How To: Spread Eighty Thousand Pounds of Denial on a Cracker

My circumstances, inexplicably, have transformed into something fortunate and broad. I graduated community college last Saturday. That may not seem important–I know I didn’t think it was for a while–but my parents never attended college; and of five siblings, one attended some college, but I’m the only one to  Continue reading

How To: Transition […or not]

As you may remember from my last post, which stated very simply: “i got accepted and now I want to throw up.” I got accepted to my chosen University, which is great, because it’s the only plan I have. It’s also just straight terrifying, though. Why? Reasons.

So many reasons: Continue reading

Yarn Squid [an essay about friendship]

For my very best friend and most favorite of people. If you’re reading this I love you times infinity plus two million and eighty five.

He’s older, six years. I was seventeen when we met and I thought he was cute and his girlfriend was beautiful. I wished he didn’t have a girlfriend, especially one that was thin and tan and straight toothed and overt. Everybody saw her. Continue reading

Illustrated Storytime: The Muckiest Muck Expedition

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photo credit: Dobby’s Dog’s

There’s a clearing by the woodshed, next to a pile of trash and tires and waterlogged stumps. We’re letting it get big before pouring gas on it, since we don’t know how to light fires without some kinda starter. Sometimes we throw in primers from Dad’s woodshed, the exploders at the ends of shells that shove the bullets out. They snap and burst and threaten to burn us up, but we’re too quick so they lick the tree limbs overhead.

When the weeds around the fire pit get too tall my brothers get rifles and load them with bird shot shells, the kind with little ball bearings that spread out wide once you pull the trigger. The stalks get cut down ‘til they’re flat and make a clearing. I’m always worried the stray pellets might hit the neighbors on the other side of the pit, or the bullets from our bored target practice might hit a hunter back there in the woods, across the pond and we’d never know it. The bullets hafta hit something to stop.

We step into the clearing. “Grab your sticks and carve: name, date, expedition; the mud’ll remember us forever.” I told them. My sister, Chloé, is the leader. I let her be it, even though I’m the oldest. It was her idea anyway, and her friends are here so she’s gotta save face. At least I got to name it. She’s taking us on a tour of the back acres down the big hill, behind the pond. First we follow the creek to the baby waterfalls and slide and splash over its ridges. If I lay flat with my head back and slide I’m small enough to sink to the bottom. We take turns for a while, until Chloé says it’s time to go.

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photo credit: Faris Kalin

Up the creek there’s a tall, muddy bank with tree roots jutting out, so we sideways climb along it. I’m afraid the little ones might fall, so I spot while they’re up high: “Don’t jump down from all the way up, it’s too tall.” Chloé calls us on to the rotted out tree leaning over the creek and we take turns balancing across. A few of us fall and flop around in the water.

Down a trail we find Dad’s rusted out truck, tires flat and caked with mud and glove box hiding papery wasp nests. Chloé tells the story of how my brother’s were standing in the back, holding on to the cab yelling: “Floor it!” at Dad. He listened; only one of them didn’t have a good enough grip and flew out the back, cracking up his skull on the cement. I wonder if the crack up’s what turned him mean. Mom said he used to hold me when I was real little, and he’d say I was “his baby”. Now he just punches and kicks and tells me I’m stupid; and when he gets all whiny and treats me like his baby I don’t like it anyway.

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photo credit: Huw Morgan

Further in there’s a pond I’ve never seen before. We step off the trail into this large bite out of the Earth and swim, shouting: “look at the tadpoles! It’s full of ‘em!” We stay here for a while, trying to catch as many as we can before they slip and slither away. Chloé calls us on along another trail and we come up to a huge empty basin of Earth, “Woah, that’s even gianter than tadpole alley! Just without the water.” It’s darker than up here on the trail, and full of ashy, dead trees—like they couldn’t make it out so they gave up and shriveled. Suddenly it’s not just dark in the dead tree pit, but up above it too, and I say “Hey Chloé, maybe it’s time to head back?” She nods and leads us away from the dark. It catches up.

We’re hurrying now, no one stops to splash or climb, we just file along behind our leader. The woods are mean at night, they twitch and jolt and crop up briars to slice up our bare feet. Group morale has fallen from glee into paranoia, and our leader turns to me along with everyone else, big, dark eyes filled up with tears. I’m the oldest; it’s my job to get us out. I can’t be scared like the rest of them. So I tell them: “Hold hands. Stay close.” And we walk. But being older doesn’t mean I know where we are anymore than Chloé did, I just pretend like I do so they’ll stop crying. “Come on guys, we gotta get home before Mom kills us. I’m surprised she’s not yelling for us yet.” For once I hope she does start yelling, then we could follow her screams home, but all I hear are cracks and whistles and sharply drawn breaths from my followers and me.

We stumble around the scratchy briars and low hanging branches, and I wish I had a hand to hold like my sniffley followers. I start to worry about witches and every noise becomes occult before hitting my ears and in my head all I hear is screaming. “Come on guys, just a little further.” I lie. I’m the oldest. I can’t cry and hold hands like them. The witches’ll get us then. In front of us there’s a clearing, and I can see it’s a little brighter than in here. My heart jolts, “There! See it’s brighter there, we made it!”

The ground gets sloshy near the light, and I climb through enough to see we’re on the back end of the pond. I think about swimming across, but I’m afraid of dark water and what’s under the haze. Plus I really don’t think the kids are up for it. I look back at them shuddering; I’m the oldest, I can’t leave them. “It’s the pond! We can’t swim across, but we can just make our way around to the stream and the clearing where we came in. We’re almost there, I swear it.” They grip on tighter to each other’s hands, and I hold on tighter to my stick.

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photo credit: Panoramio

The only light is from the moon now, and the kids wouldn’t go far enough in to get back to the trail so we’re climbing over a mess of rough branches to keep close to the bank. It’s cold, too, and all our stomachs are grumbling, “I hope Mom cooked a good dinner for us.” Nobody says anything back, but I can tell by their same sniffley breathing they’re behind me. The moonlight bounces off the water and I can see we’re at the inlet. I crawl through a little ways, “It’s the front, guys! We’re at the front! I can see the yard!”

They’re breathing longer now, and even smiling a little until I say, “There’s a lot of thorn bushes in the way, though. I think it might be better if we try to find the clearing.” I turn back to see their faces, distorted by the moonlight and the thought of what’s waiting for them back in the woods. Past their faces is a thick blackness swaying and jolting with movement, and I know we can’t go back in. “It’s okay, we can make it from here if we swim.” I use my mud carving stick to thrash the thorny briars out of our way, but they still nip us as we crawl through one by one.

“Alright, who’s first?” I say to the huddle, and we each start slipping into the water, while the rest of us all edge up close behind. Chloe’s friends are swimming across and so is our little brother, I motion for her to go next but she shakes her head, “No, you first.” I look back to see her drop in behind me and we pull ourselves up onto the bank. I smile and say, “See, I told ya it’d be okay.” I can’t believe we made it out of there. We stop smiling when we see the house up the hill, and Chloe says: “Mom’s gonna kill us.”

“Don’t worry guys, I’ll explain everything.” I promise. But when we get up the hill and sneak inside we don’t have to explain at all. Mom’s plopped in her chair watching TV, eating graham crackers thick with butter and jelly. She didn’t notice we’ve been gone, or how we’re dripping across the linoleum. I stand behind her chair and motion for them to sneak past before slinking away too. We change our clothes and eat cereal for dinner. I fall asleep and have witch woods nightmares.

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photo credit: The Blair Witch Project

I’m blind: Mom’s Perspective

Mike and I are watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. The Deadliest Catch is on next, we’ll watch that too. We don’t speak.

He let me go to jail and I haven’t forgiven him for it. We’re disconnected. He’s too afraid to talk about it, to talk about anything, so we sit in our separate chairs blocking out our thoughts. Sit. Stare. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Why did we get married? Why did we have kids? Why are we still married? Why don’t I feel loved?

Puh..Slam! What’s that? I ask, turning toward Mike, his eyebrows are up, don’t know—. Hannah bursts through the door. Hannah, what are you doing here? She doesn’t answer, just glares at me on her way up the stairs.

We turn back to watch the TV.

After a few minutes I hear her stomp and trip down the stairway. What’s going on? Why are you here? She’s breathing heavy and shaking and moves to stand in front of the TV, blocking my view. Brat. I heard you didn’t read my letter. Damnit. Not this shit again. Well I’m here, so now you have to listen. She starts to read that ungrateful letter, the one she sent to me in jail, the one Mike should’ve dealt with, dealt with her. She’s his daughter. His problem. I can’t listen to this again, Hannah shut up! I don’t want to hear this shit!

How dare she come to my house and try to force-feed me her sad sap story that we didn’t love her enough, she had it better than I did. What more does she want?

She’s really going off now, she kicked the TV, what a little brat. I click it back on, she yanks the cord out of the wall. Stop! I scream and throw the remote at her. She just doesn’t get it, ungrateful brat.

She’s so needy. Wants to pin all her problems on me, well I’m not taking it. Her Father’s the one who made the rules, not me. He’s the one that didn’t want to celebrate Christmas or Easter. No one see’s how hard I work, how much I give and give and no one ever thanks me. Kids just think the whole world revolves around them, like they’re so goddamn important. Worthless brats. They just want to blame everything that goes wrong on me. I’m. Not. Taking. The. Blame.

Hannah’s a mess, sobbing like a baby. Enough of this shit. I beat you because you we’re bad, you deserved it, now get out of my house you little brat. She’s done. She won’t come back. I’ve won.

I can see in her face she gets it, she knows it’s true. It works, she runs away.

Mike gets up to chase her, but she slams the door in his face so hard the house shakes. He would go after her, she’s always been his favorite, doesn’t stick up for me, but runs right after her. I plug the TV back in to catch the rest of Mike Rowe wading around in the sewers. My breath catches, I choke down a lump. She shouldn’t have pushed me. It’s her fault.

Jenny the Wolf

It’s sweaty today, but I hate the taste of well water so I jump in the pool down the hill to cool off. Paul’s drilling for soccer practice again, he gets three or four concussions a season, Mom doesn’t even take him to the doctor anymore, just props up his bulbous head. Kick. Thwap. Kick. Thwap. Kick. Thwap. The ball smacks into the side of the garage, frazzling the bees. Paul’s allergic.

I’m dark tan, barefooted and dirty, my sun blonde hair’s tinged green. Dad says when it’s summer all you need is a swim in the pool, don’t waste water for a shower he says. I’m playing in the dirt, or something or other. Kick. Thwap. Kick. Thwap. Kick. Thwap. There’s a swing set and a trampoline, but I’m playing in the dirt with a stick, I think maybe ants are involved.

Our dog has a normal girl name. Jenny. A husky wolf mix should really be named Aztec or Phoenix or Onyx or…a better name than stupid old Jenny. No one’s impressed by a wolf named Jenny, it’s a name for a mouse or a ferret. Jenny the wolf was sharp and gentle and small, we’ve only had her a year, maybe less. Kick. Thwap. Kick. Thwap. Kick. Thwap. She’s a bit of a poof, ash fur frizzed straight out, and free—cos when she goes exploring she doesn’t have to come back. But she does.

The house used to be white, but it doesn’t get to shower much either. Down the little hill in front is Route 104 and Roosevelt Hwy, the street namers couldn’t make up their mind, I guess. I ride my bike on the asphalt cos it’s smoother than the yard, and I can close my eyes and fly a bit. There’s skidding and a thwap bigger than my brother’s kicking could make.

Jenny? Paul and I scramble out front and there’s a truck, and a man with his hand on his head and Jenny a puffy little lump, and I think the man says something like I’m sorry and don’t look but my ears aren’t working. I don’t look to cross the street, just run across the pavement and drop down next to Jenny.

She’s broken and twitching and bleeding out of everywhere: her eyes, her nose, her mouth, her torn up little legs. I swear to God she’s crying, and her bloodied eyes are looking straight into mine while she’s dying, and I want to pet her til she feels better but I don’t have magic hands so I just let them hover over the bits I can’t fix.

The man’s asking are your parents home? What can I do? but no one’s here to tell, they don’t have phones and they can’t help us. She’s pooling up in the street now, just like if he’d shot her in the head, and I can’t stop staring at lump Jenny. Paul helps the man lift her into his truck and they take her away from me, take her to the vet twenty minutes away, take her away and leave me.

Scars I Don’t Remember Getting

I suppose I was a tomboy. My hands are rougher than adult me might like. Little slices and nicks and irregularly shaped juts of paler, new skin that might have healed if young me wasn’t a compulsive scab picker—trying to claw and pluck out the secret underbelly. The scar on my hands I like most is on the knuckle of my left middle finger, it’s shaped like a pound sign. I don’t remember what I pounded to create it.

The rest of scars on my hands came from fashioning ductwork out of sheet metal. It’s awfully uncooperative. It crackles and thwaps when being unrolled and only cuts apart jagged and snared, slicing the hands that separate it. The raised, new skin could always be old burns from an engine or close calls with a belt.

I’m sure at least one or two are from exploring. We lived on twelve wooded acres and my brother and sister and I would set out on “Muckiest Muck Expeditions” to catch frogs and slide down miniature waterfalls. Once, the sun set on an expedition and turned the woods violent, we crawled through clasping briars and swam across the still pond to make it out.

Near the pond sat our rust, white and blue pool. My Aunt gave us her old one to make room for an in ground pool, right after a hospital visit for an eye infection. It’s the kind with a deck that converges into a small walk on either side and is connected round by a small four inch deep top. The semi circle wasn’t for walking, but it was enclosed and us kids hung on to the enclosure for balance on our way round.

Mom didn’t usually swim, or play, but one day she did. She was in the water chasing me around the semi-circle, splashing and grabbing at my ankles. I slipped and my arm caught on a jagged, uncapped post on the enclosure where the bees made nests, slicing a pi symbol on the inside of my left elbow. Mom lost her smile and dragged me crying up the hill. Later Mom played that game with my brother, his pi-scar is on his left armpit.

There’s a slice on my upper thigh from Bandit. He jumped whenever he got excited. I didn’t mind. I had gotten to pick him out at Lollypop Farms. Me. He was my dog, and I loved him. When we brought him home he dragged me around the yard on his leash, happy to be free. My brother told Mom Bandit bit him in the face while he was sleeping.

My brother is a liar.

The grass got overgrown sometimes, Dad wasn’t home most days to cut it. When he did I liked to jump on the back of our little red mower and go for a ride. The blades shot out dark green clumps, and I wondered how they got wet. I’d close my eyes and breathe and lift my face to the sun and it would burn white lightning through my closed lids. I smiled at the electricity. Dad got off to get something in the woodshed and I laid down.

He didn’t know I was there, I guess. Couldn’t hear me screaming through his earplugs. He backed up and those blades hacked their way through my kicking legs and spit me up onto the fresh cut grass. It got black.

Dad rolled over the mower, slumped me over his shoulder, set me in the tub, turned the water on. Mom screamed at him. I didn’t move. I stared at myself leaking, at the water droplets trying to splash away the gashes, fuse my muscles back together, suck back in my precious blood. I don’t remember crying.