A month before I moved, someone I used to like told me that I was blocking the world out. He said that at this point the world could end and I’d be so manic with the need to block it out that I wouldn’t even register it. He said that he was worried about me and that I shouldn’t go away on my own because he didn’t know how far my obsession with pretending that it’s all okay would go.

But that doesn’t really matter anyway.

Right now, I’d say I’m going through the best period of my life. What I’d have to say I’m happiest about is that things aren’t how they used to be anymore. The place I am in my life right now… it’s like utopia. Both metaphorically and literally, that is. Everything’s been going uphill for almost a year now. I moved a few months ago, from the cramped city where I’d been raised to a town I’d never heard of, a few hours’ drive over. I’d say that helped a lot. Maybe I needed a change of scenery.

But what really changed my mood was not letting things get to me anymore. I guess I’d just had enough, and that’s what my friends told me to do, at first. And that really made everything so much better. After about a month I’d done it so much that it became automatic. People started saying that I was blocking too much out, but I didn’t let that bother me. I stopped talking to people who were bringing me down. I realized there were a lot of things that I hadn’t noticed were making me feel worse – there’s a lot I don’t do anymore. But I’ll be alright. I’m doing it for my own good, after all.

There’s not much I miss about my “old life.” I don’t like to think about it, really, because I have trouble thinking about the good things without connecting them to the bad. So I try to move on with all of it. I wouldn’t want to remember things that make me feel badly, anyway.

I realize I’ve been lying in the same place for nearly an hour. I didn’t get all that much sleep last night – I had a nightmare. Every now and then images and words and pictures all flood into my head during a dream, snippets where I’m fighting with a friend I’d stopped talking to before I moved, or where I accidentally step on my computer and break it into two. I don’t know why it happens, but it unsettles me every time. Last night was one of the worst I can remember. Everything was on fire and there was so much screaming. I woke up terrified and oddly warm, like I’d gone to sleep in a jacket. I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning.

I stretch and stand up. I’m not sure what time it is but based off of the yellow glow coming through the windows, I’d say it’s late morning. It’s brighter than most days, though. I can’t help but wonder why that is.

I change and go into the kitchen, but I don’t grab anything to eat. I think I’d rather walk down to the coffee shop and get a pastry or something there. The walk’s short, only about five minutes, so I put on shoes and head to the door. I almost reach for a jacket, but stop when I remember how hot it is outside. It would just make me look ridiculous.

I open the door.

It feels like all the energy’s been sapped from me the second I can see outside. I don’t have any idea why, but I crumple to the ground – the only thing stopping me from entirely falling is my grip on the doorknob. I get up immediately, confused. Why had I fallen? I regain strength in my limbs and shut the door behind me. It’s probably just how tired I am, considering how little sleep I got last night. Maybe I need that coffee more than I thought.

As I walk I can’t help but think back to how many things I’ve done to stop dreams like these from coming. They’re the only things that block the path to me finally being happy and I can’t stand it. Every night that I look out my window and see the stars in the sky and the shiny skyscrapers on the horizon and finally think to myself that everything is alright, I wake up at 3:00 with my heart pounding in my throat.

I clench my fist, then unclench it. One day the dreams’ll stop. They have to. I’ll forget all about my old life and about when things weren’t the way there are now and when that’s out of my head, the dreams will be too. Maybe then I’ll be happy.

I look up into the sky as I walk. The sun is hovering on the outer edge of my vision, and I’m reminded of how much that used to annoy me. I used to look up into the sky and see fire. Now all I see is sunshine.

I pass by rows of apartment buildings. Today they look… shinier than usual. I’d describe it like plastic. I don’t pay much attention to it, of course. It would just bother me all day. What I don’t want to do is let the post-nightmare days trip up my mood. Those can be the days where I forget to keep a handle on my emotions. Days when I look at things and worry that they’re not the same as they were when I last saw them. Shoes that I’d remembered being in perfect condition suddenly muddy and worn, two emails I’d never seen before that the computer marked as “read.” They’re always the worst days, a confusing jumble of anxiety and uneasiness.

I notice someone sitting on the steps to a building, but they just look through me. I’m not surprised, but not bothered either. Of course people don’t know me very well. I don’t go out very often, and when I do, I’m not usually one for starting up conversations. People are always so insistent to talk about unhappy things. I can’t imagine that talking to people would make you feel much better about anything.

Nothing that a friend has ever said me has ever made anything better.

I’ve still never been able to get those words out of my head – that I’m blocking the world out. Somehow the three sentences he managed to get out before I walked out of the room have bothered me more than anything else. It plays on an infinite loop in the background of my nightmares. It’s mixed in with the crackling of the fire and the sounds of buildings collapsing, quiet, but enough to drive me insane on its own.

I reach the coffee shop and my train of thought is broken. I still can’t help but notice the shininess of the perfect-looking world I’m in. Everything is a little bit blurry, a little bit off-looking. I have difficulty focusing on anyone’s face. It makes me wonder if I need glasses, or if I’m bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.

No one looks like they’re at all affected by today’s heat. Most are even wearing light jackets… which would usually be totally appropriate for fall, but on a day like this it just surprises me. Am I getting a fever or something? Usually fevers don’t feel like this, but it’s the only explanation I can think of.

Everything feels wrong. I don’t know how to explain.

I’m walking towards the shop when I trip on something. I land flat on what feels like a sharp rock, and pain shoots through my face. I don’t feel any blood when I reach up to touch it, but it’s clearly a pretty bad wound. Strange, this is the first injury I can remember getting in months.

I slowly stand up, in pain. When I look down I become a bit nauseated for a second. I blink and I think I see what looks like a gigantic, jagged piece of rubble, but when I blink again it’s gone and all there is, is flat sidewalk. No one seems to have noticed my fall, either.

I start to wonder if I’m going crazy. It’s somehow a worse fear than anything I could’ve imagined a few minutes ago. I think that maybe my friend was right. Maybe I’m in that place he worried I’d go.

I get up and immediately trip on something I can’t see again.

I lie there in place for minutes on end with my eyes closed, trying to tell myself that everything is okay. But this is the first time that I can’t get it to sink in. Something just feels so awfully, awfully wrong and I can’t put my finger on it. I feel like I’m on fire and the air smells like chemicals and the clouds are the color of ash. But of course every time I open my eyes I see this disgusting bright blue color above me and I’m breathing in fresh air that makes me want to vomit.

And then, after what I’m convinced was an eternity, I open my eyes and see something else.

The first thing I notice is the sky. It’s orange smeared with blood, far too bright and far too cheerful, like the color you’d see if you took a first step into hell. I can’t look at it without my eyes feeling like they’ve been doused in gasoline and lit with a match. The sun is radioactive yellow. The air smells toxic and the inside of my mouth tastes like acid.

The second thing I notice is the fallen, crumbling buildings. Most of them are still on fire. There’s a burning piece of wood only a few feet away from me. There isn’t a single living person in my vicinity. Emphasis on “living.”

I guess all the smoke is why I’ve been so hot today.

I stand up again. I can see the rubble I hit my head on. I can’t tell if it’s the remains of the coffee shop or of a building that used to surround it. I take this all in slowly. I reach my hand, already black with ash, up to touch the spot of my face where I’d fallen and when I look at my fingers they’re dripping with blood. The gash reaches from immediately under my left eye to the front of my chin. The vision there is flickering and painted red.

I sink to my knees and the sidewalk is burning.

A month before I moved, someone I used to like told me that I was blocking the world out. He said that at this point the world could end and I’d be so manic with the need to block it out that I wouldn’t even register it. He said that he was worried about me and that I shouldn’t go away on my own because he didn’t know how far my obsession with pretending that it’s all okay would go.

I always thought he’d been exaggerating.

Cactus Blooms

As I write to you,

the echinopsis flowers have begun

their petal game of peek-a-boo,

the crested caracara flies

high in the dusty sky,

and I am slowly suffocating.


Every day

breathing gets harder.

The oppressive hot air

scrapes the inside of my nostrils.

Swallowing is painful,

prickly sand dots my throat.


You brought me here

to this mysterious place

filled with natural wonders.


My choice was yours,

because living together

meant moving together,

and I didn’t argue.


At first,

the sparkling sand

and shining sun

charmed me.

You were happy

and I was content.


But I realized that it was all a mirage.


This morning,

my broken dreams suddenly

appeared in my cupped hands.

They were the quills of a cactus

and my blood was theirs too.


I realized that we are sun and sand.

I reflected your radiance,

but then was stomped on.

Your neglect left deep bootprints.


I realized that I was foolish.

I am still foolish.

Foolish powder that wishes to be glass.


I thought I saw opportunity on the horizon,

beckoning with flaring gestures

and brilliant colors.

But that was just the sunset,

and it wasn’t as pretty as I had hoped.


My dreams are wider than the landscape.

My ideas, more sporadic than tumbleweeds.

You and I both know that I will fail,

but I’m no longer afraid of taking chances.


So when you receive this

letter of surrender,

flying white from the hand of the mailman,

I will receive my freedom,

And I do not care for a reply.


A sigh of loneliness whispered softly on a gentle morning breeze as the flowers bloomed and birds sang their songs of joy. The soft ruffling of her wings as a hummingbird fluttered to a new patch of flowers.


I stood alone watching the steady progress of the morning sunshine creeping across the sky. Butterflies fluttered around my head and leaped and froliced through the air. The flower’s fragrant aroma gently floated on the balmy morning breeze as the swing set in the deserted old playground creaked.


I was soaking up all this scenery as the ground shook with agony as if it had given up and was falling into an endless pit. The pavement cracked. The formerly warm, fragrant, clean air had changed to dank, dense, and murky air.


Despair seeped through the freshly gouged pavement and attacked me. It pummeled me from all angles. The despair crammed itself into  any nook and cranny that could be found in my body that wasn’t touched by contentment and happiness. My Hope and will to live started to drain. My thoughts were darkened and hate. Inexplicable hate swelled up inside me. It sloshed around inside me like some toxic waste feeding my hatred.


I grabbed at the butterflies trying to smush them. I lunged at the few birds that dared remain near me trying to rip their wings off and puncture  their souls. And I tried to deprive every living creature in sight of their life and their enjoyment in the cruel world. . .


But then one one little speck of light in amongst all the darkness said “No!” with such force that for a split second I left the darkness and saw light, hope, happiness, and life. And as  I submerged into the darkness again with the feeling of drowning in tar. I realised how much better the light was. And I let that little speck of light fight through all of my defenses like fire burning up paper.


The light found its way to the innermost sanctum of my now almost non-existent heart and suddenly I felt pain, empathy, and remorse like never before. It was excruciatingly painful. as if my skin was being ripped off my body. I pleaded “Have mercy” but there was no mercy. Eons later it seemed the pain stopped.


I felt gratitude with such intensity that words could not be found to explain this feeling. I cried. For days on end. I woke up bathed in sweat shaking and crying. I was so incredibly joyful that I was alive and well. And I was ashamed for everything else I had always taken advantage of without even once paying those things any thought.

The Paradox

Jason woke up to the sounds of families shouting and running. He sat up groggily on a pile of blankets that he had stolen and glanced over to see what everyone was so excited about.

He saw groups of families rushing past, not noticing Jason in the alleyway. While looking at the families, a big poster caught his eye. It said, “Come see time machine at the Invention and Technology Convention.”

Jason suddenly had a wild idea. Maybe he could go back in time to prevent his parents’ death. Jason doubted it, but he would do anything to get his parents back. He would never forget five years ago when he was seven years old and their car crashed and how he was the only survivor… He quickly tried to think about something else. Thinking about their loss wouldn’t bring them back.

He walked over to the poster and checked the address. The convention was taking place at 123 Street St. It wasn’t too far from where he used to live while his parents were alive.  In the five years since their death, he had been living in the alleyway begging for money and food. At times he was very hungry and at other times he was thirsty, but he pulled through. He winced at the memory like it was a knife, but that gave him more determination to bring his parents back.

He ran toward the convention as fast as his legs could carry him. When he arrived he bent over and tried to catch his breath. He walked into the gates of the convention where he was stopped by an admission booth. Since he had no money he tried sneaking around, but there were guards around the convention that would catch him. Then he devised a simple plan that would draw the guard’s attention to something else. He took a match and lit it. After that he threw the match at the greenery around the convention. All the guards went to put out the fire, so he climbed over the fence without being noticed.

While he walked around trying to find the time machine a lot of people were giving him strange looks. They were probably wondering why he was dressed in torn muddy clothing. He ignored them and kept looking. He marveled at the different inventions the people made. He saw hover boots to flying boats. Eventually Jason got lost, so he asked one of the inventors where to find the time machine. The inventor gave him strange looks, but he told Jason the directions.

When he got there he could see the time machine propped up on the stage and the inventor Bob Jones talking about it.

“Okay, so the time machine is a delicate piece of work. It can travel through time, but if you’re not careful it could also tear a hole in fabric of space,” Bob lectured. “And at times you could even create duplicates of yourself.”

Jason ignored the lecture and snuck over to behind the stage (where he could see a bunch of guards trying to put out the fire) and lunged forward towards the time machine.  It looked like a tall metal box with various assorted wires and things Jason couldn’t identify. Bob tried blocking him, but adrenaline boosted him and he ran into the time machine and desperately pushed random colorful buttons.

The machine door closed and he saw a flashing red light appear. He heard Bob pounding on the door and shouting,“Wait! That’s a delicate machine you could destroy the world…”

Then Jason and the machine disappeared. He felt like he’d been put in a washing machine in a blender. He sat down trying to feel less dizzy. When Jason felt better he looked around the time machine.

It was cramped and the size of a phone booth. There was a panel with an assortment of unlabeled buttons and levers. On another side of the wall there was a screen where you could enter the date you would like to go to. Jason decided to look outside the time machine. He saw a forest near a mountain with a cave in it. He also saw various different dinosaurs. He stepped back inside the time machine and tried to get back to the present, but then he realized why he had stolen the time machine, so instead he entered in the date when his parents died on the panel and the machine disappeared.

He appeared at the yard of his old house and saw his parents getting in their car with young Jason following behind them. He hid the time machine and followed them. He suddenly remembered that they were taking young Jason to a hockey game. He used to love hockey when he was little. Jason tried to think of ideas on how to stop him but couldn’t think of any. He thought about popping the tire, but he couldn’t think of anyways to do it. He decided to go back to the garage and find something sharp. He tried getting in, but the door was locked. He tried to remember where his parents kept the spare keys, but he only remembered the keys were hidden somewhere on the yard. Jason paced around the neighborhood trying to think of ways to get in.

He finally decided to just search the entire yard. He first checked in the bushes. He crouched down and crawled around the bushes examining where the key might be. After a long time he went over to the trees and he climbed up to the low branches to maybe find a key resting on one of the branches, but he didn’t find anything. Jason eventually got so frustrated that he kicked a rock only to find the key under the rock. He picked it up and brushed away the dirt. He walked over the door and inserted the key and twisted. The door unlocked with a satisfying click.

He stepped inside cautiously and once he knew no one was home he walked over to the garage and saw multiple items that could be used to pop tires and grabbed a branch cutter. He strolled out the front door, locked it and put it back where it was. Then walked to the time machine (with the branch cutters) and entered the time before they left on the panel and disappeared.

He appeared at the same spot and peeked around the tree to make sure they hadn’t left the house yet and then he went to pop the tires.

Suddenly the garage door opened Jason’s dad stepped outside and yelled, “HEY YOU, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THAT’S MY CAR AND BRANCH CUTTER!!! GET OUT NOW!!!

Jason quickly fled to the end of the streets when another time machine appeared. Bob Jones stepped out of it and glared down at Jason. “Heh heh heh. What do we have here?” he said.

Jason looked for an escape and saw only one, the time machine. He tried diving into the time machine, but Bob blocked the door.

“Not this time,” Bob said. “Now tell me why are you here?”

Jason thought of lying, but decided against it. “I’m here because my parents died and I want to resurrect them.”

Bob’s expression softened and he said, “Nothing you can do about it. It’s best to keep things the way they are.”

Jason thought about what he said and decided if they were alive, reality would change, but for the better or worse. He decided that it would be worth the trouble. He ran towards his parents’ house to his time machine.

He stepped in the time machine and traveled to before Bob came. He walked to the car and let them go, then followed them. He glanced behind him hoping Bob wouldn’t follow him and saw himself talking to Bob. He decided not to waste any time talking with Jason or have the chance of being captured by Bob, so he continued following them. Thankfully there was lots of traffic that slowed them down so Jason could keep up.

Then he walked over to the car and stared at them. He looked at his parents’ distinct yet familiar features. His mom’s brown hair and white smile and his dad’s warm brown eyes seemed to fill him with joy. His mom was stroking young Jason’s hair and laughing.

Jason paused and then said to his parents, “Don’t go, I’m Jason from the future and you’re going to die. I’m here to prevent your deaths.”

Jason’s dad stared at him and said, “Wait. You’re the person who tried popping my tires.”

Before he could finish his sentence the car behind them honked because they had been holding up traffic so they rolled up the window and drove away. Jason watched them as they went in a hurry and crashed into the car in front of them.

Jason sagged his shoulders in defeat realizing that if he hadn’t talked to them they wouldn’t have been in such a hurry and wouldn’t have crashed. He plopped down on the sidewalk and mourned for their loss. He looked over to the crash and found hope. He walked towards the time machine and closed its door. He sat down trying to think of ideas, but all that came to his mind was that he caused their death. Jason decided to go back without a plan, hoping maybe a plan would enter his mind. He set the date on a panel and teleported back in time.

He stepped out of the time machine and saw himself running towards the car. Jason (#2) gave a surprised look, then realized it was him from the future or past.

He sprinted over to Jason #2 and said, “Wait, don’t go. Mom and Dad will die if you do this.”  

Jason #2 gave a skeptical look and reluctantly said, “Okay, what do we do?”

“Just wait here.”

Jason #1 and 2 waited and watched the car go. The car went forward and suddenly a newspaper got caught by the wind and splattered against the windshield. The car flapped its windshield wiper trying to remove the newspaper and crashed forward.

“Well your plan didn’t work,” said Jason #2.

“We’ll have to try something different then.”

“Let’s go back to my time machine and try again.”

Both Jasons squeezed into the tight space and teleported backwards. They stumbled out of the machine and went to stop Jason #2 (of the past).

“Don’t go,” said the future Jasons in harmony. Then a time machine appeared and another Jason #1 went to stop Jason #2 (as shown above), but froze in his tracks. All Jasons looked around in confusion.

One of Jasons said, “Why are there so many Jasons?”

“I don’t know,” replied another Jason.

“Let’s just prevent the death,” said another Jason.

All Jasons agreed and went over to the car.

“So the car crashed because a newspaper flew into the windshield,” explained Jason. “So what we have to do is stop the newspaper.”

The Jasons looked around for the source of the newspaper, but couldn’t find anything. Then one of Jasons spotted a man on a bench nearby throwing the newspaper in the recycling bin. The wind picked it up and it splattered against the car. All four Jasons groaned and went back into their time machines to fix it. They appeared and rushed to four confused-looking Jasons.

“No time to explain, just try to stop any newspapers from going towards the car,” said one Jason.

All eight Jasons went the where the man was sitting and waited for the man to throw the newspaper. When he threw it all eight Jasons rushed forward to stop it. One Jason caught it and triumphantly yelled. The car moved forward without any trouble and made its way to the hockey stadium.

“Okay, so now that we fixed it… which Jason is going to the present?”

All Jasons debated about it, but couldn’t find an answer. One Jason decided on a competition on who can run to the time machine. All Jasons agreed. They lined up and faced the time machine.

“3, 2, 1… GO!”

All Jasons sprinted to the time machine, but since they were all the same person they were evenly matched. They then argued even more who should go. Eventually after lots of arguing one Jason had an absolutely brilliant idea. He said that they should spin a bottle and whoever it points to gets to go. They circled around a bottle and spun it. The bottle slowed until it landed on a Jason. The Jason who got picked cheered in excitement. All other Jasons gave disappointed looks while the one other Jason stepped towards the time machine.

“Wait, I’m the original Jason,” said the original Jason. “I should go back to the present.”

“Then prove it,” replied the Jason that was going to the present.

“Well… I have more memories than all of you.”

“Prove it,” replied the other Jason.

“Every Sunday my dad used to take my to the Baxter Park to play hockey.”

“How do we know you’re not lying?”

“Umm… because… uhh… it’s… true?”

The other Jason rolled his eyes and strutted towards the time machine. Suddenly the original Jason pushed the other Jason and ran into the time machine and quickly returned to the present. Maybe my parents won’t be what I want them to be, thought Jason.

He appeared in the alleyway passing a sign for the convention and sprinted to his house forgetting the time machine. He slowed down at the sight of his house. An image of the house before he changed reality appeared in his mind. There was an old house with broken windows and paint chipped away in some spots. Now the house had clean windows and what looked like new paint.

Through the window he saw his parents making dinner. His mom laughed at something his dad said as she inserted a platter of spaghetti into the oven, Jason’s favorite food. He cried at the sight of them. He wiped away the tears and walked to the house. When he reached the door, it opened, revealing his parents.

“Where were you?” they asked. “And why are your clothes muddy?”

“I was playing hockey with my friends and tripped and fell in the mud,” lied Jason.

“Well, happy to see that you’re back home,” his mom said.

Jason smiled and hugged her. “Happy to see you too.”

The Sweetest Dreams

I kind of want you in my bloodstream,

like a thick caramel serum.


I want to inhale your scent,

like I’m in a powdered sugar delirium.


I really want to suck on you,

like a lollipop with succulent swirls.


I need to let the remnants of soda pop on your lips

roll around my mouth in luscious twirls.


I’ve been searching for a sugar high,

in this twisted candy land.


I’m left drowning in fields of gumdrops

and suffocating on cotton candy strands.


I’m knee-deep in ample puddles of marshmallows

oozing and tearing with each step.


I’m trying to keep up with you on a trembling tundra

of crushed snow cones, dribbled with flavorings that’ve bled.


I hate the winding roads of broken gingerbread

you’ve carelessly constructed.


From the mountains of cake to each iced layer,

all the sugar-coated froufrou of a daydream


makes me cringe and leave you forgotten,


and led me to this sickening realization

that sweetness turns bitter and bitter, rotten.

The grass grew slowly here

The grass grew slowly here, popping out of the ground already browned from the heat of the sun. There were fields of dry land everywhere you looked, lining every dirt road you could rumble over in your pickup truck, framing every run down house for miles, and crawling over the endless abandoned farm land. But the one place you could bank on never seeing a stray sprout of anything but perfection was the high school football field. It had taken them years to build the stadium, agonizing over each row of the stainless steel bleachers and each speck of turf that took its place on the floor. It was ironic really, considering the fact that the pure purpose of the field was to be abused by aggressive teenage boys. That was the dream though, to be one of those bodies filling the sweat covered and dirt stained nylon uniforms. And the children of the static town were never allowed to forget it.


From a young age, the dream was planted in their minds after being packed into the bed of the family pick up truck, full of blankets and barbeque for the tailgate, as they winded down the dirt roads towards the stadium. And upon arrival they would scramble out, knocking over endless condiments in the process, as their dirt coated bare feet padded over the dried grass. There were over a hundred of them, it seemed as all the little boys formed their own premature game of football to pass the time before the real fun started. You could see it in their eyes; the aching hunger to follow in the footsteps of their older brothers, cousins, fathers, and even grandfather’s. With each pass that flew from the spindly fingers of the chosen pseudo quarterback for that day, the children fell into step with the rest of the town. Building themselves around something that was for sure to never fall, or so they thought. As the adults gathered around the growing peewee game, their faces contorted into eyebrow raises while they shared knowing glances, whispering and pointing. Already, these boys had no chance. No chance to escape the future that had been laid out for them, the one in which they were forced to carry on the legacy of the otherwise good-for-nothing town.


And slowly, the large crowd dwindled down to a couple of stragglers and empty beer cans strewn around the pick up trucks that were parked scattering the field. That was when the roar of the crowd began, and really it wasn’t even a crowd; it was the town, the entire *** town. All the stores and restaurants boarded up reading, “gone to game,” in red block letters, just as if you squinted hard enough you could see a dust bunny make its way down the main boulevard.


It wasn’t much of a town to begin with, but on Friday nights, there was no town besides the football field. The only witness to the blinding lights and the enormous roars of the crowd was the darkening sky that twinkled above the town that some would call blessed.


Short Story Part 2

Henry had been living at Nicole’s house ever since the incident. Now every time Nicole or anyone else looked at him, all Henry saw was pity in their eyes. Henry’s mother was dead and his father was in jail for committing the crime. If Nicole’s parents had not volunteered to take him in, Henry wouldn’t have been lucky enough to live with Nicole. He would would have been sent to the foster care system. It had been hard for Henry, being only 10 years old. This was the most traumatizing thing that had ever happened to him. To say the least, Henry had not handled it well. He had not gone to school since the incident. He spent most of his time just laying in his bed, staring at the only possession of his father’s that he had kept, his camo hunting knife. Henry had become dangerously thin and Nicole and her parents were worried about him.

It was now spring in Norway and the snow was gone. Nicole and all the other kids would play outside for hours on end, not that it made a difference to Henry. He just stayed inside, laying on his bed. One day Nicole decided to visit Henry while he was moping in his room.

“Hey Henry, how are you doing?” Nicole asked. There was no response from Henry.

“Henry, you can’t be like this! Do you expect us to continue to nurture and take care of you for the rest of your life? You may want to throw your life away, but by doing so, you’re dragging me and my family with you!” Nicole screamed at Henry.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think of it like that,” Henry responded softly as a few tears rolled down his cheek.

“Hey, I have an idea. Let’s go visit your dad. Maybe seeing him will help sort out some of the things that are going on in your life,” Nicole said as she ran to her parents.

Within ten minutes, Henry, Nicole, and Nicole’s parents were in the car on the way to the local jail. During the twenty minute car ride, Nicole’s parents tried, in vain, to make some small talk. First they asked how their day had been, but after there was no response, they decided to just continue the car ride in silence. At one point in the car ride, Nicole had looked over at Henry and had seen not worry but fear in his eyes. She did not have a possible explanation for this.

Once Henry, Nicole, and Nicole’s parents arrived at the jail, they were greeted by a policeman who said that he had been wondering if they were going to show up. He guided them inside the jail and into one of the many hallways. As soon as the officer, who they now knew as Officer Pete, opened a second door, they heard immediate moans.

“It wasn’t me, I was framed!”

“That is your father,” Officer Pete said. “I’m almost tempted to believe him, but the evidence is stacked against him. No one could have been this persistent on framing him.”

‘Well, unless someone had a very good reason,” Henry said, practically whispering to himself.

“Did you say something, kid?” Officer Pete asked.

“Oh no, I didn’t say anything,” Henry responded quickly.

After about fifteen minutes of talking to Henry’s father, Henry and Nicole’s family returned to their car and began the trip back to their home. Halfway through the ride, Nicole’s father looked back at Henry and said, “You look much better, Henry. I hope this trip helped sort things out for you.”

It was true, Henry did look better, but not because he had sorted things out. It was because he had made a decision. Late that night Nicole’s family all heard sobs coming from Henry’s room until midnight. The family assumed that Henry had just fallen asleep, but sadly that was not the case.

The police came to Nicole’s house as soon as her parents called telling the officers about how they found Henry dead, soaked in blood, with his father’s camo hunting knife sticking out of his chest. There was also a note and it read,


Dear everyone who has cared for me,

I am truly sorry for what I have done. I am the one who killed my mother. It was in a stupid argument and I regretted it as soon as I did it. My father is innocent and I beg that you release him because he is an innocent man. I felt the need to punish myself and that is the only reason I am not telling you this myself. Once again I apologize, but I do not ask for my forgiveness. I ask only  that my father be freed.



The End

Jack and the Beanstalk – A Crime Drama

At rise the scene is set in a courtroom, with the JUDGE upstage center, BAILIFF upstage left, and PROSECUTOR downstage right.



All rise!

     (Walks up to bench, sits down)

Court is now in session. We are hearing the case of “State v Jack G. Killer.” Mr. Killer is on trial for charges of murder, theft, breaking and entering, Reckless Endangerment and Extremely Unusual Botany Experimentation without Permit, destruction of property, and possession of illicit beans. Mr Killer pleads not guilty on all charges. We will now hear the murder charge.



Mr. Killer came into the home of Mr. Giant, with intentions to steal his golden goose. Upon finding the thief, Mr. Giant went in pursuit to reclaim his stolen property. Seeing he was chased, Mr Killer brutally murdered Mr. Giant with an axe by slicing his illegally grown beanstalk causing Mr. Giant to fall to his death. For my witness I call Mrs. Giant!



     (Enters from upstage left and walks to upstage center next to JUDGE. BAILIFF approaches with book of Nursery Rhymes.)

I swear upon the Holy Book of Mother Goose that I will tell the truth, and only the truth.

     (BAILIFF returns to previous stage position.)



Mrs. Giant, would you describe what happened the day your husband was murdered?



Well I was just sitting down having a cup of tea and my favorite bread made from the bones of farm-raised children, when all of a sudden I hear my husband go Fee-Fi-FO-FUM and I thought “oh, he’s probably lost the remote again.” But I see him chasing after this human boy and saying “He stole my goose! Get the oven heated up!” and I said “ah, do it yourself.” And the next thing I know, he’s climbing down the beanstalk when (points to Jack and screams) THIS KILLER cut the beanstalk down!



Thank you, you may be seated. I call the Golden Goose to the stand.


     (MS. GIANT nods and exits the stage from the same way she came. The GOLDEN GOOSE enters from the same side and takes the same position by the JUDGE at upstage center. BALIFF brings the book of Nursery Rhymes.)



Do you swear upon the Holy Book of Mother Goose that you will tell the truth, and only the truth?



What? My mudda? You want to swear on my mudda?



Never mind, let’s get going. Tell us about the day in question.



So listen, I was just sittin’ there mindin’ my own business when this kids comes up and says “Hey, can I have your golden eggs,” and I says “you know the boss kinda wants the eggs for himself he makes mean huevos rancheros” and he says “I’m poor you could help me out! I’ll set you free!” and I think “Free? What a dream!” So I says, “Let’s make like a tree and get out of here.


     (JACK’S LAWYER approaches the bench.)



So you wanted to leave? You left on your own free will?



Yeah! I was laying two, three eggs a day! It’s hard work! And to make them gold? I had to eat those chocolate gold coins with the wrappers.



That doesn’t sound too bad.



I’m allergic to chocolate!



Okay, you can step off. I call Mr Lima Bean to the stand.


     (GOOSE exits stage same way they came, BEAN DEALER takes same route and position next to the JUDGE.)



Mr. Bean please state your occupation for the record.



I didn’t do it.



I didn’t ask that that. What is your job?



I didn’t do it.



The witness is a known underground bean dealer, your honor. He’s served time twice before.



I didn’t do it.



Please sir, indulge me. What can you tell us about Jack, this beanstalk, and the murder of Mr. Giant?



He did it.


JACK’S LAWYER (Stage whispering)

That’s not what we agree for you to say when I gave you a thousand gold coins!



I didn’t do it.



That’s enough! Next witness.



I call Mrs. Killer, the defendant’s mother, to the stand!



My son is innocent! He shouldn’t even be here! He’s too stupid to know any better!


JACK (from off-stage)

Hey, I object!



Shut up, Jack! You were always a hard boy to raise! Always galavanting about the countryside, getting into trouble, meeting shady characters like this bean dealer–



I didn’t do it.



–and killing giants! I should have never given you the middle name of Giant, but I was compelled by the fairy tale to do it!



Um, ok, you can sit down now, Mrs. Killer.



Shut up, you lawyer! Don’t tell me to sit down! Oh I should’ve never thrown those stupid beans out of the window in the first place and the stupid beanstalk would’ve never grown!”






Well, looks like we’re done here. Mrs Killer, you are sentenced to give back any golden eggs and pay a fine of one thousand gold coins.


JACK  (off-stage)

Hey, but we’re poor!



Shut up, Jack! You should’ve thought about that before cutting down the beanstalk. In light of these revelations, you will not be sentenced to a public beheading anymore. You will, instead serve 10 years in jail. For you Mrs Killer, you will forever be sentenced to eating only beans for the rest of your miserable life!



I never should have been in a courtroom. Not without him.


“If you could be a kid again, would you, Steph?” Justin was lying on his back, making “snow” angels in the comforter of the half-broken hotel bed. We were both high.


“Miss Rose? Are you paying attention?” the judge taps his microphone, and the heavy silence of the room is interrupted by the methodic click of nail on metal. I gulp, nodding quickly and brushing a lock of curly hair behind my ear. “Good,” he continues. “We’ll proceed, then.”


“That’s a weird question, Justin,” I said. I crawled off of the armchair I was perched on, making my way to Justin’s side. When I reached him I put my head on his shoulder, leaning against him until my nose touched his neck. His skin was smooth. Like silk.


I nod again, glance around the room. There’s the jury on the right – a collection of fifteen or so middle aged men and women clad in professional attire, attempting to look poised, though god knows they’d rather be anywhere else in the world right now. I make eye contact with a girl in a black dress, seated in the front row. She gives me a curt nod, then goes back to staring at her fingers and all the different ways they can intertwine. For a brief second I wish I was her — bored, detached, calm. Instead, I’m falling to pieces.

Beside me is my lawyer, a shadow of a man with a hooked nose and beady eyes — birdlike. He told me earlier to say my lines like we rehearsed them; without a tremor in my voice. Without letting on. I don’t know if I can do that.


“I would. Want to be a kid again, I mean,” Justin said, eyes trained on the ceiling.

“With or without your broken childhood?” I smiled slyly.

“Fuck off, Steph,” Justin said, rolling his eyes. His tone was sharp, though his words should have been playful. I winced. “It’s your turn.”


“You are here under accusation of the murder of Justin Moore on February twenty-ninth at roughly 3 A.M. Is this correct?”

“Yes,” I whisper, staring at my dirty sneakers, not daring to make eye contact.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes,” I repeat, louder. “Yes, but I didn’t — ” the judge cuts me off with a wave of his hand.

“Not quite yet, Miss Rose.”


“It’s a stupid question,” I said, ignoring his demeanor and returning to our banter. The ceiling is supposed to be white, I thought, but it’s covered with years of water stains and other patches of color that I don’t want to know about. Now it’s closer to grey. Maybe one day it’ll be black.

“Why is it a stupid question?” Justin moved a few inches away from me as we lay there on our backs, the comforter wrinkling between us, forming little hills with roads and moats and castles.

“Because I already had my childhood and you already had yours,” I said. Justin rolled his eyes. It was always that way — Justin was eccentric. A dreamer. I had to reel him in, and then I was the bad one.

“I wish I didn’t. It screwed everything up.”


“Our first witness,” the prosecutor begins, motioning for someone to rise. A state-appointed lawyer, he’s not much better than mine. Behind me a small hispanic woman stands from her seat on the edge of a bench. She walks to the podium, swaying as if a gentle breeze would knock her over. I cast my eyes to the floor again, not wanting to look at her face.

“Miss Ramirez,” the prosecutor begins. “You were the housekeeper assigned to the hotel room under a pseudonym by Miss Rose.”

“Yes,” she says curtly, nodding quickly. “Noisy. Very loud.”

“Could you identify the source of the noise?” the prosecutor tilts his head, contemplating. I try to see into him — who is he, besides the only person, aside from me, that cares about Justin’s life? — until Miss Ramirez speaks again.



We went on like that, talking about our pasts for a while, reminiscing in the hazy glow that came with old memories and moments we had tried so hard to forget. I decided I wanted another hit, and got the coke from my bag. I felt a rush at the sight of that white powder, and my fingers shook as I pushed it into a line and snorted. I could feel Justin staring at me — he wanted more, too.

“You already had your share,” I said, turning my back to him and preparing another line. He didn’t like that.

“I paid for half that shit!”

I sighed. “You paid for a third. You already had a third. The rest is mine.”

Then the shouting began. I wouldn’t have called it screaming, but to Miss Ramirez, we were two crazy addicts fighting over a bag of shitty coke. To her, and to the world, we were worthless.

But to us we were the height of passion. We called ourselves Bonnie and Clyde. We had escaped our pasts — Justin’s drunken father, my cracked family — and ran away. We didn’t let each other look back.


I miss him. God, do I miss him. Tears froth at the corners of my eyes. It was never meant to be this way. I was never meant to be without him.

“And what did you do then, Miss Ramirez?” the prosecutor asks. I squint, trying to focus, but everything is swimming from the tears and the quick thump-thump-thump of my heart. I’ve been like this since that night — confused, like I’m half-drowning, half-flying, like the hardest thing in the world is to stay in the here and now.

“Knocked on the door. Then they went quiet, but I could hear them whispering. There were other noises, too. Like they were throwing things.”


“Someone just knocked on the door,” Justin stared at me with wide eyes. His whole body was quivering, vibrating up and down and up and down. I could feel my bones shaking beneath my skin, and my thoughts were speeding up, as if someone had slammed on the accelerator. Now I could hear it — a steady thrum against the wooden paneling of the door. “Jesus Christ, Steph, someone’s knocking on the door.”

I looked around the room. A bag of coke on the bed. A metal tray on the table with leftover white powder, surrounded by little mounds of mismatched pills. A stolen credit card by the lamp. A rusty knife on the dresser.

“What if it’s the police?” Justin ran his hands through his hair. He was pacing now, and I could almost see his heart beating outside of his chest. I ran over to him, grabbed his shaking hands. “I’m not going back to rehab, Steph, I’m not fucking going.”

“No. You’re not going. We stay together. Always,” I whispered, and I ran to the table, hastily picking up anything incriminating. Justin closed the blinds, out of paranoia or habit I wasn’t quite sure. He took the bag of coke from the bed and hastily snorted a line. I didn’t notice at the time. Two seconds later he dropped the bag in my hands and I shoved it into a backpack, zipped it up, and hid it behind the cracked leather of the armchair.

The knocking had stopped.


“What happened after that?” the prosecutor asks, clearing his throat.

Miss Ramirez blinks a few times, her eyebrows furrowing. “Well, I left.”


“That was your fucking fault!” Justin hissed at me, striding to my position behind the armchair. “You were reckless, shouting like that!”

His words were daggers in my back. It wasn’t usually this tumultuous; I could ignore his spitting insults if he tamed his paranoia to a manageable state of pain. Yes, we were a turbulent storm. But we always had each other to hold close when the eye drifted over us and brought a few seconds of peace.

Yet in this moment I wasn’t sure if he was on my side at all.

“Hey, Justin, calm down, sweetheart — ” I put a hand out, trying to hold his shoulder. He swatted it away, then turned his back on me. His body was vibrating, his entire being pulsing up and down, the way it always did after a hit.

I stood and narrowed my eyes. “Did you steal from my stash?”

Justin didn’t answer. He began to pace, his walk quick and uneven. “You always do this, Steph. You get us into all kinds of shit.”

“Did you steal from my stash?” I repeated, louder this time. Justin kept pacing. “Hey! Look at me!” Justin finally stopped, and when he turned his eyes were crimson, the color of sunsets and cherries and blood.

“Yeah, I had a hit, Steph. I had a fucking hit and now the goddamn police are gonna take us both away!” He motioned to the door, and in a second he was pacing again. “You and your fucking rules, your fucking shouting and nagging and bitching. You always do this!”

It was as if the breath was knocked right out of my chest. Everything was too much — his words that pierced my skin like knives, the knock on the door, his greed and cruelty and blame. I was always the pacifist. But this time I fought back.

“Oh yeah? You — you’re the screwup, Justin Moore. And you can’t talk to me like that.” I crossed my arms, attempting to look fierce, but I was shorter than him and smaller in every way. He was a pulsing collection of radioactive elements, a tornado that destroyed everything in its path. I was the waves of the sea, wise and cloudy and still. Only meant for a gentle storm.

His eyes were no longer serene, no longer the hue of my ocean. He was blue fire, razor blades, torn skin. “Fucking bitch,” he said. “Fucking good-for-nothing bitch.”


“Thank you,” the prosecutor says. “That will be all.” Miss Ramirez nods and goes back to her seat.

“Anything else, Mr. Simmons?” the judge asks, idly cracking his knuckles.

“Yes, sir. I would like to call upon the accused herself; Miss Rose, would you please rise?”

Suddenly everything is too bright. The lights drill into my skull, making my knees weak. I’m lightheaded, but not the good lightheaded, and I want to run. Run away, never look back, never turn to a pillar of salt or rot in a tomblike cell. But Justin isn’t here to help me.

I stand and walk to the podium. Everything is shaking – my body, my vision, the world around me. I hear Justin whispering in my ear, something about being a kid again and not wanting to go back to that past, but wanting a new one. He was always saying things like that.

“Let us restate what happened before the police arrived on the night of the 29th, shall we?” the prosecutor says, circling me like a hawk circling its half-dead prey. I nod. “You and Justin were arguing, were you not?”

“We were.”

“And why was that?” the prosecutor smiles, clearly pleased with his work.

“I don’t remember.” I don’t remember, I repeat to myself. If I say it enough maybe it’ll be true.


“I’m the bitch?” I asked in disbelief. I took a step toward Justin. “I’m the bitch? At least that’s better than being the product of a whore and a drunk! What does that make you?”

Justin turned away from me and began pacing the room, cracking his knuckles and rolling his neck. I could see the vein popping beneath his skin, matching his tensed muscles as every inch of him burst to the extreme.

My heart was a hammer pounding against my ribcage — so loud I was sure Justin could hear its nervous tremor. But his words were a knife held against the raw skin of my neck, pushing deeper and deeper until my windpipe was split and crimson rain leaked onto my shoes.

He’d gone too far.

“What does that make you?” I asked again. “That’s right. An unloved bastard, no better than your piece-of-shit father.”

Justin’s eyes were that of a rabid animal as he lunged for my throat.


“You don’t remember?” the prosecutor asks again, straightening his tie. A bead of sweat began to percolate on his temple. “Was that because you were high, Miss Rose? On cocaine?”


His fingers found my skin and we crashed to the floor. My head hit the hardwood with a loud thud and my breath escaped my body in a quick exhale. Justin was on top of me, legs wrapped around my torso, nails clawing at my throat as I struggled for a gulp of oxygen. Every limb felt cold and numb and detached. My vision started to fade, but Justin’s bloodshot eyes were piercing the strengthening darkness and they were feral and rampaging and hurt.


The lights drill into my skull. Say something, Stephanie. Speak.


“You were using illegal drugs that night?” the prosecutor smiles.

“We both were,” and now I’m getting lightheaded and I find it hard to breath. My lawyer drops his head in defeat.


I gasped for breath, but Justin’s fingers were tightening around my windpipe. My arms were stretched out to my sides and I looked like Justin making snow angels in the comforter. I looked like I was a real angel. I looked like I was about to die.

Some instinct kicked my arms into motion and I flung them beneath Justin’s chest. Using every ounce of strength I had left, I pushed Justin up and to the side. His head smacked the ground and I scrambled to my feet, chest heaving and blood sighing as fresh air seeped into my lungs.


“So you testify that you were both using cocaine,” the prosecutor says. I nod. “And you were arguing. At some point during the night, Justin was killed. Could you tell us what happened, Miss Rose?”


My face was sticky from sweat and tears. My entire body shook.

Justin held his head in both hands as he lay on the ground, rocking back and forth. And suddenly he looked like a child, a confused and broken child. But then I remembered his sharp words and fingers like daggers against my neck, and he’s Justin again, with spiked hair and dirty skin and a crooked mouth with a razor for a tongue.

Behind me was the dresser. I backed up against it, the tail of my spine touching uneven wood. My hand grazed the surface and hit something odd; a smooth handle followed by cold metal. The rusty knife.


“He — he attacked me,” I start, my voice barely more than a whisper. Say the lines. Nothing more than reading from a script. “It was self-defense.”

But the prosecutor looks at me and a faint smile creeps onto his lips. He sees through my cracks, sees through my broken facade and shaking skin. Though he’s barely adequate at his job and has more nervous tics than I, he sees me, and I know I am finished.


Justin slowly got on his knees, then one foot was on the ground and the other was beneath him and he stood. He turned to face me, hands balled into fists. There was a trickle of blood slowly swimming down the side of his head, the same color as his eyes.

“Get away from me,” I croaked, my throat scorched. “Don’t you dare come any closer.”

Justin licked his lips, and a slow laugh emanated from the back of his throat — more choking than giggling. He took a step closer and I felt my fingers tighten around the hilt of the blade. “Or you’ll do what, Steph?” his voice was lilting up and down, robbed of all stability. “You’ll do what, huh? You can’t do anything.”

Now my hand was firmly around the handle. Justin crept closer.

“You know what, Justin?” I said, every word a struggle to get out. “You’re sick. You’re sick and miserable and hopeless,” Justin rolled his neck, preparing to lurch at me again. I gripped the knife harder. “You say I’m the bitch. I’m at fault, right?” he was four feet away, utterly wild in his manner, limping as blood percolated on his neck. He licked his lips again. My heart pounded. “You blame it all on me, don’t you?”

Justin had become another being. He was not the man I fell for, the boy I met when we were reckless and alive. He was not the soul who gave me my first hit or the child who told me about his father. He was not loving, because he was not capable of being loved.

Or maybe he was who he had always been. Maybe he was just Justin, wild and feral and childlike in his wishes. Maybe he had always been broken. Maybe I found him that way, and he tore at the seams bit by bit until tonight when he finally snapped.


“How can that be? The blade marks show he wasn’t charging at you, Miss Rose. You charged at him.”


“You can’t take back the past, Justin!” I was screaming now. I didn’t care if anyone heard. Justin clamped a hand to his ear at the sound of my shriek. “You can’t change a goddamn thing!”

“Shut the hell up, you fucking cunt!” Justin shouted, the veins on his neck popping. “Just shut up! Shut up! Shut your fucking mouth for once in your life!” Justin’s finger was pointing at my chest, his eyes scarlet and crazed.


“Perhaps the fight provoked you, Miss Rose. Perhaps you were sick of hearing what Justin Moore had to say. So you killed him,” the prosecutor smiles again. My gaze drops to my feet and I squeeze my eyes shut. Darkness overwhelms my vision but I’m brought no sense of calm. Justin’s words echo in my head, growing louder and louder with each passing moment.


Justin let his hand fall to his side, and his hair was a bird’s nest, his skin a mix of blood and tears. His eyes locked on mine and we were silent for a moment. It could have ended like that. He could have stopped talking and I could have loosened my grip on the knife and we could have gone our separate ways, both trying to forget and daring to remember. But it didn’t.


“Do you maintain your statement, Miss Rose? ‘Self-defense?’”


And then Justin opened his mouth and his tongue was a razor again. “At least I have a reason for being this way, Stephanie Rose,” his voice was low and broken, like the edges of cracked glass. “I had a drunk father and a slut for a mother who killed herself as soon as she could. But you? You’re just a girl who likes darkness,” he knew his words were slitting my skin, and he smiled. “You’re just a failure who destroyed whatever was left of me to make you feel better about your pathetic little self,” he turned away from me then, and though I couldn’t see his face I knew he was satisfied.

I wasn’t going to let him be satisfied.

In one swift motion, the knife broken through the back of his skull and found the center of his brain. He let out a soft groan and fell to the floor, head smacking wood as a pool of red surrounded him. It was over as soon as it began.

My breath came in fast heaves and there were tears in my eyes as I spoke. “You can’t take back the past, Justin. And you can’t blame it on me.”

Through the sea of adrenaline and tears I heard a sound. Sirens.


“Yes,” I whisper, tears now cascading down my cheeks. “Self-defense.”

Touches from heaven

One Day Until:

When I signed up for camp, I didn’t sign up for what happened.


The Morning Of Camp:  

I woke up in bed, knowing that this would be the last morning where I would be cushioned underneath, without a sore neck and back. I decided that I needed a good reputation for the first day, so that I could make new friends. I hunted through my closet, ripping everything off the hangers anxiously. I needed something stylish, but not too fancy. I remembered back to the last day of school, this girl named Mary had worn this amazingly cute outfit. These high pants with three buttons, with a flowy white tank top. That was what I was going to try to do.

The only high-waisted shorts I had were a tye-dye blue pair with rugged edges. It could work. In my closet I came across a white V-neck, but I couldn’t wear anything flowy, too fancy. So I slipped the shirt over my head, noticing that it would look cuter if I tucked it in.

Hmmm, shoes? What was Mary wearing again? Right, converse sneakers… I don’t have those. The floor of my closet was filled with shoes, even though I hated most of them. They were either too dirty, too weird, didn’t like them, too old, didn’t fit, too girly, too boyish, wait…

I spotted my pair of black vans, perfect!

I glanced in the mirror, turning my body to view all the angles of my outfit.

“Jamie, come on, we’ve gotta leave!” my mom called.

I closed the door behind me, taking one last look at the room that I wouldn’t see for a while. I kissed my door as a sign of goodbye, and stomped down the stairs.


First Day Of Camp:

Taking tiny steps, I walked into the cafeteria where all the other campers were gathered. The sun created a beam of light peeking through the window. It cast a shadow into the room, creating a vast silhouette of a guy’s figure upon the dented and washed out wooden-colored tables.

“Hello, campers!” said a tall woman, with a sweet, high voice. “You are going to have the best two weeks of your lives here!”

The woman babbled on, when suddenly the most gorgeous sight appeared, matching the shape of the shadow. I’m not talking clothes, I’m talking face, eyes, hair, body, muscles, everything about him was perfect. His eyes were a light blue, they sparkled as he continuously peered around, I could look at them all day. Dimples that seemed to be made of sunshine formed as he laughed at something the woman said. And his arms, bulges of muscles, made his shirt look tight to his skin. His fluffy hair was combed to one side, and his tan face was the most adorable part of him.

Maybe the woman was right, these were going to be the best weeks of my life.


Second Day Of Camp:

“Let’s get up my girlies!” a lady outside my tent hollered in all directions. The next thing I knew she was pulling my blankets roughly off me and clapping repeatedly in my face.

“Girls, line up!” the lady called again, indicating a warning to every tents’ campers.

I stepped out with a yawn and stumbled over to where a straight line of girls was forming. We skipped along a dirt trail until we arrived in front of a lake. It was a lengthy lake, and staring at the calm water peacefully flow, it seemed never ending.

The day was perfect. Fluffy clouds of dreams blended into the dark shaded sky, which had an ombre effect into light blue. It was gorgeous and sent a relaxed chill directly through my body.

“Girls,” the counselor started motioning with her hands as she spoke, “Get with a partner of your choice. Our first activity is canoeing. Don’t canoe that far though.  Remember, here at camp the climate changes unexpectedly and frequently, that is why you can’t travel far, just in case. Anyway … ”

I looked around for a partner. I hadn’t come with a friend, and it seemed as if everyone else did. If not, they had already made a new friend. I began to wander to other campsites, when I saw him. Today he looked even more beautiful than the sky. Even better, he also seemed to be looking for someone to work with.

Okay, I whispered to myself, You’ve got this. My head drifting up, I gave him a tiny wave, and a small smirk.

“Hi, um do- you- have- a partner,” I stuttered, trying to stare directly into his distracting, glowing eyes.

“Uh.” Oh my gosh, he had the voice of an angel. “Sure, I don’t have a partner,” he responded, moving closer to me.

“Yes!” I said, a little too loud, “I mean cool, haha.”

Oh my god, Jamie, you’re so weird, why’d you have to say ‘Yes,’ now he automatically thinks you’re odd.

The boy’s smile transitioned to a confused look.

“So, your name?” I asked.

“Oh, right, I’m Logan.” Uh, such a fabulous name.

“Yours?” he followed up,


“Really? That’s my girlfriend’s name!”

With that, I slumped my hands down, and scrunched my eyebrows tightly together, my smile now a frown. It was like a brick just hit my face with immense power.

Noticing my expression he now looked concerned. “You okay Jamie?”

I glared at him angrily, not blinking once. “Jamie?” he said again.

I blinked, snapping back into reality,

“Yeah I’m fine.” My words were delayed and lifeless.

He turned, now resting his hand gently on the top of my shoulder. His touch was like a pure piece of heaven. The soft feelings sent energy back into me, forming another smile. Maybe I just had to win his love?!

As I focused on the softness, perfectness, awesomeness, greatness, and everything about the feeling of him touching my bare skin below my hair, a man began to speak in a low and heavy voice, “Hello campers.”

As he spoke, my head dozed off into the ideal land…

There was a humongous castle built of gold with touches of silver rhinestones, and turquoise metallic window frames built especially for Logan and me. We spent most days in the backyard, tending the garden that contained vibrant colors of sunshine, exposing radiant light into our deepest emotions. And we walked in the park outside our home, we held hands, watching the calm river beside us soothe our inner soul just as Logan was about to kiss my lips, and I…


“JAMIE!” I felt a nudge at my side. I jumped abruptly at the touch. It was Logan.

“Didn’t you hear, we have to get life jackets on and then we have to go to our assigned canoe. Ours is number 23.” He motioned for me as he picked up a bright orange life jacket.

“Turn around,” he asked. I did as he said. I felt the padding of the jacket fit into my shape, and he fastened the buckle. “Tight enough?” he followed up.

“Perfect,” I answered, gazing into his eyes of beauty. They looked bluer than ever against the sky.

“Um, I must’ve missed it, how far do we go out?” I asked, laughing at ease.

“He said to wherever, as long as you can still see the campsite, so I guess not too far.”

“Oh.” I had imagined us in the sight of no other, as we romantically talked about life.


The Start: Canoe Trip

“So do you just want me to row?” he asked.

“Ah, if you want, I’m not very strong, you’re probably better, but if you want me to I can though, whatever you want is good, I don’t care, ya know whatever you want.” Omg, I sound even more weird.

“Okay, I can do it.” He began to firmly pull the paddle back, and I could see his muscles as they flexed through his shirt. He must spend hours working out for strength like that.

For a couple of seconds, silence took over, it wasn’t for that long, but it felt so much longer than it really was.

“So, this is going to get really awkward if we don’t talk,” he finally said, looking down.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “So what’s up?”

“Um, well, to get to know each other, I play soccer!” he began.

“Really, me too!” I shouted.

“So in school last year, I had this crazy teacher. She was our health teacher. Taught me nothing, everything that came out of that woman’s mouth was useless,” I said, changing the topic for some reason. I guess I felt insecure.  

“Yeah, I hate those teachers.”

I was tempted to interrupt and say that he doesn’t even understand how boring she was, but he continued, “Talking stress… my girlfriend has really been stressing me out lately.”

I was taken aback from the sudden statement.  It was like fresh air was being pumped back into weakened lungs.

“What do you mean?” I followed up, my face bringing complete brightness back into it, as I intently examined his eyes.

“She’s extremely demanding, everything I do has to be perfect,” he sighed somberly.

I expressed concern, but was unsure what to say. “Oh,” I finally blurted.

“Yeah, you’re probably bored, sorry I don’t have to talk about — ”

“No, no,” I cut him off, “It’s totally fine. I get it, sometimes you need to let people know about emotions, like you just gotta talk to somebody. I get that way all the time!” I smiled, giving him a sweet giggle.

“Exactly,” his eyes widened, “Like, I drive her to school in the morning. I told her I would be there at 7:30 and I got there at 7:32 and she cursed me out!”

“What?” I agreed.

“Right? And then because I did that she made me take her shopping and buy her whatever she wanted!” he continued, now getting angry.

“Oh my god, that’s so bad!” I hollered, backing him up, not really focused on him, but his stunning appearance.

“Yeah, and, I don’t know, it’s just annoying!”

I held my hand in front of my eyes, for the sun was cast directly into them.

I guess he noticed. “Here, switch seats with me. The sun’s in your eyes Jamie,” he offered, starting to get up.

“Oh no, that’s really sweet, but it’s okay. You’re already doing all the paddling.”

“Take my glasses at least.” He took his sunglasses off, like they do in the commercials from the designer brands. Now I could see his gleaming eyes. By the tone of his eyes, I could tell  that he wasn’t going to give up until I took them, so I slowly grabbed them and placed them gently on my face. The lingering smell of his cologne reached my nose.

“Jamie, I don’t know what to do about the other Jamie,” he kept going.

“Just break up with her,” I suggested, really hoping he liked the idea.

“I can’t. If I do, she’ll spread something about me to the entire school. No joke. She is the most popular girl and so everyone believes her or whatever. I hate it, I mean I know she will do it. It  happens every time, she’s already dated three guys this month!  Jerry, then Mark, then me. It’s not like she even likes us, she just thinks we’re handsome ‘cause she obviously doesn’t like me. I’ll try to make a joke, but she tells me I’m stupid. She only has boyfriends because she thinks it’s cool. Sorry I’m talking way too much.”

“No it’s all good, Logan,” I said, “but how come you ever asked her out?”

“I didn’t.” Now he was actually mad. “I saw her in the hall and nobody likes her but she’s ‘popular’ so everyone wants her to like them, ya know how it is with all of that?”

“Yeah,” I said, gazing into his gorgeous eyes.

“So anyway, I was in her class and she came up to me and goes ‘nice hair, dude.’ I was like ‘thanks.’  And then the next thing I knew she goes, ‘Pick me up at 8, wear something nice.’ Then she walked away. I had no clue what just happened, but I really didn’t want to go out with her, and then all my friends were like, ‘Dude, you’re crazy, it’s Jamie, the hottest girl and you don’t want to take her on a date…

‘Dude, it’s JAMIEEEE BLANKYYY! You have to go out with her. Dude, she’s hot!’ Brian had said.

‘Yeah, if you don’t go out with her, then I will,’ John had added.

‘Yeah but I don’t like her!’ I kept telling them.

‘Yo, it’s Jamie. Do you Know what She’ll do?! If ya don’t go, she’ll literally ruin your life.’

‘Well I’ll just tell her that I don’t have her address.’ They looked at me strange and I was confused so I go, ‘What?’

John and Brian exchanged looks and seemed scared for a moment.

‘Um,’ John started, ‘Well, you see, Jamie kinda made us give her your number so she’s gonna text you her address.’


“I was really mad and I couldn’t use that as an excuse, ‘cause then I got a text from her. Then I felt really scared if I didn’t go. You see, Jamie always had to have a boyfriend and she broke up with Mark that day, so if I didn’t go on a date with her she would kill me.”

“So did Mark break up with her?” I asked, surprised.

“Yeah, he was like, ‘Jamie, you’re really sweet and so nice of a girl. And I really enjoy being with you but right now I don’t want to be in a relationship. Then she was like, ‘Are you breaking up with me you (beep)!’ Then she kicked him right in his, his, spot, and punched him and then on her Instagram she wrote some pretty mean things about him. He didn’t come to school for a month after and even then he had a black eye. That’s what I’m scared about!”

I stared at him for a moment, thinking about what I could say.

All I could think about was this:  

“So when I met you, and I told you my name, Jamie, you sounded … excited. But wouldn’t you be sad to hear that since it reminded you of your girlfriend?” I asked, really desperate for an answer.

He looked at me, and suddenly his face turned the color of a cherry.

“Be-cause, you- seemed really nice, and it gave me hope th-aat, mayb-ee, you could be my girlfriend,” he stuttered, now looking directly down, and stopping the rowing.

I looked at him, ”Ya know, you don’t have to be embarrassed.” I smiled. He faced his eyes up to mine now. Why can’t he be brave? Gosh!

“Look, I saw you and you’re really–” Now my face was red. “You’rereallygoodlook-in.”

He smiled. “I feel like I get that a lot.”

Wow Logan, way to make me feel special. I still liked him by his looks so I continued, “I like you.”

We both glanced at each other and didn’t know what was next. Finally he put out his hand. I lay mine on top of his.

“I-I-I likeyoutoo,” he said.

I put my hands out, giving him a hug. It didn’t seem right. I quickly stopped and got off of him.

“Wait,” I said, my eyes watery, “What about … the other Jamie?”


Our Truth:

“What about the other Jamie?” I repeated.

He rolled his eyes sorrowfully.

“I don’t know. Our hopes are over. I can’t be with you. I don’t even live near here.”

“Where do you live?” I asked, waiting desperately for answers.

“California.” Wow, that was far from New York. Why didn’t he tell in the beginning?

“Well, we can text can’t we?” I suggested.

“Jamie, it won’t work.” He shook his head.

“Well, why can’t we try?” I asked, wondering why he was just giving up like this.

“Jamie, just stop, it’s over. We’ll have a nice two weeks, and then we’ll be done.”

My mouth lay wide open. “Are you kidding me? You’re just gonna give up on me like that?” I was furious.

“Jamie, I do like you, but we can’t be together, it isn’t practical,” he repeated, totally not looking at me.

I was mad. I had dreamed about him. I literally was set on Logan.

“Logan, I sat here listening to your stupid stories about your girlfriend that you obviously want more than me. And now you’re just giving up on me.”

I could tell he was trying extremely hard to stay calm.  “Jamie,” he raised his voice, his eyes now staring into mine, “I like you and you are a nice girl. And you really have encouraged me to break up with — with the other Jamie. If you didn’t want to hear the stories, you could’ve stopped me. You told me to keep going. And I really do — I — do — I — I — like you, but I can’t be with you, I just can’t, you know it wouldn’t work. But I just want to let you know that you have allowed me to build up courage. When I go back to California the first thing I will do is break up with Jamie. So thank you for that.”

“Yeah, no prob.” I sarcastically smiled. “Ya know what you taught me? … That you can’t lay eyes upon someone and plan your future from there. You need to get to know them better.”

Now I looked deathly into his eyes. “And you’ve taught me that even if you like the looks of people, turns out they’re nothing like you EXPECT,” I raised my voice. “They will give up on you! That’s what I learned. So thanks soooo much for that LOGAN!”

I smacked my hand on the side of the boat.

We sat there in silence.

“I know you’re mad, but you have to get over it — ” he began.

“No, I don’t, you’re the one who needs to learn that you are so selfish and that you should care about others’ feelings. I liked you Logan, and then, then, you just — ”  

Suddenly I looked up. The water was becoming rougher, as the canoe bounced in it swiftly. I turned and saw a mountain at our side. I stared up at it, and it seemed as tall and menacing as Mount Everest.  



He moaned, facing up to the sky as the cloud rolled into a darker and more eerie gray

“Where are we?” I asked. My heart pumped faster now, and my eyes were not blinking.

The wind picked up and soon we were headed in the opposite direction. With all his strength, Logan pulled eagerly at the water, the paddle quickly moving. His face wrinkled and his eyes seemed to clench together. Suddenly — crack — the paddle snapped.

I felt a drop of liquid slide down my arm. Looking up, I now saw what was to come.

Rain fiercely trembled down, pounding harshly in the boat. I was drenched within seconds. Through all of this, I managed to stand up and firmly roar, “I wish I never met you Logan!!!”

Trying to sit back down, the wind struck me, and I smashed my head on the boat.

I collapsed.

All I remember is, “Jamie, Jamie, JAMIE!!! Are you okay? I’m sorry.”

I squinted through one eye.

“Jamie, keep your head upward.”

I weakly put my hand to my head and absorbed a wet, thick stream of blood as it continuously flowed down the side of my head. I remembered back to my crazy teacher last year. I knew that she had said something about a specific amount of blood that leads to death. With the agonizing pain, I was sure this was too much blood.

I felt a slight nudge then. “Jamie, I like you.”

It’s too late now, I thought. This is all Logan’s fault, and he knows it.

I could see a tear floating down Logan’s cheek, and his eyes full of the deepest sorrow. Finally, he feels the pain that I have dealt with this whole time.

His hand gently brushed my arm after a quiet kiss on the lips. My head soon felt no pain at all and my eyes went blank into whiteness.

When I signed up for camp, I didn’t sign up for this.


The Last Time it Rained


It’s been 55 years since I’ve graduated high school and moved to Paris, France. I picked up the accent, but I can still speak clear English. That was also the last day I saw my high school boyfriend. We were voted the most likely to get married in five years. That was until my mom died and my dad had to get a new job across the Atlantic. There was not a day that passed where I had not thought about him. There wasn’t Facetime or iMessage back then, so we had to write each other. Unbelieveable right! It took about a month and a couple of weeks to receive word from one another. We stopped writing about 20 years ago. I’m now 73 years old and I still think about him. I never married because I was planning to marry him. I tried to date, (obviously what kind of 19 year old wouldn’t want to date) but it didn’t work out well. After a while I gave up. I thought what was the point if nothing good was ever going to happen to me … after him.



I’ve always wondered if she thinks about me, the way I think of her. It’s been way too long since I last saw her. She was my one and only love. We always wrote to each other. Then I got married, so my wife told me I had to stop. I never loved my ex-wife the way I loved her. I had my mind set on marrying her and spending the rest of our lives together. Her dad got a job working as a language teacher, so basically he taught English. The worst part about it was that his job was in Paris. She told me she was moving the day we graduated. I was mad at her for not telling me earlier. I forgave her because she was leaving soon. Instead of prom, we went back to her house and I helped her pack. Afterwards, we went to watch a film on the roof and spent the rest of the night together. I had her in my hands and cried together in the rain with her favorite umbrella, because it wasn’t until then I realized…it was over.



My dad died. I was expecting his death because he was very old. He wasn’t sick; he lived the most healthiest lifestyle I’d ever seen. He worked out until he couldn’t. He ate like an athlete everyday no matter what occasion or holiday. He had the healthiest and the most kindest heart ever. Every day I wake, go to work, eat lunch, and save some for my dad. That was the only thing I looked forward to. Knowing my dad was sitting there waiting for his only child to come and care for him and love him like no other. Unfortunately, I still find myself doing that. Walking the same path and saving half of my sandwich. It was a burden I couldn’t shake. No matter how hungry or tired, I always went to him.  


April 19th, 2015

Dear Melvin,

We haven’t talked in awhile. I don’t know if you remember me, but I hope you do. I don’t know what happened to us. We used to be in sync, and now I don’t know what to tell you. How about, I never married. And how I’ve never gotten a letter back from you. And how my dad died. And how I live by myself with two cats and a parrot. And how I still love you. And how I miss you. And how I’ve had other boyfriends. And how they never lasted longer than a couple of years. I hate to say it, but I’m old now. My life isn’t over yet, but it’s close. I hope nothing happened to you. I wouldn’t have anybody. You haven’t sent me a letter back for a while now. I just want to know how drastic our lives changed since we split up. I hope your life turned out better than mine and I hope you write back or I could see you sometime.


Yours truly,

Myra Hart


April 27th, 2015

Dear Myra,


I was divorced five years ago. I have three kids. All of them are grown up now, so they all left me. I stopped writing because my wife didn’t think it was right for me to be writing to my highschool girlfriend at age 70. I always wanted to write back, but I never knew what to say. But now I do. I miss you too and I still love you too. I think about you all the time too. I always thought of going to Paris to visit you, but I never knew if you wanted to see me, so I decided not to. I still want to visit. I’m retired and have no life anymore. And the remains of my life I would like to spend with you. So, i’ve decided to come and visit. If you don’t think it is a good idea please tell me and if you think it’s a great idea please tell me.


Yours truly,

Melvin Hunter


May 5th, 2015

Dear Melvin


I think it’s a great idea. I can’t wait.



My head feels heavy with all these thoughts about him. When are you coming? How long are you going to be here? Are you bringing anyone? How much luggage are you bringing? Do you have anyone to stay with, or are you going to stay with me? What part of Paris will you be in? Are you going to the Eiffel Tower? Are you going to be close — close by any restaurants? There’s a place I go everyday to get a sandwich and it’s close by the Eiffel Tower. They have Croque Monsieur and any kind of chocolate pastry. Do you still like chocolate pastries? Do you still drink your coffee with so much sugar? Do you still take those midday naps? Do you still stay up late, reading?


June 29th, 1960

Dear Melvin,

I remember feeling warm when we cried together in the rain. We were under my favorite umbrella. The night before I left. Last night. With your strong arms wrapped around my body. I knew once you wrapped your arms around me that we weren’t going anywhere for a while. I knew that at the moment you wouldn’t let anything happen. I felt like nothing could take me away or do me any harm. I remember the warm salty tears streaming down my face. I remember you being the brave one telling me everything was going to be okay even though we both knew it wasn’t. You wiped my tears, one by one, even though you knew more was coming. I’ve been on the plane for 3 hours so far and I’m going nuts. My dad is four rows in front of me. Next to me is this old couple. Maybe in their mid seventies. They’ve been talking ever since we got on the plane. It’s like they haven’t seen each other for years and are catching up on their lives. In front of me is a lady maybe on a business trip because she is wearing a business suit and is writing the entire time non stop and there is briefcase under her seat. I am surprised because someone that dresses like that belongs in first class.





          June 29th, 1960

Dear Myra,

I miss you already and you’ve been gone about 17 hours now. I remember the night before you left. Last night. It was our final hours actually together, just the two of us. We were on the roof together and it was raining. We were under your favorite umbrella. That was the only one you used because that was the one you and your mother used together. I wrapped my arms around you because I saw the tears forming in your eyes. I knew you were scared because we wouldn’t be able to see each other like we always did. You were scared that we would separate eventually. I wrapped my arms around you because I didn’t want anything to happen to you, I wasn’t going to let anything happen to you. That’s when I knew the crying started because your body was trembling rapidly. I felt your warm tear fall onto my arm. I wiped away the tears one by one, even though we both knew more was coming.   





“I missed you,” he spoke when I greeted him at the airport.
“Have you seen my umbrella?”
“No, really. I’ve missed you.”
“I haven’t seen the umbrella since…”
“You know. The last time it rained in North Carolina.”
“Oh you remember that?”
Its was awkward for a while, then I spoke, “Well. Can we get some tea?”   

China Doll

Mother once told me a true gentleman always comforts a lady, even when breaking up. But things hadn’t gone as planned and I wouldn’t actually call Jess a lady. I will never let being the “only guy without a girl” blind my judgment again.

My feet hit the cement and cold air filled my lungs as I started to escape the double date nightmare at South Brick Pizza. Pushing the pizzeria’s door open, I could hear Jess getting out of her seat and blabbing to the hostess at the front.

“Yes let’s have a reservation for December 24, here’s my card, oh yes and it’s my birthday dinner, so let’s make it fabulous.” I had made my way down the front steps, eager to run free. Her voice made the nearest squirrel shiver as she called out, “Daniel.”

I hadn’t liked her two months ago. If I hadn’t been such a good best friend I would never had gone the first time when Ryan asked me to accompany him with his date, Fiona. “It will be fun,” he had said. Two dates, one party, and a dinner and I’m feeling stuck in my relationship with Jess, but tonight I was through taking it.

I heard the clicking of her shoes against the sidewalk. I turned my face back to the wind and saw a red-faced, blonde-haired girl, who was looking fairly angry, start to make a run from the restaurant. I took a breath and raced forward, looked left and right, and walked across the street, but the stupid honks gave my angle away. I felt in my heart she was coming close. So I jetted to the left, right behind an AT&T store and let myself think a minute. I knew this town well and if I could get to the ice cream shop which was a street and a half away, I could slip in and be safe. Hopefully.

I hadn’t heard any other indication, but the silence was too eerie to just be about nothing. So with the moonlight to guide me, I made my way down the block, blending in by keeping my back against the store’s walls. I felt my gelled hair surrender to the sweat coming from my head and a big brown wave got caught in front of my eyes. Perfect timing.

I heard a person scream, “Get out of the way!” and knew it was Jess. I raced down two stores and tried to go. Looking left, I saw an alleyway and dove towards a trash can.

“Dan,” a deceivingly sweet voice echoed. “Dan, I made the birthday reservation! I think we should wear matching outfits, got to make a good impression for my fam, don’t you think?”

She went on, “I know you’re here, so come on let’s hang out, have some fun.”

She was 100% the type of girl who has her head in the clouds, all obsessed with herself and not afraid to show it. Confidence is totally great, but she just took herself as an untouchable obsession.

I cleared my throat for lack of not knowing what to say. What was the use; she knew I was here. I felt her oversized shadow advance. “Danny, baby, let’s go back, what do you say? You come over to my house, you can even spend the night.”

I felt as if I could barf. Then another sound and some small light. I peered my head out and it was Ryan and Fiona — they had come to save me.

“Hey there.” Ryan peeked around the corner and awkwardly spoke to Jess, while holding hands with Fiona. He made eye contact with me, and I ducked my head even further.

The couple advanced into the alleyway as another one of Jess’s monologues was about to begin.

“Isn’t it so sad?” Jess dramatically turned and put a pouty face on her lips and a hand on her heart, “that Danny is so in love with me, he can’t hold himself back in front of you guys, so he felt the need to run. I am a loving person…..Am I not?” she pitifully said.

She waited for an answer, then asked again, “AM I NOT?”

With no answer she shrugged, “I am. So you see, Danny sweetheart, I love you too baby, It’s okay you don’t need to hide your true feelings, I-”

“I don’t think you are getting this right Jess,” Ryan started to say, then Fiona took over. “Jess, I think you should give Danny some space.”

“Is my presence too incredible for you to handle?” she sighed, but actually meant it.

A true psycho. I gave a sigh, waiting for an answer in the trash can that still smelled better than Jess and her flower spray.

Jess flipped her blonde waves over her head and her green eyes stared into mine, which had just peeked out for a moment to catch the action.

“Sweetheart,” She smiled foolishly and advanced, “Tell us your feelings, we all want what’s best for you, don’t you see?” She talked with her hands in a hazardous way. Her stride carried her to the edge of the dumpster, where she decided to lean on it with half a butt in my face, and half a cheek out.

Ryan and Fiona looked at each other confused until Ryan spoke up, “Jess, you’re a great girl….”

“Hush, hush Ryan, I knew that, my handsome boy must say his thoughts so I can officially prove you all wrong.”

I took an unpleasant gulp made up of a combination of relief that this was going to be over, and felt an odd sense of guilt.

“Jess you know that you are a super girl but–”

That’s when the works came to play. With an artificial sigh she put her hand to her head and bent her back out, “Oh dear me, stop playing these silly games, we know the truth so..”

I could remember the first day I met Jess. Her reddish brownish skirt that hung above her knees, and brown top that was fitted great. She wouldn’t look like the type of person who would be as crazy as she was.

“Jess,” I stood up now from the dumpster, and some litter toppled from my head and fell to the ground. Why was this so hard? What was stopping me from getting what I want?

I took a breath and then decided to improvise some break-up speech that I only thought about in my remaining seconds sitting in the dumpster. “Everyone is unique and different in their own ways,” I started. “Some things are meant to be, just like some people are meant to be together. I think that us — ” and I motioned to the space between me and Jess — “is not necessarily meant to be.” I gave a weak smile to show I was finished. Jess gave a laugh, more of a pretend cackle.

“Honey, we are on different levels, but we will make it work.”

She took my hand and hung it over her shoulder. “I just love us, we’re as cute as Minnie and Mickey or Rose and Jack!”

“Jess, please. I just need some space,” and tried to wiggle my arm free.

“But I like it when we’re closer.” Jess bumped her hip next to mine, and put both her hands around my neck. She gave another giggle.

“Well, I don’t, Jess. Can you just respect the fact that I need some time?” I was doing the best I could to stay cool. Ryan and Fiona still stood, but had inched back behind the corner of the alleyway.

I wanted to sink back into the garbage can. She nuzzled her nose up to mine. “And I think we are perfect for each other.”

“Enough!” I shouted, more exasperated than intended. I harshly pulled my arms back and backed myself away. “Jess, I’m done!” I stated. “D O N E!” my voice echoed within the alleyway perimeters. “I’m sick of this relationship, and of the fakeness, and not being able to speak,” I ranted. “I don’t like you and am going to stop pretending that this is okay.”

I had motioned between us. “Just go and think you’re so much better then everyone, Okay?”  My ears were swelling with the unidentifiable silence. Just pure quiet. I looked to Jess’s face and witnessed her rosy cheeks lose their color and turn into a weird pale. Her eyes weren’t watering, but they were looking to something else, they weren’t looking into this situation. Her lips were in a line and didn’t look like they would be open anytime soon.

“Jess, I’m so sorry.” I woke to my senses. Sure, Jess may have not treated me the best, but she couldn’t really help it. I treated her much worse, I had been mean. I reached out for her arm, expecting she would have shaken it away after I had just broken up with her, but she hadn’t.

“So — so this is over?” she monotonously stuttered, while my hand touched her arm.

“I hadn’t meant to be so harsh, I’m sorry, you’re awesome and I’m sure you will find someone … soon …” I tried.

“No, no worries.” She looked up at me and pushed my arm away. She gave a forced, small smile and backed out of the alleyway. She looked at Fiona. “What about my happy ending?”

Fiona raced up to her in a hurry. “Oh Jessie.” Her eyes looked like they had so much commentary, but all she did was hug a somewhat vulnerable Jess, and carry her away.

Over Jess’s shoulder she mouthed, “Why would you do that?”

I mouthed, “ I’m sorry, I didn’t know what to do.”

Jess broke from the hug and robotically walked to the alley’s opening.

“You have no clue, no clue about Jess,” Fiona fiercely whispered to me.

“I think everyone always knows when she walks in a room.” I did my best to politely say she was a drama queen.

“I wish the truth was easier, you would never understand.” Her voice was as low as if telling a secret. The wind picked it up, and whispered this in my ear.

* * *

For the next couple of days, Jess had been a thing of the past that every now and then made me feel like a terrible person, but things had to be done. Everything else seemed normal-ish. That is when December 24th rolled around, forgotten by many but not one.

“Hello, this is South Brick Pizza calling, is this Daniel speaking?”

“Yes?” I had questioned this more than answered.

The man’s’ Italian accent now flared with annoyance, “We have a birthday dinner booked for right now, and it is currently empty. You’re just a kid but you’ve got to understand pranks like these aren’t funny-”

“I am so sorry  sir, but I never made a reservation for a — ”

“Your blondie girlfriend did, left her whole card and everything, You’re a lucky man, you must never have to pay for a check.”

“What? Then why are you calling me?”

“She left both your numbers, so are you coming or not?”

“Not that I know of … ” My voice trailed off, then I interjected my own thought, “Wait, what had she said?”

“The girl wouldn’t answer, we should probably hook up a text machine thingy, maybe then we’ll get answers.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“You know how much business I lost from this kid? Gosh,” and he slammed the phone.

After the lovely call with Mr. Angry Italian guy, I  took a trip over to Jess’s. A little bit annoyed, I also didn’t want any charge on my card.

When I got to the door, I was greeted by Fiona.  

She ran her fingers through her auburn hair and gave me a sweet smile. “What’s up?” she asked, behind her a floating birthday balloon.

“Hey there Fiona, so I need to talk to Jess about the birthday festivities … ”

Fiona cut me off, “You know, I don’t think she’s up for talking at the moment … ”

“Okay, you see, this is kinda urgent she booked a party on my — ”

But I was cut off by a violent scream.

“I’m sure she accepts your apology, ” Fiona stuttered, and turned her face up the staircase.

I felt that it was my duty as a human being that I had to ask what that scream was about.

“Is everything alright?” I knew it was not.

“Yes, sure everything is — ” Fiona started. Her lips were pursed, as if they wanted to open, but there was some force greater, weighing down on her lips.  As if some emotional force struck Fiona with fear and she started shivering a little.

“No — everything’s not fine, why must people be so cruel? What did Jess ever do to them? Poor Jess’s birthday is ruined!”

I was confused, and a guy, how could I tell what was happening? I bent down and put a hand on her shoulder.

“What’s going on? Fiona, talk to me.”

“I — can’t,” she said to the ground. Her eyes fixed on the tip of my shoes.

“Fiona, I’m sorry I can’t come to the party, Jess and I aren’t dating anymore so it feels kind of awkward to go with her and her family to celebrate her birthday, but please tell me is everything okay?”

Another scream sent chills down my spine which took over my mind. I walked into the house with one hand holding Fiona’s torso up. She couldn’t even speak, she pointed up to Jess’s room.

I strode up the long, brown staircase. The wood floor slid beneath me as I skidded past two rooms, then finally when the scream was too close for comfort, I peeked back and saw a plain white room, with only a small window that had the blinds closed.

There was Jess, slouching and crumpled in a dark corner of the room. The lights were off, and she had her hands scrunched up close to her face, her blonde hair covering her eyes. Her loud sobs echoed out and rammed against the walls.

She was a Jess I don’t think many people, maybe no one, had ever seen. This Jess’s hair was not perfectly curled, it was crumpled in a messy bun. This Jess was in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, not any heels for sure. This Jess’s face had completely misplaced its charming smile for a scary frown that must have only been worn on a top-secret occasion. Her mascara coated her cheeks and drips of makeup revealed the Jess that no one knew.

I stopped for a second, soaking all of this in. Could this have been my doing? I thought. Was I a terrible heartbreaker? However, these thoughts all slipped away when Jess turned and began to get up, taking deep breaths. Jess’s eyes caught mine but quickly diverted, clearly thinking about something very consuming.

I approached the room cautiously, uncertain of what to expect. My head was circling its thoughts and all that was happening. I went to Jess’s bed, covered in perfectly white sheets. I took her hand and held it in both of mine.

“Jess,” I spoke, somewhat shakily. She kept trying to squirm her feet. “Jess,” I spoke more directly and in that scary but special moment, our eyes caught onto each other.

I led her to her bed and had her lie down. She squished herself into a tiny ball and started rocking back and forth. I put my arm around her back and started rambling about stuff.

“Jess, I’m sorry, I never meant for this to happen.” I rubbed her back and stared into her lost eyes, a forest of green. “Please, please don’t do this, take a break, take a breath. This is all my fault, I never meant to hurt anyone, I hate that you are so upset, really, I hate when anyone is this upset. I’m so sorry.” I sat there on her bed for only a few minutes, until finally, but slowly the rocking stopped and Jess started to blink her eyes.

Through her slurred mumbling, she was denying the fact that I had done something. “It wasn’t you.” I held her curled up body in my two arms and kept instructing her to be strong. “I was sinking, and I needed some sort of an anchor, you looked like a good one.”

Those words meant so much to me, yet I wasn’t even sure why. I had never been so important to anyone before. My friends never would have thought about me being someone who stops them from drowning. I gave her hand a slight squeeze. “You sure?”

And she nodded, breaking out of her gaze in the window. She gave the slightest of smiles to the ground, but then it disappeared. Jess let her head slide to my shoulder, and she lazily closed her eyes.

“You know, I don’t know what you’re going through or anything, but the beginning of this year was rocky for me. My friends kind of left me and in a way you were somewhat of an anchor to me too.”

Jess moved her back up and sat with her legs crossed. She fixed her posture and said, “Can I tell you a secret?”

I shrugged.

“I haven’t shared this side of me with anyone, but you’re my … ” she couldn’t find the word, “friend, right?”


“Okay,” she took a deep breath, “My parents, they refused to come to my birthday party, they can barely stay together on one planet.” She looked up at me and solemnly stated, “You know, no one came.” She breathed through her nose and let out one of those sad laughs, “No one came.”  A tear started to trickle out of her eyes, like a leaf casually tumbling out of a tree. She used the back of her hand to wipe it. “I’m officially 18, I never expected it would be like this. I’m an average student I guess, no talents or friends, or even family … ” She sniffed her nose. “I’m a mess.” She bent over crying, her head in my lap.

I picked her back up, and looked her in the face as she silently weep.

“Hey, you’re not that much of a mess.”

She gave me a semi-smile.

“But seriously,” I continued, “You are so much stronger than you feel, all these events, they blur our vision of what the truth of is.”

She wiped her eyes again and off came a black streak of mascara. “I am a mess, an ugly mess — ”

“No you’re not, you’re amazing, this is honesty, this is the truth. Life isn’t like how it is in the movies. You are you, and honestly, Jess you’re great.”

“Who am I?” she asked to the air. “A overdramatic girl who is conceited and selfish and aggressive … ” she answered herself, speaking softly.

“I may have said that before, but this is a different side of you, a broken but … but …” I struggled to find the word, “a broken but beautiful mess. But sometimes that’s life. “

“Oh shut up,” she playfully snapped. “Stop being all smart.”

“Hey, you’re my friend, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. I like people for their true selves.”

The room was silent.

Jess sighed, “You know, I have never really had a true friend, besides FIona of course. When my parents got divorced, my Aunt and Uncle, Fiona’s parents, took me in, we grew up together.”

“I haven’t had friends either.”

“Yes you have and you know it.”
“Friends, yes,” I sighed, “but not a true one, I think you could be one.”

“Could be?” She sniffed again, obviously unsure if I was joking.

“You seem like you could be good friend material.”
“What about best friend material?” she asked.

I replied, “We’ll see.”

And that’s how I started piecing together a fragile china doll, who seemed so perfect, but easily could start breaking apart.

“We do still have a reservation … ” I said.

She smiled and slipped her hand in mine.

Time machine

The time machine’s engine came to a shuddering halt. I was stranded in … in about 15 minutes ago. There were five of me back then. I think I overused my time machine. OH, wait, duh! Of course I overused it. You weren’t supposed to go back to a time you were alive. You were especially not supposed to come in contact with them. That would mess up the whole time-space continuum. Now, I’m going to go 20 minutes into the future.


Someone (not me) ripped a hole in the time-thingy. Since I am the first person to do this, I will elaborate on how this happens. You have the “time gear” the all-holy powerful time manipulator, and you rip it up for your own benefit. And all that good stuff from the old civilizations have come over to my present, your future.

You know, this is the reason why King Tut died at the age of 19. I saw him come out of the time hole and he couldn’t breathe the air so he died in about 1.5 seconds. The air in our society is too advanced actually. People would guess that the air is polluted but actually we altered it to provide more oxygen. I’m guessing someone sent him back.

Some of the other great people from the past came to the future. Did you ever wonder why Da Vinci first made the painting Mona Lisa? He saw a copy from our future about Mona Lisa and got the idea. At least HE survived long enough to get out.

Even though we live in such a high-tech society, we have our flaws. We managed to find the “Time Gear.” The Time Gear was the physical part of time and space. In the past, there were documented recordings of the Time Gear. The physical part of it was harnessable, but there were reasons why it was hidden. The first time people moved through it, they thought that it was their time. It was always hidden in some deserted part of the world. Eventually, it was discovered at the end. There was some weird pattern that happened every millennia or so.  I could go on forever about what civilizations came through and were influenced by what we had. Some greek guy came through and found statues of the Greek Gods, which is how that all happened.

Okay, back to the topic. Yea… 20 minutes into the future wasn’t looking so bright. I use my Google Glasses and calculate that it will take approximately 13 minutes and 23 seconds before I cease to exist. In that exact moment, someone had killed my future self. It was probably the Sphinx crashing down and killing me with thousands of other people.

The reason why we’re in this whole dilemma is because I had decided to take a particle out of the Time Gear. The Time Gear looks like a gear, obviously, but once I took part of it out from its source, it began to eat itself. The Time Gear first starts with the beginning of time and space. It eats the Time Gear from that exact nanosecond. When the Time Gear from that time is destroyed, then everything ceases to exist for that exact moment. The thing is, if it reaches a point in time where someone crossed it, that person ceases to exist. So, for example, when James Otis came across. He invented the elevator. When the Time Gear from that nanosecond disappears, he disappears, and we lose elevators. Simple as that.

Okay, so my dad is the one who FOUND the Time Gear, so my family is rich and we have access to the Time Gear. I just went in and took a piece. I wanted to have time itself. With it, I could go back and control ancient civilizations (not really, but I wanted to travel time, it sounds cooler).


Chapter 1(the only chapter):

Well, I can tell you firsthand what death feels like. Easier than falling asleep. I can’t tell you which religion is correct about the afterlife. I never went there. I was in limbo. Using the stolen piece of the ”time gear,” I went back to 40 minutes before I died. That was a mistake that saved the world.


40 minutes before death:


Actually doing quite fine. Recorded 39 minutes and 23.354 seconds before death. Well, “quite fine,” right now throughout time, is ancient artifacts falling down and crushing everyone to death. “Not fine,” is ceasing to exist. Using the time gear, I teleport into the lab. All the scientists are panicking. I can see it in their faces. Well, also the way they act.

A few spot me when I teleport, but that’s hardly the weirdest thing that they’ve seen all day. “Everyone! TAKE A PIECE OF THE TIME GEAR AND TELEPORT TO A TIME AND BRING BACK A FAMOUS PERSON. WE NEED TO SAVE THEM.” Naturally there are a lot of questions such as, “How do we do that? Can we separate the gear? Will that make time break even faster?” But one stands out to me. “Are you from the future? You look like the splitting image of Dr. ____.”

I don’t want to mention my father’s name in this recording. It may put you in danger. The thing is, I don’t know WHY none of them recognize me. I’ve talked to them multiple times. Is it because I’ve essentially died? I go along with what they say. “YES I AM FROM THE FUTURE, NOW DO AS I COMMAND.”

In a few short minutes, everyone is equipped with a tiny piece of the time gear. I’ve given them all lists of people they need to bring to the future and also equip them with an Apple Scuba device. (I made this device 20 minutes ago to allow people to breathe our more polluted air.)

After asking all the scientists to grab someone from the past, I went to do my job. I went back in time to the exact second when I decided to take a piece of time gear. I put my piece back into it and stepped back…. Nothing happened.

I sighed and went to when the scientists brought back the people. When I went back it was chaos. Well, not really. They didn’t bring anyone back. I yelled, “WHAT THE ****??? WHY DID NO ONE BRING ANYONE BACK?!?!?!”

They mumbled and I heard, “ … didn’t know how … too hard … not our specialty … ” I sighed. Scientists who could even make clones could not ask to be sent to a time and bring back a person to the future. How hard could that be? I walked out and said, “Get ready to all die.”

The darkness soon came to my time. The scientists shouted out, “Help us!”

Using the full time gear, I transported  to a “dead” time. It’s like being in limbo. Harnessing the power if the time gear, I thought about everything that was in this time. With every thought imagined, things started to pop back. The time gear had started to spit back the things that it had taken.

The trees returned, the grass returned, oceans formed … all but the people. The people were harder. Intelligent life forms think differently from each other, so you have to think like them. Slowly and slowly, people started to form, I thought about more complex things, such as trigonometry. More people started to slowly come back.

I repeated this process with every single moment in time. It took me 146 days to do it. I became more skilled as I went along. Cavemen were easy. All they think about is food and animals.


Chapter 2: Redemption

After 146 days, 12 minutes, 15 seconds, I was done. Finally, everything was back to normal, well, almost everything. Some animal species went extinct, the ones I had no clue about.

I stood before the court. I had been charged for destroying the world. The best jurors from every time were called to partake in the trial.

“Motion to start the trial: ____” said a juror.

None opposed.

Another juror said, “_____ charged for destroying the time space continuum, the extinction of multiple species, and the destruction of elevators.”

“All who vote in favor of punishment please stand.” said the main juror.  About half of them stood up.

“Juror ___, you have the floor.” This went on for two hours. They changed the court to Congress, where they debated the topic at hand.

In the end, the vote were even. “WHAT?!?! THERE ARE 301 OF US? WHO DID NOT VOTE?” said the main juror. Yes. He’s loud.

One juror stood up. “I do not believe this is for us to decide,” he said. “JUST VOTE!” said the juror.

He votes in favor for me.

I was saved.

Someday the Sky Will Fall

Curtains hang, great slabs of grey cement over crystal portals. My mind is blank, a sheet of nothingness. I want to keep it this way.

My phone dings, breaking through my imaginary walls. Like thin layers of glass. They don’t do a very good job.

Do u wnt to get something to eat? : )

Daren. Boyfriend. Friend. Acquaintance. Whatever. I don’t know who he is anymore.

I tug at the blue ribbon strung around my neck. It digs. Cutting, holding Mama’s wedding band. My wedding band — now at least.

No I think, but my fingers don’t listen. They never do.

Sure! I type.

I’m not sure of anything, nothing I do has any exclamation points anymore. Those had faded away long, long ago.

I get up anyway, like I always do. My room is a mess, but I don’t clean it. I just shut the door behind me — hoping it will all be good when I come back.

Of course my room can’t be fooled. It is a very smart room or I am just a very stupid person.

My mind begins going round and round.  It often does this. Goes around and around and around, like one of those rides at the amusement park. I don’t go to those anymore. I did when I was younger — but not now. Too much food. Just too much of everything these days.


The floorboards creak loudly as I pass our outdated kitchen. “Ours” as in mine and dad’s. If I could call him dad anymore. He is so lost now, wading his way through the swamps of his memories.

I hold my head straight and my eyes cast forward. I refuse to look at the refrigerator. The whole kitchen is my personal monster. The cupboards. Everything. My very own personal black hole.

I pass the doorway safely and I let out the breath I always hold. My body rarely listens to my brain, but today I am safe. For once.

I grab four pieces of gum, stuff them into my mouth as if they are all that matters in the world. And they kind of are. For me at least.

Chew. Chew. Chew.

I am hungry.

No you’re not.

Yes I am.

My brain does this a lot. I never listen to the behaved side of me. Never. That bad little voice worms it way. Corrupting.


My monster is always the same, I can never stop it. I am ashamed and disgusted.  Always.

I’ve gotten used to it.



Life is just a bunch of steps.

Wake up

Try to muffle the angry hunger growing in the pit of your stomach,

Go to school.

Eat something. Just try.

Get home.

Run. Like your life depends on it.

Try to sleep. It never comes.

Wake up…

Life is just a procedure you have to complete. That is all.


I pull into the tiny parking lot of Samson’s. A badly renovated diner, with a badly paved parking lot. Everything about this shitty little town is bad.

Even the people who live in it, like me.

I get out and don’t see. That great old-fashioned diner. Not like other people. I can never see things the way they are. The way they are supposed to be.

Everything is just so distorted. Even the cracked up pavement is frowning at me. At my bloated legs.

My life is just so cracked up.

You are fat and ugly. No one cares. Fatfatfatfatuglyuglyugly. No one cares about you.


There I go again.

Around and around and around.

I spot Daren. He’s standing there trying to look for me. I want to turn around and not go to that cursed diner.

Full of food. Food that has calories. That make you fat.

But I walk and slap a *** smile on my *** face. At least I try, and it works. Because Daren believes me. Like always.

“Vivian!” Daren is waving at me. Always so happy. We are polar opposites.

“Hi,” I say.

We stand there awkwardly until he gives me a hug. One of those I want us to be more type of hugs. I ignore it.

“Let’s go in.” He says. And we do.

We are seated at a small booth tucked in a corner. I play with my napkin. Crumpling and uncrumpling. A little white ball.

Daren orders a burger. Hungryhungryhungryhungry.

“What are you going to get?” He looks over at me.

I pretend to glance at the menu. “I’ll have some tea.”

There’s silence after that. Daren starts tapping his finger. “I thought you were hungry?”

The little voice inside my head leaps at the opportunity. Yes Yes Yes!

“I’m not.” I smile apologetically. “Just ate.”


And the silence continues.

Our food comes — well his food does. I try not to look as I sip my hot tea. Hot is good. It wakes me up.

But food is bad, I remind myself. Very, very bad.

“What have you been doing these days?” I try to forge on. And my glass walls tried to stop me. It can’t.

“Oh, ya know the regular.”

I don’t know, but I nod anyway.

I check my watch. I don’t have to be home for an hour, but I stand up anyway. “I have to go,” I say.

Daren stands up too. Hugs me. Again. “I’ll see you in school.”


Leans down. Kisses me, as if we’re together.

We’re not, but I smile. Even though I’m so confused, messed up. I kiss him back.

He likes that.


I’m starved. Famished. Ravenous. Empty. Hollow. All those words. Words that can’t get fat.

I want to pull over. To stuff my face.

Chips. Soda. Pizza. Ice cream. Cartons of ice cream. Pretzels. Chocolate. Food.

My head says no — of course. It always does. But then I’m pulling off at the next exit. Driving. Just driving.

Nononononono. I don’t listen. My foot presses the gas pedal, turning into the convenience store. The one that’s all run down. With the broken down truck. And the crumbling curb.

Leave and drive back home! That was behaved Vivian. I ignore her, like always. She is nothing compared to the other me. The one that shouts.


I get out of the car. I move like  a robot, not in control of my body. As if I am standing and watching outside on the cracked up sidewalk. Watching Vivian get fat.


I can’t stop. I never can when it gets like this.

My cart fills up up up. Heaping. I can’t listen to myself. It’s impossible. And my money goes down down down.

I sit in my car. In the front seat. Eating. Not thinking.

No more chips or soda or pretzels or ice cream. All gone down the drain.

Afterward I wait. Wait for the guilt that always comes crashing. Big waves that suffocate. Choke me to tears.

And like always, I cry on the way home. And it overflows my car. I am teetering on the top of a mountain.

Guilty of a crime. Very very guilty.


I fall to the bathroom floor. Those disgusting chartreuse tiles.

Shove two fingers down my throat until everything is gone. I am just so ashamed. Ashamed of myself. Ashamed and disgusted. Like always.

And I lie there– for what feels like forever, until that guilt goes away. Fades away to nothingness.

I close my eyes.

But instead I see the stark white hospital. White walls. White floors. And then a quivering white lump, on the tiny hospital bed. Small mama. Small me.

She presses the ring–her ring into the palm of my hand. “Keep it, darling … my Vivian.” Mama’s voice croaks. Like a frog. A sick frog. She closes her eyes. Then opens them. “Some day the sky will fall,” she whispers.

Then she is gone. A wisp of air, blown away. Gone.

I’ve never told anyone that. What had she meant, when she said those haunted words?

Someday the sky will fall.

The memory has become wrinkled around the edges. Old. Sepia. But it stays tucked away. Hidden, strung on a blue ribbon.


Dad is home. I am in my room again. Looking at the grey slab curtains. I hear him tromping up the stairs.

Sometimes I dread our little talks.

He comes in without knocking, bringing the smell of wet rain clinging to his untucked shirt. I pretend I don’t know. Pretending to read. My whole life I pretend in front of him.

“Vivian!” He acts all excited when he says my name.

“Dad.” His smile slides off his face. Like it is made of water.

Maybe he really is trying. Like Ms. Freeman says. Dad sits on the corner of my rolly desk chair.

“You need to clean your room Vivian.” As if I don’t know.


Dad stares at me as if I have two heads. And maybe I do.

“I’m worried about you, Vivian.”

I am too I think, but I don’t answer. Just wait.

“I don’t want to go through this again.”

I don’t either.

Silence. The space between us stretches for a long time. A stretch of air.

“Have you been eating?”

I want to throw my lamp at his head. I want to cry and wail. Say that he doesn’t understand me. That food is the enemy. My eroding flaming monster.

But instead, all I say is, “Yeah.”

Dad tries to get up but doesn’t move.

Maybe it’s that thick stretch of air that we made. Dad and I.

“I’m going to talk to a doctor, Vivian. You don’t look well.” Another stop. A halting breath. “I’m doing this because I love you honey.”

Yeah right. You love mom. Who hasn’t been here. For a long long time.

But, “Ok,” is all that leaves my lips.

Finally Dad leaves, the smell of loneliness leaving with him.

Nothing is ever ok.

It is dark — my room. The moon is gone, hiding behind my depressing curtains. I should get rid of them I think.

Dad is asleep, probably–but I’m not. I never am. Even if I try.

The moon peeks at me as I open my door.

Then slam it shut wishing the moon would take care of the mess.


Our treadmill is big and black. Bulky. Hulking piece of metal. It helps though–with the guilt. The moon watches as I sweat into the night.

My body stings. Aches. Screams.  But I don’t care. All I care about is Burning. Off. Those. ***ed. Calories.


Dad is sitting at the kitchen table when I come down the next morning.

He is sitting, so I sit too. The cereal box is open. I  tell myself that I’m ok without it.

But really I’m not.

The refrigerator is scowling at me. I ignore it, along with everything else.

Dad’s lips move, but I don’t understand what he is saying. I don’t understand anything these days. Not myself. Not dad.

The kitchen isn’t my only monster. My body is my monster too.

I shake my head. Don’t know what I’m doing that for. Shaking my head to life probably.


Oh, there it is — sound. The dishwasher whirs too. I never realized it was so loud.

“Are you alright?”

No. Dad sounds worried.

“Yes,” I say. I am lying. And he knows it too.

“You’re lying,” he says. Dad’s right. For once at least.


Dad is worried even more now. Always worried, that seven letter word that can’t get fat.

You’re fat and ugly. Fatfatfatfatfatuglyuglyuglyugly.

Maybe I can drown myself in these bad words.

Maybe words are my monster too.


Did I answer? Probably not. I don’t remember anymore. I never remember — just keep my mind blank.




Mom always told me that being pretty was everything. People will like you. Always want to be your friend. She had explained this as she stood, staring into the floor length mirror, adjusting the straps of that tight black dress she had always loved.

“Why?” I had asked. I had stared too. Worshipping her. Mama’s every move. I hadn’t understood.

“You’ll know when you’re older.” Mama had waved a hand. Dismissively.

She was right. I understand now. As much as I ever have.


Coldness is being splashed on my face.

Maybe I’m in heaven–but I am not. I know I’m not.

The first thing I see is the cracked up ceiling. Chartreuse too. Like the bathroom tiles. Tiles I know too well. Could I call them friends? Definitely not.

I think I am going crazy. True — 110% true.

Water — that’s what this coldness is. Not heaven, just water.

That’s too bad.

“Vivian! I’m taking you to the hospital!”

No! Hospitals are clean. The type of clean that clogs your nose. Teasing. Like words. With fat nurses. Who would feed me food. Daemon food. Looming monsters. Fire. Licking. Food. I tremble…

Get up.

Put hands on counter.

Slap. a. ***ed. smile. on your. ***ed. face.

Just follow the steps. And I do. Just like living in this shitty world.



I tell dad I’m fine. I don’t think he believes me. I tell him I’m fine. Again. Always. The type of fine that translates to I am never fine but I’m just saying I am.

He doesn’t believe me.

But I have convinced myself that I am fine. Which I’m not.

I’m always not — fine that is.



I don’t think I believe in god. If he was real he would help me. If he is out there, he’s an idiot.

For not helping me.

Ms. Freemen–my counselor, the shrink. Whatever. Says I’m making progress.

By admitting I need help.

But I’m not admitting I need help. I am admitting god needs help.

My counselor is an idiot too.

Like god.


Dad leaves. Finally, looking at me all weird. But he leaves.

He swears he will call a doctor.

This time he sounds serious. But I still doubt it.

I am worried. Just like him.

I go back to my room. Have to go past the kitchen.

Hold my head straight. Feel the cupboards looking.

Pass it. Safe. Again.

My stomach rumbles.


When I get upstairs I find my room still a mess — sadly. The moon didn’t do a very good job.

I decide to tear the slab grey curtains off my windows. There, all better.

But I’m not better. My room is but I am not. It’s a start though.

I collapse on my bed, thinking how sad my life really is.

Slab grey curtains. Daemon food. Eroding fire monster. I lie there until it is time to run again.


¨Vivian Mince, please report to Ms. Freeman’s office.¨

It is school again. Monday. I have no hope today. Usually I do. To be pretty. Skinny. But today I am a hollowed-out tree trunk, with no heart. No soul.

I go down the stairs, seeing the walls. A light blue. People jostle me.

¨Sorry,¨ they say. And I smile and nod. All just pretending. Wearing a mask that is not me. But now that I think about it — I have been pretending for a long long time, so far back that I can´t remember. Always.

It’s always been my way of hiding.


I raise my hand to knock on the flimsy door. All the doors are flimsy in our school. My life is flimsy too. Just like the doors.

¨Come in.¨ Ms. Freeman says. So I do, although I don’t want to. It is never a choice I want to make.

She sits, my counselor does, and smiles. I don’t smile back.  All I can think about is god. And how he is an idiot just like her.

¨Have a seat.¨

I sit on that nasty yellow couch. Lumpy.

It is silent for what seems to be a very long time. All I hear is the clock ticking.

Ms. Freeman shuffles some papers. I clear my throat.

“So … Vivian.” My name again. She says it with so much power. Entitlement — like that.

She thinks she is something to me. She isn’t. Of course.

“Your dad called me.” I pretend not to be interested. But I am. Definitely.

I don’t answer. I cross my legs instead. The clock keeps ticking.

“He’s worried, Vivian.” I do not want to look at her. But I do. I always do.

“Stop,” I say.


“Saying my name like that.”

“… Oh.”

I smile, because she faltered. Ms. Freeman has never done that. Ever.

“He’s worried,” she repeated.

“Yeah.” And that is it. Just yeah.

“I called you here to discuss some … options”

Options for what? My life? Or just me. I sit up straighter on that lumpy couch.

“Like what?” Be calm. Let nothing show. Nothing.

“He says you’re … struggling.”

I close my eyes. Angry. Angry and shaking. *** you Ms. Freemen! *** you. Don’t you get it? I’m always struggling. Always. Always. Always.

But “You spoke to my dad?” is all I say.

“Well yes — and we’ve both decided that you need help. A Lot of help.”

God needs help. I think.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Vivian. So many young adults like you go through this — and it’s hard work to heal but … ”

I stand up.

And put a hand on the door knob.

Go. Run. And never come back.

I follow the steps, like always. I follow the steps because I am tired. And hungry. My brain is rattling inside my skull. But also because she said my name.

She said my name. Like mama did.

When dad and me were still a family. When mama was still in the picture.


The bathroom is small. Though, so am I. It smells too, like disinfectant. I sit on the toilet seat, curl up in a little ball and tuck my head between my knees.

So I can’t see anything. Just the way I like it.

Sometimes I feel like I want to cry. My throat gets all sticky. It’s hard to swallow when it gets like that. Hard to breathe. But I can’t cry. There are no tears left. I am empty.

I sit there for a long time. So long that everything just blurs into nothing.  Girls go in and out.

Whispers following them, like phantom voices.

The door bangs. And I stay.

Sometime later, someone thumps a fist against the stall door, pulls me out of the vortex that I had created for myself.

I needed help. I just didn’t want to face it.


Then, I am outside. Where the wind is strong. Ms. Freeman is there too. Maybe she was the one that pulled me out of the tornado I had made. I feel for mama’s necklace. The one on a blue ribbon. But it isn’t there.

It isn’t there!

My body wobbles. So does my heart. My blue ribbon could be anywhere, mama would be disappointed.

I fall to my knees, bare hands digging in the muddy snow. My necklace, my necklace, My necklace. A whirlwind of thoughts. Spinning Spinning Spinning forever. Spiraling downward.

I have a headache.

A pounding headache.

But then there is a hand on my shoulder. Ms. Freeman’s hand, a dark chocolate next to a pale white cloud. That’s me and her.

“What’s the matter?” She asks.

“It’s my necklace,” I say. Just like that. As if it were that simple.

She unfurls her hand. A flower budding. New. Fresh. Untouched. With a coil of ribbon hidden within.

“I have it,” she says. Maybe, she whispered. I’m too relieved to know. Mama is still strung on my blue ribbon.

“It fell off, Vivian.” She says my name. This time quietly, as if her tongue were testing out a new word. “I wanted to give it back … it seemed like it was very important to you.”

“Yes.” My voice is quiet. Just like hers.

“Want to talk about it?”

I sit on the curb. Ms. Freemen sits too. We’re on even ground now.

“Mama gave it to me,” is all I say. “In the hospital right before she died.”

Ms. Freemen doesn’t say anything. Just listens.

“I was her world … Vivian … it — it means lively. Well, that’s what she always told me. Mama said I was the happiest baby she ever saw.”

I don’t think my body is hollow any more, because tears are welling in my eyes. Salty. Wet. I smile through the iridescent drops. I was happy then, but not anymore.

“Dad doesn’t know I have it … he — he wasn’t there that night and … ” I gulp. Catch my breath. ”I know he blames me. I could have done something! I ***ing could have fixed her!”

The wind scratches at my face. And I let it. I deserve it.

My blue ribbon is still in Ms. Freeman’s hand. She tries to give it to me. I don’t take it. It just hurts too ***ed bad.

She studies me, then pulls me to my feet. I let her, even though I don’t know where she’s taking me.

“Come,” she says. And I do, because I have no where else to go.


We are at the ocean. She took me there in her banged up Volkswagen. The waves lick my toes. They are cold. In a good way though.

“Why are we here?” I ask. But all Ms. Freeman does is smile.

She hands me the necklace. My necklace. Mama’s necklace.

“Throw it.” She says.


Ms. Freemen doesn’t answer, just looks out in the distance. But I know she heard me.

I look out in the distance too, mama’s heart dangling between my fingers.

A moment passes, another vast stretch of air.

And just like that I throw it. No thought. No nothing. And it feels like a gigantic weight had slid off my shoulders, as the foam and salt grab it all away. As if my blue ribbon had never been around my neck.

Ms. Freemen turns to look at me. She has a small smile playing about her lips.

“How do you feel?” She says it all serious.

But instead I laugh. Laugh at my shitty life, and the shitty diner and the shitty necklace. For making me feel so alone. Making me so helpless.

“Think of this as throwing away all the bad memories. The bad ones can get washed away, the good ones — no matter what, will stay with you forever.” Ms. Freeman’s voice has gone all soft. Testing out the waters. The waters of me and her.

“Yeah.” I say. And that’s it. Just yeah.


My phone dings. Daren again.

Want to talk? : ) with a little smily face.

I look at it, with no more mama to stop me. To hold me back.

Sure, I text back. And this time I really am — sure that is.


The End

Penny Lane

… Meanwhile Back in Penny Lane…

“In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs, of every head he’s had the pleasure to know. And all the people that come and go, stop and say hello…”

Track 1

The street corner is bustling with people of all ages. An old man wearing large oxfords stomps down the sidewalk. A little girl with pink ribbons tied in her pigtails holds her mother’s hand. Schoolboys looking smart in their uniforms run and shove down the street, playing foolish games. It’s raining, which is normal for England. I would know; I’ve lived here my whole life. But this street corner is unfamiliar.

Just a minute ago, I had slammed my bedroom door and flopped onto my bed in frustration over yet another confrontation with my Granddad. Following my routine, I popped in my earbuds to calm myself down, and began to listen to The Beatles album I chose for tonight’s insomnia playlist.  So why do I now find myself wide awake on a busy street? I am surprised to see that I am no longer wearing my pajamas, but am dressed in a yellow gingham dress that I have never seen before. It has puffed short sleeves, a long cotton skirt, and a brown belt. I lift the foreign skirt between two fingers as if it is fragile china. It looks like something an old-fashioned paper doll would wear. My earbuds are still in and the Beatles album is still playing. I pause the song and tuck my iPod and buds into the convenient dress pocket for safekeeping.

I have suffered from insomnia ever since my Mum died. When I first started having sleepless nights, my father didn’t know what to do. I would come into his room and lay down on Mum’s side, which didn’t help the empty feeling in my chest, much less my sleep. The kids at school would tease and call me “Ruby Raccoon” because of the dark circles I had under my eyes. Actually, even now, without bags under my eyes, my classmates still tease me. We went to three different therapists, each prescribing different medications and solutions, which either nearly rendered me comatose or had no effect at all. It took four different paint jobs for us to figure out that changing the color of my bedroom was not helping or hurting my sleep patterns.

One night I finally discovered my cure. I had a funny song stuck in my head that Mum always used to hum. Obla-di Obla-da, life goes on… brah! I downloaded it on iTunes, synced it with my iPod and the next thing I knew, light was peeking through my thick “light absorbing” curtains.

It is music that lets me fall asleep. I guess it calms me because it reminds me of my Mum. When she was alive, she was always humming a tune, dancing in the supermarket to the Muzak, or playing her endless CD collection on our family room’s big stereo system. Morning and night that old clunky stereo was blasting rock ’n’ roll, bopping smooth jazz, or shrieking pop music. She even played it when no one was home as she said it was the best way to ward off burglars.

But she’s not alive anymore and I’m not at home. I’m on a strange street corner in who knows where, and I am still upset from the quarrel that I had with my Granddad at supper. My Grandmum had cooked her special shepherd’s pie and we all sat down to eat when Dad got home from work. From across the table, I watched my Granddad sulk and play with his food, making tiny mountains out of mashed potatoes, and rolling the peas around the plate. Even though this was his typical dinner-table behavior, it still bothered me how childish he acted. This was my Grandmum’s special dish, her own recipe, and she had spent all afternoon preparing it.

I continued reading the newspaper. It’s my habit and my prerogative to read while I eat. I call it “reating.” Although some people think it’s rude, no one really ever talks at my dinner table. I was reading the front-page story of The Guardian, when my Dad reprimanded me:

“Rube, put that away, we’re eating,” he said sternly, looking pointedly at the paper.

“But Dad, this is serious!” I protested. “Eighteen people were killed in a freak fire on the 4th story-”

Ruby, put that away!” My grandfather pounded his fist on the table causing the peas to jump off his plate. He glared at me with burning eyes.

“Why can’t we just talk about it? It’s so tragic! Why not? Why can’t we talk about anything serious?” I asked.

It was always the same, I would try to bring something controversial or difficult up and then someone would chastise me and tell me to change the topic. Especially if it was about my Mum.

It has been nine years since Mum died. Yet there was still an unspoken rule; a boundary that I needed to stay within of “not talking about Mum’s death,” or anything related to it for that matter. There were only a few safe topics – the weather, school, sports, and Royal Family gossip. Everything else was censored.

I pushed back my chair with a screech, grabbed The Guardian, and stormed out of the room.


Track 2

Weeeooowww, weeeooowww!

I am broken out of my trance by the siren of a fire lorry speeding out of the station. I watch it turn left and squeal down the street. The lorry looks too old to still be operating. There’s a ladder leaning over the top and the firemen are seated in uncovered open seats. On the side in gold letters it says, “Liverpool Community Fire Station.”  I spy a bench and sit down, trying to get my bearings. I am in a suburban neighbourhood with several shops including a fire station, a bank, a barbershop, and a bus station. It appears to be a typical neighbourhood, except that everything looks dated.

A Rolls Royce pulls up a few feet in front of me and a man in a tuxedo with long coattails strolls out and into the bank. Nobody seems surprised to see the fancy black car, even though it looks like it just rode out of a James Bond film.

The sky is filled with foreboding clouds and the rain is starting to pick up. The street is long with one end turning off onto another avenue, and the other ending in a roundabout. Why am I here? I wonder for the hundredth time since arriving. I scan the street for clues. Am I dreaming or is this real? It seems pretty real…

I’m afraid to ask anyone where I am or when I am, as I know I would receive strange looks. I stand up and begin to walk past the shops. Just then a couple approaches me, the man dressed in grey trousers and a striped sweater, and the woman in a short-sleeved white sweater and long blue skirt. They stop in front of me and say, “Hello!” and “G’day!” Then they keep walking, but my feet are frozen in place. Huh. That was really… nice. No one usually stops just to say hello.

I pause beside the swirling red, white, and blue column outside the barbershop and peer in at the calendar on the wall. November 11, 1955.


“Ey love! Why doncha step inside for a minute? It’s raining bloody buckets outside!” I turn and see a portly middle-aged man looking at me with kind, crinkled eyes. He beckons to me and I oblige, stepping into the shop and stomping off my wet shoes.

A line of black-cushioned chairs stand in front of a long mirror, all occupied by men and women getting a trim or shave. Each station is outfitted with a comb, a bottle of Brylcreem hair gel, curlers, scissors, hairspray, shaving cream and a brush. On the far side of the shop, I see women in curlers chatting and reading magazines while their hair is being dried under hooded salon dryers.

All of a sudden the woman under the middle drier lifts off the hood and winks at me, then lowers it back. I blink my eyes hard. That was weird. I recognize her… I turn away slowly and see a whole wall covered with a mosaic of black-and-white portrait photos of customers all modeling their new “do’s.” I take in the rows of pictures, two per person, one showing the front of their head, and one showing the back.

“Y’alright?” asks the man.

“I was just admiring your wall of photos.”

“Ah yes, these are the heads of all the customers that I’ve had the pleasure to know. Here at Pepper’s Hair, after you get your first cut, everyone always gets a picture taken. It’s one of our unique offerings. Allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Mr. Pepper, owner and main barber of this fine establishment.” Mr. Pepper is wearing a crisp white jacket, black bowtie and grey houndstooth pants. It is quite ironic that he owns a hair salon, for his hair is a shiny shade of bald. He gives me a firm handshake.

“And you are?”

“Ruby. Ruby Whittington.”

“I’ve never seen you before, and I know everyone in town! Are you from the area?”

“No, well, not exactly…” I look back at the wall of photographs, desperate to change the topic. It is then I see him. At the top right corner, there is picture of a man that looks just like my grandfather… well, a much younger version.  His light blonde hair is coiffed and gelled in a side part.

“Who is that?” I ask Mr. Pepper.

“That young man, Ms. Ruby, is one of our best and brightest. He’s a fireman for our local station and he recently saved the lives of 30 people in a collapsing building. I’ve heard that he keeps a portrait of the Queen with him. He’s our town hero.”

“What’s his name?”

“His name is Michael Beckett.”

Beckett. Beckett is my Mother’s maiden name. Beckett is my Grandmum’s married name. Beckett is my Granddad’s last name.

I lean closer and notice the dimple in his left cheek; the one thing that we have in common. Could he be my grandfather? I start to shiver.

“Ruby, are you alright? You’ve gone stark white, child! Let me fetch you a cup of water.”

I need to leave. I need fresh air. Yes, fresh air would do me a lot of good… I feel sorry leaving Mr. Pepper, but I can’t stay there a moment longer. I hurry out the door.  My grandfather, a hero? It can’t be him, it simply can’t!

The Granddad Mike I know is the opposite of a hero. He is a lazy curmudgeon who refuses to do anything except bum around the house all day, watching Antique Roadshow, soccer matches, and Wheel of Fortune. Although, I can still remember a time when Granddad was kind and fun to be around. We used to play “Pattycake” and compare the size of our hands, go on long walks by the river, and he would always read me bedtime stories.

I need time to think this through.


Track 3

“Poppies! Poppies for vet-rans! Buy a flower for the man in your life that made an invaluable sacrifice!” The rain has let up and a petite young woman in her mid-20s is standing in the middle of the roundabout.  She is wearing a Red Cross uniform and selling poppies from a tray.

“They’re our fathers, our mothers, do them a favor and give thanks today.” She trills. The way her silky dark hair curls under her white hat reminds me of – no it couldn’t possibly be. As I approach her, I notice that she looks a lot like my Grandmum.


Grandmum grew up in Liverpool, in a two-story apartment house. Her whole family had a hand in the Allied war effort; her mother was a nurse, her father was a doctor, and her brother served and died in France. She was born in 1938, right before the start of the war and lived the first seven years of her life wrapped up in wartime turmoil. At the same time she was learning her ABCs, she was learning about food rations. She grew up accustomed to the sound of a blaring air raid siren in the middle of the night. My Mum told me that wherever there was an opportunity, she would volunteer, whether it was collecting supplies to send to troops, helping plant victory gardens, or writing letters to soldiers. When she was finally old enough, my Grandmum dove in headfirst. She joined the Red Cross.

“Dearie, do you have a brother, or an uncle, or a father that served our country?” The nurse looks at me inquisitively. “Well, no – not exactly, I mean –”

“Buy some poppies for them then!” she says cheerily, “All proceeds go to the Red Cross.”

She seems so kind, and I find myself drawn to her.  Maybe this nurse can help me figure out why I am here.

“Um, no thank you! But could I help you sell them? The poppies? You look like you could use some help and I’ve, uh, always wanted to volunteer.”

“Of course! Thank you! Here, how about you put this on…” She takes her white peaked cap with a red cross on the front and places it on my head. “There, now you look the part.” She smiles and I swear that she resembles my Grandmum.

I murmur a thank you and assume position – next to a random girl on a random street in England selling flowers for Remembrance Day.

“So, what’s your name?” she asks me in between shouts.


“Oh, I love that name! If I was ever going to have a daughter, I would name her Ruby.” she flashes me a bright, full-toothed smile, “I’m Beth. Not as lovely as Ruby, but I like it. I want to be an actress, but it’s hard to make it in the acting world.”

I nod, but my head is spinning. My Grandmum was an actress and her name is Beth. I look at her out of the corner of my eye. What is going on here?

Right then a beautiful woman walks up to us. Beth asks her if she would like to purchase some flowers, but the woman looks directly at me and says, “Yes, I’ll take two please.” She is angelic and I am gobsmacked. She has bright green eyes and dark brown hair, just like me. I fumble with the flowers.

“Here you go.” I say. She hands me the money, but I feel a lump between the bills. I separate them and find my earbuds curled up in a nice ball. When I look up again the woman is nowhere to be seen.

“Do you know her?” asks Beth. I don’t answer. I am in shock. I realize too late that this woman was the same one that winked at me in Pepper’s Hair. I feel in my pocket for my earbuds but they aren’t there. I must have dropped them when I hurried out of the shop. I close my eyes and picture her face again. I see the face of my mother.


Track 4

“Poppies! Buy some poppies for a loved one! Hello Michael, would you like to buy some poppies?” A tall, handsome young fireman stands in front of us and she grins at him from underneath her eyelashes.  I suck in my breath. My Granddad, or future Granddad, is standing inches away from me.

“Sorry Beth, I have to run.  I just heard about a fire across town. Apparently it’s a house fire and the family has three kids. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose someone you love, especially a child. I’ll come by later.” He gives her an apologetic smile and then rushes off. As he runs towards the fire station, he pulls a rectangular object out of his coat and kisses it, then tucks it back into his pocket.

“Go save some lives!” yells Beth. The next minute, the fire lorry roars by.

“That’s Michael. He’s really sweet.” She says, gazing after the red truck turning the corner.

“You like him, don’t you?” I blurt, then almost clap my hand over my mouth, astounded at what I just uttered.

“Yes, I do,” she giggles.  “It’s hard not to. He’s always saving lives and helping others. Did you see what he did? He was kissing a portrait of the Queen. Isn’t that lovely? It’s his good luck charm. In fact, when he comes back, I’m sure he’ll buy us out of poppies. That’s the kind of chap he is.”

At this point I have no idea what to do.  My Granddad is a town hero, my Grandmum sells flowers for vet’rans and my mother keeps making guest appearances.

“Thank you so much.  This has been great, but I really need to go home.  Can you please show me where the bus station is?”


Track 5

On our walk to the station, I feel my mind slowly begin to slip into the past. Or from this past to the later past…  I begin to think about my mother and how much I miss her.

My mother had only just turned 40 when she was killed in a house fire.  Our house fire, and it was my fault.  

I was six years old and my mother was cooking her own birthday dinner. Mum insisted that she cook because no one could make her favorite meal of Beef Wellington and Fried Potatoes as well as she could. My grandparents were over to celebrate, but my father wasn’t home yet. I was upstairs in my room, playing with my “wacky sounds” keyboard, and entertaining my teddy bear, who was wearing my “blankie” as a royal robe. I was bored and lonely. I had no siblings – and not many friends – so this was, and is, a common occurrence. I tried to get someone’s attention by banging on the keyboard, but the potatoes kept frying and my grandparents kept laughing and talking. I put my keyboard on dinosaur mode and hit a couple notes, but the roaring didn’t get their attention either. So I started to cry.

Finally I heard Mummy coming up the stairs, “I’m coming Rubes, don’t worry.” She appeared behind the childproof gate and walked me down the stairs and into the living room where my grandparents were talking and reading the newspaper. My Mum left the room to go back to cooking, but moments later I realized that I left my “blankie” upstairs. I started to cry again, “My blankie!”

Mummy heard me and immediately went upstairs to retrieve it.

Several minutes passed. She came back down and handed me my “blankie.”

“There you go sweet pea.” Those were her last words. What came after is a bit blurry.

My Mum had gone back into the kitchen, unaware that a towel near the splattering potatoes had caught fire and had spread flames to the ceiling. I suppose she thought she could put it out herself, because I don’t recall hearing her yell for help.  I remember my Granddad hustling us all out of the house and ordering us to stay put while he went back in for her.  We watched in horror as the flames jumped out of the kitchen window. Those were the longest minutes and the worst day of my life. My Granddad couldn’t save my mother. It was too late.


Track 6

From the bus, I watch Beth wave from the sidewalk, growing smaller and smaller. I retrieve my earbuds, put them back in my ears and am surprised to find that the same song is playing, even though I definitely remember hitting pause.  I quickly turn around in my seat and look back at the street. “Penny Lane, there is a barber showing photographs of every head he’s had the pleasure to know…” My eyes dart to the swirling barber’s pole outside the shop. Mr. Pepper!

“Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout, a pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray…” Oh my god, Grandmum!

Just then, the fire lorry zooms past, “And the fireman rushes in from the pouring rain, very strange…” Granddad!

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies. Penny Lane.”

I turn back around and close my eyes.

Thanks Mum.


Track 7

I open my eyes and I am back in my own bed. The room is dark and I look at the glowing face of my alarm clock. 6:30PM, only ten minutes have passed since I left the dinner table. I hear footsteps outside my door and the doorknob turns. My Grandfather walks in, looking more tired than usual, but wearing a surprisingly cheerful expression. He sits down on my bed.

“Ruby, I …” he pauses and still hasn’t looked at me. His face looks sunken, the wrinkles on his cheeks looks like the ripples in water after you’ve thrown in a pebble. And yet, he looks different, better, as if he’s resolved something.

“Your mother, she was a very special person. When she died, you were very young and didn’t fully understand. I want to explain…”

I raise my eyebrows. What is going on? Why now?

“I haven’t been able to forgive myself for not being able to save her.  She was the reason that I retired. After that, I knew I could not continue. When she died, a little piece of me, of all of us, died with her.

“No, no Granddad. It was my fault.  If she hadn’t gone upstairs to get my blanket then none of this would have happened.”

He finally looks up at me in earnest. “Ruby, dearie, it seems that we share the same burden.  But you are not to blame.  It was my fault. I was the fireman and her father. Why wasn’t I able to save her?” He looks pained. “Well Rube, I’ll tell you why. Do you know how many years I was in fire department?”

“No, I don’t Granddad.”

“45 years. 45 years I fought fires, battled blazes, attacked the heat. In most cases, we saved everyone, no fatalities. But there were times when the people didn’t make it.” Granddad’s eyes suddenly became glazed over, as if he was reliving the past. “Dogs burned alive, sons burned alive, mothers burned alive! And every time we were left staring at a crumbling building, family members and friends sitting crying on the sidewalk, their hair streaked with ash. And, do you know what I was always thinking? ‘What if that was me?’ What if someone I loved was hurt and I was powerless to save them? That was my greatest fear.” His gruff voice was getting wobbly and his hands were starting to shake.

“So when I went to get your mother out of that burning kitchen, I was suddenly paralyzed. I couldn’t move beyond the doorway. Couldn’t move my feet.  My worst nightmare was coming true, happening right in front of my eyes. I was so scared Ruby.

“There is a rule that we follow in the fire department, after six minutes if you haven’t already gone in, then you should just stay out. I stood there for way more than six minutes. I was so cowardly, Ruby. She was my daughter. It was only when the fire started to spread towards me that I was broken out of my trance. I was way too late.”

His eyes are wet, but I can tell that a great weight has been lifted off of him in revealing this to me. I really don’t know what to say. But he does.

“I’m so sorry for the way that I’ve behaved these past several years. How I refused to cope with this and lived in denial. The way I ignored you. You are so, so precious,” he says.

We are quiet for a long time after that; each lost in our sadness.  Finally I know what to say.


“Yes Ruby?”

“When you were a fireman for the station in Liverpool, did you carry a portrait of the Queen in your pocket?”

He looks at me curiously, and I see a twinkle of young Michael Beckett in his eyes, the shared dimple in his cheek. He rises from the bed, and then returns moments later. He hands me a small frame with a black-and-white photo of a young woman wearing a dazzling crown.

“I used to take it with me wherever I went. I wanted to remember that I was serving our country. Why did you ask?”

“Oh, I just wanted to know,” I say, smiling up at him.

I raise my hand, fingers outstretched, palm facing out and he does the same. We put our palms together, and I see that his is still much larger than mine; bigger, stronger, protecting.


The End


A Crinkled Page

You bend down and pick up the crinkled page that I wrote this on.

You see these mysterious words and try to picture the anonymous writer; you are encapsulated.


Meanwhile, I walk down the hall after a long day,

inside a fog. I am encapsulated.


I leave the building and look out at the world in front of me.

By everyone I see, I am encapsulated


I pretend that I don’t see some, but I say hello to most.

The instant that I smile at their comforting, familiar faces, in my mind, they are encapsulated,


but as soon as the people pass, all I see are empty spaces in the outdoors

between the holes in the landscape. I am encapsulated.


I look down at my watch.

In that moment in time, we are encapsulated


I walk up the steps and through the doors, and as I infiltrate the entry, I pause to take a breath.

My lungs expand and I push out my rib cage in which my charred heart is encapsulated


I plop down in a desolate corner and I close my eyes.

Inside the darkness, I am encapsulated.


You toss this sheet of paper into the recycling bin and walk away.

You walk down the hall, move on with your life. In this simple action, your existence is encapsulated.