Excerpt from The Family Jones

Siddhi and I conquered I-95 from Miami to New York with thumb wrestling, hangman, and sleep. “Gonna be great for us, munchies…” Jackson muttered, waking us both up just in time for a look at the City skyline. I wondered if we would ever see home again, or if we even had enough money to live in the real world, and I whispered my worries to Siddhartha, but then he started to look down and wring his hands like he always did when he got scared, so I cut it out.

“The Catskills,” Jackson said, pointing his finger at the purplish shadows rising out of a never-ending bed of green forest. A mom would have packed snacks. The three whole years of whatever I’d experienced with my own mother had long been squashed into the forgotten corners of my brain by the next nine years of newer, shittier memories, like the past sixteen hours of Jackson driving ninety miles per hour, the constant beeeeep of his Fuzzbuster insisting he slow down, and all the while with him mumbling how this guru was going to help him straighten out, get right.

Jackson turned onto a gravelly road that led to a huge, grassy field in the forest, then up a hill past a pair of old brown barns where a bunch of goats stood around nervously, like they were waiting to take a math test. Another quarter mile from the barns, and Jackson pulled up to a circle of little cottages—yellow clapboard with lacy white porch rails—and parked at the sign that said, “MAIN OFFICE.”

On the lawn outside, a circle of naked women in socks upended themselves into headstands. They looked like a rack of lamb.

* * *

Baba Goshananda sat atop his velvet pillow. He wore an orange fabric diaper wrapped around his hot cocoa body. He had long white hair and beard, and he looked like naked Indian Santa. He seemed kind and only said Yoda-like things that sounded important.

“Inside this sanctuary is your home,” he said. “I bring to you, share to you, my peace.” The people, Jackson among them, made happy humming, yum-yum sounds as if Baba had popped Hershey’s Kisses in their mouths; some wept. “Outside these valls, you may mire yourselves in desire and fill up your mind vit your attachments. But here vit me, in me, in love, there is freedom, and in freedom vee sit, vee meditate, and vee release.”

If I’d chosen, like Siddhi, to hang out at the rope swings and play with the little kids, I’d never be held to any grown-up standard, but I was a horrible meditator. The first day I counted to a thousand Mississippi, and the second day I took a nap. The rest of the week I opened my eyes and peered around at other people, studying the lengths of their breaths and the shapes of their bodies, especially Sister April, not least because Jackson had started sleeping in her cottage. She was beautiful, as per usual for my father’s women. She had big, freckly boobs, and she threaded chains of daffodils through her flaxen hair. She’d been a schoolteacher in Princeton, New Jersey, she told us over dinner, but she heard the call of her spirit guide and left her family so she could find herself.

“You should meet Wren,” Sister April said. “Brother Bill and Sister Nancy’s girl. That one’s full of beans.”

Baba taught that clothing was a barrier to truth. So everyone at the ashram was supposed to be a nudist, but each wore some combination of woolen socks, ponchos, scarves, beads, blankets, bandanas, barrettes, and flowers. I looked down at my own body. Sienna is afraid of truth, I imagined Baba thinking. So, I took off my T-shirt and underpants, mortified by my little poof of black pubic sprouts, and I fidgeted too much, sighed, sniffed, cleared my throat, and styled my long curly hair to cover my chest.

“How much longer?” I asked Jackson. He ordered me out to play.

* * *

Wren Raintree had been sick in the infirmary for the week. Sister April said she had hypochondria, which I thought sounded serious, but when I asked Wren about her condition, she said, “Tell April I had fuck-you-itis.”

Wren was fourteen, and to my delight, she treated me like I was too, and she was taller than I, and skinnier, and with full boobs where I only had nipple-grapes. Her hair was even longer and blacker than mine, and straight with no frizz. She said she was Black Irish.

“But you look like a white person to me?”

“Shut up, stupid!” She laughed.

Her parents used to be normal, she told me, but after they almost died in a plane crash the year before, they went crazy, moved here, and changed their last name to Raintree. “When we lived in White Plains,” she said, “my last name was McGuire.” I wanted to joke how at least Wren had both of her crazy parents, but the thought only made me long for my mother.

Wren was funny. In the buffet line she’d say, “Mmm, I wanna stick my penis into the mashed potatoes” and “I wanna make sweet, sweet love to that split pea soup.” Once, she fanned the air near her crotch toward my face. “Hey Sienna, smells like organic broccoli, right?”

“Sort of,” I agreed, marveling at how her fart smelled vaguely green.

She made funny faces out of her leftover scraps and polished my nails and toes black with pink dots. And she was a serious yogi, far more skilled and flexible than I. “Yoga helps you be awesome at sex,” she told me from downward dog. Her naked vagina looked like a scream.

She looked backward through the V of her legs to where I sat behind her. “Wait, are you still a virgin?”

I attempted cleverness. “We’re both virgins, because we haven’t seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Wren shook her head. “Seen it three times. So, um, that makes you a double virgin,” she said, giggling.

Being a double virgin made me feel broken somehow, because Wren seemed so satisfied not to be any sort of virgin at all.

* * *

As the eldest kid, Wren ran the job wheel. She assigned herself to bunk cleanup, and I got the “most important job” of scaring the seagulls off the compost heap by the barns.

I got a few of them to fly up and then land back down on the heap, up and back down, until a man approached and asked me to stop frightening the birds.

“But it’s my official job,” I argued.

“Is it, now?” he asked. He wasn’t a teenager, but he was much younger than Jackson.

“Wren Raintree told me to do it,” I explained. He smiled, accentuating a Rob Lowe level of cheekbone gorgeousness.

“Okay, Little Sister,” he chuckled. “Wren was pulling your leg. See, the seagulls eat from our compost and then poop all around here, and we mix it all up with the manure over there”—he gestured somewhere past me near the barn, his voice like warm cookies. “The seagulls are a part of this community, and we love them, just like we love you.” My face went hot when he said he loved me and made me hate being naked even more than usual, and I crossed my arms across my chest.

“I’m Sienna.” I didn’t want to be his little sister.

“Mojave,” he said. “Do you smell that?” he asked. I smelled a lot of things, rot and pine needles, the barbecue smoke of the burn pile, cow turds on the breeze from the pasture, and when Mojave put his arm around my shoulder, I smelled his skin, musky like the woods.

He leaned us over the compost heap and took a big sniff. “That, Little Sister, is the scent of transformation. Baba teaches that nothing ever dies, only transforms into something else. Everything is compost, even us.” Jackson said stuff like that all the time, but he didn’t hug you at the same time.

The next morning, I returned to meditation so I could watch Brother Mojave. He sat still in the lotus. His shaggy brown hair lopped over darker brown sideburns that faded out along his jawline. His pubic hair was lighter than Jackson’s, which made his penis look bigger, and because he wore shorts and sneakers to run every morning, his tushy and feet were whiter than the sandy-brown rest of him.

I kept my crush a secret from Wren.

* * *

“What do you mean you haven’t done a gather walk?” Sister Liana accused me. “What do you do with your work time?”

Wren and I usually spent work time laughing at entries in the communal journals, adding prank passages of our own, rifling through people’s stuff, holding scavenger hunts for the little boys, and doing each other’s hair and nails.

Wren stepped in front of me, hands on her hips mimicking Sister Liana, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. “Sister Sienna’s been helping Brother Mojave mix the compost every day,” Wren lied. Mojave stopped chopping his chard to listen and half smiled, exposing a complicit dimple. “She even helped him mend the garden fence.” He raised his eyebrows at that one.

Brother Mojave nodded to Sister Liana and shot me a wink, which shivered in my thighs.

“Can you do without her for a spell?” Sister Liana asked. “I really need this today.”

“Of course,” he said. “But she’s the best, so just for today.”

“Don’t you need my help?” Wren asked him in a tone I’d never heard from her, needy, like she’d finally reached the cupboard and found it bare.

Mojave looked back down at his cutting board. “Nope. You can help Little Sister.” I felt a shameful relief when he rejected her.

Wren and I chatted while gathering a bushel basket of dandelion greens, sorrel, and wild chives, then got quiet for a while. The sun was brutal so we took the woods back to camp, each holding a handle of the basket, until Wren said, “I didn’t lose my virginity to my boyfriend.” I said nothing, hoping for more. “When my parents went away on their trip to California, the one where on the way back their plane crashed, they left me with my aunt and uncle.” Wren stopped walking. “And on the second night they were gone, Uncle Sean came into my room in the middle of the night and put his hand over my mouth and, you know…then.”

She picked up a stone and threw it hard at a tree trunk. I had so many questions, but I stood still and quiet. I didn’t want to do anything to keep her from finishing. “So, yeah, that’s how I lost my virginity, and then the plane crashed, and it was all insane and they went crazy and took me to like ten therapists, and everyone cried all the time and hugged me saying thank goodness I wasn’t with them, that I was safe.”

I wanted to hug her and say I was sad for her, but Wren wasn’t like that. So I nodded. Then she turned and grabbed my arms and dug her polka-dot fingernails into my skin. “I never told anyone that. Ever.”

“But, you can always tell—”

“Shut the fuck up and listen!” She squeezed me tighter. “If you ever, ever even think about telling, I swear, I will never be your friend again.”

I crossed my heart and swore on my life I’d never tell, even if she weren’t my friend anymore, even if she hated me. Then she released me with a little shove.

I wanted to ask her why they hadn’t taken her to California, if Uncle Sean had come to her room more than the one time, if we should report him to someone, but that all seemed wrong. “My mother died from drugs,” I blurted.

At the forest edge, back at the camp, Wren showed me how to harvest fiddleheads. “Liana will love these,” she said. “Plus she’ll feel guilty for bitching you out.”

* * *

“You guys wanna come play tag?” Siddhi asked outside the morning meditation.

“Nah. I’ll catch up with you at lunch,” I said. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with Siddhi. Really, I missed him tons, but Wren and I were naughty girls, and I didn’t want to subject innocent Siddhi to Wren’s and my wild ways. I still ate with him and read with him and checked on him often, and my bunk was right next to his, because I could be the real me with Siddhi during the times when Wren went off by herself.

Wren got to us before Siddhi left, and I worried she’d say or do something I couldn’t explain. He already asked me daily if I knew when we were headed home, but with what little we saw of Jackson, it was anybody’s guess.

Siddhi scratched at his peeling forehead. He’d been so badly sunburned I made him wear some departed kid’s long-sleeved shirt from the lost pile.

Wren walked up. “How ya doin’, fuckers?” She had an elaborate fishtail braid in her hair, which she’d promised to teach me.

I turned Siddhi by his waist and nudged him toward the other kids on the ball pitch. “Go, Siddhartha!” He looked wounded, but he obeyed. I called behind him, “I’ll eat lunch with you, okay?” But he’d already broken into a run.

“Hey,” Wren said, giving me a friendly yank on my not-as-good braid, “want a piece of gum?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. We hadn’t had real sugar in over two months.

“’Kay,” she said, and then bent her knees and stretched a piece of her vagina lips toward me. “Here you go! Already-been-chewed gum.” I stuffed my shock and skipped straight to laughing.

While Wren and I rearranged all the magnets on the schedule board, I told her how I wished I could go to real school and how we were always hiding because Jackson sold drugs. She asked if I ever French-kissed anyone, and when I shook my head, she took me to the empty children’s house to teach me.

She gave me some peppermint rinse to make my breath fresh. “Gargle a lot,” she said, “now spit.”

“Is your boyfriend here?” I asked capping the mouthwash.

“Duh!” she said. “How do you think I would be having sex all the time if he was in Westchester? I sneak out and meet him at night.”

“But I never hear you leave.”

“Ye-ah. That’s because I’m slick, and all you kids sleep like you’re dead.” I didn’t appreciate being lumped with the four little boys—Siddhi and Forrest were ten and nine, and the twin seven-year-olds, who I think were named Jesse and Jamie, but may well have been Nibs and Slightly. I let it pass.

“But, like, what if you get caught?”

“Don’t be retarded, Sienna. No one cares.” She was right. Whatever boy was meeting Wren in the woods at night could have sex with her on the buffet table, because everyone at the ashram was so wrapped up in themselves they’d never notice, just like they never questioned or cared about all the other bad things we did.

But I cared about Wren and her happiness and her safety and who this secret boyfriend was and if he put his hand over her mouth. I cared if she was in deepest love or if she only had sex in the woods because of the loneliness we all felt with no mothers at night. So I gave Wren my undivided attention, the kind I paid when I walked the trunk of a fallen tree or spied the cops driving behind us when Jackson lit up in the car.

“But who is it? How old is he? Who?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s a secret. Jesus! Do you want me to teach you how to French or not?” I imagined kissing Brother Mojave in the woods, him wanting me and loving me back. “Yeah.”

“’Kay. So, for Frenching, you use your tongue. Here, open your mouth.” Wren put her parted lips over mine and pushed her tongue into my mouth, licking around and over my own tongue. As we kissed, a hot weakness spread through me, good and shameful, as Wren put her arms around my body and pulled me up to her warm skin.

“You’re getting spit in my mouth,” she said. “Swallow.” I did. “That’s better. Here, now,” she said. “Try again, and put your arms around me. Boys like that.” I hugged her shoulders. “No, here,” she said, and she put one of my hands on her lower back, and my other hand, she put on her boob, holding my wrist and making my fingers press and circle around on her nipple, which was hard and pointy like it was cold outside. She rolled on top of me and kissed me harder. I asked her to stop, but her mouth on mine muffled my words. Her eyes were squeezed shut. She had a cluster of four small pimples on her forehead.

I started to push her away, but she took one of my hands and put it between her legs. She let go of my hand and used hers to make a circular rubbing motion on my vagina that sort of hurt, but also felt amazing. The longer she rubbed me, the more it built until I had to press into her hand to try to make the hurt feeling stop. “Mm. Dirty girl,” she whispered, and kissed me again.

There was her rhythmic pelvis pulling on my wrist, her fingers searching between my legs, the sweat on my neck, the remembering to swallow, and the hot hurt welling, the squeaking of rusty springs. “Yeah, yeah, more,” she moaned.

“Don’t,” I said. “Stop.”

Wren ignored me, continuing to writhe on my tightening fist.

Her touches felt pleasurable, like scratching a mosquito bite, but it was all wrong, because I wanted Wren to be my friend and for us to be happy girls who did teenage things, not runaway outsiders like Jackson and April and Uncle Sean.

“Wren, I don’t like it anymore, plea—” She did something with her finger that made a pain inside me. “OW! STOP!” I shouted right into her ear.

Wren stopped. She sat straight up, like nothing happened, stood and walked to the window. “Whatever, retardo. If you want to be shitty at sex, that’s your problem.”

* * *

Wren was super talkative with the little boys at dinner. “That new lady in Rama House looks like a monkey had sex with a pig and they had a baby that got hit by a car,” she said. The boys all cracked up, even Siddhi. During the kirtan chanting, she fanned the air in my direction. “Organic asparagus, baby!” But it sounded different to me now, like acting, and when I saw her on her own, braiding her hair on her cot, getting ready for him, her face looked younger to me and so tired, like Jackson’s did when he’d made a problem and was about to make us run again.

And something else: Wren’s finger flipped a switch on inside me. Each day, I’d wait until the shower house was empty, and then I’d go inside, using my own fingers to rub and rub in the pursuit of trying to make the hurt feeling stop. One day, after I held my breath and went as fast as I could, stroking and swiping more and farther than I’d gone any day before, the ache exploded, like a burst balloon, like a sudden fall over a straight-down waterslide into a pool of warm chocolate, and for just an instant, everything was happy. But it didn’t last long.

* * *

“I never see Brother Mojave in the houses,” I said, working the knots out of my hair.

“So?” Wren said.

“So, like, how long has he been here?” I asked.

“Mojave lives here,” Wren answered, rebraiding her own.

“Whadda you mean?” I asked.

Wren rolled her eyes. “What I mean, Sienna, is Mojave lives here. He doesn’t have another home. Just here. God! You’re so dumb sometimes.”

“Okay, fine.”

“Yeah, fine,” she said, mocking my tone.

Wren finished her braid. Something came over her, some different emotion, not the usual sarcasm or teasing; something darker lurked in her grin. “You love him, don’t you?” Wren poked her finger hard into my chest. Then she fell back onto a cot, lifting her arms overhead to expose a little patch of dark hair in each armpit. “You love him and you want to have hot, nasty sex with him!”

I felt myself flush, not with embarrassment, but with anger. I did think of Mojave when I played with myself in the shower every day. I thought of French-kissing him, but I was afraid that Wren would be jealous, because I didn’t want to kiss her anymore.

Wren pointed her body at me like a gun. “You better tell me if you love him, Sienna, or I swear, you retar—”

“Cut it out, Wren! You don’t know what you’re even talking about,” I said, ashamed of myself for being scared of her. And then she pushed me, and cursing, she punched me in the arm, and it—being the last thing I expected in the world—hurt like hell.

She half grinned before shoving me to the floor, pinning me under her greater height and strength, and drumming my body and face with both fists shouting, “Bitch… You better stay away from him, you hear me…you…virgin…retard…bitch…cocksucker…”

Beneath Wren’s punching machine, a rich, rising thing gathered up its power within me, from a place before Wren, before the beating, before I even came to this place. I saw my mother and my big unanswered question: why hadn’t she taken care of me? And my rage lifted me out from under Wren, who’d been, for three months, my world. I saw my mother’s face where Wren’s ought to have been, and the redness filled my heart, shot out into my arms and then my hands. I threw Wren off of my chest and onto the wooden planks and scrambled away quickly, kicking her in her side with my flailing feet.

She popped up fast, but made no move at me. “Ha!” She laughed, wiping blood from her nose with her fishtail braid. “Now you look even uglier than usual.”

My face bled and throbbed, my arm and shoulder ached, my skin swelled from being slapped and scratched. “You’re not my friend anymore,” I told her.

But I didn’t mean it.

* * *

Sister Liana painted red Mercurochrome over the cuts on my face. To avoid Wren, I promised the boys I would play tag by the swings, but first, I swung by the compost heap, thinking I could get some sympathy from Brother Mojave, and maybe, if he saw my cuts, a hug.

The usual cocktail party of seagulls perched and waddled atop their poop mountain, but no one worked in the noontime sun. I detoured through the barns for a little shade, and there I found him, lying flat on his back on a torn serape, napping in the shade of the storage barn, naked but for the cowboy hat over his face.

Silently, I crouched down next to him, turning on my side to bend my elbow on the ground and rest my head in my hand. One of my knees crossed down over the other one, because Wren said it was a sexy pose. I lay there for a bit, listening to him breathe and realizing that I was not ready. I didn’t even want his hug. I wanted Wren to be nice, and for my mom to come alive again. I needed to give up this whole thing and get back to Siddhi.

Brother Mojave took a deeper-sounding breath and then without moving, he asked, “What do you want?” I didn’t know how to answer, though his sleepy voice made my skin tingle from my neck all the way down to between my legs, and I squeezed the tops of my thighs together. “I know what you want.”

Then, he reached out and grabbed a big chunk of me. I stayed quiet, even though it hurt. He rolled his whole weight on top of me, but his eyes stayed closed as he smashed his lips into mine until my muffled squealing opened them, and when he saw me, they widened and then he smiled, seeming surprised. He took both of my hands and pinned them next to my ears, grunted, and pushed his penis, which had turned into a boner, hard between my legs. It stabbed into my thigh first and then into my vagina a little bit, but the feel of it did something else to Mojave, something that glazed his eyes over in a way that made me think he didn’t see me at all, or care about me, or even remember who I was.

He held both of my wrists together over my head, so he could use his other hand to aim his boner. I wanted to kick him hard in the nuts like Courtney taught me, but my legs were spread far apart with his heavy body smashed between. He issued angry grunting noises like a hunting gator, with me, the stupid little virgin, caught in his death roll at the bottom of the river.

I wondered how much it would hurt and for how long, and what he would do afterward to keep me from telling. Was I spending the last moments of my life with a drooling sex monster? I screamed and cried for help, but no one could hear me. I squirmed and kicked, trying to wiggle free, but he was so heavy and strong, and then he put his penis hand around my throat, pressed it down against my windpipe so that I truly couldn’t breathe.

“Don’t fuckin’ move,” he whispered, and his spit came out on my face, no caring at all in his voice. “You came for this and you’re gonna get it.”

Getting a breath was my only focus. I stilled myself, and he let go. He spit a big gross amount of saliva on his hand and then swiped it between my legs so hard I could feel the scratch from his calloused fingers, and after whatever he’d done, he was able to force the rest of his penis up into my body so hard and fast that my vagina felt torn and filled with fiery pain, as if his penis had thorns.

In my head, I screamed furious words, words Wren would say if she wanted something to stop right away. “Get the fuuuuck off me you fucking motherfucking shithead cocksucker. I’ll kill you motherfucker. Help! Help me! Fuck you…” And finally, he hurt me so badly that a scream came out. And it felt so right to do something against what was happening to me, that I kept screaming, as loud and as horribly and for as long as I could make it last, like Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street. And I think all the shrieking woke Brother Mojave out of whatever spell he was under, because he came out of my body and fell away with one hand blocking his groin.

“You keep your mouth shut, little girl,” he hissed from the corner. I’d never heard him sound like that—scary, drooling, and nasty—and that’s when my crying really got going. “Hey, hey, hey,” he softened, putting his hands in the air, like it was a stick up. “Hey, you wanted it, right? You came here for it, didn’t you, baby?”

It wasn’t completely untrue. I had abandoned Siddhi in hopes to get love from this man, and I heard myself answer, “Uh-huh.”

“Yeah. I’ll take it slow, baby. Come lie back down.” Brother Mojave got up on his knees, rubbing his still hard penis with his free hand. And when he leaned around me to straighten out the serape, I threw a handful of gravel in his face, scrambled up, kicked him hard in the nuts, and ran, fast as I could, for the bungalows.

I ran first to the shower house to wash the blood off of my thighs. There were several women in there already, but no one noticed the panic in my face or the little smear of blood on my inner thigh. Under the water and behind the curtain, I did expert silent crying.

By the time I got out and finally arrived at the soccer field to meet Siddhi, all the kids—except for Wren—stood in a huddle with several grown-ups, including Jackson.

There was a lot of talking and yelling, but Siddhi’s pain cries cut straight through, wrenching my stomach into a pretzel. Jackson took a seat on the grass, and each time he touched Siddhi’s leg, Siddhi screamed and everyone flinched.

“What happened?” I asked as my crying took on great volume.

“He jumped from the swings at the highest up he could get to,” said Nibs the twin.

“Wren dared him,” added Slightly.

“YOU didn’t have an eye on your brother is what happened,” Jackson snapped. And a few of the other adults nodded. Then he touched something else on Siddhi’s leg and made him scream again.

“Don’t worry, Siddhi,” I said through tears and snot. “I’ll call 911.” I lunged toward the infirmary, when Jackson shouted at my back.

“Sit down! We have a doctor.”

A new guy, Brother Raymond, the one with a thicker mustache than Magnum, P.I., carried Siddhi to his car.

“Raymond has hospital privileges,” April said.

“Where’s Wren anyway?” I asked.

“She checked herself back into the infirmary,” April said, with her pat eye roll.

“You’re wrong about her having hypochondria,” I said. “She just needs more love.”

* * *

I waited at the main road for hours, watching for Brother Raymond’s car, and when it appeared, I ran for it and found Siddhi, smiling and licking rainbow sprinkles off a melting ice cream cone. His leg was up on the dashboard in a thick white cast that stopped just below his knee. Brother Raymond let me hop into the car with them for the rest of the long road to the clearing, and I hugged Siddhi from around the seat. “I’ll never let anything happen to you again!” I promised.

In the side mirror, he smiled back at me, but his eyes told me otherwise. They were tired and swollen and to me, so sad, hovering above his peeling sunburned cheeks. He shrugged. “Wanna lick?” he asked, offering me some of his cone.

* * *

The day after Siddhi got his cast, Jackson said, “Pack it up, munchies, and meet me at the parking lot. I’m not feeling the energy here anymore.” Whenever he mentioned the energy going south, it meant we were out of money again. Hospital privileges were expensive, I guessed.

“Where’s Wren?” Siddhi asked after we said goodbye to the rest of the kids.

“She’s contagious,” I muttered.

Siddhi and I settled into the back seat, relieved that the front seat did not contain Sister April or any other temporary new woman. Jackson popped in the tape of Steely Dan. Siddhi showed me the book of Ray Bradbury stories he’d swiped. “For later,” he said, using a pencil to scratch inside his cast. “Think of a ‘thing’ for twenty questions,” he suggested as we drove past the barns and the rotted scent of transformation. It smelled different now that I was no longer a little girl. When we got to wherever came next, I would write Wren a letter, tell her she still had me as a friend. And I would find a way to get Siddhi and me into school. It wouldn’t be fixed, but it would be better.

The seagulls waddled around, taking brief flights and then landing back on the compost mound. I wondered if they’d really forgotten how it was to soar in the sky and hunt for fresh fish, or if they remembered perfectly, wishing for the salty ocean every single time they dove into the heap.


Janna Brooke Wallack’s short fiction has been published, short-listed or is forthcoming by Upstreet, The Lascaux Review, Amarillo Bay, PMS PoemMemoirStory, Glimmer Train Press, The American Literary Review, The Alembic, Starry Night Review, The Macguffin, and more. Her first novel, The Family Jones, is on submission, and she is working on her second novel. See more of her work at www.jannabrookewallack.com. Follow her on Instragram at @annajnehoc