The two of ‘em are having a real bad time changing Dwayne’s diaper, cursing and yelling for me to come out there and hold down Dwayne’s legs. But I can’t. I’m not done pouting. Mamma said I looked like a brood sow in my blue jean skirt, and Clarke’s still on my grievance list ‘cause he peed on my blue rug. Ms. Price would call that there irony, which is like opposite world, Clarke being a grown man and changing a nine-year-old’s diaper but going tinkle on my bedroom floor in the middle of the night. He apologized. Said he was dreaming he was back in Desert Storm and needed to show them Iraqis a what for. Then Mamma said he wasn’t in no Desert Storm and that he should know better than to drink fourteen beers when she’s not here to see to Dwayne.
I was embarrassed for Clarke while it was happening, so I stayed under the covers with Jeep while he finished his business. Jeep’s a real silky black cat with one white paw, and she’s never peed on my blue rug. She did pee on Dwayne’s blanket, but Dwayne didn’t notice ‘cause he’s got dystonic cerebral palsy and pees in a plastic jug himself.
Please don’t tell anyone. They’ll make fun of me and already they do enough of that. Boys aren’t supposed to have fairy godmothers. And boys have other meanings for the word ‘fairy.’ They already call me enough names.
My fairy godmother’s name is Fée Marraine. I can’t pronounce it. I always say Pee Marinade. She doesn’t seem to mind. Some years ago, I try to tell my mother about her. I climb onto the counter while Mom cooks chicken for dinner. I know how Mom like to share recipes with her friends. Pee tells me a chicken recipe and I want to share it with Mom. I say, “Ma, want help from Pee Marinade?”
Mom looks at me with a horror-filled face. “Why would you say that?”
I cry. I know I disappoint her terribly. I’m not very good at understanding what someone else is feeling. But, when she looks at me, I see love in her eyes while the rest of her body is frustration and sadness. I know I should be a better boy. I try so hard. I never know why I fail. Every night, I pray about it. I know all of the incantation’s magic words like hallowed, kingdom, trespasses, and temptation. But I never be a better boy. Pee says it’s not my fault. She says: “Contrary to the wisdom, the fault isn’t in ourselves but in our stars.” Continue reading
The secretaries who worked in his father’s outer office didn’t even say hello to Casey. That was because two of them weren’t really a secretaries at all but just students at the university. They kept typing on their typewriters and listening to their Dictaphones. And Mrs. Tish, the real secretary for the outer office, didn’t say “hello” either because she was talking on the telephone back at her desk.
Well, it didn’t matter. Casey walked right past the secretaries’ desks into the second office.
“Hello, young man.” said Mrs. Paskow, who was his father’s personal secretary. She had a drawer of one of the file cabinets open.
“Is he here?” said Casey.
But he had already gone over to the door and looked in. What he saw was his father’s big desk and his father’s big chair pushed back from the desk and the painting of rounded hills of corn fields and rounded trees up on the wall behind his father’s chair.
PART I: ERASMUS
The autumn breeze quivers my tiny, cotton collar. I survey the pumpkins lying haphazardly on Stuart’s Farm. Then I call out in the high-pitched voice of a three-year-old: “Pun’kin! Pun’kin!”
Susan’s red hair cascades into my stroller, shrouding my view. “Which pumpkin do you want, sweetie?”
I have never felt a propensity toward gourd shopping, especially not in Granite Springs, though now that she insists that I voice my opinion, I have no choice but to share it. I pull her hair aside.
“That one!” I point to the farthest and largest pumpkin in the patch, which takes us five minutes to approach.
Upon closer inspection of the plant, I reject it by stomping my feet against the stroller. I never tire of this performance, not in all my twenty-eight years of experience. Truly, the acting is unnecessary. This performance is something I add for pleasure. I am the epitome of toddlerhood. I have a small, button nose, large eyes, and peach-colored cheeks. Besides, with the right words and a little peas-blossom, I take on the exact appearance of the child I replace. When looking at me, you would never guess that I am middle- aged. Hardly! My skin has the sour and sweet perfume of diapers and baby powder. The fact that Susan has dressed me up for this inane holiday seems superfluous, and frankly, ridiculous. I do not want to be dressed as a stegosaurus. I am already pretending, why should I put on another mask?
“Hairy, airy, Sophie- four eyes, four eyes!”
Every word is punctuated by a sharp slap, a swift kick, and a trickle of warm spit.
Then Mrs Maleigh appears on the porch, ringing the brass bell.
The flushed tormentors scurry into the schoolroom, leaving Sophie Turner to sit up.
Snow powders her tattered coat. She’s lost one of her precious winter gloves, but there’s no time to look for it. She hurries after her classmates, knowing full-well why she is singled out.
The other children can smell it on her, the oddness. She isn’t a townie. She wears patchy old clothes and too-big boots. Her frizzy black hair won’t sit in a sleek, fat plait like the other little girls’, and she has a pair of thick glasses like two telescopic lenses.
As Miss Maleigh begins her lessons, mean fingers pinch one of Sophie’s old bruises. She bites her lower lip. Another pinch… and another, punctuated by giggles. Then the fingers start on her hair. One, two- three frizzy threads are yanked out by the roots.
Two days into November and the last ghoulies, the hold-outs, charged the roads of their neighborhood. Disguised as the living dead, a man of superior strength, an out-of-touch hippie. “Trick or treat!” they called into the clouds. The sun dipped an hour earlier, dark fell by 5:30. Those boys in their costumes, those tricky disguises, they demanded treats, still.
While two nights prior, the hours after Halloween night, most costumes were tucked into closets, or walked into basements, or hidden under beds, maybe to be handed down to a younger sibling in the coming year. The city’s girls and boys and babies and adolescents stripped the layers of ghoulish make-up from their grins. And in mirrors, they frowned. For it was over! They had the treats, the candy, the sugar highs, yet, it was all truly over…
Send Her Fruit and Flowers
by Charles Haddox
“You won’t find pepper trees this size anywhere outside the tropics. They have to be kept above seventy degrees at all times.” The guide rattled on and on.
With thirteen-year old impatience, I was aching for the water lilies and bromeliads. I let Selene, an extremely forward girl from one of the upper grades who was supposed to be a “student mentor,” rub my arm because it was stinging. Arielle had tackled me, just for the hell of it, inside a greenhouse while the teachers weren’t looking. She had also given me a punch that clearly hurt her more than it did me. In front of the adults, Arielle put on her best Ellen Terry impression, soulfully imbibing the scents of flowers and gently parading a shiny Noble Chafer on her soft little palm. If the beetle had been one of her fellow classmates, she would have crushed it with glee.
Outside the love hotel, cars inched like phantom limbs on wet concrete. The tattooed artist from last night had already left. Dora took a shower, careful not to scrub off his stippling flower drawings from her breasts, then snaked between clashing umbrellas on the way home.
Her name was short for Theodora, named after her mom’s best friend, who had regular bouts of paranoid schizophrenia and eventually overdosed on antipsychotic pills in a gas station toilet. She told herself it was fate that she ended up in Japan, for her name translated into just what she was: stray.
Strays rarely experienced the true meaning of hominess. Instead, they inhaled life’s multifaceted feels in transit and discarded old bruises, ready to be picked up by another orphan. Continue reading
Aidan bangs on my door, yelling at me to “get up already, faggot.” This is usual. What isn’t usual, though, is the fact he keeps saying he needs to show me something. Against my better judgment, I get up and unlock the door. Aidan barges in and I shriek, throwing my hands up out of instinct. Aidan is pointing at me with a handgun.
“I’m not gonna shoot you, Parker. I’m not an asshole.” Aidan laughs and lowers the weapon. “Pretty sweet, though, huh?”
I ask where the hell he got the thing. He says he found it in Dad’s gun cabinet in the basement – the combination is on a notecard in his nightstand. Then, he hands it to me and calls me a wimp. The thing is heavier than I thought it’d be. Continue reading