My Best Friend Loves Bananas by Tara Brecht

There have been red, tingling blisters covering my hand from a rope burn because he wanted to be a rebel. I have felt heavy legs from staying on his back after fighting a bucking fit. And I cannot forget the time he ran away—I can count the moments on my ten fingers. Once he ran only a mile into the hay field in front of his pasture when the water was done dripping off his skin and was soon replaced with brown splashes. This was after he had been scrubbed by my anxious hands at least three times; no one warned me about the hassles of having a white horse as my companion. There was also the occurrence of him taking off in the dark after a sweaty summer horse show. I felt as if my heart had jumped onto his back, running too fast so his white body was clashing with the black sky. But Patchez stopped his dance of terror. The stars were his savior that night and I am so thankful for their eyes.

Patchez was a surprise. He was already standing when I came back from school. But he was not supposed to be there. When I left eight hours earlier I only had one horse and now I had two. This was pretty confusing for a fourteen-year-old. The people who sold me Rosie told me a baby could be born in a month; the month came and there was no baby. I was not surprised until seven months later when I saw a white horse with brownish, redish spots. Happy is not a strong enough word to describe how I felt that day. Words were not needed. I stayed outside until dark because I was getting to know my new friend. And the next day my best friend came over to meet Patchez. She brought a card she made for him. He was beautiful then and he is beautiful now. I will never have a surprise party that beats Patchez’s birth.

It is weird to think about getting rid of something so big in my life. If I had to get rid of Patchez today then functioning would be surreal. I think I would forget how to breathe first. The daily life of going outside to feed him his hay is a sixth sense. My legs would be the next to go. They would cuddle into each other looking for comfort that would not be found. My stomach would be going simultaneously. My words would be turning into emotions that would turn into sad sickness. My fingers would desire my feet when there was nothing else touching my heart anymore. It would be a secluded world without wanting to feel anything anymore. I would rather be lonely in a place where I could hear warm nostrils overreaching my small shoulders.

Perfection was the realization that he does not necessarily need me in his life. He could have chosen any human to be his and he chose me. We are a collision of wanting to share the passion between our two companioned souls. And I love your nose kisses.

But I do not care about all those inflexible moments. It all comes down to how much I care about Patchez. He has been my constant friend for ten years. He has looked forward to feeling my presence with every new day, and he has always loved me no matter the result of his ride that day. “I am not going to do what you want even if I know what you want” is how I feel after a ride when he goes right when I ask for left. I have changed his name to Sass on these days. There are perfect rides where he responds to my body movement. We do not have to talk much on these days. Patchez’s ears are open—they are listening to the sound of the birds and the noises that I cannot hear. There is a prance in his step. He has always been one to be filled with spirit. And I relax. I am reminded that it is okay to just breathe sometimes.

I have learned that I am capable of learning new tasks and applying those to him. Patchez is more intelligent than I give him credit for. He is an expert at pushing my buttons as well. But you know what is cool? When my horse can keep his right foot planted as he turns in a tight circle because we have worked on it together. He understands what I am saying: walk, trot, lope, back, and whoa. There was an incident when he spooked and took off in unexpected bolt of three feet, only three feet because he listened to that shaken whoa. Another foot would have put us into a single, thin wire. I had never been more proud and relieved all at once. It is these moments that make me realize how much Patchez listens to me. It is not the way he holds his ears, but the soft, mist of his eyes. I feel the kindness every time he looks at me.

There is one word he does not enjoy hearing—“no.” Patchez stop eating your rope, brush, halter, and etc. If he can put it in his mouth then I only have one guess on where the item will end up. Patchez will start licking my back when I am not focused on him. It is as if he is saying I am here and I love you. He is that oversized dog that I should not bring in the house, but it does not stop him from licking my hand with his tongue with pleasure plastered on his face. I wish I could be as happy as he.

I like to sit on his back without saddle or direction as we watch the clouds dance and bugs sing. Sometimes I like to go outside just a half hour before the sunset to see it framed between Patchez’s ears. It is not a moment I need to capture on camera because the photo sets perfectly on the walls inside my brain. Have you ever seen a horse get so happy at the sight of four inches of grass? Patchez could live in that moment forever. I am a happy kid when I get sour patch candy and he is an ecstatic child with five snow days in a row at the sight of the green dessert.  He is simple in his manners; he enjoys treats of apples, carrots, bread, and bananas. Have you ever seen a horse eat a banana? He loves them as much as monkeys (probably more). It only takes five seconds for his teeth to mush it down his throat and come back begging for more. I love him more than fresh baked blueberry muffins and I am addicted to those.

Occasionally I wonder what others will think when I tell them one of my best friends is a horse. But I forget to care. I know he cannot talk back or tell me what I should do with my life. I know he cannot tell me everything is going to be all right. He doesn’t need to talk. Patchez shows it when he neighs after I ask if he is ready to explore the snow covered grass today. He loves to see what the world will bring; if I am coming out to visit him in the far field then I can always trust him to meet me halfway. People like to look into their lover’s eyes for comfort and I do the same thing, but Patchez’s eyes are full of: wonder, thoughts, and love that cannot be replaced by my boyfriend. My best friend’s eyes are like a new bedtime story. I am too intrigued by the words to fall asleep. When he is outside he runs with grace along the fence as he kicks up his heels that kiss the air. There is something powerful in watching him run fast enough while throwing all four hooves in the infinite.

My time with Patchez will not be forever because horses do not live forever. I know this. I will be able to hold onto the memories from kissing my back to sitting in the grass together. He loves me and I love him. But when he is my soul and my other half there is no way that I will have to say bye. The thought isn’t worth all the puppies in the world. And do not tell me he is just a horse. I mean you are simply a human.

 

Originally Published in the January/February 2016 Issue.

Breath by Taylor McAllister

This evening my friend Tom has asked me to accompany him to the bar. Trips to the bar are not my favorite thing in the world. Bars tend to be loud, cramped, and leave my wallet and my head regretting the venture in the morning. However, Tom guilted me with a reminder that I skipped out on playing Dungeons and Dragons a few days prior and this would be an excellent way of hanging out. Fine, I suppose I can suffer a bar for the sake of friendship. There has been snowfall all day so this would actually be a great time see what the world outside my room has transformed into. I put on my coat (not the nice one though; I am not trying to impress anyone) and follow Tom out into the white-powdered streets.

Winter has taken full arrest of the town. The trees and bushes became white masses in which their identity was veiled behind white ambiguity. Snow covers the ground just as it has in previous years. Everything loses their unique textures and colors, the winter veil creates a pause, perhaps even a rift, in time. The white silhouettes of tress and hills remind me of the northern trails I traversed on snowmobile as a youth.  The yet to be shoveled sidewalk became a fresh cross-country ski trail offer the temptation of being the first to traverse its path. The nip and bite of the chilled air is no more than a gentle touch on my cheek. The white silhouettes of tress and hills remind me of the northern trails I traversed on snowmobile as a youth. The longer I gaze the more blurred I become. That hill over there could be/is the one I jumped for the first time. That tree could be/is the one my cousin drove straight into. That lake is where I raced my father and uncle. I forget where and when I am/was as winter transports me to a different time and place.

I walk down the street towards the bar and I do not see the asphalt covered pathway; I see a snow covered trail tucked away in the arboreal lands in the North. To my left is not Tom, but my father. I see his once timeless grin as he drops his helmet visor and revs his snowmobile’s engine to a high pitch whine. Dad’s excitement becomes my own. My mom and sister already went back to the cabin. Now was the time when we could get away with our competitive, boyish shenanigans and not be reprimanded. We were about to race down the limestone trail and one of us would attain bragging rights if we reached the ferry before the other. This rare of moment of indulging in a guilty pleasure would not be wasted. I give my dad a lopsided grin, drop my own visor, and pin the throttle to the handlebar.

What I see next is not the limestone trail zooming past, racing at unreasonable speeds against my father, but the snow covered front of the bar. My father is gone, just like his hair and marriage, and Tom stands beside me shivering. He does not share the same sentiment for winter as I do. We walk into the bar to try and enjoy yet another wonderfully frigid day indoors amongst neighbors and strangers sharing space and numbing cheer. As I sit quietly at a table and observe my friend attempt to woo two girls (an ambitious bastard) I find myself longing to see my father’s grin again. I want to feel the exhilaration of reckless speed down a snow covered trail and the tinge of numb cheeks being reinvigorated as blood returns to its rightful place. Looking down at my glass I see the drudges of whiskey left behind. I quickly down the rest of it and feel it burn down my throat and settle its shallow warmth within my chest. The comfort of this drink will leave quickly, leaving only induced numbness and regrets soon after. At least the numbness that comes with winter’s chill the warmth of your cheeks returns with only a burning sensation. It feels as if that return of warmth burns you clean; life is brought back to you rather than taken. The burning sensation which accompanies alcohol leaves you feeling nothing. An abyss, which offers stunted sensations at best, engulfs you and isolates the warmth of anything from you.

Long after, and many drinks later, Tom forgoes his venture for human comfort and decides the box of Cheez-Its in his room is all the comfort he needs. I am happy to leave the bar. It was loud, hot, filled with heavily intoxicated and sweaty people; how can anyone find it appealing to even attempt create even a single night of fleeting romance out of such an environment? As we walk back our abode I look around for my father and the snow-laden trail. I long to once again live through that moment of joy, the once timeless grin, the ecstasy of speed, and the bragging rights that followed. None came to me. I could not even feel the loving chill of the wind. The thieving warmth of the whiskey numbed and stole from me what I desired most. Maybe I did so on purpose. As much as I wanted to re-live those memories, to return to the past, I also desperately wanted to avoid them. I knew that those memories would leave me, and I would once again be left in the present and the unknown of the future. The shadows ahead I fear more than those I have travelled through already.

As my mind traverses these thoughts Tom ventures drunkenly ahead. I watch him stumble gallantly forward; I do not feel like hastening my pace to keep up with him. He is swerving back and forth rather violently. Not enough to be in any real danger, but a straight line is an abstract idea to him at this point. As I watch Tom I begin seeing the snow covered trails once again. Tom began another metamorphosis, this time into my cousin Ryan as I watched him ride his snowmobile down a trail. It was Ryan’s first time driving a snowmobile by himself. My father had asked me to stay behind Ryan and make sure he stayed with the group and did not hurt himself. I loathed the employ given to me, but I accepted it anyways. Someone had to watch the young one as he learned. He followed the bend of the trail at too swift a speed and lost control of his snowmobile, crashing into a tree and wrecking the front end of the machine. I saw my cousin lay in the snow crying, feeling like he had done the worst thing in his life. I could not, did not, console him. I saw this as part of the learning experience. He was not hurt, only a machine had been damaged, which could be fixed, this was something he had to get through on his own. After the tears ceased I walk up to him and offer my hand; he learned something invaluable from this experience, something that is his alone. As I lift up Ryan I no longer see him. I see Tom, who hit a tree drunkenly, being brought back to his feet. Winter gave me another memory in which to re-live for only moment.

The uniformity of winter creates a world that is all too similar to the past. The stillness of winter slows down time and allows one to look back and experience what happened before. This small and unassuming adventure with Tom on a winter’s night will be engrained within my memory not because of what we did that evening, but because of what that winter night allowed me to recall. Come spring this seasonal safety of the past melts with the snow and the dangers of an unknown future begin to threaten once again. I look at Tom and see him simply enjoying the moment. I do not know if he has seen fragments of the past tonight, or if he is worried about the future. All that he is focused on is right now.

I envy that. I envy that enjoyment of the present. I am always longing for the known past or worrying about the unknown future, the unattainable elements of life. How can one revel in the present? I am not sure. I continue to watch and listen to Tom as we traverse the snow-laden, concrete trails of the town. The answer comes in the smallest of moments. Tom stops in his forward motion and looks up at the stoplight. “Look Taylor,” he says, “this would make a beautiful picture that captures the essence of a small town’s winter night.” He was right. The road was covered with snow and only a handful of tire tracks created seams in winter’s blanket; slow and lazy snowflakes loft down from the heavens, as if those snowflakes were in no hurry; and the stoplight blinked red, illuminating the entire scene for only a flash of time. This was how to live in the present. Simply admire what is around you and love it for the time it is around. I smile at Tom both in thanks but also because he is talking about his ambitious love life. Maybe Tom does not have all the answers to life. “Come on Tom, let’s head back, tomorrow is another day.”

 

Originally Published in the January/February 2016 Issue.

The Khaibut by Jesse Cornea

            Mr. Cornea, you recently started smoking. Not your greatest decision, I’ll admit. You have these moments of inspired insanity, like your decision to leap up and smoke while reading a peer paper—because it moved you in such a way that you figured enlightenment could only be found at the end of a burning cigarillo—or your decision to jump off of your grandfather’s pontoon boat, the wind slicing through your hair and the water breaking like glass beneath your impact, the weight of everything slipping up and around you. It is in these moments that I think you slip. Not the kind of slip that ends in the bone-crunch or blood-splatter of impact, but a slip into something else: a slip of the transcendental, a slip into where the angels and demons play poker, where human souls are the chips and where the winner takes all. It’s a slip into eternity. Maybe it’s the nicotine, the alcohol, the whatever-your-dependency-of-the-month is [1]. Sometimes you see the sky black with so many crows or even darkened by the wings of infinitude of bats, you cannot fathom sunlight anymore. Or those nights where the moon turns the night into an almost-day, casting shadows in the darkness; shadows that move, dancing and slithering around you as you walk alone, your grease smattered Cloud Atlas accompanying you, the Sextet [2] ringing painfully in your ears.
            I know you keep finding reasons to stay awake until four in the morning. Your neurons burn like live-wires—jolting you back to consciousness as soon as your eyes shut. You think about everything and yet feel like you’ve gotten nowhere. The Egyptians believed that you have seven souls. Your personal favorite? The seventh soul khaibut—your shadow. The Egyptians believed that the shadow was free to journey wherever it wished, especially at night. It would traverse the spirit world and the real world. For the Egyptians, that was where the dreams came from. Snippets of what the shadow saw and experienced when it sojourned into realms unknown. And your shadow? It has taken up residence at [3] August 7th, 2012.
            When Gary Reynolds left the folds of this world, he had the discourtesy to do it right in front of you. He couldn’t wait until they whisked him away to the blare of sirens and the flash of lights. He had to leave there, on the lawn, the water lapping up the last of his soul. You were powerless the whole time. You barely did anything. In your head, it plays like badly filmed camera footage, the glare of the sun rendering everything but the water grainy and dream-like. You hand out pieces of chocolate and small glasses of milk in some sort of bastardized, diabetic communion. You still can’t eat Hershey’s chocolate. It tastes like death, like ash and star-matter in your mouth. You prowl through the internet, reading his obituary [4], the pathetic five sentence news article posted on the 9&10 News website. His obituary says that he loved NASCAR and fishing. They don’t mention that he was a recovering alcoholic. They don’t mention that he couldn’t swim. It is a tad ironic, is it not, that we remember the dead as we want to remember them, not as they were? Dead men tell no tales and the tales we tell of them are tall.
            It is strange to think of him as alive. You never heard him speak—or breathe for that matter. You never saw him look like he was alive. You never met him, not before the screams came from the water and you and yours rushed out to help him and his. You just saw him on death’s door, at the end. And by what right were you there? Was it chance; was it coincidence? That you, Mr. Cornea—of all people—were there to witness Gary Reynold’s death? It could have been fate, a choice of some divine power, something or someone who wanted you to see it. And if it was, isn’t it strange that a man you never met had been chosen to be the one who showed you the nature of death? Perhaps you were just there by circumstance, by sheer dumb luck. Either way, it was the death that has consumed you.
            And where is the reasoning behind it? In what way was that a part of the plan and why can’t you purge his wife’s screams from your head? You’ll never get the chance to meet Gary Reynolds. No formal introduction, no handshake, no snap of picture by some over-enthused news reporter who can’t wait to write an article about the morbidly obese man who was saved by a family of vacationers. Not even an awkward run-in on the lake, where the pontoon that your dad always complains about taking out—yet insists to pilot—passes just a little too close to the boat that Gary is resting on and he looks up, hand shielding his eyes from the sun and says hello. You respond with an awkward wave and then continue, not really remembering the interaction until years later, where your focus will be on your father anyway. But still, it won’t happen. Nor will there ever be strange conversation about the weather at the boat launch where he’ll be behind your dad in line and bemoan the wait while a group of children play pirates with the reed stalks that grow like fingers on the river. Gary Reynolds is the man that you’ll never meet.
            And maybe that’s the part that bothers you most. It is the first time you lost something that you never had. You realized that despite the nature of the death—whether it be murder or car crash or drowning—the leaving of the ka [5] does not change. That the wound may ache for the embrace of the knife but the soul will leave regardless. That is the truth. The quietness of it, the way it makes no announcement of its arrival. Death makes no grand entrance or exit. So all your romantic thoughts of how terribly tragic it would be if you died, well they died there. There’s no romance in death, just death. Everyone wants to hear the truth until they hear it. You want the truth? [6] It is far easier to live the lie. The truth doesn’t care how much of your soul it rips out of your chest. If he had been murdered—terrible thing for you to wish by the way—maybe things would have been different. Maybe you wouldn’t have to do away with the lies. Lies lie upon each lie you lay.
            And your shadow still lingers in those moments, watching Gary’s ka “pas de chat ” [7] into the afterlife. You wonder if he was the least bit relieved to shuck this body and world like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. His life wasn’t easy. And his wife was odd. When you swam out there, she demanded to be rescued first, as if your little inflatable dingy was the last lifeboat leaving the Titanic [8]. Women and children first, but what about your husband ma’am? He is floating face-down in the water. And there he was, the Titanic himself. It was a battle to get him almost into the raft and then race back to shore. And then the EMTs showed up and you would have thought that the Three Stooges were in charge because those people had no clue what to do or what was going on. They would fall over each other trying to resuscitate him and would drop equipment all over the lawn. You would have laughed, had a man’s life not been on the line.
            Your older brother was beside himself, trying to remember the training he had as a lifeguard, his flying swan-leap off of a jet-ski going full throttle seeming like wasted theatrics now that Gary was dying on the beach. The eldest, Jake, sat with his hands covering his face and his elbows resting on his knees; while Joel—the younger—kept asking you about the boat motor and if it was going to be alright; Jenna was hyper-ventilating: and through it all, you just watched. You just stood there, after having swam out after them. You were silent, standing vigil over a dying man. If you try to, you can remember your shadow lounging on the side of the neighbor’s house while the kids from next door were into your grandpa’s cottage. That’s where your khaibut remains; there on that wall, while police officers, EMTs, and volunteer firefighters try to bring Gary back from Eden.
            August 7th, 2012. It would be naïve to believe that it was the day everything changed. Nothing changed at all. No, it was the day that you left your shadow behind, your imprint on time. Our deeds are like shadows: depending upon whether we run towards or away from the sun they lie either behind us or before us. You must have heard that somewhere before. You really want to stop slipping, convince your shadow that Gary—poor, poor Gary—isn’t worth all of this. That his ka and your khaibut need to be separated so you can sleep; so that the screams and the confusion no longer keep you up at night, no longer keep the neurons misfiring; so when someone asks you to tell the story, the room doesn’t slip away for a moment, leaving you on the shore of an all-too-familiar shoreline surrounded by all-too-unfamiliar people. And yet, you feel that it is your only real connection. You don’t want to forget; you don’t want your shadow to leave because some days it is almost comforting. On the nights where you can pick out your own shadow in the half-light of the moon, its form pirouetting around trees and leaping over benches, you think that perhaps Gary’s khaibut is still out there somewhere—that perhaps it is residing in such a dream.

 


 

[1] I know that addiction is a serious matter and I would not ever try to make light of it. But it would appear that my many vices vary from month to month ranging from brushing my teeth to alcohol. Could most commonly be alcohol.

[2] The Cloud Atlas Sextet was arranged by Tom TykwerReinhold HeilJohnny Klimek, and Gene Pritsker, for the movie Cloud Atlas directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy and Lana Wachowski. The book was underrated and the movie was less than great. But the music. Just listen to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdiLxyGH8Lg

[3] Time is more about location than actual…time. For instance, if you are traveling around a black hole some 100 light-years from our solar system, you could experience 51 Earth-years for every minute spent in orbit. Time is relative. But more than that, there’s something else. Time is the fourth dimension, in a way. It exists and therefore should always exist. For instance, you are looking at a cube straight on. From your perspective the three-dimensional cube will appear to be a two-dimensional square until you change your perspective so that you can see that it is not just a square. Now take the way you experience the universe, in three dimensions. The fourth dimension has to exist, you just can’t see it. We can observe the effects of time on objects, sure. But we can’t actually touch or interact with time on any visceral level. But, just like the square-that-is-a-cube, that time exists, which sort of has a predestination vibe to it. All time must already exist just like all sides of the cube do but we cannot get the perspective to interact with it. It isn’t how we are wired. Kind of takes away the whole “you are master of your fate” thing. Your fate was decided with the Big Bang.

[4] Gary Lee Reynolds, 52, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 in Rapid City. Born on May 4, 1960 in Lapeer, he was the son of the late Clarence and Viola (Parrott) Reynolds. Gary is the beloved husband of Cindy; the devoted father of Lee Reynolds of Louisiana, Landon (Haley) Reynolds and Jaclyn Reynolds all of Kalkaska; the loved grandfather of LeeAnn and Lucia Reynolds, Noah, Macy and Harper Reynolds; and the cherished brother of Manley (Leila) Reynolds of Lapeer, Marie McGlashen of North Branch, Glen Reynolds of Atlanta, Vicki (Paul) Anderson of Imlay City, Herb Reynolds of North Branch, Terry (Royce) Thomas of Kalkaska and Clarence (Cindy) Reynolds of Lapeer. Gary married Cindy Dupuie on July 12, 1986 in Kalkaska. He worked in the oil fields in Kalkaska and most recently for American RV in Burton as a diesel mechanic for the last 15 years. His hobbies included fishing and NASCAR racing. Gary loved spending time with his family and walking in the “great” outdoors. Gary was preceded in death by his brother, Bradley Reynolds. Visitation will be held on Friday, August 10th from 5:00 until 8:00 pm at Wolfe-O’Neill Funeral Home. The funeral service will be on Saturday at 11:00 am at the Kalkaska Church of Christ with Dan Johnson officiating. Burial will be at Deerfield Township Cemetery. Memorials may be given to Gary’s family payable to Cindy, c/o Wolfe-O’Neill Funeral Home, 106 S. Cherry St., Kalkaska, MI 49646. Online condolences can be left at www.wolfeoneill.com. Arrangements were made by Wolfe-O’Neill Funeral Home, our family serving yours.

[5] The Egyptian word for the soul as we understand it in pop culture. It is a very western idea of the soul. That it leaves and goes to the afterlife after life.

[6] You can’t handle the truth.

[7] Translated, it means the “step of the cat.” A difficult ballet leap to perform, it is where the dancer jumps sideways. While in the air, she bends both legs up as high as possible while keeping her knees apart. The result is the legs form a diamond shape while in the air. Leaving isn’t easy. Endings aren’t easy.

[8] When you think about the Titanic, you think tragedy. Yet, it is kind of funny that the unsinkable ship sank on its maiden voyage. The Titanic was as much a victim of bad circumstance as Gary was: just tooting along until BAM. You sink. You drown. Navigation, that of a ship or a man, is as much a matter of luck as it is direction when on the water. Disaster can strike anywhere; from a sudden field of icebergs in an ocean to a sudden drop-off in a lake. There is not much you can do. As Captain Ron (title character of the movie Captain Ron) once said: If anything’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.

 

Published in the October 2015 Issue

The Forest in My Lungs: A Collection of Origin Stories by Hannah Somalski

Namesake

Poppies the color of blood hum with the bees and purr with the
stray cat curled into great grandma’s lap as she crochets in her
cheap lawn chair, glasses falling down her hooked nose and
late-spring wind sifting through her short, iron-colored curls.

Bedtime Stories

“Six weeks early, in the middle of a blizzard, at night while everyone
else sleeps, on the eve of the first moon.” Mom says, taking a
moment to shake her head, quietly grinning her proud-parent
smile, “You were always one for dramatic entrances.”

Her entire self pauses.

“I hadn’t even learned to breathe yet.”

Anxiety

The greasy mole man with his yellow-toothed snarl controls the
system override switch. Normally he sleeps. But only if it is dark.
Only if it is quiet.

When the lights are too bright or someone speaks too loud or
something moves too fast, he starts to stir, his tiny shrew eyes
squinting against the disturbance. But if my world settles, so does
he, burrowing back into the dirty little home he’s made for himself
in the moldy crease between my dreams and common sense. The
place he sleeps smells of nervous sweat and guilt-fueled self-loathing; a sort of briny rot.
Preferring to be in a constant state of dormancy, the mole man sneers when woken, groggily toggling and tickling the switch, his long, jaundiced nails casually twirling around the idea of accidentally slipping.

Christmas Cookie Monster

GG teaches me to make magic with sugar, flour, butter, and eggs. Daddy laughs that it’s GG’s secret spells that made Grandpa diabetic. But I’m pretty sure it’s the sugar.

Night Terror

When I’m old enough to know how, dad makes me kill my own spiders. He won’t admit that it’s because he’s more afraid of them than me. When I’m four and in bed and barely awake and my lungs force out a scream that only comes from a place that isn’t myself, he saunters sleep-drunk from his room, to mine, finding my mother already rushed from her room, holding me close, and staring at the black that circles and bumps against the white ceiling. My mom has to tell him to get the tennis racket. That the bat might have rabies. And she just says, “I know” every time I whisper, with eyes telescope-wide, “Mumma, it’s a trampfire bat.”

Daymares

Walking into the kitchen of my childhood, the smell of freshly-born spring grass and damp earth is muted by the drone of hundreds of bees, milling on the window, just above the sink.

Bear Hugs/The Third Time I See Dad Cry

Coated in bourbon breath, his walrus mustache bristles against my ear. He sniffles, sighs, and holds me tighter. Reciting again how my acceptance letter came in the mail. How proud of me he was. How happy he was. I tell him I can’t breathe, that his arms are too strong. But he can’t hear over his stifled hiccups, snot, and salt. He lets go eventually but hugs me again and again, each time crushing a little more his microscope focused on my imperfections. And he incants, like memorized prayer, how proud, how proud, how proud.

Wisdom

In the throne room of my subconscious, the crow queen has her jeweled hand kissed by some repressed memory. She sneers, the metallic black feathers of her neck fluffing her discontent, as she retracts her hand, declares that it’s end of visiting hours and stands on her sturdy stilt legs. Obsidian eyes slitted, the crow queen stalks to my library. She finds comfort in the smell of cedar wood and old leather, settling her shuffled feathers at my desk. The crow queen sighs through her slackened beak and begins sifting through my yesterdays. Collecting what matters, the crow queen folds her bony hands together in her lap, and, disappointed, closes her obsidian eyes to my world.

Published in the October 2015 Issue

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