where you went.

 

ADAM

I was in the park.

 

JAMES

No you weren’t.

 

ADAM

Fine. I wasn’t laying in the grass. I wasn’t looking at the stars. I wasn’t even in the park. I was out.

JAMES

Where?

 

ADAM

Just out.

 

JAMES

Just fucking tell me.

 

ADAM

Why do you care?

 

JAMES

I just wanna know.

 

ADAM

Why?

 

JAMES

Because I want us to work out.

 

ADAM

That’s it, you just want everything to be fine and dandy again. (Pause) Just face it, it’s never going to be okay again. This is it.

Adam walks towards the door.

 

JAMES

Where are you going now?

 

ADAM

Out.

Adam opens the door.

JAMES

Where?

 

ADAM

Just out.

Adam shuts the door.

 

Selfish Security

Chapter 1

After Jim won his tenth major tennis tournament, he was so happy that his family rented a black shiny limo for him. When it pulled up, everyone got in. It was only a 40-minute drive into the rural side of New York. They poured him a glass of sparkling water and they were there. Everyone stayed in the limo except him.

He went inside to change and put his trophy away when he saw all his others were missing. He hollered to his family to come out. They came as fast as they could. Even their driver. And they all asked what was wrong. The only word Jim said was “Look.” So they did. They were all gone. The nine other grand trophies he won– gone. Nothing left. Not one. Zero. He just couldn’t speak. Gone, all gone.

They went to his favorite Italian restaurant and he got pasta and red sauce, but it didn’t change a thing. After they went home, they slept for 12 hours: 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. When he woke up, he went into the security room to see what had gone wrong. He asked the security guard Tom to pull the video from two nights ago. He saw the thief. And from under his gloves a note fell out.

So Jim went downstairs and picked up the note, and he read it. It said, “I’ll be back.”

 

Chapter 2

Jim was frightened picking up the note, so he had to get traps to catch the robber… falling cages, laser beams, maybe some trap doors. He got them and put them in the house. It was a little messy. Only some of the floor, wall and ceiling had broken apart, so he got a ladder to put the cages up just about four feet away from the trophy case, and with laser beams zigzagging across from each other. Then he put in the trap doors with a boiling pot of hot water underneath. That night he was happy to go to bed, because in the morning, hopefully, he would be calling 9-1-1 to pick up the robber.

When Jim’s sister went downstairs to get a glass of water, she didn’t know the traps were there so she walked right under the cage, and it fell right on top of her! And then the alarm went off. Jim sprinted downstairs only to see that it was his sister, not a robber.

“Why is there a cage on top of me?” his sister asked.

“Because I was trying to catch the robber,” Jim said.

He picked up the rope and pulled it so the cage came up off her.

“I’m very sorry about the traps,” said Jim.

“Well, you should be sorry. You know you have a photo shoot with the ten trophies on Thursday. If they show up and you don’t have them, they will probably be mad at you and not even reschedule,” said his sister.

“I forgot about that! That’s only four days away!”

“Well, you better get them back,” said his sister.

Jim started to sweat. He looked very nervous.

 

Chapter 3

Jim knew he had better get the trophies back before Thursday or he was going to have to tell them the truth.

His next plan was risky. He was going to have to spend some time in the security room to find out some things about the crook.

“Tom, pull up the same video I asked you about last time,” said Jim. “I need to find out where the crook came into the house.”

“Here,” said Tom.

“This is the right video,” said Jim.

“I think he came… no, I’m positive he came into the house through the front door,” said Tom.

“Thanks,” said Jim.

Jim hollered to his wife downstairs. “You are not going to see me tonight,” he said.

“Where are you going to be?” asked his wife.

“Outside,” he said.

“Okay,” said his wife.

Four hours later, it was eight o’clock and Jim had just woken up from a nap in his car, spying on the criminal to see if he went into the house.

Jim saw a man carrying a black bag from his house to a car.

“The robber!” Jim said to himself. Jim got out of his car and ran after him. “The thief! The thief!” he yelled.

“What?” said The Man With The Black Bag.

“Why are you carrying that bag?” asked Jim.

“I am taking out the trash,” said The Man.

“Why are you coming from my house?”

“Because I was wondering if I could get some money for taking out your trash.”

“Oh, well, I’m very sorry,” said Jim.

Jim went inside and told his wife because she was still awake. “I couldn’t find the crook this time,” said Jim, “but I’m not giving up.”

“Just remember, you only have three more days until the photo shoot.”

 

Chapter 4

The next morning Jim went down the stairs to get breakfast. On the bottom of the orange juice was a note that said, “Meet me in the mall by the fountain at 10 o’clock.” So he had a quick breakfast and got dressed and then left for the mall.

When he got there he saw a man in a black hat and black coat by the fountain. He walked over and asked, “What do you want for my trophies?”

“I want thousands of dollars,” said The Man.

“Like how much exactly?” said Jim.

“Forty thousand,” said The Man.

“Okay.”

“Money first,” said The Man, “and then I’ll give you the trophies in my car. There’s an ATM over there. You can get the $40,000, and then I’ll lead you to my car.”

So Jim went over and got out 40,000 dollars.

“Here’s the 40,000. Now my trophies,” said Jim.

The Man led Jim to his car and opened it. But then suddenly he jumped in and closed the door and locked it, trapping Jim outside. He sped away until he got to a red light, but sped through it anyway. Gladly, there was a cop there to stop him. That gave Jim some time to get in his car. He got in and drove to the same block where The Man With The Black Hat was.

The Man sped away with Jim right behind him. They both went across someone’s lawn  and made tire tracks in the grass. The Man With The Black Hat got onto the 10 Freeway with Jim still right behind him. They were going 92 miles per hour. Luckily there wasn’t another police officer there to stop them. Jim had to get off at the fifth exit they passed because he was low on gas. So he went home much slower.

Now Jim had only two days until the photo shoot.

 

Chapter 5

When Jim walked outside he remembered the note that said, ‘I’ll be back.’ He thought the robber would be back tonight to get the last trophy. He decided to take the day off from trying to catch the robber. What Jim didn’t realize was that the robber was already in his house! When Jim walked inside, Tom asked him, “What are your plans for today?”

“I might go to the lake,” said Jim.

“That sounds nice,” Tom said. “I’m gonna stay around and just make sure the robber’s not gonna come today.”

“I’m gonna get ready,” said Jim.

Jim got ready by putting on his blue swim trunks and a lot of sunscreen. Then he walked downstairs and passed by the empty security room. He went down and got in his car, but then he forgot his towels so he got back out.

When he got back inside the house Jim heard footsteps going up the stairs, so he followed them. What Jim saw when he got to the top of the stairs made him gasp. There was Tom stealing his newest silver trophy out of the case and putting it inside a black duffle bag.

Jim got out his phone and snapped a picture of Tom standing with the trophy. Tom heard the snap of the picture and spun around. He saw Jim.

“Why do you have my trophy?” asked Jim.

“You don’t deserve it,” said Tom.

“What do you mean I don’t deserve it? I worked hard for those trophies!”

“I work even harder than you! I’m your security guard and I guard everything you have, but you don’t pay me enough!”

“How much money do you want?” said Jim.

“All of it!” said Tom. “I want to be a very rich man, and I don’t want to work!”

“Well, you’re not going to have to work in jail,” Jim said. Suddenly, Jim dialed 9-1-1 and told the police that they had to come over quick.

When the police came over Jim showed them the picture and the police took Tom away to jail. He was fired, of course, but not before Tom told Jim where he hid the other trophies. He hid them in the biggest cabinet in the upstairs security room.

The next day, Jim waited for hours for the photographers to come and do the shoot. Finally, at the end of the day, they called and said they had to cancel.

THE END

The Broken Chain

Prologue

 

The sandstorm whipped the man’s eyes from beneath his cowl. His cloak fluttered behind him as he trudged on through the desert. His dark blue cloak stood out in the vast pale wasteland. As he climbed up a sand dune, he noticed a small settlement off in the distance. He then slowly made his way towards the town. As he approached the first group of buildings, he noticed that there were large oak and cedar trees nearby. In the desert, seeing trees was a sign that you were nearing the edge of the desert. Right before he entered the town, he muttered very silently three words. As he spoke the air seemed to shimmer around him. When he was done, the air shimmered whenever he moved. He then walked in.

His first priority was to find an inn or tavern to get something to eat and drink. The man saw a large circular building near the edge of the settlement. He also noticed that there was a large flowing river not far behind the inn. It was strange to see so much water in such a dry place, but it didn’t matter to the man in the blue cloak.

When he opened the inn’s door, the thick musky smell of beer and ale wafted towards him. As he made his way inside, he looked at all the men and women seated around tables. Most were yelling or banging their tankards together, while others were just talking to each other. He made his way to the back of the bar (near the exit) so he could see the whole inn. Once he was seated, the bartender, a bald man of medium height and tan skin, came up up to him and said, “Welcome to the Dune Sea, what would ya’ like?”

“Water please,” the blue cloaked man replied. As the bartender poured water into a clay mug, the blue cloaked man stared at the entrance to the inn.

“Here ya’ go,” the bartender said as he placed the mug down in front of the blue cloaked man.

“Thanks,” the cloaked man replied as he picked up the mug and drank. The cold water was much more refreshing than the muddy water that he had been drinking for the last 2 weeks.

“The name’s Clay. What are ya’ doing in the desert?” the bartender asked.

“Nothing much, just traveling,” the blue cloaked man replied. The bartender laughed and said, “Likely story, but if you were traveling through the desert, you’d need a reason to travel.”

The cloaked man smiled and said, “Let’s just say that I needed to do a little digging and clear something up.”

Clay grinned and replied, ”I like ya’ kid, so what might your name be?”

“It’s not always wise to give your name to someone you just met,” the blue cloaked man stated. Clay laughed and walked away to help another customer. As the man sipped his mug he saw the inn’s door creak open as someone walked in. The man was tall and had long sandy hair. He carried a sword at his hip and wore light leather trousers. He wore a gold colored tunic with long sleeves that each had a slash of red on them. But his most distinguishing feature was his blood red cloak. The blue cloaked man placed his mug down along with two copper coins and walked slowly towards the back door. As he walked out the back door, the blue cloaked man smiled because even though he was almost caught, anyone who saw him today would forget that they ever talked, or saw him in the town.

 

 

Chapter 1 Mysteries and Preparation

 

“Come on, what do you want?” Abby asked while she threw up her hands.

“It’s just my birthday, nothing special about that!” Arya replied as she walked ahead of the group.

“But you’re the the crown princess of all Ayraleseia and you’re turning 18 in two days!” Julia replied.

“It’s not a big deal!” Arya said as she threw up her hands, exasperated. Arya Orthora was a tall slender girl, with golden blonde hair with the edges hinted with red that fell to the middle of her back in waves. She walked with such grace and beauty that people tended to watch when she moved. But she could be quick witted and determined if she needed or wanted to. Turning 18 in Ayraleseia was a big deal because now you could start your own family. But Arya didn’t see what was the point in making this huge celebration for her birthday, if she didn’t want it to happen. Her two ladies in waiting were Julia and Abby Corran. Julia had curly blonde hair slightly past her shoulders. Abby had straight fox fur red colored hair down to her shoulders. But other than that they both had the same energetic and happy personality. Their brother Andras was less energetic than his sisters and was a good scribe who was trying to get into the Society of Scholars.

“You have to want something!” Abby said.

“I want you two to stop asking about it!” Arya exclaimed. Suddenly the girls stopped talking and stood staring at something ahead of them. Arya  looked up and saw her older brother. Arthur Othora was the perfect image of a prince. He had the same hair color as his sister and they were both tall, but that’s where the similarities ended. He was well-muscled from warrior training. He had a brilliant smile that made girls flock around him in minutes. He was also extremely cocky and always played the part of the perfect prince. Both Abby and Julia were madly in love with him. As he turned his head and saw his sister he broke into a grin. He rested his practice sword on his shoulder and walked over to them. As he approached, Abby and Julia batted both of their eyelashes and smiled at him as they said in unison, “Hello, Prince Arthur.”

“Hello Abby, hello Julia. You’re both looking as beautiful as ever,” Arthur said while grinning.

Both Abby and Julia clapped their hands over their mouths and started giggling. Taylor rolled her eyes at her friends’ silly behavior.

“So what does my little sister want for her birthday?” Arthur asked.

“I don’t know, why does everyone keep asking!” Ayra exclaimed.

“Everyone keeps asking because you’re turning 18!” replied her brother. Arya moaned and started walking away from her brother and her friends. “ But what do you really want Arya?” someone said from the stairs to the courtyard. Arya turned and saw her father walking down the steps towards them.

“Your Highness,” Abby and Julia said while bowing.

“Dad!” Arya exclaimed running as fast as her dress would let her. Her father laughed and picked her up swinging her around and then putting her back down. “Dad, how is everything,” Arya asked, impatient to know when he got back from a meeting at Hafcsein.

“Everything is alright, just some minor dispute that I had to deal with,” the king said. “But enough about me, what have you been doing young lady?” the king asked. King Daedulan Orthora was a good, just man who had ruled for 20 years and had not been mistrusted once. He was a loving man who cared very much for his children.

“You know, reading, running, studying with tutors, running,” Arya replied to her father.

“That’s very good, now if you’ll excuse me I need to have a chat with your brother,” the king replied.

“Ok see you tonight,” Arya said glad to see that her father was back.

“Hey Arya, Abby and I are going to go find Andras because we need to ask him some questions, so see you later.” Julia said as the headed off. Arya sighed and was going to go to her room when a hand tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around to see that lord Tyran Searsan was there smiling. “ Why hello Arya how are you doing today?” Tyran asked. Lord Tyran Searsan was a boy of average height with short black hair and sharp green eyes. His father owned a large estate near the palace and was one of the king’s most loyal advisers and was also a well-known warrior.

“Hello Tyran, I’m doing well thank you,” Arya said. Tyran flirted with many girls, but he flirted with Arya the most. Ayra thought he was nice, but he could be annoying and he treated peasants horribly. Arya thought he was a good person, she would never want to be in the same house as him.

“Well what does the gorgeous princess of Ayraleseia want for her 18th birthday?” He asked with a mischievous grin on his face.

Arya sighed and said, “I really don’t care about my stupid birthday right now because if everyone makes a big deal about it, it feels more like they just want an excuse to go to a party.”

“How about you and I go for a walk and discuss this somewhere more peaceful,” he asked.

Arya considered saying no, but then she shrugged her shoulders and said, “Why not.” Tyran smiled and held out his hand and she took it. They both walked towards the gardens so they could have somewhere peaceful to converse. In the gardens, Tyran told her how he had helped his father with the taxing of people of the estate. He also told her about how he had defeated three opponents in the arena two days ago. Arya thought this was boring, but it at least helped get her mind off things. But then he told her something that caught her off guard.

“So did you hear about the attack in the Ducardaan desert?” he asked.

She frowned. “I didn’t know this. What happened?”

 

 

The Creature of Bassnovia

In the town of Bassnovia, everyone lived in fear. The town’s workshops and markets were abandoned and everyone stayed inside. Horses were kept in barns with pigs and chickens. Citizens only went out to refill their water jugs or feed the animals. The sky was gray and cloudy; the sun was always hidden by the clouds. No stars shined at night, and the moon only gave off a dim glow. No one danced in the center of town around the giant fountain. It just loomed up twenty feet into the air, only occasionally, drops of black water dripping down and splashing into the very shallow pool in the bottom.

  Now you’re probably wondering why everyone lives in fear. Well, the truth is, no one knows. For as long as the Citizens have lived in Bassnovia, they have been afraid. It might have something to do with the big creepy forest on the edge of the town. A little too close to the huts than the people would like.

    Now there was one young boy named Emanuel Wots who wasn’t scared like the rest of the people. He was a thirteen-year-old boy with wavy black hair and freckles. He wasn’t a very well built boy, with skinny arms and legs. In fact, most of the boys and girls in Bassnovia were scrawny like him.

    He was not so scared of the forest or of the gloomy sky. In fact, sometimes he even played in the black water of the fountain. His mother was very frightened for the boy, not knowing what would happen if he decided to go into the woods.

    And one day he did. He told his mother he was going, then packed some food and water and paper and pencils to make maps. His mother was very sad and scared for Emanuel, but she knew there was no way to stop him.

    So that day, Emanuel trotted into the forest, head held high, marching into the hellish place of the pine forest. It began to grow darker the deeper he went, the branches weaving together, making a dome over his head. He walked deeper yet. When it got too dark to see, he lit the lamp he had packed last minute and continued walking.

    Suddenly, the quiet forest began to come alive. He heard groaning sounds coming from deep in the forest. He stopped. The noise had stopped. So he kept on walking, but as soon as his feet started moving, it came back. The groaning was louder now, accompanied by a screeching yowl erupting from deep within the forest.

    Emanuel’s heart began to beat against his chest. He was starting to get worried. What if he made the wrong decision?

    He kept on walking. This time, the voices didn’t stop. He began to walk a little faster. Suddenly, something tripped him. He landed on his stomach on the dirty leaves. A hissing noise filled his ears. He looked into the shadows, slanted eyes glowing red glowed from the bushes. Emanuel began to tremble.

    A twisted claw with thick dark red blood dripping down from its gnarly  tips emerged from the leaves. Emanuel froze.

      An arm attached to the claws appeared. It was black and twisted, covered in scrapes, and then its body came, big and bulky with a slash down its chest, its yellow flesh visible from the cut. Blood oozed out of the wound, dripping down its chest. It had big crooked spikes sticking out of its spine. Its gaping jaw stretched into a cave filled with millions of sharp and jagged yellowed teeth. Its beady blood-red eyes were filled with murder. An eerie glow shined on its slimy gross skin.

   Emanuel was too scared to move. The town’s people were right about this freaky place. It was a nightmare.

   The creature advanced toward Emanuel. Emanuel stayed frozen. It came so close, the boy could feel its hot stinky breath on his neck. It smelled of death.

    It came even closer, bringing out his long snake-like tongue and licked the boy’s dirty face.

     Emanuel screamed: a piercing noise in the quiet forest.

The creature yowled in the boy’s face, lunging at him with his jaws open. It snapped his neck, blood gushing out of Emanuel’s neck.The creature dragged the boy into the forest.

     And no one ever dared to go into the forest again……..

THE END

American Food in France

3:44 p.m. Friday, June 12, 2015

If you have read my previous journal that I proudly finished, you would know that a lot of queer things have happened to me. I probably shouldn’t use queer; it might sound strange because I am queer… I think strange is better. Yes, very, very unfortunate things. My name is Sinclair Foote, and I am more distinguished than most people. Of course, that’s a euphemism. It’s pretty evident that I’m better than everyone.

So, I just came back from Paris two weeks ago. I actually had a great time. The only flaw is that the people are all European, so they think peeing on the streets and letting their babies go naked is fine.

I think the best restaurant I went to was this place called Le Cinq at the George Cinq Hotel. The meal cost $1,055 – the most expensive and exquisite dinner I have ever had and paid for. It was completely and utterly worth it.

The help began with some wonderful warm French Bread – though I think the waiters tried too hard. They were far too nice and positive. For my appetizer I had a perfectly seared Foie Gras roasted with pistils of flower, pear, and petals of sweet and sour radish. It was $70 and almost as good as mine. For my second course I had Coquilles St. Jacques. The sauce wasn’t thick enough. For my entree, I had pithiviers of Grouse, Duck Mallard and Young Partridge with chestnut honey, autumn fruits, and squeezed juice with armagnac. I was a bit of a grouse myself after the meal because it was a little greasy. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m a more exquisite cook than the whole staff put together.

When I went to a market, there were sections for all the nations’ foods. In the Japanese section, there was ramen and a freezer for the terribly put-together sushi. In the Indian section, there were bags of dried curry that looked like they would give a person a day and night’s worth of diarrhea.

Finally, I reached the American section and was curious to see what they thought of us Americans. I walked down the aisle, hearing every creak my feet made. People rushed past me with their carts as I stood frozen, staring in horror at the rows of vile pleasure before me – Oreos, peanut butter, cake mix, candy cereal with the midget leprechaun, potato chips with so much salt it’s very likely they came from the Dead Sea, and Hersheys – the most vulgar chocolate ever made. If a Hershey kiss kissed me, I’d lock myself in a closet with Tom Cruise. The list goes on. SO many unhealthy foods!

This was the most insulting incident I had ever encountered! America has so many great restaurants, like that restaurant Providence in L.A. It has four Michelin stars! Although, when I had their smoked trout, I had to send it back because it was a little too fishy. I only went back there once, but they no longer have the foie gras ravioli, because those imbecilic Sacramentans outlawed it! Everybody from Sacramento is an idiot!

But let’s get back to the point. America has some of the most delicious food, not on the planet, though. But it’s definitely better than Hungary! No wonder they go hungry all the time!

My new life goal is to replace the vile filth in the American section of that French market with high-quality cuisine that better represents my country and home that I’m probably going to move away from.

Then I realized that I said all of that out loud and I was very embarrassed. At least no one was in that aisle, because it’s the American section and no one would be caught dead there.

I walked out of the store so enraged. What I thought at that very frustrating, confusing moment was: I cannot believe this! This is terrible! Only the disgusting, greasy-haired, wannabees that eat only at Tito’s Tacos eat those disgraceful foods!

So I have decided that after seeing so much awful American food, I will stop this from happening!

I will get a flight back to Paris in three weeks. I don’t think I will ever be able to stomach American food again.

 

5:14 a.m. Saturday, June 13, 2015

I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I really think I have insomnia because I’ve been waking up a lot at night, and it’s been very hard to sleep, and let me tell you, when I can’t fall asleep, I wake up with very dark rings under my eyes and dark rings do not help my complexion at all. I also think I have OCD, because when I see something that isn’t perfect, I feel the need to fix it. And I am pretty sure I have a cyclothymic disorder because I haven’t been interested that much in my daily shows. Well, Seth MacFarlane has gone downhill after that horrible “A Million Ways to Die in the West” thing he calls a movie. I mean, Neil Patrick Harris makes Adam Sandler look good.

Anyway, last week I went to the doctor because I thought I had diabetes, and Dr. Bowmann said, “You have been coming to me at least twice a month saying that you think you have a certain disease or virus. I either think you have hypochondria or you have a crush on me.”

He chuckled. I made the most insulting disgusted face I could make. And after that brief, annoying sentence he said that I had hypochondria. He explained the meaning and I realized that I did have it.

He said I should see a therapist and gave me this supposedly “great” therapist’s number and address.

After that, I went home and had my daily macchiato and chocolate chip cookies that I found at Whole Foods. They’re gluten-free and I KNOW gluten-free is really terrible, but these are just the best cookies I’ve ever had. They melt in your mouth and they’re so crunchy. But I’ve only started eating them since Mindy and Danny broke up on The Mindy Project. It left me looking like an addict who hasn’t had a smoke in a week.

For the past three months, I’ve gone on a gluten-free diet because I’m worried that I will get Celiac’s Disease. No matter what, I will always be against gluten-free foods. I think it is the stupidest thing I have ever encountered. Whenever you try to make something that is gluten-free, it ends up tasting like what the inside of a pelican’s mouth looks like.

After my macchiato, I called the number of the therapist. The person who answered had a weird accent that I disliked very strongly.

He said, “Howdy, friend. What’cha needin’?”

I asked him if he was a therapist, trying hard not to seem disgusted.

He said, “Reckon’ I am! Jeremiah Alabaster Mackelroy is the name, but you can just call me Dr. J.A. Mackelory.”

I sighed, frustrated, and replied, “Okay, well, when can I come in?”

He said I could come tomorrow. He doesn’t have many clients, so I could come in at 9:30.

I did not expect anything good to come out of this.

 

9:27 a.m. Sunday, June 14, 2015

I waited in the waiting room of the so called “therapist’s” office, sitting on the disgusting cracked leather couch. The only magazines there were architecture magazines, which had the ugliest architecture I had ever seen. The architects were physically unable to design. I could make more than $100,000,000 being an architect and I would be so exquisite that I would get so many jobs and I would have to turn down at least 10 jobs a week. The only other magazine there was some kind of Texas vogue magazine, but the clothes were awful! There was a cheap polyester plaid crop top that said “howdy.” I was stunned. It was just like that time when I saw three fourth graders at the mall and the ugly, curly-haired, short girl said to the other two girls, “The first person to touch my hand is my best friend!” and they started chasing her!

Anyway, Dr. J.A. Mackelroy called me in. When I first walked into the room, I knew this was a big mistake. He was overweight and sort of bald, wearing a cowboy hat. Everything he was wearing was denim. He was wearing one of those out-of-fashion cowboy ties. It was classic cowboy. I would rather watch Adam Sandler in Jack and Jill with Arinna Grande than go to this therapy session. When I walked into the room it reeked of incense. I really don’t see how that could be soothing for a patient. I actually almost stepped out of the room. I would have done anything for death to come and take me away. There wasn’t a single thing in that hellhole he called a room that didn’t symbolize Texas. He definitely does not work the Texas style. I know if I were in his repugnant shoes I would work it like there was no tomorrow, I would be like Alexa Chung. But I’m obviously more stylish than her.

He said, “Please, sit.”

I took one look at the chair which was cowskin dyed magenta and thought, Ew. I sighed and said in a very tight voice, “Yeah, I would prefer to stand.”

He looked very annoyed and replied in a voice like he was trying to sound nice but not succeeding, “Please sit in the darn chair, I would not like to repeat myself.”

So I did – probably looking uncomfortable.

Then he said, “So, yous’ got hypochondria.”

And I didn’t say anything, but I really wanted to ask him how he didn’t drown in his own filth.

You probably have figured out by now that I am grossed out by most fast foods. Well, I think I am going to sue Dr. J.A. Mackelroy for what he did then. He took an In-N-Out burger from… I don’t even know where! Then he took out animal-style fries and started eating them with his hands. I started to gag, and not that small little gag that you have in your head, that huge one that is very noticeable. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice my gags. Then he asked how high do I think my self esteem is, and that’s where I drew the line. I got up, brushed off the part of my body that touched the chair, put on hand sanitizer, and left – scarred for life.

 

 

7:09 a.m. Monday, June 15, 2015

I was on the phone for exactly 46 minutes with this guy that had a robot voice. He kept on saying, “Thank you, and if you have any other problems, please call us.” And I was yelling at him, “No! I have a problem right now! Can you talk to me now, you stupid emotionless cyborg!”

He repeated the idiotic line again. I told him – or it – “This is not good customer service. I will write terrible things about you on Yelp!”

This went on for 35 more minutes.

I finally booked the flight tickets, first class, to Paris. I refuse to sit in economy class; I would rather watch a two-hour block of “How I Met Your Mother.” But first class is still pretty disgusting. The cookies they give you at the end are just TOO soft and gooey. The gluten-free cookies are the good cookies, because they’re crunchy yet they melt in your mouth. God I love those cookies… *Ahem* Umm… Uhh… I mean, the chocolate chips are usually a bit stale. Anyway, I am leaving in two days.

 

6:07 a.m. Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Today is the day that i go to Paris. I had my daily macchiato and gluten free cookie(s). I had packed my various clothing, mostly by Michael Kors. After that I ordered my driver, Topvik, to pick me up, because I refuse to take a taxi. Taxis are supposed to cause half of the type of common colds that occur in Silverlake.

I only got to watch one episode of Family Guy. It was the one where Peter finds out Lois is Jewish and starts talking with a very guttural voice. At about a quarter to seven, my driver, Topvik, picked me up.

When we arrived at the airport, it wasn’t very crowded for some reason. As I checked in, I thought I saw Conway Twitty, but I don’t know for sure. God, I hate his facial expressions when he sings, and that hair? Yeesh!

I arrived in first class. The in-air help gave me a hot towel and served me some Moet & Chandon. It was flat. The person sitting closest to me was the same guy I thought was Conway Twitty.

I turned to my side and asked him, “Are you Conway Twitty?”

He looked very insulted and replied, “Conway Twitty has been dead 20 years, and that is the most insulting thing that I’ve heard since I got a nose job.” He had a thick deep New York accent.

I sniffed in a very condescending way and looked down my nose at him. I turned away, raising my eyebrow. I mean, his hair wasn’t that magnificent.

* * *

After six hours, they served dinner. I ordered just a caesar salad with some more Moet & Chandon. The only other options they had were shrimp cocktails, a lamb shwarma with pasta that looked disgusting – even on the menu- and some other kind of fish that looked like it would give me E. coli poisoning.

Every hour I walked down the aisles because I read in a beauty magazine that if you just sit in one seat for one hour that it will paralyze your butt, and I don’t need that stress hanging over me.

We arrived around 2:30 p.m. and I saw some of the other idiots that were in first class walking very stiffly, so I’m glad that I walked down the aisles.

 

6:04 a.m. Thursday, June 18, The Apartment

I arrived at my apartment around 4:00 p.m.. I never get jet lagged, because the amount of water pills and macchiatos that I drink doesn’t let jet lag affect me.

I got dressed in all Michael Kors clothes. I went to the same market where I was so offended three weeks ago. I stopped outside the front doors and realized… this is one of the biggest moments of my life. This is my legacy. This is what Paris will remember me for.

This is it.

I walked determinedly into the store, heel-toe heel-toe, with purpose. I asked the little butler that was chopping prosciutto if I could talk to the manager, in French. He said, “Umm… Uhh… Sure. You can see him. Do you have a problem?”

“Yes I do have a problem, but I don’t wish to talk about it with a little butler who chops prosciutto.”

“Oui, oui, desoleil.” Then he took me to the manager.

The manager said, “What do you need?”

He was wearing small Harry Potter-like glasses that were far too tiny for his huge fat head. He was also bald, which made his complexion look worse because there was just so much of it without hair to cover it up. I demanded he replace the American section in the market because it was highly offensive to my kind.

He just plainly responded: “No.”

I asked again, more firmly. And he said again, “No.”

I finally said back to him, “You disgusting vile fat pasty-faced swine!”

He just said, “No,” again.

I said, very confused, “Well, then can I buy everything in that section?”

And then he said, “Yes.” He gave me the price. It was $1,055. Ironically, it was the exact same amount of money as the Les Cinq dinner.

“I’ll… take it,” I hesitantly agree.

I paid for the 450 pounds of food, called Topvik and told him, “Bring your largest car.”

I succeeded. I had done it. It was very expensive, but I’m rich, so who cares? I spared Paris from the vile stereotyped American food.

* * *

Topvik walked into my hotel room later that night to tell me that I had left my Michael Kors clutch in the car. But he stopped, stunned, and stared at me. I was just chewing on some raw Toll House cookie dough underneath the covers of the bed…

I guess I betrayed my gluten-free diet. God bless America.


THE END

Raven

Fight fire with fire

 

And pain with pain…

 

___________________________

 

My name is Raven. The Earth has orbited the sun about sixteen times since the day I was born, but that is irrelevant. Age is no longer a restraint here in Endgame. What matters is your experience. You have to fight to survive around here. Almost everything wants to kill you, and absolutely everything can.

 

I was given my name because I was born with unnaturally black hair. My identical twin got the name Onyx for the same reason.

 

Onyx and I have shared a mental bond since birth. We were always able to tell what the other was thinking. I could communicate with Onyx from across a room.

 

One week ago, that bond was severed. Why? Because Onyx was murdered. I don’t know who murdered her, or why. All that I know is that it hurt. A lot. The mental link was enough to tell me that. Every day, I recover more and more memory of that night, and sometimes I catch glimpses of a knife, or a crooked smile.

 

Every night, I relive the agony of having my mental bonds snapped. I never knew how much Onyx meant to me until I lost her. Tonight, however, will be different. Tonight, I will track down my sister’s killer.

Hashtags

I go to Instagram

and tap

the hashtags

#cutting, #depressed and #suicidal

 

#self-hating #starving #breaking
#fat #ugly #loser #trash

#42.5pounds #goal

And see the pictures of cuts

some still bright-red and bleeding and drip

Dripping

Dripping

Drip

 

Some are dried up and closing, but the caption is

@screamingforair: I’m thinking of opening

 

Comments range from

@sui.cidal: I’m there for you bby

to

@re_cover_y: what’s wrong I’m here to talk if you need me

 

and sometimes there are replies by the user

usually hearts and ‘thank you’s,

but usually, there are no replies by the user

which means that

they are too wrapped up in their own agony to accept help from the outside

and who can blame them? In the real world

if you don’t care about yourself then no one will

Yet still–

Yet still, I say, “I love you, you’re in my prayers, please put those blades down. You don’t know how strong you are, and you make COUNTLESS NUMBERS of people smile everyday, even if you don’t see it. You are gorgeous and beautiful and nothing can change that, so stay strong! I love you.”

 

It seems fake, but it isn’t.

Every single word I type, I mean.

I know that they bring joy to other people’s lives even if they’re not happy.

I know that they’re strong to be this scared and vulnerable and broken and to still live life,

every

single

day.

They are gorgeous, they are beautiful

even the shadowed, baggy eyes and emotionless expressions in the photos they post don’t change that.

And I do love them, even if I have never met them.

I don’t want them to draw blades on their skin ever again.

Even though sometimes it seems in vain to wish it

I still wish it

and wish it desperately.

While I’m saying

Scars are beautiful, because they show struggle overcome. But please, no fresh cuts.

Don’t post emoji of pills and skulls.

I don’t know if you want to, or are going to, or wish to, but please, elaborate

because I AM SO SCARED FOR YOU

a life lost

here

there

scattered like falling snow

‘Life lost’ seems like a euphemism, and it is

what ‘life lost’ really means is

screaming and sobbing and rejection and desolation

and terror.

He’s quaking.

She’s so scared.

A mix of resolve and ambulance sirens and heart monitors

Beep

Beep

and no more beeps.

This isn’t just a life lost, this is human agony at its very worst.

WHY CAN’T YOU WAKE UP AND NOTICE?

 

Anyway, moving on to the posts of the girls and guys with eating disorders

they are all protruding hipbones and mirrors without faces, without heads, from the shoulders down to about mid-thigh.

(Figures that would be beautiful,

beautiful, thin or fat or otherwise)

 

@fat.ugly.loser says: I can’t believe I ate so much I feel like a whale #fat #ugly #anorexic

and because there are no visible cuts and scars and agony

the positive comments on these are a little less than the ones on the cutting posts.

But once you know what to say, then it’s easy to say it.

I tell them ‘you are gorgeous,’ because they ARE gorgeous

I tell them ‘you are not fat,’ because they are NOT fat or even close to fat

 

 

and also because, honestly, there’s a set thing to say for self-haters and cutters,

a guideline, a way to format that will not fail you,

but eating disorders seem like a whole different ballpark and you don’t want to trigger something

so scared of failure, no one attempts…

 

But once you know what to say, then it’s easy to say it.

I tell them ‘you are gorgeous,’ because they ARE gorgeous

I tell them ‘you are not fat,’ because they are NOT fat or even close to fat

I tell them ‘I love you’, because I do love them, and all I want them to do is to see themselves as I see them– gods and goddesses, with strong wings beating against the scary demons trying to get them down, supreme and glowing in their strength!

But even if I tell them, they will not believe me…

 

And the last kind, with no cuts or hipbones or pills or guns

are the ones which simply say

@marie_the_wreck: I hate myself i’m so fat and so ugly and i don’t deserve anything. no one wants to even talk to me in real life, they think all i am is weird.

 

I comment: They might think you’re weird, but I think you’re amazing! You deserve every good thing in this world, don’t say that you don’t. You aren’t fat, but even if you were your prettiness wouldn’t be affected at all. You are NOT worthless, you are NOT a waste of space, and I love you.

These are easier for many to deal with more than the ED and the self-harm posts

because everyone, at some point, even if for a fleeting second, believes this about themselves

The only strand holding this spool of thread together

is the positive comments from either the recovering users

or the users that peer into the yawning chasm and try to rescue everybody inside.

Which is me.

That’s me.

When I feel useless, or a waste of space

having a bad day or a failed test and when I’m in absolute shambles

helping others not feel useless helps me not feel useless

The opposite of a grave digger

I dig people out of their future graves

or at least I try.

It seems like a hopeless job, what with so many people who hate themselves

and most of them will not, or cannot take inspirational messages

but if my words

can give them one more day of staying clean

a sign not to kill themselves

or simply bring a smile or a burst of warmth in their bleak life

if I can help them a little bit,

even a little bit,

then it is worth it.

The pen is mightier than the blade.

 

 

 

 

 

Crescent That Will Definitely Not Fail

Crescent.

My mother named me that because that’s what she thought when she first saw me. Not full and wholesome like a full moon, not dark and serene like a cloudy night when you can’t see a moon at all. A crescent, a little sliver of person, not whole and not nothing. Pale and so close to being gone that you can barely tell I’m there.

I haven’t changed since then in terms of appearance. I still look half-made, like someone didn’t put enough detail into my features, or if someone’s printer ran out of ink. I’m slim and short enough to curl up into a little ball underneath my bed, which is what I would be doing right now if it had snowed enough to give us a snow day and no homework. I have short, dark brown hairpixie-cut-shortand light blue eyes, which sounds pretty, but it’s notit’s like when you blot blue watercolor and most of the color fades and you have to try again. I know because my mother told me. She seems to know everything.

“Next,” the barista calls, and I step forward and order my drink.

The barista is pretty cute. Long brown hair, almond-shaped green eyes, tall and slender and full, not like me. Her name tag reads Elizabeth, but then I see that someonepresumably the girl, though it’s hard to tellhas crossed that out and then, in red Sharpie, written Chimes. I vaguely wonder how Chimes came out of Elizabeth, but then she’s asking for my name and I have to give it to her.

“Crescent,” I say, nearly wincing at the sound of it. I hate it. It matches my personality too much, my half-faded features, my voice, my everything. I hate my name. I hate it I hate it I hate it, and I can’t get rid of it.

The barista seems unfazed as she scribbles it down on a pink Starbucks cup and tells me my total. I hand her the cash, take the change, and walk down the room, my boots making a thud-thud, thud-thud sound on the tiles. I bite my lip, wondering if maybe I should’ve chosen to wear flats today, or sneakers, or anything that made less noise.

I walk back to the table I’ve dumped my backpack, coat and scarf, and violin case at, and sit down, waiting for my drink. There’s really no point in standing at the counter for the twenty minutes they take to fix a single mocha.

So, of course, they call the drink I ordered five minutes later (why did they even bother to call my name, anyway?) and I’m already deep into my homework. I’m closing my Mac laptop and standing up when I hear a deep male voice say, “Oh, I think that’s mine.” I swivel my head around and am just in time to see a tall, large, bearded man take my drink and sit at a table. I bite my lip and get up. I’m about to tap the man on the shoulder when I think, I probably shouldn’t bother him. He’ll enjoy that drink.

That drink that you paid for, a snide little voice in the back of my head reminds me. I push it aside and glance at the barista who took my order who is now doing something on her phone, apparently not caring about the long line winding around the room. I bite my lip.

I have two options here. I can either defy everything my mother has ever told me my whole lifedon’t say anything unless it’s a matter of life or death, and even then no one probably caresand ask either the barista that the man took my drink or I can tell the man that he took my drink and ask that he pay for a new one or whatever people are supposed to do in a situation like this, or I can wait in theI count the people quickly in my headthirteen-people line and order and pay for a new drink.

Hmm, I think bitterly. Which one is Invisible Woman going to choose?

I don’t even need to think twiceI get in the line and wait.

When the barista sees me, she smiles. “Not satisfied with your drink, huh? Yeah, the drinks here are shit. Cookie?” She nods to the snacks.

“Um, no thanks…can I have another

“Tall mocha? Yes ma’am.”

“How did you

“Remember your order?” The barista-or Chimes, I suppose, laughs. “To be honest, I don’t completely know. Maybe it’s because you’re cute as hell?”

I feel myself blushing and hate myself for it. “I’mI’m not

“Not lesbian? Sorry.”

“Nonot cute asas, well, hell. Umcan I just

“Oh, yeah.” She pulls a cup from the stack next to her and takes her red Sharpie out from behind her ear. “Crescent, right? Memorable name.”

“Yep,” I mumble. “Especially when it matches everything true about me.”

Chimes raises an eyebrow but stays silent, just scribbles my name on the cup and passes it down to the people making the drinks. “There you go, Crescent. Can I call you Cress?”

“No. Anyway, you won’t have a reason to,” I point out. “I never come to this Starbucks.”

“Well, maybe you’ll have a reason to,” Chimes says, and I shake my head and move down. “Why are you getting another drink, anyway? I never asked.”

“Oh…” I shrug my left shoulder. “Some guy took the first one.”

“His name is Crescent, too?” She grins. “Weird.” I open my mouth to respond, but she shakes her head. “No, I know. I’m not as stupid as I look.” She grins again. “Everyone always says that.”

“I don’t think you look stupid,” I say before I even realize there are words coming out of my mouth.

Chimes smiles. “Aww, that’s sweet. Thanks. Anyway, why didn’t you just tell him it was yours and have him buy you a new drink?”

“I don’t

“Hey, it’s okay.” She raises her voice. “Hey, guy with the tall mocha.” The guy turns around, along with a few other customers. “Yes, you. You took this girl’s drink.” I feel my cheeks warm.

The guy stands up immediately. “Did I?” For what must be the first time, he turns the cup to look at the name. “Oh gosh, sorry. Do you want me to buy you a new drink?”

“You don’t have toI mean, that would be nice, butI can buy another one, it’s fine.” I force a smile.

“Are you sure?”

I make the smile a little bigger and nod. “Yeah, it’s fine. Um…” I never know how to end conversations, but the middle-aged man makes it easy by smiling and sitting back down. I can tell he’s relieved that he didn’t have to spend four more dollars on a coffee he wasn’t even going to drink.

I turn back to the counter.

Chimes looks confused. Very confused.

“What the hell was that?” She asks, her eyebrows wrinkled. “Why didn’t you make him pay for another drink?”

“It’s not worth it,” I mutter. “You saw how relieved he was. He probably has a wife and kids.”

“He comes here every day,” Chimes says tightly. “He has three girlfriends and a cat named Chester. He owns two mac computers and an iPhone. I think he’s pretty well off. If you’re rich enough to own that and come to fricking Starbucks every day, then I think he can pay for one more drink.”

I shake my head and smile despite myself. “How do you even know that?”

“Just look at his email. It’s obvious.”

“Obvious. Right, Sherlock.”

“It’s elementary, Watson.” A small smile tugs at the corner of Chime’s lips, but she presses her lips together and forces herself to frown. “Here’s your drink.”
I smile slightly. “Thanks.” I take the drink and walk away.

“That’s it? That’s all?” I turn around and face Chimes.

“What else do you want me to say?”

Chimes shakes her head. I sit down and watch her take the next order.

I pull my laptop out of my backpack and tuck my hair behind my ears. My email is already open, and from what I see in front of me, my best friend Rebecca (also known as Becca) has emailed me seven different times about various things in the last half hour. I sigh like I’m annoyed to have so many emails from her, but in reality, I love Becca. She’s been my best friend since second grade when I accidentally hit her in the head with my extremely heavy second-grader backpack going down the stairs to dismissal and she went tumbling down the last two flights. She ended up with a slight concussion and a couple of rather impressive bruises. I refused to go to school for three days after that, and then Becca’s mother called mine, saying Becca was wondering why I had been absent those few days, and that she hoped I was okay. That’s pretty much how I made my first friend.

I’m jerked out of my thoughts by my phone ringing. I groan inwardly, mostly because I recognize the ringtone. It’s a Bruce Springstein song, which means only one person can be calling, and that’s my mom.

I dig it out of my pocket and answer it. As always, my mother is first to speak.

“Hi, Crescent!” She says in the obviously fake-energetic voice she always uses with me. “I was just wondering where you were. You’re usually home by now.”

As if you care, I think to myself. I speak into the phone, “I’m just at Starbucks, mom. The one I usually go to near school was jam-packed.” True.

“Oh! I was worried. You’re usually home by now.” She’s said that twice now.

As if. “Yeah, I know, I just didn’t want to have to go through all those people and wait a while for my drink.” True.

“Got it. What time are you going to be home? I’m starved, do you think you can be home by six?”

“Yeah, I just decided to do homework. That’s also why I’m still here.” False.

“Oh, okay. Pick up some milk on your way home, okay? We’re almost out.”
I swallow. “Okay. Anything else?” The line buzzes. She’s already hung up.

I roll my eyes and slip my phone into my pocket again. I have better things to do than to talk to her. Like look at my seven emails from Becca.

So I do. As it turns out, Becca is only emailing me about homework. I respond to her quickly and pack my things. I slide into my coat, buttoning it up, and wrap my scarf around my neck. I pick up my violin case and head out the door. I look back at the counter. Chimes is sitting on a stool, feet up on the counter, scribbling something on a cup with a red Sharpie. She looks up and catches my eye, grins, and shows me the cup. She’s sketched a rough scene that probably takes place somewhere in Central Parkrocks next to a lake with a bunch of rowboats. Two girlsme and her, I’m assumingsit on the rocks. She holds up a finger, and I wait. When she shows me the cup again, there’s a crescent moon above the scene. I smile a little and push open the door.

I guess it wouldn’t really hurt to come back to this Starbucks tomorrow. And who knows? Maybe I won’t be as much of a nobody.

Crescent.

I’m named that because that’s what I am. Not full and wholesome like a full moon, not dark and serene like a night without any moon at all. A crescent, a little sliver in the sky, not whole and not nothing but still something, still bright and beautiful. Still giving light. Still a moon.

 

 

Fire at The Don Cesar

“A fire has been reported in the building. Please exit down the stairs. Un fuego se ha reportado en el edificio. Por favor salga por la escalera.”

My mom has turned on the light and is standing above me.

“Put your shoes on and let’s go.”

“She doesn’t have time to put shoes on!” shouts my dad, who’s already standing by the door to our hotel room.

“Dad, let me put my flipflops on!” I yell.

“Mommy what’s going on?” asks my sister Gracie.

“We need to go!” My dad is getting upset. Or he’s just psyched there’s a fire.

“Relax, we’re coming!” says my mom.

It’s spring break, and we’re in St. Pete Beach, Florida. My family and I are staying at the Don Ce Sar hotel, where my dad went with his dad and brother as a kid. The Don is everything I hoped it would be. It’s pink, for one thing, with two pools, a spa, and a restaurant where we’ve eaten every night except for the night we went to a spring training baseball game but we had to leave early because my sister and mom fell asleep.

As we step out into the hallway, families and elderly couples are heading for the stairs. We’re on the sixth floor. Tough for the old people, but perhaps even tougher for me considering I don’t have my contact lenses in and everything is frustratingly blurry. If I die tonight I can blame it on shitty genetics and the fact my glasses make me look like Sarah Palin, which is why I had to leave them at home.

On the way down the stairs, I bump into an old lady and may have knocked her over, but there’s no time to look back. For a split second, I think about going back to help her but I realize that this is a life or death situation. A fire is really no place for arthritis or back pain. This is not a drill! Lives will be lost. Bodies will be burned. Vacations will be ruined because of this fire, this fire that is probably hot on my heels as I flee down the crowded staircase to safety, my parents and sister right behind me.

I feel the heat on my skin, and my hair is definitely being singed by the flames. I’m running so fast and everything is blurry, but I hastily glance back to look the fire in the eye. Well, actually I don’t see any fire but that doesn’t mean it’s not around here somewhere.

We dash through the lobby, and go outside where there are already clumps of tired and frightened vacationers. We stop by the fountain right outside the hotel. I squint, and in the distance I can make out a tacky neon sign that says “Come See Our Naked Mermaids!” Oh, Florida. Keeping in Klassy.

Because I am a teenager in the 21st century, I grabbed my phone as we headed out the door and check the time. It’s 6:02 am.

It’s starts to rain, and we move under the main awning. I look up and instead of finding comfort in the hot pink Spanish-style building, I am horrified to see fire leaping out of all the windows. But those flames are dark gray. Turns out, those are shadows from the air conditioners. I avert my attention to the bell tower in the front of the hotel. My little sister whispers to me, “Lily, doesn’t the bell tower look like the one from that scary movie Mommy made us see?”

Shit, it’s Vertigo. Now I have to think about Vertigo while I’m also thinking about how I left all my clothes and belongings in our room. (I should really start bringing a pre-packed mini suitcase with me that has all my most precious clothes and belongings in it so I can grab it quickly if I’m ever in this life-threatening and goddamn terrifying situation ever again. If I survive this, that is). I take a deep breath and wait for a body to be spewed out of the bell tower, plunging to its death, riding a wave of fire.

“That movie haunted me!” my sister says. Her eyes are wide with renewed fear.

I glance around me. There are families huddled together, some with dogs. I did not know this hotel allowed dogs. How impractical. This is a fire, and small dogs could be easily swallowed up in flames and no one would notice. Actually, some people would notice but by then it would be too late.

Yesterday afternoon at the pool I saw a totally gorgeous Titanic-era Leonardo DiCaprio lookalike. I was entranced. At last I would get my very own spring vacation romance that Seventeen magazine never shuts up about! Then we’d date and all my friends would be jealous of me! He waved to me, and I enthusiastically waved back. I was wearing a cute new bikini I bought online for $38. Yes! Seventeen would be so proud. I tried to wave back, but I couldn’t tell if he saw me or not so I made a plan to get a fruit smoothie at the same time as him today.

I catch sight of him now standing with his family. He’s wearing purple terrycloth pajama bottoms and a Taylor Swift t-shirt. What never happened between us is now over.

An old man is wearing skull-and-crossbones PJs. His wife (or his mistress, how should I know) is wearing one of the fluffy bathrobes from the hotel bathrooms. A lot of people are wearing the hotel bathrobe. Dear god, am I glad we don’t have to see what they’re wearing underneath. I wish I had thought to bring a sweatshirt with me. It’s chilly outside. I see a group of girls my age taking selfies and posting them on Instagram. They’re posting photos on Instagram during a fire? I have some questions about that. One, they’re taking a selfie with bedhead? Two, how are they getting WiFi?

I check my phone. It is 6:10. I’m starting to get ridiculously bored. My parents are talking about work, relaxed now that it’s looking more and more like the fire was not a Gone With the Wind-level situation. My sister has fallen asleep standing up. Her eyes are closed, and she’s humming the Harry Potter theme song. She’s asleep.

God, this is dull. People are chatting, the sun is rising. The sunrise is beautiful in an annoying way. Annoying because I no longer want to be in Florida. I want to be back home in New York City, where nothing dangerous ever happens. This is such a pain, they better be giving us all complimentary chocolate chip muffins at breakfast.

It is now 6:12. Progress. There’s no sign that we can go up anytime soon, and the hotel managers are looking harried as they run in and out of the hotel, checking to count the bodies and see how many lives have been lost. Suddenly the hotel guy standing by the door yells, “All clear, folks!”

I survived! We move towards the door.

“Are you sure it’s safe to go inside?” My dad asks him.

“Um, I think so.”

“Would you mind double checking?”

Oh, please, Dad. Everything’s fine. This is not a real thing, it might even have been a drill. I’m exhausted and I want to go back to bed. We’re allowed to take the elevators now that there’s not a fire, and everyone’s waiting for them. I hear one woman say to her young children, “Daddy’s going to take you two back to bed. Mommy’s going to the gym to burn off that cheesecake because she won’t be able to fall back to sleep.”

The sun has almost fully risen behind the sign for naked mermaids. The air is cool and even though I’m tired I feel very peaceful. I put out that fire with my mind. I know I did.

Now I’m delirious and the hotel guy comes back. It’s safe to go up.

 

The next morning at breakfast, no one mentions anything, but some respect has definitely been lost amongst the guests after seeing each other in horrifying pajamas. We’ll probably never see each other again, but we’ll all have the same near-death vacation story to tell. Maybe Taylor Swift t-shirt will write about it for his college application essay. I start thinking about the fire, and next thing I know I’m contemplating human existence and what my purpose is on this planet and whether I’ll live my life any differently now. I hope I’ve been changed by this fire, but I don’t feel anything yet. Maybe it takes a few days. Later, my mom and I head to the spa to get facials and I look up and see the Vertigo bell tower. When I close my eyes, I can still see the fire.

 

Lonely Brooklyn Nights

Starts up going great,

Then it ends it bein late.

Sittin on the bench thinkin’ about how ima survive this world,

Almost 10 o’ clock,

Still bored and the moon shinin like a pearl.

Light one up and still bored.

But, it’ll take things off my mind.

Remember them days when I was young and I was chillin,

Now things gettin hectic and people killin,

Somebody that was younger and wishin,

That life would get 100 times better and go kill it

Voices

I am the voice that kills you.

I am the voice that seeps into your brain and tells you that you’re wrong. Whatever you’re doing

is wrong. You are wrong.

The lunchtime bell rings. It is lunchtime. Today baked potatoes will be consumed. Or not. And I

am the voice that will tell you not to eat it. Not to eat it and just to drink your water and cut it

into little pieces and offer some to your neighbor and exit as early as possible and –

And everyone is walking down the hall, some with smiles on their faces, some looking as though

they’d rather die; in fact, most look as though they’d rather die, and some look like they have

already.

I am the voice that tries to count the calories burned on the walk down the hallway and she is the

girl who passes you and who is healthy and who always finishes her meals without any trouble

and you are the one who does not and you are the one that you hate and

I

am

the

voice

that kills you.

The aroma is intoxicating, and the lights are fluorescent and the nurses are smiling and you are

dying inside. And that’s not too far from the truth, in reality. Maybe if you ate that baked potato,

you could stop dying inside and out.

But you can’t and you won’t, because I am the voice that trumps everything else. Logical

thought does not matter. You are not smart. You have no idea what’s good for you. I know what’s

good for you. You are in a bad situation where they want you to eat baked potatoes, but I can get

you out. You just have to trust me.

There’s butter on the tables and cheese to sprinkle on anything and everything, and little packets

of ketchup and mustard and mayonnaise that are waiting to be torn open. Poor ketchup packets.

No one will pick them up; everyone will shun them and pretend that they don’t exist, even when

the nurse encourages you to have one or two.

You don’t really feel bad for the stupid ketchup packets. You feel bad for yourself. Because

you’re picking up your fork

you’re glancing around the room to see who else is eating

you’re looking at your plate

you see your reflection and who the fuck planned plates like that anyway and it’s traveling

towards your mouth and you’re chewing and you can’t stop you can’t stop you can’t stop

you can’t stop

you can’t stop

And I hate you, you didn’t have to eat it, you could have done what you did before, before they

told you what’s good for you, and now you’ve ruined everything. You ate the baked potato and

it’s traveling down; it’s in your system and that’s it. One bite ruined everything. I am the voice

that will make sure to let you know that you have ruined everything.

They are the girls who sit across from you and carefully place their napkins on their lap,

and smile as they chew and converse with the nurses,

and they are the girls who somehow run to the bathroom afterwards and lock the door and get on

their knees but they’re most definitely not praying, because they know at least that they can’t eat

baked potatoes. They are the girls who are smart, and I am the voice that tells you that you’re not

like them; that you’re never going to be as good as them, that they have their lives figured out

and they know what they’re doing, but now you’re taking another bite because maybe you can be

like them,

but you can’t and you know you can’t.

I was the voice that somehow carried you into the gym and outside on the running track for miles

and miles and hours and hours until your lungs felt like they would burst and your legs gave out

and you almost passed out crying,

I was the voice that blamed the hunger on the stress of school and that made you stay up until

past midnight worrying about what you would or would not pack in your lunch bag the next day,

I was the voice that made you dread grocery shopping; that made you anxious every time you

passed a fruit stand on the street; that made you claw at your face and your legs when your

mother mentioned mozzarella or a birthday dinner.

And it’s your fault that I’m now the voice

that followed you in here;

that nurses try to squash with every minute;

that everyone talks about as if it’s a person, but I’m not a person, I’m a voice, and I will stay with

you. They might say you’re okay, or that you’re getting better, but you’re not okay and you’re

not better and you never will be, because you’re a failure that fucked up and landed yourself in

here, in fact it was probably because you didn’t run that extra mile that Tuesday and because you

had that second piece of pizza the Saturday before that.

And everyone knows that all humans die, but you’re dying early, because you let me in,

you let me in,

and I am the voice that kills you.

The Preparations

ONE

The day the world ends is August 8. Our leader told us so. They stood on the balcony overlooking our town and called us to attention.

“We will all pass on the 8th of August, at 3:30. Our scientists have discovered that Earth will die from overheating, and our reinforcements will melt. The beams holding up our community will collapse, and we will drown.”

It’s kind of sad, I think, to have to accept death, but they say it is the only thing to do. We must go voluntarily. The celebrations will make up for it. My brother is only little, so he cried during the announcement. He hasn’t been taught yet that showing negative emotions in public is considered dangerous.

My friend taps me on the shoulder as our community applauds. She grins, her eyes shining.

“I can’t wait for the celebrations! We’ll get to wear colored clothing, and eat foods we’re not allowed to, and get to act like the people in the shiny books from school!”

“You mean the magazines? Harriet, those people didn’t eat. It would be unhealthy to look like them.” We break away from the crowd once the announcement ends, and head towards the South Tunnel.

Harriet shrugs, grabbing her shoes. “They look so…different. I like the ones that wear their hair down all the time. I wish we could do that.”

We pull on our shoes and walk down the South Tunnel, gazing up at the freshly painted mural. It shows our history, and how we corrected our flaws to become one of the last civilizations left.

After the scientists figured out that global warming would end the world, the builders elevated our communities. Some countries decided to build boats and submarines to live in forever, but they drowned. As far as anyone knows, America’s people are the only ones that survived the flooding. The communities are sparse, and there isn’t much contact with them.

“Johanna?” She’s not looking at me, just gazing at the paintings like I am. “Where did the others go?” She’s onto the last painting, where the ice caps are melting and people are drowning. “I mean, the other communities. Where are they?”

I pull her towards the other wall, where an old map of the world is hanging. Black lines are drawn across it to replace the faded borders.

“See the shape up top that looks like a dog? That used to be called Maine. Some people live in a community there.”

She nods and points to a small shape named Massachusetts. “And that’s us!”

As soon as she presses the shape, a small chime sounds throughout the South Tunnel. A nasally voice from the speakers states, “Community members are prohibited from touching the map. Number 107, should this be filed in your report as an accident which will not be repeated?

Harriet sighs and looks down at her feet. “Yes, the incident will not happen again.”

Thank you. We are pleased to hear that Number 107 will follow the rules.” There is a screech of mic feedback, and then the voice is gone.

Harriet is shaking, her eyes wide. “That was the third time I’ve been warned for correction this month. I’m going to have to be corrected if I slip up a fourth time.” I frown, thinking of the few times I’ve been warned of correction all my life. I know how important neatness and promptness are in our community. I hope Harriet won’t be corrected. They never are quite the same after.

“Come on! I don’t want to be late,” I whisper. We run to the exit and pull the huge door open.

 

TWO

 

The south end of our community is where all our homes are. We take off our shoes and sprint down the path towards a raised platform. I press the button for my home and a tunnel lights up. I start down the walkway after waving to Harriet.

I open the door to my home, looking for my little brother and my mom. “Owen?” I step into the living room and take off my jacket. There is no answer.

“Mom?”

My mom pokes her head out from the study door. “In here!”

I smile and hang up my jacket, then join them in the next room.

The study is tiny, just like our home, and it’s very plain. My mother is reading to Owen from one of the sites on the computer. I smile and take a place at my desk, digging out the flash drive from my pocket and fitting it into the slot in the desk.

The computer starts up, and it asks me one of the questions from my lesson today.

What is the procedure for apocalypse-related incidents?”

I grin, feeling proud. I know this one by heart.

“Walk to the raised platform in the south end of the community and press the 9 button twice. Then lie down and rest,” I repeat carefully. We’re supposed to sleep peacefully so that we won’t try to run when we die.

Very good. Proceed to internet use. Please use responsibly.”

My favorite site pops up on the screen, and I scroll down quickly. It’s a story site, with tales for kids that are written by government-approved writers. I was in the middle of a story about a girl that followed all the rules of her community and grew up to be a painter of the murals in the North Tunnel. I sigh, reading about the girl’s fantastic adventures.

“What are you thinking about?”

I turn to face my mom. It’s standard procedure to ask what another person is thinking, but I like to think people are just being polite.

“I’m thinking about being a government-approved writer when I grow up. I could create stories for people to read!”

My mom chuckles and closes her computer temporarily. “Johanna, you know that the genre of writing has to be chosen by the leader of the community. You can’t ask for realistic fiction writing in your job description.”

“I know, I know.” I scroll down farther to read another story about our community leader. “But what if I got a realistic fiction assignment from the government, and then…”

My brother starts crying when the computer talks about the Earth flooding. I pick him up and bring him into the living room after closing my computer.

“Johanna? Owen?”

“Dad!” I rush over to him. He grins at me after hanging up his jacket next to mine.

“Did you hear when the world is going to end? Did you?” I’m jumping up and down, barely being able to control myself.

“Yes, I did. August 8th, right?” He waves to my mom, who is now in the living room.

“Yeah! There’s going to be a huge celebration, and in only a few days!” I check the calendar in the kitchen: only one week until the three days of celebration.

“One week left! One week left!” I sing. My mom and dad chuckle, and Owen starts giggling. My mom walks into the dining room, shaking her head at our silly reactions. We all follow her, with my little brother in my dad’s arms.

I take my place at the dinner table and straighten my clothing. My parents do the same, and Owen reaches for his bib. With great difficulty, I manage to tie it around his neck.

“Can I press the button?” I look up at my dad timidly.

“Of course.”

I grin and reach for the circle in the middle of the table, hitting it with the tips of my fingers. The side of our house opens up, and our dining table moves down a treadmill.

The tables of each family move to the platform, with each table taking up a corner of the octagon shape. My dad stands up, and we all follow as the community leader emerges from the tunnel.

“Thank you, families of the community. As you all know, our scientists have found the answer to the question that has been on our minds for so long. The end of the world will be on August 8th.” A great cheer rises up from the families.

The community leader chuckles once the applause dies down. “This means that the three days of celebration are in just a week. I advise you to get some rest, spend time with your family, and be happy!  We only have a few more days to thank the Earth for what it has given us.”

I dig into my dinner and watch the laughing families around us. If this is a plain, basic, community with only the essentials, then I can’t wait for the luxury of the celebration.

 

THREE

 

-one week later-

 

“Harriet!”

“Johanna!”

“Oh my goodness!”

We run out of our houses and meet at the entrance to the tunnel, our faces red.

“This is going to be the best celebration ever!” I cry. My parents trail behind me in their special occasion outfits, and my brother toddles over to us. He learned how to walk the day after the announcement, and he’s been the main source of excitement in our community.

“Let’s go!”

We pull on our shoes and race down the tunnel, stopping at the huge metal door. My dad pushes it open, and the community gasps at the sight.

A huge train takes up the meeting place, and most of the government leaders sit inside. We slowly walk towards it and stop when a door slides open. The community leader steps outside and addresses us.

“Good morning, everyone,” she says. “I know you are frightened, but there is really no need to be.” We all relax instantly.

“This train is going to take us to another part of the world, where there are celebrations all the time. But you must know why we do not allow this. We will show a documentary on the train ride there, about how constant celebration is not at all what it seems.” She walks back into the train after motioning for us to come inside.

Harriet, always the bold one, runs onto the train and finds seats for the two of us. I scoop Owen up and step inside. The rest of the community filters in and sits down. As soon as everyone is seated, screens come down from the ceiling and stop in front of us. I don’t really want to watch the movie. I’d rather see the train start moving, but there are no windows. I guess they don’t want us to see the other, primitive villages that got flooded.

The movie starts playing, and I reluctantly turn my attention to the screen. Owen is already drooling like a faucet onto my shoulder, so I sit him between Harriet and me.

Long, long ago, there was a beautiful place called Earth,” the documentary announces. “People were happy, and they rejoiced when their crops grew and were ready to harvest. They did this every year, and it was called Thanksgiving.” There are scanned pictures and paintings on the screen, with many people eating with their community. I smiled. It seemed like a fun time of the year.

There was another holiday, which was modeled after the birth of their community leader. The people gave items to others wrapped in colorful paper, and they took trees inside their homes and decorated them.” Harriet and I stifled a giggle. In our lessons, we had learned that trees were ancient things that only grew outside. Why put a tree inside your house?

There were many other holidays like this, where people would eat rich food and receive material items. They started to think that objects were the only important things in life, and that a green slip of paper could be worth wars. The green paper was called money, and the people got greedy and fat.” The screen changed to a crude drawing of many people, with inflated bodies and little heads. Their eyes were cold and black, and they held wads of green paper in their chubby fists. Owen woke up and started crying at the sight of the inflated people.

Luckily, the community leader’s grandfather knew this had to change. He asked some of his friends to help him, and they got people back to their normal size. He was the greatest hero the world had ever seen.

Of course, some people didn’t want to change back. They liked being fat and evil and ugly.” The narrator spits out each insult onto our faces, scaring the little children and disgusting the adults.

The fat people attacked our community leader’s grandfather, and he fought back courageously. He saved us all from turning out like the inflated people.” I gasped and held Owen close to me. I couldn’t imagine being like the people in the drawings.

So we built our communities, and saved ourselves from the global warming that the fat people had caused. They tried to build boats to stay alive during the flooding, but they drowned.” Harriet turned and whispered in my ear. “How could they have caused the global warming?”

I frown, just noticing that they never said that. “I guess it was the making of the material items that they loved,” I whisper back.

The documentary ends with a click, and the doors slide open again. The community leader smiles and gestures outside. “Welcome,” she says. As we rush out the doors, she calls after us.

“Remember the documentary- we took this away for a reason.”

 

FOUR

 

The crowd of people are too noisy to stand in, so I drift away from them. The trees bend over the walkway and block the magnificent sunset.

“Hey.”

I jump, turning around and glaring at Harriet.

“Don’t do that! It freaked me out.”

Harriet grins. “Sorry. It was funny.”

I roll my eyes and keep walking towards the building in the distance. I’m pretty sure it’s our temporary dwelling spot for the next two nights.

She runs up to me and matches my stride.

“So…”

I look at her. “So, what?”

“So, are you going to the library, or…?”

I stop and peer into the darkness. “That’s a library?” We only had seen them in our lessons, but they sounded really fun. I’m sure they had lots of stories on the computers there.

“Yeah. So do you wanna go?”

“Uh, sure…”

Harriet grabs my arm and starts running, dragging me behind her. We run to the library and pull the door open.

The library is small, with wooden shelves and one dusty computer in the back. I slowly sit down on one of the armchairs.

Suddenly I notice dozens of artifacts on the shelves. I pick the nearest one up to examine it.

It’s small and cloth-bound, with little golden words carved into the outside. The words are too faded to read, so I open it instead. There are pages and pages of paper, with words on them written in ink.

“What is this?” I whisper, flipping through the story. This doesn’t exactly seem…government-approved.

“It’s a book.”

I closed the book, feeling trapped. That was definitely not Harriet’s voice.

That was a boy’s voice.

I slowly turn around. “Hi.” Darn it, I got caught!

“Harriet,” I whisper.

She walks over to us, already deep into another book. She looks up and almost drops the book she was holding.

“Uh- we thought we were allowed to be here! But we’re not! We’ll go now!” Harriet grabs my hand and pulls me towards the door.

“We can’t leave with the books!”

“She’s right, you can’t.” The boy holds his hand out, and Harriet drops her book into his hand without another word. I hand the boy my book too.

He looks at the first page. “You really want to read this?”

“It was the first book I picked up,” I say awkwardly. I kind of want it back now.

He puts the books down and gives me another book from the shelves. I can read the writing on the glossy cover. Something about a photography issue?

“Hey, that looks like the magazines we have in our community!” Harriet whispers, looking over my shoulder at the cover.

The boy looks at us curiously. “Are you two from the community in Massachusetts?”

Harriet and I look at each other. “It used to be called that.”

He nods. “I’m Hugh.”

“Johanna.”

“I’m Harriet, and we need to go. Bye!” We run out of the library with the magazine.

She turn to me and clutch it tight. “Where am I going to put this? If anyone finds out we took this, we’ll get in huge trouble!”

I think for a minute, then walk into the building. Almost everyone’s outside, so no one sees us.

Once I get to my room, I place the magazine between the sheets and the mattress. I pull Harriet into the hallway and talk to her quickly.

“You can’t tell anyone about this, okay? No one. If they find out, we could both be corrected, and our lives would be ruined! We need to go to bed soon, so I’ll stay in my room. You go to your room and pretend like nothing happened.”

Harriet runs back to her room and closes the door carefully. I close the door to my room quickly. I’m too nervous to sleep, so I’ll just read the magazine.

I take it out from under the sheets and burrow under the covers. Flipping the pages, I gasp at the colors and people they have managed to capture. There are crowds of people with many different skin and hair colors. I think back to the boy in the library, named Hugh. He looked…different from us, now that I think about it. I wonder how many people are still alive with the bright blue eyes that he had. I flip through more of the pages and stop at one that looks like him. There is a baby with tan skin and bright blue eyes. I read the caption at the bottom:

Only around 10 people have this combination of skin color and eye color in the world.”

This is too old to be true anymore, so the number of people that look like him must be even smaller now. I put the magazine back under the sheet and try to go to sleep, turning off the light and staring up at the ceiling.

Hugh must be different from other people in the world. I remember when I used to be proud of my thin blond hair and dark brown eyes, grateful to blend in with so many other people in our community. I used to pity Harriet for standing out with her bright red hair.

I want to be different, too.

I decide to run up to the library next morning and ask Hugh for paper and a pen. Maybe, if I can’t look different, I could write a story of my own and be different.

 

FIVE

 

-August 8th, 3:17 pm-

 

The community leader’s voice rings out from the speakers for the last time.

Please follow the apocalypse-related incident procedure. This is not a drill.

I snap my head up from my desk, finishing the last bits of my story. The paper is soft from two day’s worth of writing and crossing out many words. Hugh taught me how to copy the letters on my computer and write them on the page. I spent the whole two days in the library with him, just writing letters over and over and over again.

I stuff the paper into my pocket, reading through the story in my head.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Jo.”

My brother starts crying, so I lift him up and whisper the story to him.

“She lived in a community where the people thought they had everything.”

He stops crying and listens, tears still rolling down his cheeks.

“But they didn’t. They were missing out on so many good things.”

I run through the tunnel and put on my shoes.

“Like colors, and inspiration, and stories of their own.”

I have to set Owen down to lace them up, and he starts whimpering again.

“So she stole something from someone.”

He hugs my leg tightly. I carry him onto the platform.

“It was the right thing to do.”

No one else is there, but I still whisper. There could be cameras watching us.

“She tore up the book and scattered the pages all over.”

I can see one of the pictures from the magazine that I hid around the community.

“She wanted the people to find the photos and remember the past.”

I press the 9 button twice.

“Maybe someday they will understand.”

Owen and I lie down and try to sleep.

“Until then…

She will wait.”

More people come and lie down with us. I whisper the words over and over again until we both fall asleep. I hope other communities know what they’re missing, and how they can fix it. I close my eyes and wait, just thinking about nothing.

 

I hear Owen crying, far away from me. I reach out to him, but feel nothing. Someone’s head is pressing into my stomach.

I open my eyes and look down. It’s dark, but I can make out a few shapes. Owen is whimpering into my shirt, and we’re still on the platform. Everyone’s still sleeping, waiting to die. I wonder what the community leader’s doing. Is she sleeping too?

Wait a minute.

I sit up and pull Owen close to me again. I check my watch.

4:25 pm.

What?

I reach out to Harriet and tap her on the shoulder.

“Harriet, wake up.”

She doesn’t move. I lay Owen down and shake her until she wakes up.

“Johanna? What’s going on?”

I pull Owen into my lap again.

“Harriet, it’s 4:25. The apocalypse didn’t happen.”

“What?”

I look around quickly and whisper in Harriet’s ear.

They were wrong.”

 

I am a Lemon

I am a lemon

a fresh new lemon picked from

a tree

but the thing is

I was picked too early

I was picked before my skin turned yellow

before my shell stopped being white

 

I am a lemon

a lemon ready to be juiced

but I have already

had every last drop

squeezed out

 

I am a lemon

that’s juice

is not even remotely sweet
so you have to empty out

your remaining sugar

into a pitcher

and find my once bitterness

gave you type 2

diabetes

 

I am a lemon

that is perched on the side

of your margarita

but I fell in

and sank to the bottom

of the glass

and made your drink

impossible to sip

and savor

because

 

I am a lemon

and I am too strong

to be dealt with

and too weak to be forgotten

and too bitter to carry on.

 

 

 

 

Not Sure What You Mean by Unrelatable: A Study in Humanities

I never skip class. I’ve never just not gone to a class. Sure, I’ve taken “sick” days and days where I’ve actually been lying on my couch with a 102 degree fever, but skipping class? Coming in late? Never. Nada. Not happening.

 

But, on May 24, that all changed.

 

“MOM!” I yelled from my bed that morning.

 

My alarm had gone off at 6:30,  but was I getting up? No way in hell.

 

“What’s wrong?” my mom said, rushing into my room. I never bother my parents in the morning: one of my dad’s favorite things to brag about to his co-workers is that I can get up and make breakfast on my own.

 

“I’m not going to humanities this morning,” I said smugly.

 

Humanities. Humanities.

 

The night before, I had gotten a C- on my Great Gatsby essay. The essay that I had started a week before it was due, that I actually made an outline for, and that I had put many hours into. I had come up with my own topic and ran with it. I had put so much thought and effort into this piece. Here is an excerpt from my not-done-the-night-before essay that I actually cared about:

 

The Great Gatsby is a book that tricks you. It tricks you into thinking that the theme and the characters are unrelatable, but,  when digging deeper, it is evident that everyone can identify with at least one character in some way–and that is what is the most painful and the most shocking about this novel. Each of these main characters reflects and reminds us of a part of ourselves, which proves the Great Gatsby to be an “inclusive” novel.  

 

When I was sure my argument was well-developed and it was perfectly proofread, I electronically submitted the paper at 11pm.

 

I went to go take a shower and when I came back to the computer to finish up some math homework, I saw that I had one new email from my very favorite, should have won the teacher-of the-year-award, humanities teacher. (He actually has published 7 books and has a PHD from an Ivy League and has taught at schools such as Harvard, Brown, and Sarah Lawrence College, but still.)

 

I took a deep breath, and opened up the email. I mean, I wasn’t that nervous. I felt more confident than usual, since I had put in so much thought and care into this essay.

 

Jane, he starts off,

See my comments on the attached. What’s good about this essay is that you make a real effort… The problem — it’s a big one — is that you don’t really support your assertion with evidence. I’d like to see you work on this some more. I’m hoping that the detailed feedback will give you a map. We can also meet if you’d like. I give this paper a C-.

 

Ok, first of all, can I just say that I hate when teachers say, “We can also meet if you’d like” after they give you a horrible grade? I mean, come on, you couldn’t have met with me before I got the C-? And now that I hate you because you’ve given me the bad grade, I am NEVER meeting with you.

 

Second of all, the detailed feedback he had sent me included words and phrases such as, “Awkward”, “confused”, and, my personal favorite, “Not sure what you mean by unrelatable.”

 

I’m sorry, but how can a guy who graduated from, like, five different Ivy League schools not understand the word “unrelatable?”

 

Also, let me just add in that none of this supposedly “detailed feedback” was bolded…or colored…or italicized…so I had to search high and low in this seemingly-cursed word document for his critiques. At one point, I thought that I had forgotten to proofread, but then I realized that it was just him.

 

But, anyway, back to this so-called genius not being able to understand what “unrelatable” meant. Listen, I haven’t even written seven books (yet) nor do I have a well-thought-of American History blog where I talk about my students (yes, true story,) but I can certainly tell you what “unrelatable” means.

 

Unrelatable means something that you can’t relate to.

 

Yeah, yeah, I know that you’re not supposed to use the actual word when defining the word, but whateversave that for your SAT tutor. When you can’t relate, it means that you don’t feel a connection. You don’t feel connected to whatever it is you’re seeing, learning, or, in this case, reading. Even though the word “unrelatable” isn’t technically a dictionary-definition-kind-of word, it’s the kind of “urban dictionary” word where you should be able to use your common sense to figure out what it means! The novel appears unrelatable, even though it really is relatable…duh!

 

So, clearly, my point about The Great Gatsby being unrelatable didn’t seem to “connect” with this humanities teacher.

 

Which brings me back to the morning of May 24, the day that will go down in history, when I skipped my first ever class.

(Well, okay, I didn’t technically “skip” it…my mom called the school office and told them I was coming in late because I had a “doctors appointment.” But still, I missed humanities that morning and that was all that mattered.)

That entire morning I sat in bed, computer in lap, with my Gatsby book by my side. For some reason, I was determined to fix this paper. I don’t know why, either, because I’m usually the type of person who brings out my inner Cher from Clueless to try to find a way to negotiate with/sue my teachers in order to give me a better grade, but this time was different. I was determined to get this paper back to Mr. Humanities that very night.

 

It was kind of weird, actually. But then again, I’ve never gotten an email like that from a teacher nor have I ever started a paper the week before it was due and worked to no end, so I’m guessing that’s probably why.

 

So, all day and all night I slaved away on that stupid paper. I found tons of new quotes, tried to make my thesis more clear, in other words, make something that was more up Mr. Humanities’ alley and less up mine. And I even changed my title. Come on, you know when you change a freakin’ title of an essay that means you really revised it.

 

I e-mailed the re-write of the essay at around midnight, and went to bed feeling extremely relieved and maybe a little cocky. I was done with that Great Gatsby essay forever, and I sent my re-write in less than 24 hours. I deserve at least, like, nine awards. Probably more.

 

Jane, Mr. Humanities’ reply to my re-write starts off.

 

This is better. The thesis is clear and you’ve gotten rid of the a lot of the distracting, unsupported assertions. As I note, though, the quality of your evidence is not quite as strong as I think it should be; you don’t seem to pick your examples with as much care as I’d like to see. So while I think it’s certainly acceptable — I’ve changed your grade to a B — I invite you to work on this some more. But that’s up to you. Have a good weekend.

 

You know what, Mr. Humanities? No. I’m not going to have a good weekend. In fact, you’ve ruined my weekend…so don’t even bother signing your uppity email with that.

At this point, I was ready to accept the B. (Wow, Mr. Humanities, maybe I’ll make that the title of my next book) I mean, a B is not the end of the world. I had worked hard enough on that essay (all in less than 48 hours, may I add), so why not just call it a day and take the B?

But then, I checked my overall grade point average in humanities…

and decided not to take the B.

 

So, by now, you all probably know the drillI sat not in my bed but on my couch this time, with my computer in my lap and my stupid god-damned Great Gatsby book by my side. By now, it felt like me and F. Scott Fitzgerald were old pals. Mr. Humanities wanted me to add a motive to my paper, which he defined as the “so-what?” in an essay. So why does your argument matter?

I worked all day, I worked all night, and by the end of the weekend, I was finally done (literally and figuratively) with this stupid essay that has made me never want to see the Great Gatsby movie.

 

This time, I had changed my argument to one I didn’t agree with and didn’t like. I used all the big words I could find on Wordreference.com, found even more quotes, and even made a bibliography, which wasn’t even necessary, but I obviously had to spice things up a little bit. I saved the essay, hit send (with a subject line of GREAT GATSBY WITH MOTIVE, just in case he didn’t understand that I was now writing the essay for him and not for me), and closed my computer. I never wanted to see another word document again.

 

Monday morning, I sat in my free period at school, and checked my email. I knew that his reply to my reply to his reply to my reply to his reply was sitting in my inbox.

And it was.

Jane, he wrote, like usual.

This essay continues to improve. I do think you understand what a motive is now  that’s good. As I mentioned last time, I might have liked to see you refine your evidence, and in particular I might have liked to see a motive that goes beyond essentially agreeing with an author and making a more original statement. But there’s no question that this piece has a clear argument, buttressed by real evidence and an evident structure. I hope you feel these revisions have strengthened your sense of craft. Revised grade: A-

 

Thank God! Finally, an email from him that didn’t require me to re-write something?! I thought this day would never come. And I get an A-? Wow, Christmas must have come early this year. Humanity for all!

 

 

The Girl With The Map Face

The girl with the map face has lived on my block since I moved here twelve years ago. She lives in a small two story house with a small one story tree in the front yard. I’ve never seen anyone else in her house. She must live alone. I wish I lived alone. But my house is always filled with things that won’t go away. There’s a cherry blossom tree in the bath and there’s a brownstone in my living room. My kitchen is filled with giraffes and a bird’s nest grew at the foot of my bed. Sometimes new things pop up and sometimes the old ones grow. Some were there when I moved in but they were smaller then. About the size of saplings.

 

Today I’m out of orange juice so I head to the store. Walking down my block I see the girl with the map face. As she walks she laughs. Head back, shoulders heaving she laughs wholeheartedly. I wish I could see what she was laughing at, but maybe I did and just didn’t find it funny. She could’ve been laughing at the sound of someone stirring their tea in the café. Or at the laundry making rounds in the laundromat on the corner. Or at a fly that buzzed past her. She’s funny that way.

She turns with me as I make a left into the parking lot of the supermarket. We walk along past the parked cars and the lost shoes and the shopping carts. People turn to look at her as they walk by, wondering if they’ve seen her correctly. When they do she smiles and waves. I’ve never been as confident as that. I’ve never been anything like her. She walks into the store, opening her arms wide as the automatic doors swoosh open. Once she’s in she shuts her arms together as the doors swoosh close. She laughs and turns on her heel, disappearing inside. I follow shaking my head, almost in embarrassment, at the people staring in shock or disgust. They’ve never understood the girl with the map face the way she understands herself. They’ve never understood themselves the way she understands them.

 

* * * * * *

 

My name is Johnny Garage and I love people-watching. I’m good at it too, I notice the smallest details. On the subway my favorite thing is seeing people’s pupils race as they follow the signs on platforms as they rush past them. My second favorite thing is making up stories about people in my head. New York City is a good place for people-watching. There are stories walking down the street, in the park, in the library. My notebook is almost full with them, their lives and thoughts and what they’re eating for lunch spread out across my wrinkled pages. I have several sections devoted to the girl with the map face. Each page suggesting a different disaster for her to overcome. Volcanic eruptions, or robberies, or murder mysteries, or lost in the desert, or something.

 

Today’s subway ride home has a sobbing baby at one end of the car and a man playing loud music at the other. It starts to get to me and so I decide to lose myself in the girl with the map face’s miraculous escape from an underwater cave. I am writing intently until we reach my stop. It’s late and the darkness outside shocks my eyes as they go from the flickering fluorescent lights to the pitch black outside.

I pass by the laundromat and the café and am walking by the playground, empty of kids now. A shadowy figure is laying on the bench. I can tell it’s her by the dreamy way she looks up at the stars. I stand outside the wrought iron gate and watch her. Her hands are up, pointing at the sky, tracing constellations. She lifts her head suddenly and smiles up at me. Lit up by the streetlamps and the moonlight, she sits up and beckons to me. I stay there, watching, waiting. She turns away with her back to me. I cautiously take a few steps in, then a few more until I’m there, sitting on the bench next to her. She doesn’t look at me or say anything. We sit there in silence. The girl with the map face and I are sitting in silence.

We stay there for a while, watching the sky, watching each other. Then she turns to me. “You should come over sometime.” She hops up and walks away. I sit in the dark a while longer.

 

A map has attached itself to the wall in my stairwell. That’s the way it is with the things in my house. They spring up out of nowhere and nothing I can do will tear them down. I wonder if the map could have anything to do with tonight. I don’t know how it knew. How my house knew.

The goldfish bowl in my cupboard has grown to the size of an oven. My cereal boxes are pressed up against it, fighting for the bit of room left on the shelf. I pull them out, make myself some cereal, and eat. Some of my best thinking is done over cereal.

 

I don’t know how I know, but I can tell that today is the day she wants me to come over. The map in the hall grew a few inches and when I walk out to get the paper it winks at me the same way she beckoned last night. I sit at the kitchen table. What if she isn’t home? What if she doesn’t actually want me there? I can’t think about it too hard so I get dressed. I stand in the doorway of my house looking out at the sidewalk. There’s a sharp red line folding down over the stairs and curving sharply left, sketching out the way to her house. It propels me to walk, to go down the stairs and follow it. Her house is finally there, looming with a kind of forgetfulness. I open the gate. I’ve never even thought about opening her gate. I’m the kind of person that watches. And now here I am, opening her gate. The walkway up to her door is the same as any other but it feels different. I stand on her porch and hesitate. But the red line urges me forward and I ring the buzzer. A bell sounds throughout the house and then I can see her coming towards me, opening the door. She’s standing in front of me. She is barefoot, her toenails painted an orchid shade of pink. She grins at me. “I’m glad you came.” I follow her inside.

The girl with the map face leads me through her house. I don’t look at any of it as it goes by. I look at the back of her neck, forming delicate creases as she turns her head around to smile at me. I look at her arms dragging along the walls, her fingers tracing the picture frames. I look at her heels and the way they pound the floor making a thud that spreads like a spiderweb through the house. We reach the back door and walk out into the backyard. It’s small and grassy and in the center is a blanket, food laid out on top of it. She turns to face me. “I thought a picnic would be nice.”

We eat ham sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. “I’m sorry, I’m not the best cook,” She says. I shake my head. “Oh, I don’t mind.” She lays back on the blanket and I do the same. “I’ve seen you before, you know. Before you came to the playground.” She turns her face to me. I could watch it for hours. “I know,” I say. I didn’t know. Her face flickers and for a second I can see the laughter from a few days ago.

“What do you write in your notebook?”

“Stories.”

“Am I in any of them?”

I contemplate a lie. “Yes.”

She sits up. “Why?”

I’m confused. “Why what?”

“Why am I in them.”

I have to think about this for a while.

“Because I like thinking about you.”

This makes her grin. She falls back onto the blanket. Her face is shining as she smiles and laughs, making the map dance.

“You like thinking about me,” She repeats. I don’t say anything.

“Let’s take a walk tomorrow,” She pronounces.

“A walk?”

“Yeah. A walk.”

I think about it. Then I say the only thing I can think of.

“Okay.”

 

* * * * * *

 

Tuesday was a drizzly day. The sky all grey and the clouds all grey and at sunset the clouds outlined in red. I stood on the corner, in front of the park where I saw her before. I checked my watch. Each girl I saw, each swinging hips, each long legs, each red lips, I thought it was her. But none, no face was her. And then she was coming down the street and her hair was streaming behind her as she ran and her cheeks were flushed behind the map and she was wearing a blue dress that I liked a lot. When she stopped in front of me I looked at her and I watched her pant and catch her breath. “How are you?” Never had I thought harder about a question. “I’m here,” I smiled. She grinned. “You are.”

 

We walked on down a long avenue. I hadn’t been to that part of the neighborhood before. At least not to my memory. I may have been there before but just didn’t see it. I think that when I’m with the girl with the map face I open my eyes wider.

 

We stopped in front of a church. Not a big one. Not one that belonged. Not one of the normal city ones, the ones made of brick or red and brown stone. Not one of the stacked monsters as present as air that practically shamed you into going. And it wasn’t one of the little ones. Not one of the falling down ones where Sunday School takes place in the basement. It was a country church, the kind you see in a Quaker town in Massachusetts or along the coast of Maine. Pale blue wood and a steeple with a cross on top, and white double doors left open. “Let’s go in,” said the girl with the map face. We traipsed up the steps and into the musty church.

 

The pews stretched far into the back, with a scattering of people draped along them. The church was dark and the wood floors creaked as we walked along to the front. The first few seats were all empty, the church-goers preferring the anonymity of the back pews. The girl with the map face sat down at the front in the very first row. I sat beside her. I’ve always liked churches. I like the way the air reverberates with a hum and how the electric fans spin lazily above you. I like the people who go in churches on Tuesday afternoons, the ones with repentance or pinchy high heel shoes. And I liked sitting among them, with a unanimous decision to leave the silence unwrinkled. I looked over at the girl with the map face. Her eyes were closed and her back was slumped and if I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve thought she was asleep. But I knew that behind her eyelids her pupils dilated and constricted and darted about as if she could still see it all.

 

We stayed in the church for a few minutes and then, startling me, the girl with the map face stood up and walked out. I stayed on the bench for a second and then ran to catch up. She was standing on the steps waiting for me. “Where to now?” She asked. The map crinkled as she smiled brilliantly at me. I shrugged. I liked that she left me speechless sometimes. “Are you hungry?” She asked.

“Yes.”

“Perfect.”

We walked down the street and as we turned at the corner she slipped her hand into mine.

 

After that Tuesday in October, I didn’t see her much. I looked for her when I passed the playground or at the orange juice in the supermarket. The other day I went by the church we had gone into. But for some reason our paths never crossed. Then one Saturday in November I was in my room when the phone rang. The telephone receiver was cold in my hand and the voice on the other end garbled. “Hello?”

“Johnny. It’s me.”

I knew who it was.

“Do you want to go to the museum tomorrow?”

Tomorrow?”

She laughed.

“Come on, Johnny!”

I thought about it for awhile. Or rather, I told myself I thought about it for awhile. I already knew what I was going to say.

“Alright. Let’s go to the museum.”

“Okay. Come to my house first.”

She hung up first.

 

The museum. We were going to the museum tomorrow. I liked the fact that she had called me first. I liked the fact that before calling she must’ve been thinking about me.

 

The museum was seven blocks and a long subway ride away. I met her at her house and then we walked to the train station. It was a pretty day, pink and blue and white sky and you could still see the moon a bit. The train was filled to the brim with people and they spilled out the second the doors burst open. We shuffled on and filled it back up with our haunted thoughts and plaid scarves and frozen breath. I leaned with my back against the pole and measured her with my eyes. She smiled silently at me and then slipped an earbud into my hand. We listened to songs I didn’t know. I tried to remember every word. I wanted to sing them to her.

 

We bought two tickets to an exhibit on the fourth floor, one I had never heard of. The art itself was unimportant to me. I just liked being with her. We talked about each piece and it didn’t matter that we were the only people talking. It didn’t matter that we were getting glared at from all directions. She made things stop mattering.

 

The girl with the map face seemed to always know the intent of the artist and exactly what the piece meant. Well perhaps she made it all up, but she said it with such conviction that I couldn’t help but think it was the only possible explanation.

 

After the exhibit we explored the gift shop. She slipped a postcard into her coat pocket. I pulled a pin up into my sleeve. We carried our stolen prizes outside, exchanging them on the street.

 

The day had changed from the pastel sky to a royal blue as we walked in the cold back to our lonesome block. “Come in,” she said as we stood outside her gate. We walked up the steps and she unlocked the door. In her room, a small one smelling of lavender, I sat on her bed while she rummaged beneath it for something. She pulled out a box and set it down beside me.

“These are pictures.”

“Of what?”

“Of everything. But mostly barbed wire. Barbed wire is one of my favorite things to photograph.”

She lifted off the lid and inside were hundreds of polaroids in mismatched stacks. I reached a hand in and pulled out a few. Barbed wire set against a blue sky, against a sunset, a dog in an alleyway, a lost shoe in a parking lot. A picture of herself, of a pale pink house, of a fire hydrant, of her friends. I pulled out stack after stack and looked at them all. She pointed out her favorites or told me what she was wearing the day she took it or something like that. And then I came across a picture of me. It was taken through the laundromat window on a day I didn’t remember.

“When did you take this?”

She thought. “I don’t remember exactly.”

I laughed a little bit thinking about my notebooks and about the endless stories I had written about her. Maybe I’d show them to her someday.

I felt strange when I was with her. I felt a gingerbread warmth that made your eyes sparkle and your cheeks blush, the bewilderment of Times Square and the rushing crowds like the tides, and a certain iciness and a fog over my eyes.

 

I reached home and sat on my bed staring off into the wall. A string of Christmas lights had appeared there.

 

* * * * * *

 

Over the next few weeks we went places. We went to the movies, to the beach, to libraries, we went to a casino. And then it was Christmas. And the thrift stores and Salvation Armies were filled to the brim with moth eaten red and green sweaters. And there were people in red bibs on corners, shying away from the cold and ringing their bells to keep their blood flowing. And then there was snow. There were snowmen in the streets and masses of children in the parks and I was in my pajamas staring out the window when I saw her. She was standing across the street in a long grey coat, and her cheeks were pink and her nose was pink, and her dark hair had a sprinkling of crystalline flakes glistening over it, and the map was blushing with chapped lips and melted snow. She didn’t look up at me, sitting alone by the window, drinking coffee and staring intently. Look up, look up, look up, I thought to myself. And then she did. And she laughed and smiled and waved up at me. I waved back and found myself thinking I had never seen someone look that good in New York City in the wintertime. She raised a Polaroid camera and I saw the flash go off. And then she skipped away, holding her developing photo to her chest. I smiled to myself and then went to watch TV.

 

“It’s funny how many songs there are about Santa Fe,” the girl with the map face said to me.

“How many are there?” I asked her.

“I don’t know… I can think of at least six just off the top of my head.”

“Well, why is that funny?”

“I don’t know. I’ve just never thought of Santa Fe as being important. You know, I could understand New York, or Texas, or California, and you know there are a lot about those. But why Santa Fe?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe people just like how irrelevant it is.”

“Well I’ve never been there. And I’ve never even thought about going there either.”

We were standing outside of a travel agency. The snow was falling heavily and everyone on the streets rushed past us. But we stood, in our overcoats and knit hats, outside of a travel agency. She turned to me.

“I want to see the Rockefeller tree.” She said with a smoky look in her eye.

“Let’s go see the tree.”

We took the F up to Rockefeller Center. As we walked we sang Christmas carols. She didn’t have a good voice but no one really cared. I didn’t have a good voice either. We shoved through the crowds and made our way up as close to the tree as you could get. She stood with her neck bent all the way back and stared with wonder. I looked at her and then at the tree, hoping to see whatever it was she thought so amazing. But all I saw was tree.

“It’s beautiful,” She murmured.

I shook my head. “I just see a tree.”

“But it’s more than that. Look closer.”

I did.

“See there, that’s the park where we met. And there, that’s the little church we went to. And there’s the museum. And there’s my backyard, the picnic we had. Don’t you see?”

I looked harder, and harder still.

And I didn’t see it.

Then she looked to me, “You see it don’t you?”

I looked to her. And that’s where I saw it. I saw it in her face. I saw wet pavements and Polaroids and sunsets and barbed wire. And it was breathtaking. I felt as though I was looking past her skin and past her skull, as if looking beyond the sky and seeing outer space.

“I see it,” I told her.

She nodded. “I see it too.”

 

We walked lazily home, swinging our arms. We stopped in a bar and got drunk and then swung our arms even more.

 

I walked her up to the porch of her house and kissed her sloppily on the cheek. That was Christmas Eve. And that was the last time I saw her. Some friends called me up Christmas morning and we went out to New Jersey and spent the day walking around and making fun of everything. I didn’t think about the girl with the map face until the next day, the day after Christmas, the loneliest day of the year for someone like me. I wanted to see her, but I didn’t call. And then a week later, on New Years day, I got a call from her. I wasn’t home for it, but after I got home from my friend’s party, I heard the message.

 

“Hey, Johnny. I… uh… It’s me. I need to tell you something.”

It was the first time the girl with the map face didn’t sound sure of herself.

“I’m leaving. I’m not leaving you, I’m just leaving… this. This place. I’m sorry, Johnny.”

She sounded so

“And It’s not as if I’ve been planning this for a while. I just decided. Last night. I’m so sorry, Johnny.”

Small. So unlike herself.

“I know you’re thinking about what you could’ve done to make me stay.”

I thought of what I could’ve done to make her stay.

“But I promise you, nothing. It was so absolutely not your fault, not anyone’s fault.”

I knew it was my fault. I knew I should’ve done something.

“Please Johnny, don’t be sad. Please just forget.”

Or she should’ve told me so that I could do something.

“I love you so much Johnny. I just woke up this morning and…”

She loved me. And yet she left me.

“I knew I needed to go to Santa Fe and I…”

She was in Santa Fe.

“I know why they write all the songs about it.”

“It’s because of the view. Because you can look around you and see everything, your whole life, spread out against the sand like a map.”

Like a map.

Like her.

 

* * * * * *

 

It’s been years since that day in rotten December. But I still write about her. I still stop outside of churches and travel agencies and listen for Santa Fe songs.

The map still hangs in the hallway. It’s grown a little bit since she left, it’s about the size of a doorway.

 

All in all she was classic rock radio stations and artificial cherry flavoring. She was leaves shaped like elephant ears and she was marathon runners and checkered floor tiles. She was black ankle boots and American Bandstand. I remember the days of the girl with the map face with a burnt orange kind of fondness.

 

I never saw her again. But once every year I receive a blank Santa Fe postcard and a pressed flower in the mail. There is no return address, no note. Yet even an idiot would know who it was from.

 

End.

And I’m

i’m sorry your tongue started bleeding

when i told you my name, given my hands

tell the same story and my back has the

same stains as a girl whose essence you once

stapled to your ceiling so if there

was an earthquake, she would be above you

 

i’m sorry your knuckles started bleeding

when i showed you my teeth, given my waist

carries the same secrets and my eyelids itch

during the same times of day as a girl

whose shadow is folded into a square

and placed in a drawer on top of

a folder titled “my month with picasso”

 

i’m sorry your ribs started bleeding

when i looked at your words, given my collarbones

have the same unwashed bowls and my achilles

heels have the same arrow wounds as a girl

whose dreams rest next to your shampoo in

the bath-tub

 

and i’m sorry, okay? i’m sorry your bloody

because i walked over and counted your freckles

the same way a girl who wallpapers your insides did

i promise you i’m sorry your eyelashes are bleeding

because i swam every ocean in the same way

a girl who always wore goggles did – lastly, i’m sorry your fingernails

are bleeding because you tried to fall in love with the same

girl whose heart you forgot is glued to your heart and she

i mean i – keeps stabbing you slowly

We Shatter Glass Globes

Euphony

 

 

The pads of fingers kiss and synchronize with gravel tunes

and smooth notes, quick meter

and bounce

snap

baby, do you wanna dance?

 

Pointed nails trace lines and lyrics

and engrave them onto the nape of your neck

and mama tells you

she is sad

 

Violet violas play

as we lift up up and up

conducting with our pinkies

I see, I feel, I hear

light

 

She prays in spanish

clasps a golden cross

between her interlaced palms

She is thanking through furrowed brows

and speaks singsong

 

I complain about his knuckles,

swollen from beating his drum, punching bags, and cold faces

he replies in clops of drunken laughter

and blue bellows

 

 

 

Up

 

 

She climbed sedentary cement-levels

escalating through the house-front hole

lined with photosynthesizing unflowers

 

Fractured letter-post read “Thank you for caring”

iron-oxidized, corrosive

gnarly-hydroburnt

burnt

burn

 

She witnessed

dissociating benumb-white chill

idiosyncratic beads of saltsnow

both on the pavement and brimming the see-spheres of aunts and cousins

 

Inside smelled of coy co-chemicals

snuffed by undulating back-noise

gentle upcurved liplines that were quasi-fermented or rather,

rotten

 

Down the intra-footfalls

was light

and a casket

 

She imagined the lower person-place beamed boisterosity

saw his palms permeate pendulumic light

heard kinder loud-letter words

soft-spoke organic condolences

 

Still she remained at the uplevel

in troposphere of precipitated cumulus

not daring to dive

 

Up was unheavy

 

And there were finches

caged in encumbered plexi-clear

dipped in wavelength wing trails

crests and troughs hyper-reciprocated

always resurfacing

An Ode

 

 

A child

Deserving innocence

And undulating imagination

She knows nothing real

she will learn nothing physical

 

Mass renders gravity

And wakes

and crumpled cars

and broken bones and the first days of school; the world-rules

They only procure see-sphere tears

and foggy eye-ozone

 

My child

How her heart dilates

and her pupils pulsate-pump

In wonder and novel maturity

She sheds her adolescent hubris

Embalmed in adulthood rigor

 

She sprints through the increments

Exclaiming, “This year I will be brave and dance and I will be temerarious and wily

and I will be incisive and subdued and reluctantly phlegmatic

and I will be sometimes blue

 

I will learn about anti-motion emotion and I will master tardiness and I will gain

a few seething pimples, but of course, never pop them

I will quote Sophocles and misspell Oedipus Rex, and I will reinvent the alphabet,

eliminating the sequence ‘ine’ because it stifles round vowels and

breath

 

And I will be an un-childish”

 

Our un-child,

How she lives our love

 

Missing Mae

Bill woke up one morning and noticed he hadn’t quite realized how loudly his knees creaked before. He hadn’t noticed just how cold the hardwood floors got in the winter, hadn’t seen all the dirt on the windows. Had there even been any dirt, before Mae died? The stairs had been a challenge for a while, now. He kept meaning to buy a new cane after the other one broke a few days ago, but he never could bring himself to leave the house.

Soon, he knew, the food his son had bought when he’d been there two weeks ago would run out. Jack had bought him what felt like a year’s supply of food; Mae left the house constantly, so she only used to buy a few days’ worth of food at a time. And she was a wonderful cook, too. That’s what he’d first noticed about her when they started dating.

When he finally got down the stairs, Bill looked around at the living room. When had it gotten so dim-looking? Like an old folks’ home, he thought, that’s how it looks. And Bill always swore to himself he’d never let himself get stuck in an old folks’ home. He sat down on the couch, slowly. The dent in the cushion from years of sitting felt like an old friend. Bill always personified things. The therapist he’d once had had said it could be a sign of something serious. Bill didn’t know about that, much. Mae had said she loved his personifications, when he told her what Dr. Baxter had said.

He felt bad for the cushion that Mae used to sit in. He could relate to it. They both missed Mae. But at least Mae’s old cushion still had Bill’s cushion as a partner. Bill was on his own.

The phone rang, and Bill realized he should have listened to his neighbor and put a phone nearer to the couch. It was so hard just to stand up lately. And he’d only just sat down.

He groaned, feeling a pain in his back that he was starting to think maybe he should call a doctor about. “I’m coming,” he said to nobody in particular; maybe to the phone. “Hello?” he said, once he finally reached the other side of the room.

“Dad,” came the voice. “How you doing? How do you feel? Gone outside?” It was Jack.

“Yeah, I’m fine, kiddo,” said Bill. “Gone on walks, been to the…park.” It was all a lie, of course. But Bill had never been good at asking his son for help. And his son had never been good at knowing when Bill was lying.

“Great, great. Well, just checking in, making sure you’re doing okay. If you need anything, let me know, alright? I’m just a few miles away.”

“I’m sure I’ll be just fine, thanks. Tell Melissa I say hello.”

“Will do. Bye, Dad,” Jack said, and hung up. Back on the sofa, Bill turned on the television. He’d never watched it much when Mae was around. Now he could barely remember what he did when Mae was around. But it sure as hell didn’t have anything to do with a television.

He clicked the on button and the screen lit up, a man he didn’t like the look of yelling at him to “BUY USED CARS TODAY!” and holding a big blue flag. Bill changed the channel and another man he didn’t recognize, but assumed was famous, was being extensively talked about by a group of young men and women. All the people, all at once, unrecognizable, upset him. He didn’t know these people, didn’t know what they talked about, couldn’t even hear their voices clearly. And they made him feel so alone. He shut off the television in a hurry, ready to escape them all.

But what next? He really did need more food, really did need a cane. And he wouldn’t accomplish much by staying seated on the lonely couch forever. Bill barely knew where a person would go to get what he needed. Target, he’d heard Mae talk about. Target. She’d said there was one on every corner, it felt like. His stomach jolted when he thought about leaving the house, being in a room full of strangers. And he would need help, wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he need help navigating what he assumed to be a big store? That meant talking to someone new.

Maybe I could have Jack do this, he thought. But worse than the thought of a room full of strangers was the thought of needing his son desperately. Needing anyone desperately. Bill had only let him buy the food because Jack hadn’t asked. Just showed up with it all.

The old man put his head in his hands. He’d known this would have to happen, sometime. Finding his way in the world without Mae, though…always seemed like it could never happen. And he never thought it’d happen this early, if ever.

His stomach growled angrily up at him. I can’t do this anymore, he thought.

And he felt like a coward. He felt angry.

The walls were suddenly the ugliest yellow he’d ever seen; the color of rotten mustard and dirty teeth. The carpet was too thick. He hated how he could see the little spills of coffee, or maybe tea. He hated how the kitchen table had to have a thin plastic-y tablecloth because he couldn’t trust himself with a normal, cloth one anymore.

And Bill hated himself. He felt nauseous, disgusted with himself and his old age and his horrible house. It was never a horrible house back when Mae lived in it, even though he assumed it must’ve looked just the same. But it couldn’t have looked just the same; Mae changed it.

At least the nausea meant he lost his appetite. With a grim smile, he thought that if only he could stay disgusted with himself, he would never have to eat again.

He pushed himself up from the couch, aching as he did so. He immediately regretted his decision; he realized he didn’t have a plan for what to do after he stood. But there stood Bill, head rushing from standing up with what didn’t used to qualify as speed. They had a guest room on the first floor of the house, so Bill decided to go to sleep. Maybe it was about time to move into that room permanently. His hunger was back.

He hadn’t wanted to touch the canned foods that Mae had left in the cellar. He didn’t want to disrupt anything Mae had made with her own hands. He would figure it out when he woke up.

The bed was softer than the one upstairs. This was a relief; it gave him an excuse to switch bedrooms. Not that there was anyone he would have to give an excuse to. But he almost felt like he had to give Mae an excuse for why he left the bedroom they’d shared for so many years in exchange for one that Mae had barely touched.

Bill’s eyes shut, his stomach crying out one more time. Eventually he would have to disrupt the cans of food.

He awoke when a shout came from the street. He turned his head and saw a little girl running past his window, chasing a little boy. The trees aren’t happy with the children’s noise, Bill thought. Neither am I. He wished he could let the trees know he understood, let them know they weren’t alone in their feelings.

He laid there for a moment, surprised to find himself in the guest room. “What the hell?” he muttered.

And then he got hit with remembrance, at the same time feeling a pang of hunger.

He decided he wouldn’t let himself starve; besides, Mae made that food for a reason. Why let all her hard work go to waste?

Slowly, he went downstairs, eventually reaching the door. It was heavier than he remembered, but it had been years since he’d tried to open it. It creaked loudly, and the smell of dust came through the doorway. The light flickered on once he managed to make the stiff switch budge upward. And there were shelves and shelves of jars and cans.

The jars were full of what looked like pickles, olives, blue and red and purple jams.

There were cans of peaches, raspberries, pineapples, and pears. Mae had also kept paper towels on the lower shelves, though Bill wasn’t sure how well he could bend to reach those. He was so relieved to see how well Mae had prepared for a storm. But it saddened him, knowing that she would never know how helpful she’d been. And his pride in her only made him miss her more.

With a sigh, Bill pulled down a can of peaches and a jar of pickles. He hoped he made the right decision. He didn’t want to upset the other foods. “Goodbye,” he said, as he flicked off the light to the cellar and made his way upstairs. He would be back for dinner.

The stairs groaned sadly as he stepped on each one, the wooden planks unused to his heavy feet.

When he reached the kitchen, Bill found the can opener and a bowl. He dumped the peaches in, only realizing afterward that he didn’t even like peaches much. But then again, he didn’t like anything, much, anymore.

He sat in the chair and ate the peaches quickly. He barely even tasted them, but smiled as he thought of Mae’s careful hands slicing the peaches what must have been years ago.

The window watched him, feeling his loneliness. The old man felt bad and, with a great deal of effort, shut the blinds. He didn’t want to cause any sadness to anyone else.

When the peaches were done, he didn’t want the pickles. He left them on the table, figuring he could use them for dinner. He rinsed out the bowl and placed it on a towel to dry.

He had a headache; he could feel it coming on. He walked to the bathroom and forgot what he went there for the moment he saw his reflection. He looked like the dogs with sad eyes and droopy ears. Bloodhounds. He used to have a bloodhound named Georgia. He missed Georgia, now, too. When had his eyes gotten so bagged and wrinkled? When had his hair become so thin? He used to be a handsome man, he knew. In high school he’d had many girlfriends, but hadn’t liked any of them much. He’d never been in love till his sophomore year of college, when he met Mae.

He nearly walked away without the aspirin, but the dull throbbing in his head reminded him once more.

He opened the bottle but couldn’t pick which pills to take. He felt that if he offended one it would surely not work the way he wanted it to. “I’ll dump the bottle and take the first two,” he said. He felt that this satisfactorily explained the situation to the pills.

Bill poured two pills into his hand. “Sorry,” he said into the rest of the bottle, and shut it. Swallowing the medicine, he hoped he’d made the right decision. He didn’t want to hurt anyone.

He was suddenly tired again. It was four o’clock. He walked into the guest room and laid down again, on the other side of the bed this time. He decided to spend an equal amount of time on each side of the bed, so that both sides felt useful. He would do his best to make the bed feel as if Mae was in it, too.

He couldn’t fall asleep as quickly, this time. He just sat in the bed, thinking that maybe he should read. Or maybe he should try the television one more time. He might as well get used to it. Maybe he would learn to like it, even.

After what felt like hours, Bill decided to leave the room and read. The bed was unhappy that he hadn’t slept, he knew. It felt like it hadn’t done its job. It probably wished he was Mae. He couldn’t blame it. He would wish the same.

When he reached the bookshelf he realized he hadn’t read since before Jack visited. It’s been too long since I’ve used my brain, Bill thought. He shut his eyes, randomly choosing a book from the shelf.

Reading felt good. It felt like he was himself again. He didn’t know why he hadn’t done it in so long. Time felt faster when he read. Until he remembered that he was alone in the room. Then he could barely read the words, so he shut the book and stared out the window. The worst thing about missing someone, he thought, is that the only thing that could ever make you feel better is being with them. He couldn’t escape. He said, “how could you do this to me?” And the pattern on the rug swirled and he swore he could see Mae’s face for a moment. She was disappointed, he knew. He wasn’t living well enough without her. And she had always taken such good care of him.

The phone rang, distracting him momentarily. He picked up. “Dad!” said Jack.

“Hey there,” Bill replied. “How are you, son?”

“I’m fine. You know I’m calling to ask you the same thing.”
“I’m doing alright. Read a book, ate some peaches, took a nap. Took a walk. Went to the grocery store. Learning to like the television, even. I’m doing great.” Bill was lying through his teeth, praying the bit about the TV wasn’t too far-fetched for his son.

It wasn’t. “That’s really great, Dad. So good to hear. Do you need anything? Mel and I are on our way to the mall now, anyway, and it’s not that far from your house.”

“I’m really fine. Don’t worry about a thing.”

“Alright, if you’re sure. Bye, Dad.”

“See you.” And he hung up with a click.

Bill had never been a religious man. He wasn’t disdainful of religion; he just hadn’t felt that he could use it in his own life. But lately he’d been praying.

When Mae started looking worse and worse, he prayed that she would live.

After she died, he prayed that he would be able to live without her.

And now he prayed for this again, but with a little less hope.

He also prayed that his son would never realize the poor shape his lonely father was in.

He was embarrassed. The walls were seeing him in a way he’d hoped they never would. He felt that Mae could see him through the walls. He wished he could be somewhere empty, somewhere where there were no walls or cushions or pills to be saddened by his inability to live without Mae.

The floor wished it could help him, the empty can of peaches he had thrown out earlier thought it deserved something more than just being tossed in the garbage. It deserved a monument. The burned-out lightbulb on the ceiling was upset that Bill had been ignoring it for so long. The whole world pitied Bill. And he hated being pitied.

He felt trapped, but didn’t want to go outside. He couldn’t bear the thought of opening himself up to more people’s sympathetic eyes. The sadness of his own house was bad enough.

So there he was, standing by the phone, praying as best as he knew how. He hoped it would be enough.

“I know I don’t pray a lot,” he said out loud. “I hope you don’t hold that against me. I just…things aren’t going so well.” He cringed when he heard himself say this. “I’m fine,” he decided, unable to leave his previous words just hanging in the air.

 

Blue

It was my favorite color, blue, when I was a young child. I loved the images it brought to mind. Sky, lake, ocean blue. Bird, wing, feather blue. I liked how it rolled off my tongue like a fish into water. b-l-u-e. B for brain. L for Leather. U for underneath. And E for earth. everything. else. Now I see not just the blue, but the red, green, yellow sky, rainbow of an open point of view. It’s sad now, with not just the pretty blue, peaceful blue, familiar blue. There’s a world of possibility. No, a world of color. A messed-up world of color. But we mustn’t think of the world as messed up– we might see it for how it is. See it how it looks from another outside. An outside that’s never known the world from the inside. An outside that sees the earth as a mass of green, white, brown, and blue.

What Doesn’t Kill U Can Only Make U Stronger

INTRO

They say what don’t kill you will make you stronger. I’m still here, so what does that mean? The hood has a way of engulfing everything in its path and spitting it back up. They say there aren’t many places for young black men like me. 75% are sitting in the pin. 20% laying in a coffin. 4% are lucky to get a job at a chicken spot. But there’s that 1% that makes something of themselves. That 1% does whatever it takes.

 

Chapter 1

I’m James B. Smith. I have long black hair. The shortey love a dude with longer hair than most of their friends. I was born in Harlem but lived in Bronx all my life. I was named after my father. I guess the scars of him raping her and beating her half to death wasn’t enough for my mother. It’s bad enough that every time she looks at me, all she can see is him. Ever since he went in for life bid, all she does is lay in her bed and stick needles in her arm.

 

It seems if you don’t get pulled in by the diamond bags, you get pulled in by the scumbags that call themselves Bloods. My older brother was too strong for the dimes, but he needed money so he joined the Bloods and started doing crime. He used to always say, “I’m doing this so you never go to sleep hungry.” But he got so deep in the game, it ended up being that he was the only one hungry. The game ain’t nothing to play with. You got to be hungry for it or it will throw you in with the wolves.

 

But I’ve always known closed mouths don’t get fed. You have to give a little to get a little. Living in the hood, I would see them dudes on the corner on the way to school every day singing the same old song and dance and when I got back from school they still in the same place I left them.  These dudes feel that they were put in this cage called hood and there was no way out . They feel that is all life has to given. My father was a bitch, my mother was a jokey, there no place for me but on this streets. If I don’t go and get mines who will?

 

Chapter 2

If I’m not playing chess on the computer, I’m hanging with my friends. There is Charles who thinks he could be Lebron James. But he couldn’t make a jump shot if his life depended on it. Then there is B.J., Charles’ little brother who thought he was the Mac Daddy with that big hole in his ADIDAS.

 

Then there was my home girl Brittany, but we call her Flicks. She had a way of putting the most beautiful thing and the worst thing in a frame together.

 

 

Chapter 3

I first started playing chess when I was 7-years-old. There was something about being able to think ahead and learning to predict what comes next. But chess is only a hobby. It will not take you any where. Then it hit me. I know what I had to earn.
There was something my mother used to say: God works in mysterious ways. That’s before the needle became more important than God. And at the very moment, I turn on the TV and there it was….my way out of the hood.

 

Chapter 4

A chess tournament for $10,000 and a chance to go to Stuyvesant High School. But you must have a rank of 200 or more and I had no rank. I wasn’t raised like one of them little white prick rich kids or I didn’t have a grandfather who thought that chess would bring them closer or the parents who want their kid to be everything they wasn’t. Instead, I am a young black male from the Bronx whose never thought that he would have the opportunity to sit among other 8th graders and do the one thing I love without being judged. But I was determined to fight hard.

 

 

Chapter 5

I spent days in the library looking at French master, British master, anything I could get my hands on.  I had never stepped a foot in a library before.  I always had a library card, but I never thought I would use it. The librarian could tell that I had never been in the library before. It was a small lady, probably hispanic, with long grey hair.

I approached the desk and said, “Do you have any books about chess?”

She looked up and said, “Yes. Aisle 3.”

I started reading.

She approached me and asked “What are you so interested in?”

 

One day on my way leaving the library I ran into Flicks. At first, I didn’t want anyone to know but I thought it would be nice to have someone to cry on when I lose. Or someone to hug if I win and get this money.

 

Plus my mother will be too wasted to leave her bed. Charles and BJ would be too hood for the white folks. They scare one white girl with those lame punch lines “If you go black you can’t go back.”

 

Then there was Flicks. She is smart. She can hide her slang, and I’m dying to be her new star in one of her new portfolios.

 

The day after I told Flicks about my tournament, she invited me to play chess with some of her friends. I decided to take Flicks up for her invitation. I was surprised that it wasn’t a bunch of nerds, kids with big framed glasses, and braces. In no time, I felt fine. It felt like chess was normal. There was nothing to be ashamed of.

 

 

I started to go to small tournaments in junior high school.

 

The first time I walked into one of these tournaments, I had never seen a gym with both rims still attached. The floor was so clean,you could eat on it without your sandwich turning black and bathroom had no graffiti at all. I now realize that I was a long way from the hood .

 

I was scared shitless. Every time I moved, a piece my heart dropped. The game only lasted 30 minutes, but it seemed like forever. She never looked up. She was zoned to the board. Her face was like a stone-faced killer. Each time she called “check” she would make this face like “What, you don’t want none of this?”

 

I failed many tests and lost my basketball games, but losing to her made me feel so bad. It took a lot from me. I lost so much confidence. It didn’t matter that I won all the rest of my games that day. I felt like I didn’t want to play chess ever again.

 

Chapter 6

 

If I had just beat the 9 year old I would have came in first place. I also learned there was a lesson to be learned from my experience. My first lesson was: never underestimate your opponent.

 

The next tournament I went to, I found some friends that I used to play chess with in school. I was 4-0. I had one game left. I ended up playing one of my old friends, Anthony. While we played, we chopped it up about old times. Losing my focus, I ended up turning a game I should have won into a draw. My second lesson: no one is your friend during the game. Only opponents.

 

When you do something, you develop skills at what you are doing. I learned that king may the most important piece on the board. But what is a man without his woman beside him, holding him down? So with that said, you can now understand why all the power goes to the queen on the board. The best way to break a man down, go for his heart. Nothing hurts a man more than taking his woman. That’s why most people crumble when I take their queen. Even if it means the best way to do it is queen for queen. For me, these girls aren’t loyal. Which brings me to my last lesson: it’s not over til it’s over.

 

Chapter 7

 

They say money makes the world go round. So my world is about to become square. Tournament after tournament. It was becoming harder and harder to find money to get there and back, and each tournament used to cost $5 but now it was $10. And the the final tournament costed $200 to enter. But that wasn’t the biggest problem I had.

 

Chapter 8

 

See as much as I talk down about my mother, I lover her and us as kids never realized that becoming a parent doesn’t come with a book on how to deal with your kids, “Parenting 101.” There is one rule that I never understood. Why is it that there are some things a woman can’t teach a man?

 

I guess that what I’m trying to say is through it all, all I got is her and all she got is me.

 

I guess I’m writing this ‘cause there are people in my life I say “They’re old, so they going to die. Or they’re sick, so I need to say my goodbyes and farewells, but not my mother!!”

 

Chapter 9

 

Losing my mother never crossed my mind. It hurt watching her in the ER due to an overdose. Watching her there and knowing that there was nothing I could do, that can eat a person up. From the inside.

 

I sat there thinking about all the things I wanted to tell her, about all the things I was sorry for or if I didn’t say I love you enough. I felt so weak, I fell to my knees, and begged God not to take her from me. I stayed on my knees and kept begging all night long. The next morning I was on my way to school from the hospital, I was just leaving her room when I heard a soft voice that said, “James baby, is that you? Come and sit with Momma.” I was so happy. I guess this was the start of a new life.

 

Chapter 10

 

A week after my mom overdosed, I was helping washing clothes. I went to put her socks in her clothes drawer and I found two needles and a crack spoon that was still warm. Three weeks after I felt that things were getting better.

 

I remember leaving for school. When I left, she was sleeping. I got off school late, so I decided to get my mother some flowers. When I got home, she was still sleeping, so I put the flowers in some water. Then I went to tuck her in, and there was the needle still sitting in her arm.

 

Chapter 11

 

Seeing that hurt me. That I cared about her life more than she did. I guess that she was willing to give up and leave me all alone. If she wanted to waste her life with them drugs, then I’m going to keep on living, with or without her. But I was left with a lot of questions that were left unanswered, so I needed to go to the only person who understands my mother more than I do.

 

Chapter 13

 

All I could think about on this long drive to my father in Sing Sing is how a man could do what my father did and still live to think about it every day and not want to die. My mother loved him, and would have done anything for him. I guess my mother named me after him because I reminded her of all the good things about my father that she loved.

 

 

Chapter 14

 

When he approached to the glass, I sat down I didn’t expect him to look so calm and at peace and educated. He looked nothing like the young thug who liked to hurt women like I expected. He looked at me and said, “Are you taking care of her?” And then sent me an envelope with $200 and said, “Keep playing chess,” and walked away. But I still had so many questions that were unanswered and how the hell did he know that I was playing chess?

 

Chapter 15

After waiting, the day was here. It was game time. Flicks looked at me and said, “No matter what happens, you are still the only man I’ve ever wanted.” She then gave me a big kiss, and walked away. I’m not going to lie, my legs felt like noodles and I was sweating bullets but it was like zero degrees in the room. I always thought that Brittany was cute, but I never felt like she would give me the time of day. “No”, I said, “I gotta get my head in the game. It’s game time.”

 

Chapter 16

My first opponent was a little white girl with green eyes, and she looked like she was more scared than me. I was beginning to be able to see her fear and it gave me confidence. With each piece I moved, I saw her lose her confidence. I beat her and moved to the second round.

 

My next opponent was a young Mexican boy. He could only speak Spanish, and all he could say was, “My name is Jesus.” Looking at him, he looked dumb. It looked like he couldn’t even read the label on the board or figure out which piece was black and white. I forgot the first rule I learned while working to get here (don’t underestimate your opponents). But I guess I understood when he said, “Jaque mate.” I lost, but now I understood if I won it, any chance at winning this tournament I had to use. Everything I learned in my struggles to get where I am now. Plus, I worked too hard to get this far and I was not going to give up now.

 

My third opponent looked more focused on his music than on playing this game. By me seeing him not focused, I decided to also not focus. Keep looking in the stands for Flicks. Finally when I decided to get my head in the game, it was over. I had lost.

 

Chapter 17

My next opponent was Linda, the Chinese girl I had played in my first tournament, but now I knew her name and her game, and I was going to bring my A-game and something new up my sleeve. Do you remember the librarian I met while searching in the library? It just so happens that she was two-time chess champion. She showed me something which is called the “French Opening.” It goes like this: pawn to E4, knight to F3, pawn to D4, knight to C3, bishop to E3, and last but not least bishop to D3. I sat through all this whole game I had this glow of confidence and if it couldn’t get any better, my mother was clean for six months now and there cheering me on at the tournament. But I still didn’t see Flicks.

 

Chapter 18

This was the last step, but I was nowhere ready for what came next. I was walking toward my board, and I looked and there was Flicks. Flicks was my final opponent. I didn’t even know she played chess. This was the longest and hardest game of my life. I had to sort my emotions from my thoughts or it would’ve been tragedy in this game. But if I was willing to lose, it would be for her. I wouldn’t have any regrets or any second thoughts about it. I know that the rules are that I must look at her as my opponent, but she’s not my opponent, she’s my friend. I really didn’t care that I lost the tournament because I had something better. I had friends and family that love me. And that’s something school can’t teach you or money can’t buy you.

 

Chapter 19

While I was playing chess, my mom was at work, trying to get me a future. My mom had applied me for a spot in Stuyvesant and little did I know, one of the judges was the director of Stuyvesant. He was amazed by my intelligence and gave me an opportunity at Stuyvesant.

 

Chapter 20

I won two out of five games, and walked away with a strong head and an understanding of life. My mom has been clean for a year and six months. Brittany and I have been dating for a year now. The last time I heard about Charles and DJ, they were involved in a gunfight with some group of kids that call themselves Young Stunners. DJ was killed and Charles is doing twelve years in prison for drugs. My father and I write each other all the time. I’ve been in Stuyvesant for at least a year now. I attain all A’s, and I work at a chicken spot part time to pay for my stay at Stuyvesant. As for Flick, she’s that one percent that I was talking about. She is working part-time for a newspaper and the best photographer that Stuyvesant ever had. That’s why they say what don’t kill you makes you stronger. But I’m still here. What does that mean?

 

 

A Tale of Imagination

My innermost weakness is the song that motivates and guides

the wisdom of the painting dreamer.
The official opportunities

of an endless crimson sky.

 

As the artist erases the red sky from the white canvas into warmth,

he sees

blazing hot flames from a red dragon at the mountain’s peak

protecting its land.
Dreams are memory’s capture upon pictures.

Imagination is Key.

My innermost weakness is the superfluous cascade water falling in such glorious victory, over

The Daring hope of a wizard taking control of that Crimson attraction.

The sparks of the beauty allurement  stealing sight of such flames.

The painting posters pinned on the walls give way to

the rapids thoughts of wondering.

 

Thoughts Falling from the canvas once stained on the mountain as graffiti.
DayDreaming.
Shifting
In the caves and out of caverns
up in the wind and Down in the shadows.
Shifting

side by side and
back to back.
Shifting
Dreams to fantasies and
Fantasies to Reality

Imagination is Key.

 

My innermost weaknesses are the hopes of lilac flowers in the pool of Crystalline

in the middle of night,

in the middle morning,

in the middle of day,

in the middle of life.
Life is our command

Dreams are our Demand.

Imagination is a Key
Maybe your keys?
Maybe my keys?

Imagination – unlocks doors
be ever so careful what door you open,

be ever so careful in what doors are locked,

be ever so careful in what doors won’t open,
and be ever so careful in what doors you lock.

 

Imagination is the key

maybe yours

maybe mine

Use it wisely

Use it mindfully.

A Walk to A Future

“I saw it immediately

the starkness

the desperation,

the pain” (Corinne Rupp)

 

Written on the faces on every man, woman and child

The countless sorrow

The countless self-infliction

“Stress,” some would call it
“Frustration,” others would say

So from a distance I notice this and start to walk

I want to make a Change, I want to be Change

I want to do something, GREATER than myself

So from that distance I started— I started to walk

 

Walking down the street I see friendly faces go out and play
Walking down the street I see all but one afraid. So I say Hi
and walk on my way. I one of the many few that made their day
with just a hi and smile their way.

 

Lightheartedness is the enchantment that paradise so playfully rejoice

that conquers despair of dissatisfaction.
What I’m trying to say is simple, we can all be nice and amazing if we all understand the concept of this expression happiness

 

Happiness comes from Hope

Hope Comes a From a Change
A Change that Connects all the Puzzle Pieces in Place

The Pieces make one

that one makes you,

makes me

makes us

 

What is Hope?
But Hope

Hope is also Us
Hope is also The FUTURE
Hope lends its wings to a new Beginning
A Beginning so Powerful
thats it alternative the existence of happiness

and positivity is contagious

 

I’m one person
I’m Just Bryan
..
I’m Just Me

N’
You are Just You

But Together we’re light

 

Be A Light, A light that shine amount the rest

Become A Light that destroys desperation, pain, and Darkness all TOGETHER

Become That Light

That Light

Those Lights!

 

That All look up to.

 

A Light that conquers the rest

Letting the Puzzle Pieces Really connect into Place
Letting it Fall into the shines of a Better Tomorrow.

Make A Better Tomorrow!

 

A Tomorrow You’ll be Proud of

A Proud Hopeful Future

 

This is what makes me different

makes me feel different

than all the others

than all the others Bryans,

than all the Others Spirits.
For I am one, and one all the same

Forthcoming Aspiration of Anticipation

A WALK TO A FUTURE

IS What I look for.

 

The walk is unfolding the inevitable fated corner of optimism

that describe the ambition of those who are rewarded

of the world you and I live in.

Light Brights All, Don’t let it bind you, let it guild you

BE YOU
the one you know best
NOT
the one that makes the REST

 

Like I say before

I’m JUST one Person

I walk Hope — I Feel Hope

I AM CHANGE

I’m just Bryan

 

Bryan Martinez

 

I Fight The Power
and Happiness is my Hopeful spirit
what is yours?

 

Should The Government Ban Large Sodas?

Mayor Bloomberg recently prohibited the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces at movie theaters, food carts, and restaurants. Bloomberg has done this due to the rise in obesity. He believes that obesity has been a looming challenge for the nation as a whole, not just because of their health, but economically in paying for the treatments of diseases caused by obesity. Although these statements are true, I think the mayor is going a little too far.

Imagine a new movie just released in the theaters. Moe and his friends are going to the theater as we speak. They enter the concession stand, about to buy some popcorn to share. Moe is ready to choose his favorite soda, extra large. He orders it, and is all done by the time the movie over. Moe goes home, has a dinner of fried chicken, french fries, and another couple of Cokes. And some cake. And a cookie or two. And a bag of chips. Bloomberg is curious and interviews Jeff. Jeff is some guy that works at the movie theater. He recalls 15 large drinks have been bought in only the past hour. He distresses for humanity. So does Bloomberg.

The mayor then comes up with a plan. It’s simple, but he’s sure it will be the most effective. Ban large drinks all together! Forbid Moe to ever lay his eyes on a 16-ounce Coke again. He imagines Moe with his salad and glass of milk at home. Ordering the healthy options in restaurants!

Then imagine a new movie is just released. Moe and his friends are going to the theater as we speak. They enter the concession stand, about to buy some popcorn to share. Moe is ready to choose his favorite soda, extra large. Just as he asks, Jeff tells him Mayor Bloomberg banned all large sodas. Moe is really depressed, so he orders a medium Coke and five bags of Cheetos. He is all done by the time the movie is over. Moe goes home, has a dinner of a jumbo cheeseburger, french fries, and another couple of Cokes. And some cake. And a cookie or two. And a bag of chips. Angry Moe emails Jeff.

Bloomberg is left with a sudden outburst from the community. Americans around the world are outraged. The mayor wants to see if the ban helped in the movie theaters. He interviews Jeff. Jeff tells him that there were no sodas sold (obviously). The mayor is overjoyed! But then Jeff informs him that 25 medium cokes were sold. And there was a 20% increase of popcorn purchases. Bloomberg becomes extremely at loss.

Jeff then forwards the email from Moe to Bloomberg. It reads: “This is a ridiculous argument. Americans have the right to drink what they want. You should invest in bigger problems! Education and the homeless. If people want to be obese, that’s their problem and their choice. It’s not hurting anyone but us. This ban isn’t going to change anything at all.” Bloomberg opens the email and takes it into consideration. What if Bloomberg remembered how Americans’ diets were still unhealthy? That people were still making bad food choices? What if Bloomberg then realized one size of one category of drinks in one place isn’t going to save the diet of humanity? He needed a plan.

Imagine a new movie is released in theaters (again). Moe and his friends are going to the theater as we speak (again). They enter the concession stand, about to buy some popcorn to share. Moe is about to order a medium soda, and nachos, and his own personal bag of popcorn because he’s feeling antisocial due to the shock of the large soda being banned. Then, he saw a poster. It explained how much little choices can mean. It informed about health and the rising obesity of Americans. As Moe read, he decided to try to make a healthier choice. He looked up at the food options: Nachos, corn dogs, chips, large sodas, salad, veggie burger. Wait. Salad?! Veggie burgers?! Large sodas?! Moe ordered a large soda and a salad, saving himself tons of calories. He is finished when the movie is over. Moe goes home and has meatloaf and green beans. And one slice of cake.

Bloomberg is overjoyed, humanity has been changed, and… nothing has changed with Jeff.

Don’t Get Caught in The Ring

There was a boy named Bobby Johnson and he was a kid who always walked to school and a homeless man would ask him for a quarter. The homeless man said to Bobby, “ I know you have a quarter.” Bobby walked off and the homeless man started to follow Bobby. Bobby started to speed up his walking because he noticed the homeless man was following him. The homeless man eventually caught up to Bobby and he took a quarter out of Bobby’s pocket. The homeless man said,” I knew you had a quarter, you liar.”

Bobby then responded and said,” I did not have that, where did you get it from?”

The homeless man left him alone and Bobby walked to school. As Bobby walked to school he did not realize what the man put in his pocket, but he found out when he was in science class. In class, Bobby had a fat bully named Bub who would always bother him because he was smart. When Bobby saw Bub walk up to the teacher to show that he had completed his project, Bobby said,” I wish that dry ice would fall on Ms. Hawk’s face and Ms. Hawk will scream at him.” As Bub walked up to show Ms. hawk that he completed his project, he dropped the dry ice on Ms. Hawk’s face.

Ms. Hawk was infuriated and told Bub, “Go sit down so I can call the principal and tell him that you are suspended.”

Bobby thought it was just a coincidence that happened, so when he went home and he asked his mom for a Xbox One and she said,” You cannot get it, so just think about something else.”

Right after he heard what his mom had to say, he said, “I hate you and I hope that you will get cancer.”

When it was time to eat dinner his mom said, “I do not feel so well can we go to the doctor.” It took Bobby some time to realize it, but he had just given his mom cancer. He did not know what it was until he heard and saw a glowing and heard a banging sound in his bag. When Bobby looked inside the bag, he realized the homeless man had put a ring in his bag, and that the ring could grant wishes. As Bobby went to sleep, he had to figure out a way to undo this horrible wish that he had already cast on his mother.

The next morning as Bobby walked to school he was ready to see the homeless man because he thought the homeless man would know to undo the wish. He could not find the homeless man, so he carried on to school. As he walked into school, Bub walked up to him and said, “Wuss up geek?” Bobby walked away because he knew what he was capable of since he had the ring in his possession. When he went to class he could not focus since he was worried about how to undo this wish that he had cast on his mom. He said, “I need to undo this wish, or else my mother will die.”

Something said to him, “If you want to undo this wish that you have cast on your mother, you must go to the homeless guy that gave you the ring and ask him to undo the wish for you.” Bobby thought whoever was talking to him was crazy, but then he thought that this could work. Bobby went back to speaking to this thing who told him what he needed to do if he wanted to undo this wish that he cast on his mom.

The thing said to him, “When you are trying to go find the homeless man, you will need to go to Chicago because he will be there. One problem is that there will be a person named Que who wants the ring. When he gets closer to the ring, his power will get stronger since he used to have it. Que has multiple powers that he will use, so do not underestimate him. If he gets the ring he will use it for world domination which in turn means you will probably die.”

Bobby said, “Can I kill him so I will not have the problem anymore?”

The thing said to Bobby, “If you kill him, it automatically kills your mother.” Bobby went home and started to plan. He got some weapons, a map, some money from his mom’s dresser, a hiking bag and a case for the ring. As he started to leave the house his mother stopped him and said, “Where are you going?”

Bobby said, “Nowhere.” Bobby left the house and went to the airport for a plane ticket to go to Chicago. The plane ticket read from Nevada to Chicago. As Bobby was ready to board the plane, a man stopped him and said, “Come with me.”

Bobby said, “Do not touch me unless you want to catch a beat down.” The man’s face started to get tomato red and started to steam. Bobby realized who it was, it was Que. Bobby ran to the plane and hid under a seat so Que could not find him. Bobby thought he was safe so he stood up. Right as he stood up there were flames and metal spikes coming from Que’s mouth. Que started to run towards him, and immediately he remembered that he had a machete with him. Bobby took it out and sliced Que’s right arm. Que’s arm was bloodier than Rambo shooting someone. Que was livid, so he blew up the plane. Right before he blew up the plane Bobby jumped out and went inside the airport. As soon as Bobby was inside, he told a police officer, “Call the SWAT team.”

The man did not believe him so Bobby said, “I guess I am going to take a road trip.”

Bobby went home and went into the kitchen as stealthily as possible. He took his mom’s car keys that were on top of the counter. It took Bobby about 6 hours to get there. When Bobby got to Chicago, he went to the poorest neighborhood called Archer Ave. He parked his car and got out. He was freezing because all he had was a T-shirt and shorts. Bobby went back into his car and made a wish. He said, “I wish I have warm clothes on and I wish I could go to the homeless man who gave me this ring.” The ring granted him the first wish, but it did not grant him the second wish. Bobby said, “How come you did not grant me the second wish?”

The ring said, “I cannot grant you wishes that are impossible.”

Bobby got mad and threw the ring into the snow. The ring was automatically back in his possession. He found out that he got it back and screamed, “Why did the man give me this ring?”

The thing said, “He gave you the ring because his life was ruined by it since he was overwhelmed with all that power.”

Bobby now started to worry because he thought that the same thing might happen to him. He also remembered that was not the only problem he had. He had to go to the man to undo the wish that he had cast on his mother. He thought to himself again, “Maybe I could give the ring to Que and he can keep it.” The thought came to him that if he could deliver the ring by Monday he probably would be alright. However, he could not find this homeless man.
\
Something said to him, “Go to the police and tell them that there is a missing person and describe him.”

Bobby did not know what he looked liked since the man had a hood the last time he saw him. He then said, “I wish I could describe what he looked like.”

As Bobby walked to the police station, a guy walked up to him and said, “I know you.”

Bobby said, “I do not know you.” He then looked into his eyes and said, “I do know you, are Que.” Then Bobby jumped back and took out his M16. This time Bobby had more firepower and he also knew how to use it, since Joe taught him how to shoot guns when he was dating Bobby’s mom. Que transformed into a body with spikes on his shoulders, fire coming out of his eyes and mouth, crystals on his legs and the rest of the body was metal. Bobby second-guessed himself after he saw Que’s real transformation. “You are able to do that. The ring was right, I can’t underestimate you.”

Just as Bobby was about to shoot, the police officer said, “Stop where you are and put your hands up.”

Que did not pay attention to the officer and breathed fire on him. He was burnt crisp. The officer crumbled and turned into ash. Suddenly the whole police force came out, guns blazing.

Bobby knew between the police shooting at him and Que’s power, he was not going to win, so he ran off. Now he was really in trouble and did not know what to do until he remembered that his dad lived in Chicago. He said to the ring, “Take me to my dad’s house.”

The ring answered him back and said, “If you want the homeless man, I can’t just give him to you.”

Then Bobby got curious and thought, could the homeless man be my father? He thought again and said not possible. He then thought it could be true. He called his mom’s ex-boyfriend, Joe. He asked Joe, “Why did my mom breakup with my dad?”

Joe said, “I don’t know much, but I do know that it had something to do with a ring.”

Bobby said, “That is all I need to know, bye.” Right after Bobby hung up he knew where he needed to go. He had some money left over from the plane ticket so he spent the night at a Motel 8. Bobby knew he had to find as much information as possible about his mom and why she broke up with Bobby’s dad. It was Sunday now and Bobby knew the perfect place to find his dad.  He always knew that his father was always a great Christian and would never miss a Sunday to go to church. As Bobby walked into the church he saw his dad. Bobby said, “You are the homeless man.” Bobby said, “I need to give you back the ring.”

His dad then said I will not take this ring and he ran. Bobby then said, “I made a wish that mom would get cancer and now she has it.”

His dad came to a sudden halt. “You wished that upon your mother? What is wrong with you, you foolish boy?” his dad said.

“I got mad with her. It is not my fault,” Bobby said. He then started to say, “Que’s coming. We have to leave. Que’s coming. We have to leave.”

As soon as his dad heard what he was saying, his dad said, “Who is Que and what does he want with you?”

Bobby responded and said, “Que is a guy who wants the ring and he will stop at nothing to get it.”

As soon as he said that, Que came in and said, “It is time to finish this. Give me the ring and no one gets hurt.”

“How did you find me?” Bobby said.

Que then responded and said, “Guess.”

“You followed me when I was in the Motel 8 and now here,” Bobby said.

Bobby and his dad started running, but Que cornered them and threw a jab at Bobby. Bobby dodged it and said, “I wish that Que would stop going after the ring.” The wish didn’t work and Bobby’s dad took the ring from him Que suddenly vanished.

Bobby asked, “Why did it work for you and not for me?”

His dad said, “I guess the ring listened to the rightful owner.”

They thought everything was back to normal until Bobby said, “We forgot to undo the cancer that I wish mom would get.” Bobby and his dad scurried to get to the airport. When they  got there they got on the first plane back to Nevada. They had a little bit of time to undo the wish. When the plane landed Bobby and his dad rushed to get a cab to go to his mom’s house. As soon as they got in the cab, Bobby said, “We need to go to 4th Street between 5th and 9th. Hurry up.” When they finally got to the mom’s house Bobby ran out while his dad paid the fare. When Bobby opened up the door with his key, his mom was lying on the ground with a puddle of blood surrounding her. Bobby dropped right by his mom’s head. When his dad came in Bobby said,” We’re too late, Dad.”

His dad responded and said, “I’m sorry, son.”

Bobby got up and he sobbed on his dad’s shoulder. When they were done hugging thevoice said, “Sorry about that.” Bobby realized that when he was in need of assistance, he could always talk to his conscience. When everything was done, the father moved in with Bobby. Que was dead, and the mom was also dead. They put the ring in a place where nobody could find it. They knew some day someone would find the ring, but that was not today.

 

The Genius

Chapter 1

 

Vlad hated seeing the army. He hated knowing that when they came to his town, something bad was always going to happen. He also hated that every time the army came to town, they were coming for him. He sighed and stood up from his perch atop an old oak tree. He hurried down the tree’s trunk and ran back home to get some things before he left for a few weeks. As he got home he noticed that his parents weren’t home at the moment. If they were home, they might have asked where I was going and I don’t have that much time, he thought. He grabbed his knapsack, a sheepskin jacket, his cloak, a saxe knife, and his magic lantern. He quickly ran into the kitchen to pick up a few loaves of bread and some beef jerky. He then ran outside and turned around the corner just to bump into his best friend Blurr.

“Hey there, Vlad. Why are you in such a hurry?” Blurr asked while pulling Vlad up from where he fell.

“Just going hunting out in the forest,” Vlad replied evenly.

“Looks like you overpacked for this trip, but who am I to stop you,” Blurr said.

Vlad nodded his head and started running up the alley towards the forest when a man came out of a shop and almost bumped into Vlad. Vlad stumbled while trying to stop himself from running into the man.

“You all right, laddy? You almost took quite the fall trying to stop yourself,” the man replied while steadying Vlad so he wouldn’t fall again.

“I’m all right. Thank you for helping me out,” Vlad replied while dusting off his clothes.

“Think nothing of it, me’ boy,” the man said.

Vlad looked up and saw a thick beard covering the man’s face and a large smile that lit up his face.

“Thank you sir, but I must be on my way now. Goodbye!” Vlad yelled as he ran towards the forest.

“Goodbye, lad! I’ll see you soon,” the man yelled as he waved.

As Vlad entered the forest he brought out his lamp and snapped his fingers. Instantly the lamp lit up as fire appeared inside of it. Vlad smiled. Being a pyromancer was very nice, especially when you could do things like this. Vlad quickly made his way towards the heart of the forest, where he hoped to find an area where he could set up camp. As he ducked underneath a tree branch, he saw a large hole under a tree’s roots and he crawled inside, careful not to loosen the dirt underneath the roots for fear of the tree coming loose and falling on him. He hung his lamp and sat hunched in the back of the hole. He then slowly drifted off to sleep but was woken by the sound of many feet marching at the same time. Vlad lifted himself out of the hole and quickly ran in the opposite direction of the sound. As he ran, Vlad kept thinking about his next move. Would he orchestrate an assassination? Or would he steal some precious object?

Vlad then thought of a good idea of how he could deceive the kingdom and assassinate one of the most revered men in all of Throga’ul. Vlad, lost in his train of thought, didn’t notice the fallen tree ahead of him, and as he was about to turn, his foot hit the tree and he fell into a heap. Next time I should look where I’m going, Vlad thought. Vlad stood up and as he was about to start running again, he heard his stomach rumble, and he realized he hadn’t eaten yet. Vlad pulled out a loaf of bread from his knapsack and tore it in half, eating one half and saving the other for some other time. He then stood up and ran towards the southern edge of the forest.

It was dusk by the time Vlad made it to the edge of the forest. He was weary from running and jumping over trees, shrubbery, and other plants. Vlad looked up from where he had just sat down and saw a vast expanse of tall marsh grass that stretched on for miles and miles. He knew he couldn’t make it to the next town, so Vlad decided to camp out in the marsh for the night. As he looked for a good campsite, Vlad noticed a little flicker of light in the middle of the field and he made his way over to it. As he approached, he could smell cooked meat and his mouth watered. He had almost gone through all of his rations while in the forest, and the idea of cooked meat sounded fantastic. Vlad peered through the grass to look at the campsite. What he saw there interested him greatly.

There was a group of six men seated around a campfire and each man had some type of weapon with him. Vlad then noticed that there were several tents behind the campfire, and the men were walking around them. Vlad turned to look at the tents more closely when he saw that some other men had started campfires too. The smell of meat and vegetables cooking made his stomach growl. Luckily all the men were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn’t notice Vlad’s stomach. Vlad slowly crept towards them to hear more.

“Ok so what’s our next job, Larr?” one of the men asked. The man who spoke was of medium height with long black hair and a lopsided nose that showed it had been broken in a fight.

“We’re supposed to ransack some town with the help of some other groups of brigands,” Larr said. Larr was tall and bald, but he appeared to be respected by the others which could mean he was the group’s leader.

“What other groups are going to help us out?” the first man asked.

“I think the Wild Fang and the Beast Claw are going to help us,” Larr replied.

The first man nodded and said, “It’s a good thing we know those groups and have dealt with them in the past.”

Larr nodded and checked the cooking spit. As he was doing this someone came from the other group of tents and made his way over. This man was tall and had a cowl covering his face. He also has a scarf wrapped around his neck. The first man who talked looked over at the man coming and said, “ Hey Vale, how’s it going?”

The hooded man looked up and said, “It’s good, Zeke. It’s good.”

Larr then took the spit off the fire and pulled off pieces of meat and handed them to everyone. The all ate noisily except for Larr and Vale. Suddenly Vale stopped eating and sat straight up and looked right at Vlad. Vlad knew no one could see him through the tall, thick grass but he still had a bad feeling about this.

“Hey, what is it, Vale?” Zeke asked.

“You know that criminal who is wanted by everyone in this kingdom and the next one over?” Vale said while standing slowly.

“Yeah, he’s famous for the assassination of General Candoc and a bunch of other crimes,” Zeke replied.

“Well he’s right there,” Vale said as he pointed directly at Vlad.

t-shirts

 

and we asked you for help

and you laughed at the candor

and we dropped dead like flies.

 

bloody t-shirts falling from

clothing lines as clothing pins

litter the floor of the morgue

 

and parents pick out caskets

ten sizes too small, for dead

babies and children of the

 

night, the ones who had been hanging

from street lights and shooting stars,

who asked for help in the form

 

of loud music, slow dancing,

painting in dark colors, tying

red balloons to doorknobs,

 

and leaving home without layers.

these children, they’re wearing t-shirts

in late december and you’re

 

wondering why they’re shivering.

in the mean time, you turn your cheek

and lift the zipper of your fur coats.

 

Oasis for Lost Souls

The lightning strike happened once every century. A fork of white heat would streak across a black canvas, like a spotlight, a searchlight, a beacon whistling a quiet plea of notice. Then came the purple glow, and legend had it that the glow was a direct calling from God himself, imprinting instructions into their wandering minds. Last was a cascading flurry of red dashes, crimson cuts, eyelashes blinking, clouding the purple eye, staring down at the Called.

 

Then it was gone, and darkness enveloped the world once again.

 

Diana was twenty-two. Black hair. Big eyes. An artist from the Big Apple, yet somehow she found herself in Vegas, two hundred dollars and an extra pair of shoes in her drawstring bag. New Year’s Eve coming up, too. She brought friends along with her– some no-names from the art scene in Brooklyn– to get roaring drunk and spend their last quarters on the slot machine. They didn’t have enough to pay rent anyway.

 

Diana couldn’t explain why she’d chosen Las Vegas when her friends asked her where they should go. It felt as if a magnet was stapled to the back of her head. Every step she took to the east, to the coastline of the city, or to the Portuguese bakery next to her favorite park, she felt a sharp tug pulling her west. There was an odd pressure against her neck when she went to bed, and her head would twist to the side, never quite resting on the pillow right. She was distracted, too. A recent NYU graduate, she knew she’d be stumbling around blindly for a while. But this was something else.

 

The first few days in Vegas were uneventful, if gambling and drinking and puking weren’t considered events. Diana couldn’t relish the moment. With shaking hands she threw down a pair of sevens, lost fifty dollars, and with shaking eyes she watched her friends tilt their heads back, necks arched, cackle as if the money were nothing. Diana thought maybe if that magnet wasn’t in the back of her head, she could tilt her neck in the right way and laugh along with them. Yet her heart was still misguided, and with twenty five dollars to her name, she spoke up. “You chose this place, Diana,” they scolded when she suggested slowing down, saving something so that they could afford that last night in the hotel. “Don’t be such a fucking killjoy.”

 

On New Year’s Eve, Diana tried to drink champagne, but the bubbles wouldn’t slide down her throat without scratching the skin inside. Her friends were drunk, and they danced to the beat of a dubstep song in the back arena of the hotel. Diana felt the bass of the music in her spine, tried to move loosely like her friends, but she was a robot among ballet dancers. Too little alcohol, she told herself. Drink.

 

But it wasn’t working, and Diana could feel tears threatening to cascade down her cheeks. Chest tight, she pushed her way through the crowd into open air. She found her feet planted on the back porch of the hotel, facing the western sky. The sun trickled beneath jagged cliff edges, and Diana forced herself to breathe. Be normal just for once, Diana. Breathe.

 

Except that magnet was still in the back of her head, twisting her thoughts as if her mind were trapped in a tornado. She focused on the sunset, focused on the melting hues and the perfect stillness, the rocks a mile out that looked like shark teeth. She told herself, over and over, to be normal. Just for once.

 

And then Diana felt her feet move. Not back to the hotel, to her intoxicated friends and full glass of champagne and pulsing strobe lights. Her feet pulled her off of the porch, onto the dusty rubble of Nevada’s vast deserts. One after the other, toe to heel, she moved to the jagged teeth and the hot, melting sun.

 

Diana couldn’t speak as her legs jerked up and down, pulling her to the west. She knew she should be terrified, should be sobbing and clawing her way back to the hotel. But an odd sense of calm wafted over her, and she decided that if this was what being possessed felt like, she didn’t mind it in the least.

 

The sun was sinking below the shark teeth, casting the desert in a warm orange hue. Diana was transfixed, eyes peeled open and head held high. The glow of the sun was like an oven, sizzling Diana’s skin as a bead of sweat dripped from her hairline. But she didn’t mind; the tranquility was stronger than any drug she’d ever used in Brooklyn. It was a natural high, and she felt like she was soaring.

 

Soon Diana was standing below the teeth. It hadn’t taken quite as long as she’d expected. She reached a hand out and felt the cool rock in front of her. The sun had completely disappeared now, casting the world in a dark navy tinge. Diana watched as her hand moved back and forth, felt the little bumps and ridges and nooks of the rock. She glanced behind her. The hotel was a little blip of light on the horizon.

 

A light to the left made Diana stop. She whipped around, and a door was etched into the rock, a pasty glow emanating from inside. Every instinct, every hint of sanity and reason and rationality told her to turn around and run. She’d probably been drugged, or was on an acid trip and didn’t even know it. Fuck it. She had to run.

 

Except Diana felt the magnet pull her forward, into the light of the door. All at once, the light overwhelmed her senses, and all she could see was white, all she could feel was the escalating beat of her heart, all she could hear were her quick intakes of breath. If she was dying, she didn’t mind. The fear had evaporated with the burst of light at the door.

 

“Welcome to the Oasis for Lost Souls, Diana. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

 

The voice was inside her head. Calm. Soothing. Like a thick pool of honey trickling down her throat from that cold metal spoon. Her mother used to make her eat honey when her throat hurt, back in the suburbs of New York. Then Diana left, went on her big adventure. Big Apple, Big dreams, Big debts. Big, vacant holes that she just couldn’t fill. Big, whopping tears, then finally, dry eyes in the desert. And now the soothing voice that enveloped her like a warm blanket. It knew her already, she could tell. It was an old friend welcoming her home, like she’d never been home before.

 

The light began to wilt, slowly trickling to form a cool grey. Diana squinted, blinking her long lashes. Shapes danced around her, midnight blacks and pearly whites. Voices, not The Voice, but voices all the same. A bustle of energy. More squinting, lashes flicking. A clear image clicked into place.

 

It was a diner. Tall red and white-striped pillars lined the entrance, tapering into the blurred horizon. To Diana’s left were rows of booths, two seats with room for two facing each other, a violet marble table perched between them. To her right was an endless clear counter, lined with pink cakes and crumbly muffins and sweet tarts. Glittering red stools sat side-by-side. There was no ceiling, she realized, tilting her neck as far back as it could go. White light like a crystalline sky encased the diner, folding around the contents in every direction, even the floor.

 

And the people. Seated at the booths, idly stirring mugs of coffee, chatting away. Swiveling on the stools. Walking up and down the main path, grins plastered on their gleaming faces. Some were waitresses and waiters, dressed in pinstripes. The others were a melting pot. Diana had never seen such diversity, not even in New York – headdresses, Chanel bags, suits, robes. Diana laughed, cupped a hand to her mouth. Standing in the doorway, she was an outsider. But she already had an odd premonition that this place was hers.

 

“See that empty seat? It’s all yours.” The Voice. In her head again.

 

Two minutes later, she was seated, swiveling back and forth. Her mind was reeling. Drugs? Too real to be a hallucination. Had she died? Maybe. Was she terrified? Not sure.

 

“It’s a lot to take in, isn’t it?” A waitress was suddenly standing in front of her, leaning on the countertop. Diana realized it had been the waitress’ voice floating through her head. The waitress turned away before Diana could speak. But soon she was back, with a steaming mug of green tea, no sugar. Just how Diana liked it. “Soon you won’t be stuck in the initial shock. You need time is all.”

 

Diana nodded. So many questions. Yet she could feel time trickling away. That slippery beast, time. Never enough. “Where am I? I know it’s an… Oasis. But really. Am I dead?”

 

The waitress laughed. “Nonsense, sweetheart. Just in between. You’ll be back in a little while.” The waitress pursed her ruby red lips, her blue eyes bright. She leaned down to Diana’s eye level, then pointed behind Diana’s head. “See that clock over there?” Diana swiveled her stool, gazing at the white sky, searching for what the waitress was talking about. Then she saw the black frame, about five feet in diameter , and the intricately carved hands. On ten. It was only ten o’clock?

 

The waitress, now whispering in Diana’s ear, sensed her confusion. “Time runs differently here. That clock controls it all. At twelve, we’ll disappear.”

 

Diana’s heart thumped. It should have been ominous, yet the waitress spoke nonchalantly, her voice laced with a thick twang like melted sugar and gooey cotton candy. If she wasn’t concerned, Diana shouldn’t be, either.

 

“How is this happening?” Such a simple question, and Diana pleaded for a clear answer. Intriguing as it was, she needed concrete. The white sky wasn’t enough to plant her feet on.

 

“Well, that’s the million dollar question,” the waitress began. Diana nodded her head, eyes wide, begging the waitress to go on. “See, you’re here because you’re, shall we say, finding your way. And we’re here because of the lightning strike,” the waitress paused when she saw Diana’s unblinking eyes and slack jaw. Lightning strike. Sounded like a bad movie. “It happens once every century,” the waitress continued, idly twirling a strand of chestnut hair. “And there we are. Here I am.”

 

“Where do you go? You know, at twelve,” Diana struggled to string the puzzle pieces together. Champagne. Shark teeth. Light. Diner. Waitress. Clock. Lightning strike. The progression was too fast, too disjointed. It didn’t fit.

 

The waitress giggled, and grabbed Diana’s cup of tea that Diana hadn’t realized she’d emptied. In a second it was steaming in front of her. “Too many questions, sweetheart.” The waitress straightened her apron on her uniform and turned to the woman on Diana’s left, pouring her a glass of lemonade.

 

Diana swiveled her stool to face the rest of the diner. Hundreds of people. Hundreds of stories. She was overwhelmed, yet unbelievably content. It was that magnet whispering emotions into her head, she was sure.

 

“I’ve got it!” Diana felt a tap on her shoulder and turned her stool to the right. She was bombarded by a pair of icy blue eyes boring into her own, a finger pointed at her chest. “I bet you’re a Diana. It’s the nose.”

 

“Excuse me?” Diana’s heart thumped and her spine tickled with nervous anticipation for the first time since she had entered the diner. She hadn’t uttered her name aloud, not yet. Maybe the rest could hear that voice in her head, too. Maybe–

 

“Sorry to freak ya out,” the man with the icy blue eyes leaned back on his stool and took a sip of coffee. “The name’s Barns. From Missouri. Been here,” he gazed at the clock on the wall, “five hours. Lovin’ it.”

 

Diana nodded. He seemed friendly enough. If he was in the diner, and if the waitress wasn’t lying, then he was lost too. Instant connection.

 

“So tell me, Miss Diana– oh yeah, it’s the nose because all them Diana’s got it; that English princess, the Roman goddess, and that actress on the TV sometimes. I always try to guess folks’ names. It’s a talent of mine — what brings you to the Oasis?” Barns peered closely at her, and it felt as though he was looking directly into her soul, unspooling her genes and thoughts with each syllable.

 

She hadn’t really thought of why she was there, actually. It just felt right. That magnet.

 

“I don’t exactly know,” she confessed. “I’m just here, I guess.”

 

Barns leaned back in his chair and cackled. “I guess? I guess? Well, Miss Diana, therein lies your problem! You’ve got to be sure! No more second-guessing. Put in all you’ve got, or go home crying, that’s my motto,” Barns jabbed a thumb at his chest, clearly proud of his advice. “I been living that way since ‘79. Sure of everything I do, and certainly certain of that.”

 

“Then why are you here?” Diana let the words slip out before considering their weight. But Barns laughed again; not a cackle, but a slow, remorseful laugh.

 

“Even the most sure of sures have some issues, Miss Diana. Had a daughter. Not anymore. She looked a bit like you,” Barns’ icy blue eyes stared into Diana’s once more. Diana didn’t shirk away. His eyes were pure. Empty pools, ghosts of lost loves still haunting the gentle waves. It was sad, but Barns didn’t seem to mind. “Anyways, I’m lost.” Barns stared at the clock. “Dammit. It’s already eleven. Time flies, that’s another sure thing.”

 

Diana gulped a sip of tea. Only one hour left. The magnet was pleased; she didn’t want to leave.

 

Barns leaned his elbow on the counter and propped his head on his hand, the way a father would when listening to his daughter’s worries. “Tell me. Tell me something you’re sure of.”

 

“I don’t believe in heaven.” Diana was startled. But it was true. “And I don’t know if I believe in this place. I want to, but I must be on a trip,” she lowered her voice, “You know, drugs. I came from Vegas.”

 

Barns cackled again. “A trip! How endearing!” He stopped laughing and was once again serious, if not for the slight smirk on his lips. “Got another tidbit for ya. Don’t question too much. Some questions are good, but some will drive ya just plain mad. Don’t focus too much on those. Focus on the now-time, Miss Diana.”

 

Diana found herself laughing. The now-time. She loved the way Barns spoke – a mix of southern slang and old-English. And he was right, too. The magnet brought her somewhere that was so isolated, it had no time and place, aside from the clock on the wall. It was the most extreme of now-times, and Diana was happier than she’d been in years. Maybe it was the magnet. But the harmonious tranquility felt deeper than that.

 

“Another cup of tea, sweetheart?” The waitress was back. Diana nodded and in a second her green tea was steaming again. Diana stared at the thick green liquid, entranced by the coils of hot mist that made her eyes warm and wet. Wet with tears, maybe.

 

The waitress noticed her melancholy and bent down to her level, whispering in her ear with those ruby-red lips. “I’ll let you in on another secret, Diana.” She leaned back and grinned, flashing pearly white teeth. “You’re this much closer,” she held her pointer finger and thumb an inch apart. “To finding your way. And I know that doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve met thousands of you Called. And believe me, once you leave, you’ll be heading in the right path.”

 

Diana wanted to ask her how she knew that. How she understood Diana’s predicament– lost with too little and too much at the same time. She wanted to ask about the Called. Wanted to know what to do once she left, if she’d really be going the right way. Or the wrong way. But she glanced at Barns next to her, his icy eyes still staring at her own, and she understood. It was the now-time that she had to worry about. Being sure in the now-time.

 

And Diana was sure that the waitress was right. Something inside had changed in Diana– like a switch flicked the other way. It was just an inkling, just a premonition of hope, a twinge of security. But Diana knew that the Oasis had given her that insight she needed. The Oasis had given her the wisdom, the secrets of a bigger world, one that wasn’t impossibly intimidating, one that wasn’t a labyrinth with no exit. She had been given the push she needed to find her path.

 

A loud gong shattered Diana’s heavy repose and she jumped, spinning her stool to face the clock. The thick black hand was approaching twelve, and moving swiftly.

 

“Time to abandon ship,” the waitress laughed and pursed her lips as she grabbed Diana’s tea and the woman to her left’s lemonade. “I really do hope you enjoyed your stay, Diana,” she said. Her eyes were sincere as she leaned down and kissed Diana’s cheek, leaving an almost nonexistent lipstick stain. She turned and made her way down the aisle, gathering more steamy mugs and tall glasses.

 

“Remember, Miss Diana, remember what to focus on.” Barns reached out a hand and Diana shook it, attempting to memorize all the ice and sparkle and mischief in his eyes. It was happening too fast. She was leaving too soon.

 

The gong sounded again. This time the black hand was almost on twelve. Diana whipped her head around the diner, spinning her stool in a full circle. She wanted to memorize it all. She didn’t want to go back to Vegas, didn’t want to face her friends and money and full glass of champagne. But she had to remember the now-time. The present. The certainty in the moment.

 

Suddenly Diana’s world erupted in a flash of white light, just as when she had entered the Oasis. She felt her heart pounding, felt the blood in her veins and the tea warming her throat like her own personal sun. The gong rang. Once, twice, and then, silence.

 

Diana realized her eyes were closed. She opened them hesitantly, all too aware of the darkness around her and cool air on her skin. Her head felt lighter somehow, and she thought she might faint.

 

She was standing at the edge of the back porch of the hotel. Her toes were dangling over the wood, almost touching the dry desert floor. She stared at the jagged shark teeth in the distance. They were so far away — maybe a mile — and she thought she may have gone crazy. But it was too real to be drugs, too true to be imagined. The waitress was real. Barns was real.

 

A strike of light illuminated the sky for a split second before the darkness fell and the stars returned. It was a fork of lightning, with an aftershock of purple and red. The waitress had mentioned that. The lightning strike, marking the appearance of the Oasis. Marking its exit, too.

 

“Diana!” Diana turned to see her friends in the doorway, stumbling over each others’ feet and holding sloshing glasses of champagne. “There you are! Come on, let’s party!” The others shrieked in response and quickly fled the doorway, raising their glasses to the beat of a heavy bass and pulsing lights. Diana watched them go, not sorry to see them leave.

 

She turned back to the jagged shark teeth. Their silhouette against the black sky was almost invisible now, and Diana squinted to make out the sharp lines. The door was somewhere in there. Maybe it was gone now, but it had been there. She knew it had been there.

 

Diana faced the party. Her head still felt light, and again she wondered if she might faint. But it wasn’t dizziness that caused her to feel like a feather in the wind. Something was missing.

 

With a deep breath and a wave of sudden serenity, Diana realized it was the magnet that was gone. No longer pulling her to the west, no longer pointing her in a mysterious direction.

 

But she didn’t need it anymore.

 

Hidden Secrets

Sometimes there are things

we know and do

not understand

hidden secrets.

 

Justifications and reasons

questions about war and life and humanity

 

Some people go on without

ever trying to figure out

meanings.

 

Some people keep trying to

understand, comprehend, unravel

 

the mysteries of the world . . .

 

It is the difference between people

the foolish

the wise.

The Choice

About the Author

Elena Lohsen is a fun loving pianist who loves to write made-up stories that are either funny or dramatic. She is home schooled and loves to call herself either Larry or Bob.

A tiny voice asked, “Is this the one?”  Two small lights were glistening in a clever man’s room.

“I’m sure of it. He’s the one who will defeat Madith, the wizard.”  Suddenly a loud boom of thunder sent the glistening lights away into the dark and cold december night.

The next morning, Wayne was thinking, that was a strange dream, the way I was in a land where magical creatures thrived.

Wayne’s days always felt repetitive. everyday he would make a cup of coffee and stare at a picture on his desk; the picture was of a woman that had gone missing.  This woman was his ex-girlfriend.  She had gone missing right after a big fight.

About 11:00pm, he heard small high voices – as if a mouse was talking. he couldn’t make out what the things were saying.  He grabbed his torch and quickly turned over and shined the light right into two small flying green faces. He stared at the things with a face so white you might think it was marble.

“Hello,” said one of the things. “We are pixies, guards of the forest.”

“No, I’m just dreaming. That’s all,”  and with a nervous heart, he went back to sleep.

Midnight struck with a boom of thunder.  Wayne jerked up and saw that outside was the largest storm he’d ever seen.  Suddenly a giant  crack of lightning flew through his window and struck him in the heart.  Most people would die from that, but this my friends is only the beginning of a epic journey.

Wayne woke up with a headache worse than the world ending.  Looking around, Wayne saw that he was in a forest, his shoes were gone, and his torch was lying next to him.

“Wait? Where am I?”

“What, you don’t know?” said a high girlish voice.

“Who’s there?”

“Don’t you know where you are?” said the girly voice again.

“No. Where am I?”

“Why your in the land of Lenova.”

“Were?” asked Wayne.

“Lenova.  It’s where all things are possible.”

“Where are you?” Wain shouted, starting to get annoyed.

“Here.”

Just then a lady with chocolate brown hair dropped down. Scared half to death, Wayne fell back and said, “Who… who are you?”

“I dont really know yet.  I’m still searching.”

“Searching for what?” Wayne asked.

“My other half.  When I was two years, old Madith stole half of my identity.”

“No one can steal half of someone identity.  It’s impossible.”

“In lanova anything is possible. Oh, by the way, my name is Lily.”  Starting to leave, she called back

“Well, hurry up then.”

“So, you’re the man who’s supposed to defeat Madith?” Lily asked.

“What?…  Who’s Madith?”

“You don’t know who Madith is?… Never mind.”

Lily and Wayne walked for three miles until they were in a plain.

“What are we doing here?”

“Well, you see, a month ago a vision appeared to me, and said that a man would come, and I would help him to defeat Madith.  Since then, I’ve found many men, but all were big fakes. They all gave up.”

“So, Where are we going?”

“We are going to see Empathy.”

“What’s empathy?” asked Wayne.

“Not what, who. Empathy is a wise fairy who will help us”

By then they were in a dense swamp. “Well, we’re here.” Lily said, trying to sound happy.  In front of them was a large lake. “Here. Give me your hand.” With those words, she took a knife and cut his hand. One drop of dark red blood fell into the lake. At once, a terrible shrieking came out of the swamp behind them. They turned around, scared, and beheld Euryale.

“Oh no! Euryale’s scream can kill!  Quickly, put this in your ears.” Lily threw a tiny tube of water at Wayne.

”What do I do with this?”

“Pour it in your ears.”

“What?”

“Just do it!” Wayne poured it in his ears.  It felt cold; it made things hard to hear.  The only thing he did hear was the terrible, muffled, shrieking sound of Euryale.  Scared, he looked back and saw Euryale hurtling towards them.  Before they knew what they were doing, it grabbed Lily and threw her in the water.  Wayne watched terrified. Becoming only more terrified as Euryale came ever closer to where Wayne stood. He began to run.

“No!” shouted Lily frantically.  “That will only make it mad.”

It ran after Wayne and, with a loud shriek, it stopped running and turn towards Lily.  She was dragging herself soaking out of the water.  A cut on her forehead sent blood down the side of her face.  Euryale ran to her, picked her up on its shoulders and vanished.

“No.” breathed Wayne in a desperate voice. He knew that now he was all alone.

The green dirty river became suddenly gleaming blue.  A flash of lightning and a woman in a green gown was standing on the water.  She started to walk towards them. “Am I too late?”

“If you mean missing a giant monster attack us, then yes. Who are you?”

“I am Empathy, the queen of Lenova. Where is Lily?”

“The monster took her. So, how do we get her back?”

“Its name is Euryale.  You will have to go to its lair. Here, take this.” Empathy handed Wayne a small silver wrist watch. It wasn’t like other wrist watches.  It didn’t have hands.  Instead it had dots floating in a gel.

“What is it?” asked Wayne.

“It’s a internuncio.”

“What’s that?”

“A transporter.  It will take you ten feet forward.

Let me tell you about Madith.  A long time ago, Madith worked for the King.  Tired of being pushed around, he declared that he would some day push the King around and make him bow down to Madith.”

“Wow, he sounds horrible.” squeaked Wayne.

“Well,” Empathy continued, “after that, he vanished.  A couple years later, a man found him in the caves of Onna.  You will go in the caves and destroy him, without destroying the world.  I will put you in the caves of Kimp. That should be where Lily is.”

Empathy started to fade into the wind.  “My time is up.” Fading, she threw Wayne a piece of gold paper.  On it were just two words:

 Your choice.

“My choice,” he said to himself.  He was still looking at the paper Wayne looked up. He was in a cave the size of a  small room. The cave had no exit. He went frantically around, but found nothing – just a grey wall.  He touched every knook and cranny.

Giving up, he leaned against a wall and released a small pebble that fell onto the floor.  As this happened, the wall he was leaning on lifted up. Falling in, Wayne landed on a soft thing.  This thing was squishy, but warm.  “Wait a minute. This thing is moving,” Wayne whispered to himself.  The shrieking he had heard before came loudly again. The thing got up, making Wayne fall hard on the stone ground. He looked up, but didn’t see Euryale.

He stood carefully and started to walk the long tunnel before him. He passed many disgusting things, like a arm rotting on the floor and piles of bones everywhere. In front of him was a hole no bigger than a large dog.  Trying, but failing to squeeze in, his wrist watch loosened and fell to the floor. Picking it up, he remembered what it was.  Turning it over and over, Wayne found a button. He pushed it and red sparks came out. Then, it started to glow a purple, blue color. The world around him started to go black. He felt light headed, like he was the in the underworld – Hades touching his cold dark hands to Wayne’s head – then, he found himself in a brightly lit room.

As he examined the room, Wayne felt as if he were being closely watched. Turning a corner, he saw Lily in an iron cage dangling from a rope over a boiling pit of melted copper. “Lily!” shouted Wayne. Lily looked as if all her hope had been taken ferociously out of her body.

Wayne ran to the edge of the pit. He reached his arm out as far as he could, but it only went half the distance. A fierce shrieking made Wayne almost fall in. He turn around and beheld Euryale, mad at him for trying to take its treasure. “You are trying to take my only treasure, You will pay for that!”  

It charged at Wayne. He ducked and rolled out of the way. Running, he took off his watch and held it in his hand. “You will pay!” Wayne made a sharp turn and ran straight towards Lily in her iron cage.

“Catch!” He threw Lily his watch, and then made another sharp turn.

“How do I use this?”

“Push the button!”

“You will pay!” Euryale stopped running after Wayne, turned and started running fast towards Lily’s cage. It jumped over the pit on to the cage.  “You will pay!” Reaching in the cage, Euryale seized Lily’s ring and leaped off. The weight of Euryale had made the rope brake, one strand at a time, until it fell into the boiling copper, only to come up broken with nothing in it.

“No,” whispered Wayne.

“You have paid the price.” Laughing a devious laugh, Euryale picked up, out off the copper, the cage, then, threw it at Wayne. It got Wayne in the leg. Euryale walked to its next victim slowly. Wayne’s leg was badly cut, so he could only crawl to the edge of the pit and pray… Euryale shrieked, then looked at Wayne, ready to strike. Wayne, thinking this was it, closed his eyes and waited for the final blow.  He heard a shriek, then nothing. Wayne opened his eyes only to see Euryale dead by his feet, and Lily with a dagger in her hands.

“Thanks.” said Wayne, examining the beast.

“Here is you wrist watch,” Lily handed his small watch back to him.

“I thought you were dead. What happened?”

“I pressed the button right before Euryale cut the rope, then landed behind Euryale, and I saw it throw the cage at you. I then took my dagger out of my shoe and snuck up behind it, and, well, you know the rest.

We should get out of here before some more monsters come.”

Lily helped Wayne limp out of the caves and into the sun. They walked back to where Euryale had first attacked them. Lily then put Wayne’s leg into the water.  It stung for a minute, then felt there wasn’t ever a cut. When he lifted his leg, he saw that his leg was completely healed. Empathy appeared on the water with a happy expression. “You have succeeded in you first challenge, but there are going to be more. Come where you are safe.”

In the middle of the lake the water dipped down to the bottom showing a long tunnel. Lily started to walk on the water as if it were ground. She shouted back, “Are you coming or not?”  Wayne looked as if  he was watching a ghost go through a wall.  Petrified, he got up and slowly walked to the edge of the water. He put one foot on the water. It felt cold and slippery like ice, but beneath him he could see fish swimming.  Wayne slipped into the ice cold water. “Are you alright?” Empathy asked trying not to smile.

“Yeah,” he replied.  As soon as Empathy touched Wayne, he felt new strength. Standing, he walked, like he was born on the water, to the entrance of the tunnel, then slid to the dirt. The tunnel got darker as they went along. Wayne saw in the dim light that in front of them was a small door with a dagger in the middle.

“You two will enter this door. Inside there will be challenges that you will have to face.”

“What are the challenges?”

“I don’t know.”

Looking over to Lily and seeing her frightened face made Wayne stand up straight and go slowly to the door.  He stretched out his hand, but before he touched the door it swung open and with a bang, it hit a wall.  A gust of cold air flew on Wayne’s face.  It made him feel as if he were dead – being placed down into the grave, never to see the light again.

“This is where I must leave you. Goodbye and best of luck.” Empathy vanished with a flash of light.  Wayne stepped into the dark room and, walking slowly, hit something.  He jumped back and relaxed, for it was only a wall. Wayne remembered his torch, so, with quick hands, pulled it out of his pocket and shone it on a wall with tons of vines hanging down. He walked until the path split.

“Which way do we go?” asked Lily.

“Um, that way.” He pointed to the left.

“Are you sure?”

“No.”

They went to the left and found another split. This time, they went to the right. A faded green ball of light shone bright in Wayne’s face. “Agh, that’s bright.”

“What’s bright?”

“Can’t you see it?”

“See what?”

“The ball of light.”

“What ball of light?”

The ball started to move forwards. “Come on this way.” They followed the light to two great doors made purely of bones and gold.

“Well, we’re here, about to face Madith,” said Lily.

“What do you think he is like?”

“I don’t know – nasty probably.”

Lily stepped forwards and lightly touched the door made of skeletons and gold. It felt cold on lily’s soft, peach skin. She rubbed the door down the middle, then slowly pushed it open. Darkness seemed to swallow them; death seemed to hold them. It felt as if Madith were pulling them closer, closer, Wayne shone a light on a wall dripping black ooze: a black cat cocooned in a spider web dead with the spider sucking its blood, and a skeleton in bits of broken pieces along the floor. As they were walking, their torch suddenly burnt out leaving them in total darkness. Every once in a while, they would fall over either rocks, piles of dirt, or bones. Minutes passed by, but for them it felt like hours. Being forced to crawl over large rocks made their knees battered and bruised.

“I know why you are here. You can not defeat me.”

Lily, so surprised, fell to the ground dragging Wayne with her.  “Are you Madith?” asked Wayne.

“Yes, I’m the one who will have your lives in my hands in a few seconds.”

“What makes you so sure about that?” Lily said in a courteous tone.

“What makes me so sure is that I have something that one of you want badly, or did want badly.” After Madith said that, the floor started to open. It cracked straight between Wayne and Lily, then opened up, showing deep-down, molten lava bubbling. The crack spread wider apart every second, until it seemed as if it was a cauldron full of poison.

“Wayne, look out!” Lily shouted just as Madith appeared right behind him. Wayne turn to see none other than a woman in a black cloak with ivory hair and a hat just like a witches hat.

“I thought you said Madith was a man.”

“I thought she was.”

“Yes, everyone thought I was a man, because I wanted everyone to think I was a man. But now I will defeat you as easily as if I was a man!” With those words, she held out a hand and a ball of light hit Wayne in the chest. He fell to the ground, feeling as if he had been struck by a knife.

“I will talk, and you will listen. I have somthing you might want to have back. Of course, I’m not giving it back, but you might want to know that she is safe.”

“She?”

“Yes, she.” The wall in front of them opened up. Wayne’s eyes bulged out, and Lily’s heart pounded with fear.  In the middle was a woman on her knees, chained by her wrist to a large column. Her hair was in long tangled knots.  When she looked up, her face was stained was blood.

“Heather!” Wayne got up to run to the lady in chains, but only got shot back down by another ball of light. Heather lifted her stained face and immediately got up and ran as far as she could without hurting her arms.

“Let’s make a deal. I will let you have that thing,” Madith said, pointing to Heather, “if you let me have the girl.”

It struck Wayne then and there that he would have to choose either Lily or Heather. Waynes heart pounded, his head was in a whirl, which one, which one.

“I choose… Lily!” He said this, then caught a dagger thrown to him by Lily.  He ran at Madith and swung, but she caught his arm.

“Well?” asked Madith

“You must try harder than that! You have to have the element of surprise.” Madith disappeared only to appear again next to Heather.

“Like this!” Madith plunged a dagger into Heathers heart, leaving her breathless, hanging on chains.

Wayne stood with and threw his dagger at Madith with all his might, hitting her right in the heart. She screamed, but the scream slowly turned into a devilish laugh. She took the dagger out of her chest, and threw it to the ground.

She looked at Lily and said, “When you were little I took this from you.” Madith took out of her cloak a silver key.

“My other half, thats mine.”

Lily ran at Madith pushing her to the ground, sending the key spiraling to the edge of the crack. Lily got up and ran to the edge, grabbed the key and plunged it into her heart.

“No!” Madith lifted her arm up with murder in her eyes…

Lily grabbed around Madith’s waist and shouted, “for Lenova!” Lily shouted. Jumping off Lily and Madith plummeted down to their deaths. Leaving Wayne alone.

The End

The Makeup Mysteries

Makeup Mysteries

Chapter 1

The cameras flash back and forth as Niki Britina struts down the runway. She is the most famous fashion model in the entire world with long, silky blonde hair and bright blue eyes the color of sapphires. Anyone could easily tell she is a top fashion model. As the curtain closes Niki is showered by tons and tons of gorgeous flowers while she blows kisses to the roaring crowd. The show has ended and Niki is about to head home.

“Wasn’t I amazing out there? I was so much better than the rest of you!” Niki shouts confidently. “I’m surprised the crowd even clapped for you. Nicole, you tripped on the edge of the runway; that was hilarious! Ella, the dress you had on was from last season, and worst of all, Kathrin, you wore Zoe’s dress. It was so funny because Zoe didn’t have anything to wear so she couldn’t come out!”

“Niki, you’ve been really mean these past few weeks and you keep insulting us after every fashion show. We’re through!” shouts Nicole. “Come on girls.”

As all the other models file out of the room, and Niki is left with only one friend, Emma, her best friend.

“Niki, Nicole’s right. You have been kinda mean to the other models, and you need to start thinking about how others feel, not just yourself. See you Friday,” says Emma before leaving.

It is a dark night and the moon is hidden behind the clouds. As Niki walks down the sidewalk, she hears a rustle in the bushes and she turns around slowly to see a… squirrel! Niki sighs in relief. As she walks up the driveway to her exquisite mansion, she notices that her front door is wide open. She peeks inside and everything is out of place. Tables are overturned, vases are shattered on the floor, and worst of all she has chipped a nail coming home! Niki goes straight up to her vanity room to search for a nail file and some lotion. But just as she had suspected, her makeup has been stolen! She had the best makeup in the entire world – tons and tons of jet black mascara, ruby red lipstick, sparkling nail polish, pretty pink blush, a rainbow palette of eyeshadow, and the most wonderful perfume on the planet called Enchantment. Niki is so upset. She has a fashion show in 5 days and she needs her makeup, so she decides to call the police. About five minutes later a truck pulls up to her house and out jumps a man in a wet suit.

“Who are you and what are you doing at my house?”

“I am Jay the Shark Wrangler, there is no shark I cannot defeat! You told me to come help you catch the crook.”

“NO! I called the police to help me find the crook who broke into my house and stole my makeup, you shark boy!”

“Can I at least help?”

“FINE!” Niki sighed. “It’s not like I have any better options anyway.”

Niki storms off to her room and just before she slams the door she shouts, “Meet me at my house at 10:00 a.m. on the dot!”

“Why so late?”

“I need my beauty sleep, duh!” As she slams the door shut, a vase falls off it’s table and crashes to the floor, breaking on contact.

“UHH! Could this day get any worse?” she says and immediately it starts raining and thunder crashes throughout the sky. “Yes, yes it can.” On that note Niki falls fast asleep.

 

Chapter 2

At 9:00 a.m. Niki gets out of bed and goes to her bathroom to look for her makeup before remembering it’s not there.

“Stupid thief,” Niki mumbles. She stomps over to her walk-in closet to put on some designer clothes.

At about 12:00 Niki comes out of her closet fully dressed from head to toe with sparkling jewelry, a vintage handbag, the newest sun glasses, and designer clothes. As she walks out onto her driveway, she spots Jay leaning against the shark truck, awaiting her arrival.

“You said 10:00 a.m. on the dot! It’s 12:15! You’re late!”

“I was busy!” Niki snaps back. “Let’s just get this over with. I have a hair appointment at 5:00 and I need to find my makeup in 5 days! I have a show coming up and if I don’t have it by then, I’ll get fired. You can’t send a model on the runway without makeup. It’s just like, a rule!”

As Jay pulls out of the driveway, Niki notices a note slipped inside her mailbox.

“Wait a second, Jay. I see something.” She climbs out of the car and struts over to the mailbox, taking the note. As she hops back in the car she opens it. The note says,

Meet me at the wharf at 12:30 if you ever want to see your precious makeup again!

-S

“He must have my makeup. I need it back. Let’s go!”

“Okay, Miss beauty queen,” Jay says, rolling his eyes. “What’s so important about this makeup anyway?”

“I am the only person in the world who has this makeup. It’s one of a kind, especially the perfume! Let’s just go already!”

It’s about a 20 minute drive from Niki’s house to the wharf. Once they get there, they notice a shadowy figure leaning against a post near a speed boat. It is a foggy day and no one else is in the water or at the restaurants. They are all alone. As Niki and Jay walk over to retrieve her makeup, the shadowy figure looks up, but doesn’t show his face.

“So this is Miss Niki Britina. Do you need your makeup back, honey?” he says with a smug smile and a ring of sarcasm to his voice.

“As a matter a fact, I do! So give it back, NOW!”

“Oh, I’m afraid it’s not that easy, sweetheart. You see, you need to give me something that I want, then we will talk about returning the makeup.”

Niki thought about this for a second. Then, finally, she spoke. “Well… what do… you want then?” Her voice was shaky.

“Money, jewelry, things that I can sell. The usual.”

“Well, I’m not giving you anything. Jay here is a…a…police officer! Yeah, that’s right, he’s a police officer. Arrest him, Jay.”

“I’m not a police officer,” whispers Jay.

“Just go with it,” Niki snaps back.

“Oh, a police officer in a wetsuit? Is that the newest fashion? Hmmm? Anyway I’ve got to get going. I mean, this isn’t getting anywhere.” The thief jumps straight into the speed boat, kicking up water as he jets away.

“Oh, no he didn’t!” Niki shouts. “He ruined my designer dress. I spent $5,000 on this!”

“We’ll catch him! Hop on!” Jay shouts.

Niki and Jay jump onto the boat and try to start the engine but it doesn’tbudge.

“Uggghh, it’s broken.”Jay hollers.

“Now we will never catch the thief! My fashion show is in 5 days and I’ll be on the cover of ‘Embarrassment of the Week’ in no time! I’ll get fired!” Niki whines. After Niki’s drama attack, she goes to her hair appointment, and mopes the entire night. Jay thinks up a plan for the next day.

Chapter 3

“Niki, wake up!” Jay yells through Niki’s open window, “I have an idea about how to get your makeup back!”

“Go away, paparazzi! I’m sleeping!”

Jay pushes open the front door and walks straight up to her bedroom. He quickly pushes Niki off her bed and she falls to the ground with a thud. “Come on. Get dressed. And this can’t take 4 hours again!”

“Owww!” Niki whines. “You pushed me! I am a top fashion model! I can sue you, and for your information, it took 3 hours not 4!”

“Yeah, yeah, just get dressed already.”

Niki stumbles over to her closet and picks out an outfit, does her hair, puts on jewelry, cries about her makeup, and picks out some high heels.

“Good job. Niki, I think we got your dressing time down to an hour and a half.” Jay says with tons of sarcasm.

“Very funny, Jay. So what’s your big plan to get my makeup back?”

“Come on. We’ll go to the mall and I’ll tell you.” After about an hour of shopping, Niki and Jay sit down to talk about Jay’s plan.

“So we know this guy is very shady and he won’t tell us to meet him when there’s a lot of people around, so I suggest we invite him to your house and trap him there!”

“Good plan except for the part where he’s in my house!”  Niki shouts.

“Yeah, he’s in your house but we can set some traps downstairs and get him to walk straight into our trap!”

“Ok let’s do it!”

After Jay and Niki go shopping at TRAPS, CAGES, AND DUNGEONS, they have 2 giant cages, 4 trapdoors, and 50 other things that neither of them know what they do, so while Jay sets up the traps, Niki realizes the thief had left an email address on the back of his last note, so she uses it to email him their request. He replies, BE THERE IN 5 MINUTES. THIS BETTER BE GOOD. -S

5 minutes later a creepy car pulls up out front and the shadowy figure gets out. “So let’s get down to business,” he says.

Just before the shadowy figure arrived, Jay told Niki to hide behind the stairwell and pull the giant rope when Jay said “now.” She didn’t know what it would do but if it would help her get her makeup back faster, she would do it. Niki was hiding as Jay was leading the figure into the front hall.

“You first,” Jay says. As the figure walks into the room, Niki gets a text and starts replying when Jay says, “NOW!”

“One second, I’m replying to a text. Emma wants to know which color of eyeshadow compliments her eyes,” Niki says.

“Oh, I see what’s going on. You two are trying to trap me. Well played, but not smart enough.” He quickly pushes Jay and Niki right where he had been standing and pulls the rope which lets down a cage. They are trapped.

“Good-bye, Niki and Jay. We’ll meet again soon. By the way, Niki maybe reply to the text after you trap the bad guy. Just a tip.” He smiles smugly and gives a cackling laugh before leaving.

“Nice going, Niki!” Jay yells, “We almost had him, but then you just had to reply to your little fashion friend. If you really want to get your makeup back, you can’t be whining and texting all the time, you’ve got to focus. If this makeup is really important to you, you have to pay attention, take some initiative, and start taking some risks. This is not a game, Niki. It’s not a playdate where you say, ‘Can I have my makeup back?’ and he says, ‘Sure, I’m sorry.’ The world isn’t like that. This is a real criminal we’re facing and you just seem to goof around. You are acting like a pampered princess. You can’t have anything you want, Niki. The world is not just going to hand it to you. I’m sorry to say it, Niki, but I think it’s time for you to grow up. Now let’s figure out a way to get this cage off.”

“Ok,” says Niki. Jay’s words sting her heart like an open wound. No one’s ever said those kinds of things to her. Maybe Jay was right, she was just a pampered little princess. But she was still ready to help. Niki undoes her scarf and ties it to Jay’s belt and with a little tape from the nearby counter, they make a long enough rope to grab onto the other rope holding the cage down. They escape.

“If you think I’m such a pampered princess, why are you helping me?

“Because…” Jay says. ”Because I love you.” He kisses Niki’s cheek. “See you tomorrow, Blondie.” And he walks away.

Chapter 4

All Niki thinks about is the kiss, all morning. Did Jay really love her or was he just making it up? NIki has had a ton of boyfriends, but when they kissed her none of them felt the same as Jay’s lips against her cheek. It felt good, very good. How was she going to explain to him that she liked him too? She hadn’t realized it until he kissed her. She really liked his short blonde hair,  his bright blue eyes, his smile, and how he always made her laugh. Today, she was going to show him a different side of Niki Britina, the good side. “Right after I change,” Niki says.

When Niki walks out of her closet, she is not wearing her regular designer outfit with vintage handbags and dangly earrings. Instead, she is wearing jeans, strap-on sandals, a beach scarf, and a really cute top. NONE of the items she has on are designer clothing. As she walks out onto her driveway, Jay is not there like he was the day before. That’s odd, she thought. She drives her car over to Jay’s house and knocks on the door. There is no answer. Where is he, Niki wonders. As she leans against the door, it slowly opens. She walks inside the empty house and calls Jay’s name. Again, there is no answer.

“Jay?” she shouts, “Jay, where are you?” As she walks around the house, she realizes it looks just like hers after it was rampaged. There are muddy footprints on the ground and marks that look like someone had been dragged across the floor. As she looks around, she notices a note sticking out of the fireplace. Its edges have been singed by the remaining embers. She picks up the note.

Your time is running out, Niki Britina. Meet me at the park in 15 minutes if you want to get your makeup back. Also, I heard you were looking for Jay. You’ll find him if you meet me here. By the way, doesn’t Jay have a lovely home? See you there.

-S

Niki knew exactly what had happened to Jay. The only thing that came out of her quivering mouth was “S.” As Niki gets in her car she knows what she has to do. She drives her car over to the park. It is very late, probably around 6:00. She parks her car, gets out, and walks over to the center of the park where she finds S and Jay sitting on a bench in the middle of the park. As she walks over, S says, “Well if it isn’t my old friend Niki. Come here, sit, and we’ll talk.

“You are no friend to me,” Niki snaps back, “Let Jay go and we’ll be out of your way.”

“Oh dear Niki, trying to be the hero now? Let’s not be harsh, Niki. This could easily turn into a life or death matter,” he says as he lifts up a gun, then slips it back into his pocket.

“You can’t just demand everything and get it to go your way. You should know that by now because it’s happened so many times. Your concentration is a little sketchy. Truthfully, I’m shocked Jay even wants to help you.”

“Stop!” Niki shouts.

“Oh, I’m just getting started. Give me the money, Niki. This is not a little game, this is real life and you’re not in a fairytale. It’s reality. Everything here is real.”

“How much?” Niki says, digging through her wallet.

“Don’t give him anything, Niki!” Jay shouts.

“Don’t pay attention to him. Give me the money and I’ll let you be. Jay will be let go and I’ll give back the makeup. This is your move. This can all be over, or it can get a whole lot harder. I’m not playing around this time, Niki. Give me the money.”

“If I have learned anything from Jay, it’s not to give up.” Niki closes her wallet. “I won’t give you any money. I won’t give you anything.”

“That is a bad move, Miss Britina. Someone could get hurt.” As soon as he says that he takes out his gun and shoots Jay right in the leg. Jay screams out in pain and agony.

“Words have power, Niki, and you used the wrong words. See you soon, I’ll be back and next time I’ll get what I came for, no matter what!” He shouts as he fires with his gun into the air and speeds of into the pitch black night. Niki runs over to Jay.

“Jay, Jay are you ok?!” Niki shouts.

“Call 911,” he whispers, “And Niki, no matter what happens, I will always love you, no matter what.” Then Jay blacks out and Niki calls 911 and as Jay is pulled into the ambulance and sped away to the hospital, Niki bursts into tears.

Chapter 5

In the morning, Niki got out of bed, knowing that this time she couldn’t do this with Jay. Today was the big fashion show and she was all alone. Jay was in the hospital and all her friends except Emma had dumped her at last week’s fashion show. She sits on her bed and thinks about what she was going to do, so she calls Emma and asks her to come over.

10 minutes later Emma’s car pulls up and Emma hops out. “So what’s the problem?” she says.

“Someone stole my makeup!” Niki replies.

“No way! How are you gonna get it back?”

“I have a plan but it would involve getting Nicole, Zoe, Kathrin, Ella and all of the other models that Nicole probably told.”

“Why don’t you just text them to meet you here and apologize? I think they deserve one.”

“Ok” says Niki, “I’ll get the phone.” After a LOT of convincing, Niki finally gets all 28 models to come over to her house.

“I am so sorry,” Niki says, “I was being very selfish and I didn’t mean to hurt any of your feelings. I am so sorry, can you please forgive me?”

All the models think and think until they finally came up with a solution. Nicole speaks, “If you really are sorry, you will let every single one of us over for a sleepover after the fashion show and we can all do each other’s hair, dress up, and use your makeup.”

“Yes we can do that but the only problem is some crook stole my makeup, every single thing, lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, you name it. All gone, even the perfume.” There were gasps all around.

“Every single thing!” says Lauren.

“Every single thing,” Niki replies, “But there is a way to get it back. I have a plan, but I am going to need all of you. Are you in?”

“Anything for you, Niki.” Ella replies, “And thanks for apologizing.”

“Ok, here’s my plan. We all sneak into the robber’s house and half of us will look for all my makeup and the other half will take all the weapons so if he’s there or comes back he won’t have anything to defend himself with.”

“Sounds like a plan, let’s do it!” Morgan shouts. As they all get in their cars, they use the email address to find the house address that the thief’s replies were coming from and they drive over there. They all get out of their cars and sneak to the front of the house. They had divided themselves into two teams and it was time to get Niki’s makeup back once and for all. The door was open so they quietly enter the house. They looked and looked, it appeared that the crook wasn’t home, then Jenna says, “Hey, there’s a secret door over here, come here everyone”. They push and pull until finally the door slides open and in the room is all of Niki’s makeup!

Everyone runs inside and starts carrying it out, but the door slams shut, “Going somewhere?” a voice says.

“Who…is…that..?” Emma says, her voice shaky.

“Niki, you haven’t introduced me to your friends. Who are these lovely ladies?”

“Just give it up, S. We’ve got you outnumbered,” Niki says.

“Are you sure?” As soon as he says that, the door slides open and out come 25 muscular body guards.

“Does that even the odds a little bit, Niki? Get them!” The bodyguards circle Niki and her friends.

“Get ready girls!” Nicole shouts, “Throw!” All of a sudden every single one of Niki’s friends take off their high heels. They fly through the air and hit each body guard in the head, hard, so hard that they fall unconscious.

“Thanks everybody.” Niki replies.

“You’re our friend, we’d do anything for you.” Emma says. They all hug.

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but the bad guy is escaping.” Caren says.

“He won’t get far.” Niki replies.

“Why do you say that?”

“I called the police before we got here.” Niki says, “They should be here right about now.”

“Freeze! Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law,” a police officer says.

“OMG, we have 10 minutes to get to the fashion show! We’re going to be late and we don’t even have time to get ready!” Nicole shouts.

“Yes you do, we can use mine.” Niki says.

“Thank you so much Niki, you’re the best!”

As all the girls get ready the police come in and ask Niki if she had found what she wanted.

“Yes,” she replies.

“I’ll get you for this, Niki Britina, I will!” S says as he leaves with the police.

No one pays him any attention. Finally after everyone got ready they race to the fashion show. Everyone has a great time. As soon as it is over, Nicole says, “I call the lipstick first!” as she rushes to her car.

“Oh no you don’t!” everyone shouts as they race to Niki’s house.

Once they get there and all the girls are doing makeup, Niki gets a phone call.

“I’ll get it,” she shout. Once she picks up the phone, it is Jay who answers.

“I heard what you did, Niki. That was very brave. Nice work!” And he hangs up.

The End