Boy & Beast

Hi all! This is a short poem titled Boy and Beast; content wise it strays from my other writing, but this was inspired by a little bit of ekphrasis. Enjoy! 

 

Golden shades of blue great each other, the beast’s scales tangled in the light, sun speckled

A heavy robe draped over the boy, much too large for his frail body, it cannot belong to him

The beast’s tail coils and contorts

Bare feet, without claws, without scales or armor, not broken but breakable

Where did he leave his shoes?

The ground no longer moved, no longer echoed and errupted beneath the two

The beast’s eyelids fluttered, magnificent dappled purple and azure, defeated eyes shut

There is lingering dread painted on the boy’s irises which meet with the beast’s sunken chest

It rose

His heart still thumping, still pumping, still beating

 

A boy with dirt stained teeth and cheeks, nose and throat

King of the sky lay bleeding in a low place

The two were now more alike than they were different

The boy knew this well

Sweet smelling smoke hung in the air, pouring of out the beast’s nostrils, it did not seem to stop

But it was not sweet, it was the smell of death

The sound of an ancient body ascending and dematerializing

Where a beast had once stood, once sailed through sunsets of gold and blood

Skies of blue

 

Time must persist, the sun sunk into the valley radiating shades of mourning

Melancholy rolled over the young boy, pouring over him like the folds of his robe

Golden shades of blue great each other, the beast’s scales tangled in the light, star speckled

Table for Two

Hi everyone! I would like to apologize for my lack of activity positing recently! Senior year is in full swing, this means minimal time for writing! Hopefully I’ll be able to post more once things get a little less chaotic, enjoy! 

I am sitting alone at a table for two. Directly across from me is a dining booth, clad in red worn down leather. I am picturing the man who will occupy this empty space; I find myself doing this often. He tells me in a cloudy accent that he’s an architect and he orders a $1.75 Cafe Americano. He has the voice of a lover, this I notice. The stiff white collared shirt he wears clashes with his gentle features, doe like brown eyes and a rounded nose. I want to touch his hand, it’s resting on the table, pinning down the paper menu. I will tell my mother about this man, he will give me purpose. He will have the hands of an architect, knuckles carefully thought out and placed with intention. Almost as if they had corresponding blueprints laying around his office. He will hang my high school portraits in his office and polaroids of us vacationing in Ibiza and Mallorca. There are no bumbling or hanging silences. Our conversations are the most riveting; which in my opinion is a wonderful sign for our first encounter. Possibly my soulmate.

I tell him about what we were taught in my philosophy class last semester. How before the earth was all cement and billboards, it was speckled in flowers and light. Humans had a single head with two painted faces. Four arms and four legs too. That given detail will make him laugh. One storm ridden day, Zeus had become enraged and maddened with human’s self pride and arrogance. As I mention these words, his eyes will soften, because he knows far too well what I am referring to, the monstrosity of man. As punishment, Zeus threw down his lightning rod, piercing the Earth and it’s every occupant, splitting the humans in two. Two arms and two legs, one face too. Humans would have to spend their entireties searching for their other half. He will then tell me that what he’s feeling deep down in his stomach makes sense to him now; this makes my smile beam and my cheeks blush. His breath does not have the strong undertone of gin and he does not slip a single profanity. We would make a great couple.

His name will be plain and simple to remember, something like John or James. James tells me that I have beautiful teeth and girls who look like me shouldn’t smoke. That’s exactly what my mother told me to look for in a lover, someone who sees the stars in my eyes and the poetry written on my skin. I cannot wait to tell her about James, I imagine myself gushing to her over the phone, words pouring out like water from the grand rapids. I make a mental note that we will have to visit Grand Rapids Michigan, bring the kids with us. He then will ask me if I’d like a milkshake, but I say no because I’m watching my figure. I need to be, after all, how can I expect to fit into one of those lace wedding gowns? I can picture myself sitting with James for hours, discussing the balcony he will build me, how our sons will play football just like he did. He is a true gentleman.

I am suddenly brought back. The red of the empty seat across from me is now stinging my eyes. I tap my nails nervously atop the white laminate table top, creating nonsensical and frenzied rhythms. People come and go, laughter echoes through the diner and halts at my table. A nice looking waitress with a plump smile asks me if I am ready to order, I tell her I am still waiting on someone. She gives me a nod and walks away, grasping tightly to a metal tray. I am sitting alone at a table for two.

an excerpt from: Hangman

Wow — it’s been awhile since my last post! I apologize for the lack of uploads the past few months, senior year has been super busy with sports, college applications and schoolwork! Here’s an excerpt from a (hopeful) short story I’ve been working on titled Hangman. Enjoy!

….

Only on Thursday afternoons Ezra and I were told we could not take the main road home. The main road being through downtown. Instead we would twist around corners and unfamiliar roads, though they were now becoming common to us. This added around ten extra minutes to our walk home, Ezra once timed it with dad’s leather wristwatch. The leather was sort of worn down and the ticks didn’t tick like they used to, but it earned our easily given trust. As my mother caressed my unruly and dark hair into two braids, she continued to remind me, a soft whisper that hung onto my ear, followed by an I love you. This was the case this morning, and yesterday, and the day before and the day before that. Thursday, October the eighth, a date remained imprinted in ink on the calendar hung onto the refrigerator. It was a grey morning, the clouds were charcoal and the sky was concrete. Nothing out of the ordinary, a bleak morning in a bleak city teeming with bleak people. Our front door still had that scuff on it and still moaned a twisted creaky noise when swung open. A strange sensation  consumed the air this morning. My stomach was static. Our usual walks to school were crowded with laughter and small discussion about trivial, meaningless matters. I didn’t say much today. Neither did Ezra, but I could tell he felt it too, the static groan buried down below our throats.

Six or seven hours or however many taps on the analog clock surpassed me along with the rest of my classmates. I contemplated visiting the nurse’s office, due to that awful feeling deep down inside of me. But I didn’t. I sort of envisioned my encounter with the nurse, a grey haired woman of fifty six. She would ask me how I felt and why I stood before her and I would certainly respond with, “Nurse Terry, there’s a black and white feeling in my stomach!” But a black and white feeling wasn’t a ticket home as lice or vomit was. Instead I spent a significant remainder of the day watching Dorothy Deacon twist at the dead ends of her brown hair and Mr. Wylie mar the board with stiff pale chalk. The words and numbers etched into my paper slipped from my finger tips and shattered on impact with the floor. Time ebbs and flows in strange ways when confined by four monotonous white walls.

The iron bell echoed through our school like an iron fist, expelling children in all directions. I waited for Ezra under the apple tree next to the empty set of swings. I could spot his shaggy black hair in the sea of auburns and blondes. He walked with his hands fixed in his pockets and his eyes beamed to his dirty sneakers below him. His freckles looked troubled, they almost looked like rain drops, his shoulders weary. “What’s wrong?” I asked, my voice fluctuated from a valley to a peak in concern.

“I don’t feel good.”

“What is it?” I proceeded, Ezra answered with a slight shrug. Without any more questions I turned on my heals and we turned right as opposed to left, it being a Thursday. For the first hundred or so steps, my hands tugged at the straps on my book bag, the weight shifted on and off, this being a sign of my boredom. Surrounding us were small shops of sorts, and apartment buildings like ours. The only shop I recognized truly was the bakery called Mary’s, I went there a couple times with mother to pick up bread and muffins. Lately we had stopped going to the named bakeries and butcher shops and opted for the convenience store down the block. Brick walls were patchy, inconsistent colored blocks concealed graffiti and paintings underneath.

It was around this time of year the trees would die. There were no leaves, no colors, only bare and broken branches. The scenery was sapped and worn down, but in a beautiful way. This is what we had been taught in school and on the television and at home. I had grown to love the normality of the trees, and the roads and streets and houses. Routine was a warm hug, so was regularity. The small bony trees that dug into the ground were a fresh breath from the concrete and cement that consumed our everyday lives. Yes they were grey, and spindly and miniscule to the oaks and pines you would see in the old movies that only aired after twelve at night. But they became us. It became an antidote to that staticy feeling.

Ezra and I disappeared off of Main Street and slipped onto Baldwin Street, it was Thursday afterall. Baldwin Street resembled Canary Way, which was alike Tucker Park, which showed similarities with Main Street. The backroads and side streets had the same grey white tone, and splotchy patches in paint and consistency in the sky. The only difference was there weren’t any stores and businesses, only homes. Fifty paces down the asphalt Ezra and I met a road block. The slab of concrete rested itself sideways on the road. Spray-painted black letters scribed on the grey read: Closed for Construction. There was nobody beyond the cinder block, only a few stray plastic bags.

I turned myself towards Ezra, who offered me a puzzled look. “What do we do now?” His voice shook just as his knees did.

“I guess we head back and take Main Street,” I spoke

“But, we aren’t supposed to go there, that’s what mom always says,” Ezra was right.

“You think I don’t know that?”

I spun around and headed back up Baldwin Street, Ezra had no choice but to follow. We again watched the same homes and small trees pass by us as our legs went on. My mind raced back and forth, I was no longer able to focus my attention to the homes, only the static. In truth, we had never questioned our mother on why exactly Main Street had become so dangerous. We never asked questions. I always assumed there was construction of some sort, and that she wanted to make sure her children weren’t struck down by a fallen brick or two. I could tell solely by the tension in Ezra’s knotted up shoulders that he did not assume the same as I did. Mother always called me her little optimist and Ezra her little pessimist.

Main Street on Thursday looked like Main Street any other day, I didn’t understand. There were no construction workers. Ezra’s expression contorted to one of discomfort once more. We still encountered the same signs, the same warnings. Reminders of urban curfews projected themselves onto the grey business buildings surrounding us. This had been enforced for always, so I didn’t quite understand why we needed the constant mention. I grew up abiding by these, so did mother, and her mother and hers, so on and so forth. Along with these, the laws were also painted on a few brick walls here and there. I didn’t quite understand those either. The static feeling became stronger. As Ezra and I made our way further down Main Street, we began to realize why our mother forbode us from taking this route.

A rather large group of people circled around the street, many held signs in their cracked hands and marched. I could almost make out the words on the signs, the words were not pretty. Before the shouting began there was a strange hum that was held in the dull air. The hum hung low and brushed against my scalp. All felt still, there was no breeze like the weatherman this morning, the one with the blonde slicked back hair and plastic smile, had predicted. Then the yelling came. The voices pouring out from the mass croaked and echoed off of the grey and brick buildings which lined Main Street. Sound waves tumbled through my ear and crashed into my temple, enough impact to cause a bruise surely. I snapped my neck to look over to Ezra, frightened freckles and shaking pant legs. I took his hand in mine, the cold feeling of my palm caused him to lurch. “We can get past if we take the sidewalks,” I said to Ezra, unsure if we actually could do so. He said nothing. I spoke once more, “Look down and stay quiet,” Ezra’s grey eyes remained focused on the concrete and his chapped lips remained shut.

Speaking in friction the government was not taken lightly. A charcoal haired boy in my English class, Harvey Daniels,  his mother had been arrested for doing so. Since he had carried luggage under his eyes and didn’t always straighten out his collar. I think it’s been around two years since Mrs. Daniels was taken off. I was scared. So was Ezra. His steps were apprehensive as we approached the crowd. I under calculated the size of the group really, we would have to slip in between the cracks and crevices of bodies to get home. They didn’t seem to notice the two schoolchildren crouched and pushing beneath them. They did not seem scared either, scared of the law and it’s upholding. Many wore bandanas, black, and strung them over their face to conceal their mouths. I can’t remember who threw the first cannister that let out that awful white smell, I really can’t. Ezra told me later that he saw a man clad in a helmet and a boxy vest, a law enforcement officer, throw the compacted metal as if he were pitching a baseball on opening day.

Our limp bodies pushed back and forth. Colliding with shoulders and elbows and bones. I could taste Ezra’s freckles. I tried to root my feet into the ground, to mimic those trees I loved, to find stability. Stability had left us. Stability was beyond us. All I saw was the movement of the color black, presumably bodies. A man next to me, as tall as a pine, crumpled and hit the ground. I could feel blood spill from my nose and my forehead. I held tight to Ezra’s sleeve. The sensation of jacket seams ripping trickled up my forearm. I don’t know how long we were in there. Dad’s leather wrist watch escaped Ezra’s bony wrist and fell to the ground. Glass shatters not only on store windows but beneath combat boots.

It was then that the horde began to expel in all directions. Much like our classmates leaving the school thirty minutes prior. There was still movement, but less concentrated. I could see the concrete below us now. My eyes were drawn to the leather wrist watch, which laid defeated on the ground. Still clutching to Ezra, I used my empty hand to grope the asphalt and extract what was left of the wristband and  broken glass, burying it in my pocket. I coughed, the white invaded my lungs and made my eyes water. A hand grabbed my shoulder, dragging us out of the crowd. My shins and knees stung as they hit the pavement, tiny black rocks buried themselves inside of me. Soon there was no commotion, only the static remained. I could see bricks out of my left eye and the sky out of my right. I was able to see blood out of both.

Wheeler & the Warbler: Part 1

Hello! The following is a short story I have worked tirelessly over the past few months. I will be posting this in fragments to avoid it becoming too long a post. This is also my submission for the Young Emerging Authors Fellowship from the Telling Room, very exciting opportunities are ahead. Thank you for reading 🙂 

 

          I couldn’t sleep a wink, not with that damn bird hollering outside my window. I’ll tell you I tried, I really did. He was a black-throated grey warbler by the looks of it, the way his head was cloaked in black like Hades. A pair of delicate birch white bars painted and marred his wings; he had to be a black throated grey warbler. Though, I was no bird expert, no ornithologist. Last Thursday after anatomy I found myself in my school’s library. Truthfully, four years in the crumbling red brick building and I’d never stepped foot in that place. It was a new feeling under my shoes and their soles, partly because it was some foreign and strange land and partly because the floor had slightly sunken into the earth. I didn’t mind the library, it had an odd and unfamiliar stillness. I didn’t hear anything in my head for once. No ticking, no tockings, no zeep zeep zeeps. I didn’t hear my parent’s shouts, ricocheting off our narrow hallways, the force of a .308 caliber bullet. Maybe it was all those books, acting like a sound-barrier of sorts. I couldn’t hear my father’s straining voice and red face, telling me I was not a man, but a boy. Maybe he was right. I made a mental note to pick up a book on hunting and fishing.

 

          The walls were lined with yellowed pages along with a lingering perfume of asbestos. The library showed the outside world it’s toothy grin, a mouth full of books, a crooked smile. Most of the paperbacks were scattered and knew no order; it took me close to eleven whole minutes just to find the World Encyclopedia of Birds. It’s blue spine stood out to me in spite of the surrounding chaos, almost as if it had offered out it’s lanky cobalt arms and tapped my shoulder. The spine was twisted and bent, the edges looked like they’d been gnawed off- scoliosis like. The blue book of birds sat idle on my bedside table, peeking out and watching from under a collage of used tissues, a half filled orange prescription bottle and a disheveled stack of scribbled flash cards. I never did end up finding that other book though. Zeep zeep zeep zeep.

 

            Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, now Sunday night. That makes five. I just laid there in the dark for a moment, my sheets consumed me. Soon my bare and calloused feet hit the coolness of the wooden floor. My legs brought me over to my window, outside the black-throated grey warbler sang. The song sent a nervous tap down my spine and made me wobbly in the knees. A bead of sweat dribbled a path down my forehead and crashed into the floor. He made me feel uneasy like. Cymbals in my ears and music to the warbler. The bags under my eyes drooped heavily, reflecting colors of lilac and grey. Same color grey as that damned bird. It made me hate myself, my own skin. If I could, I’d jump out of it, shedding my skin like one of those snakes you see in National Geographic. My freckles yawned. I brought my sleepy fingers to the window pane and jerked my arms upwards towards the ceiling. The October air stung at my dull skin and clawed into my throat. “Whaddya want?” I yelled at the bird. Then there was a minute of silence, of nothing. Then at once he responded back, sanguine as usual.

 

          Zeep zeedle zeep zeep. The moon held itself up in the night sky, depending on its own strength, light speckled and dappled the warblers body. “Can’t ya let me get some sleep?” By this point my voice had dulled down to a whisper. I snapped my neck to the left and looked over at my alarm clock, red dogmatic letters threw themselves onto the ground; 2:38 a.m.. The bright red melted into the mucky darkness surrounding the warbler and I. There was no noise, except one. Zeeep. The warbler offered me a confused look. He repositioned himself on the tree branch, a fidgety fellow, inching closer to the open window. He had small yellow patches hugging his eyes and shaky twig like legs. The presence of the warbler made me grow anxious; it acted as a yoke, balancing a tremendous and crushing weight atop my skeleton. I felt like I would fall at any moment. I couldn’t tell you why.

 

 

          The sun stretched and yawned filling my bedroom with the sound of cracking joints, painting the morning skies the color of nicotine stained fingers and teeth. I found myself on the floor; my window remained open. The bird was gone, at least now he was. He was sure to return by sunset; I knew it. Inevitability was not kind. I lifted myself off the oak floor panels and to my feet. My under eyes were bruised fuchsia, a permanent stamp of fatigue. Maybe if I hadn’t been awake at 2 a.m talking to a god damned bird, they would be a more pleasant color. Fleshy pink or healthy peach. My parents were still asleep, not arguing or exchanging violent phrases, but sleeping. I crept down the stairs, making sure not to wake them with the sound of moaning floorboards and my socked feet. The normal breakfast, stale toast, a blue chalky pill and black coffee, settled heavily in the bottom of my stomach, as if I had swallowed rocks and hornets– they stung.

 

          I found contentment in the almost silence of my morning walk to school. All that could be heard was my leather dress shoes striking hard on the pavement. These walks gave me time to think, time to meld my mind around happenings that engulfed me, happenings that swallowed me whole. Though this morning I waded through the thick exhausting air, I was a corpse. My skin the color grey, much like a storm cloud or lead. I hated myself. There was no longer sensation in my finger tips and my lungs were constricted tightly by a plethora of elastic bands. In English class, Mrs. Cooper would be sure to point out in front of my peers that I looked just terrible and send me to the nurse. With sudden might silence shattered, sending shards of glass deep into my forehead and frontal lobe, sharp force trauma. Zeedle zeep zeedle.

 

          It was that damn bird again. The warbler sat comfortably with ease, nestled in the branches of a spindly oak tree. I could feel his charcoal eyes beaming deep into my collarbones. Zeep. My penny loafers cemented to the tar beneath me, as if I had stepped on a festering wad of chewing gum. I spoke again to the bird. “Whaddya want?” If someone happened to stroll by they’d surely call me crazy, shouting at a tiny bird. To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to know what the hell that warbler wanted. I just needed to get to school and through the day. Spin on my heels, turn around, get back under my covers and get some sleep, even.

“I just wanted to see you, that’s all,” said the warbler, his beak moving unassumingly, up and down, nine meager twitches. I tried to ignore the warbler, I really did. Just the sight of him knotted up my stomach, swelling my insides until they resembled bunches of black carnival balloons. Zeep zeep zeeble.

About Tabitha Paine

Boy, was she pretty, and she damn near scared me, too. She wasn’t the kind of pretty they advertise in those Sears catalogs, the ones that featured those girls with all that long blonde stringy hair and porcelain skin. Tabitha Paine looked like she hadn’t slept in days and always smelt like stale smoke. I couldn’t exactly figure out why I found that so intriguing, but I did. She just about killed me.

I watched her from the back right corner, the one beside the window of Ms. Keller’s dimly lit classroom. My eyes focused, not on the movie projected onto the board about the First World War, or whatever, but on her. The way she bit at her lips and tapped her bony fingers on the wooden desktop. I liked the way her curls looked like an antique collection of old metal couch springs, and how her collar bones protruded from her chest, reaching out to grab me.

The first time we spoke was when she forgot to bring a pencil into history. Her voice was low and raspy. I always have a few spare number two pencils living in the bottom of my book bag. When I handed one to her, our skin touched just for a moment. Her palm was slightly dry, but that sure as hell didn’t matter to me. After school, on the walk home, I contemplated talking to her a second time. Just the thought of striking up a casual conversation about the way the sky looked made me shake in my penny loafers, like a skinny birch tree caught up in a windstorm. Tabitha Paine was that windstorm, but I was too yellow to talk her then.

I got my chance next on a Thursday, and Tabitha was wearing that green sweater, the one that made her skin look dull. Truthfully, she looked best in purple, but not lilac-like, a deep purple. I had been looking at her all of that day and I think she saw me. I didn’t know whether that was a good or bad thing, to tell the truth. I know it frightened the hell out of me, though. Her eyes looked more calico than they usually did–I think it was that sweater. I felt like a creep and all, spending most of history eyeing her. She had that effect on me.

At lunchtime, I saw Tabitha sitting on the concrete steps, crouched over a cigarette. It kind of bothered me, seeing her like that and all, with death teetering between her raw lips. I mean, it was in the designated smoking area, but it got to me, her sitting there smoking like that. She looked up from the ground and met my eyes. I just stood there for a minute. To tell you the truth, I froze. For seven seconds (I counted each one), we stared at each other. She spoke first. Her voice was gravel.

“Watcha lookin’ at?”

I shuffled my feet. “You know.” My voice shook like a tambourine, but I went on. “I heard that smoking isn’t all that good for you. Causes cancer and all those other crummy diseases people get.”

To tell the truth, I can’t tell why the hell I said that. It sounded like something my mother would say. Without breaking our gaze, she brought death back to her lips and inhaled the smoke.

I don’t know what goddamn thing inside of me made me walk over to her, but I found myself sitting right besides Tabitha Paine then. I didn’t say anything more, though. I just watched her, like always. Tabitha held the cigarette in her spindly fingers, making Hades himself look graceful. Boy, I envied it almost. The way she hugged it in the crevice of her fingers, her knuckles peeking out at me. They clung tight to her bones, creating pink and fleshy nebulas. She tilted her head to look at me and her chapped lips smirked.

“You want one?” The words broke from her teeth and sent electricity down my spine. My mother lectured me about this peer pressure thing all the time, and I guess I’d never experienced a situation like this before. Also, I guess my mother didn’t drill it into my head enough, because I went for it.

“Sure.”

“You ever had one before?”

“Yeah,” I lied. “All the time.”

“You don’t strike me as the type.” She squinted and smirked some more. Before I knew it I found the cigarette between my fingers, shaking like a madman when I put it up to my lips. I wanted to impress Tabitha, make her think we had something in common, and all. As soon as I inhaled, I knew she knew we had nothing in common. The smoke branched through my lungs, and clawed into my throat. I let out a cough and my eyes watered. How the hell did Tabitha Paine do this every damn minute of the day?

It has been about three weeks since that second conversation with Tabitha, and three weeks since I smoked my first cigarette. Everyday at lunch now, we sat on that tiny step. It was barely wide enough to fit the both of us, and I sat more toward the edge so she had enough room. I was just balancing there, same as usual, when Tabitha Paine told me she was gonna come see me that night. She said it in that low tone she always spoke in. She said that she had something to tell me. At first, I expected her to confess her undying love to me or something crazy like that, but it only happens that way in those damn Cukor films. She told me to meet her out by the metal stairs leading up to the balcony of the apartment building next to mine.

I got there a couple minutes early, just to make sure she didn’t have to wait around for me to show up in the cold. The waiting made my hands shake and my nose turn pink. Ten minutes felt like damn near ten hours.

When I saw her walking toward me, I couldn’t help but notice she was wearing a purple winter jacket. It was that deep purple, the one that made her look good. She always spoke first.

“How long ya been waiting for me?”

“Oh, I just got out here a minute ago, that’s all.” I always lied, it seemed, talking to her.

“I gotta tell you something.” Her eyes met mine, though I couldn’t tell what they were saying to me. The moon wasn’t too bright. “I’m goin’ away.”

“Whaddaya mean? Going on a trip?”

“No, I mean, yeah, kinda.” She reached into the deep pockets of that purple jacket and handed me a crumpled up piece of paper. I did my best unfolding it. It had a few stains on it, but I could read the scribbles.

“What’s this?”

“A map, to Florida.”

“Why the hell do you want to go to Florida? You got family there or something?” My brows furrowed. By this time, my eyes had nearly adjusted to the darkness and I saw something in her eyes.

“No, I’m not goin’ with my family. I’m goin’ by myself, for good.”

I didn’t say anything, partly because I didn’t know what to say and partly because my stomach got all knotted up.

“Can’t stand it here anymore. It’s too damn depressing and cold. They call Florida the sunshine state—did ya know that?”

I didn’t say anything this time around either. I just watched my breath whirl in the air like her cigarette smoke always did.

“I just wanna start over, that’s all.”

I tried to reason with Tabitha, but she stuck with that gut feeling of hers. In the beginning, I liked that about her. That night, though, it tore me up. I watched her walk back home, or wherever she was headed. The way her curls bounced when her sneakers kissed the pavement. I wanted to call back to her, maybe tell her how I felt about her—the way she gave me those damn butterflies and made me nervous. But I never did. I never told Tabitha Paine I cared about her.

I care about Tabitha Paine. The words bounced in my head, vibrating and ringing. Sometimes they were sharp and stung at my forehead. I couldn’t stand it. If only I could have choked out or coughed up the words onto the asphalt below us, Tabitha Paine could have stayed. She would still be wearing that purple jacket and she would still be paying the guy who sits on the corner to go into the convenient store to buy her those damn cigarettes.

***

The next time I saw Tabitha Paine’s face my stomach felt funny. Not because of those butterflies, but because I felt sick. The next time that I saw Tabitha Paine’s face it was on the television. It was an old picture, from a couple years before I’d gotten to know her. She hadn’t changed much, I saw. She’d gotten a little taller and was more bruised looking, maybe more yellow from the cigarettes, and all. The word “missing” flashed from the television screen to my memory, back and forth. She wasn’t wearing her purple jacket on the television.

It got around school. She’d written a note to her mother, telling her what she’d told me by the stairs. Her crossed “t”s were shaky and the looped “l”s quivered, covered in lead. In chemistry class I listened in on the conversations that engulfed me. Margaret Greene told her friends that the letter had more than three “I love you”s. Thomas Foster whispered back that the letter had more than three “I hate you”s. It got home, too. I heard my mother’s voice echo off the kitchen wallpaper, talking about what a shame it was—a local tragedy, and all. The thing was, not too many runaways came back, she said.

In the beginning, the search parties went to innocent places: the bowling alley, the record store, all of her favorite spots around town. Then it got dark. After a few weeks, they moved off into the swamps and ditches along the highways. They posted her image everywhere around town, especially all over the lampposts. Sometimes three of four of them stuck on a single pole, and she blew in all directions at once. About a month in, nobody thought she would come back, with all those bad people out there—except for her mother, who wanted her hunted for clear down the coastline. The story was that she tried to hitchhike her way down to the Sunshine State. That made me feel sick all over again.

***

It was Tuesday, and at lunch I sat alone on the concrete step. I still sat on the edge, leaving room for Tabitha Paine. Classmates clad in plaid and khakis, cigarettes hanging from their teeth, gathered in their small circles over ham sandwiches and milk cartons. They were talking about her in a different way now. I didn’t eat, I couldn’t eat. I still had that queasy feeling lying down in the bottom of my stomach and throat. I tapped my fingers hard onto the step, my nails crashed into the grey and the little pain there made me focus less on whatever I was feeling, and more on the little bits of blood staining the leather of my shoe.

I watched her from the back right corner, the chair beside the window, of Allen Funeral Home. I was sorta shifting in my seat, since my mother made me wear my stiff church suit. The black casket was closed, for everyone’s sake. I hoped they had dressed her in purple, not black. She wore a black turtleneck one Friday, the day in history class when we took notes on the French Revolution. Tabitha Paine had bit at the tip of her pencil (one of her bad habits), a sunny yellow number two. Small shreds of pink alighted on the black cotton.

God, what I would give to see Tabitha Paine one more time. To see her curly hair, and to hear her words dance in my ears. I would never get that chance again. I couldn’t focus on the depressing stories being told about her as a child. I just couldn’t. I tried to listen, but it was damn next to impossible. My head was only consumed in that ringing noise—the sound I wanted her to hear: I care about Tabitha Paine.

The thing I hate the most about life, is that it won’t stop moving forward. Tabitha Paine dies, and nobody bats an eyelash. The bus still comes every morning at 7:15, and I still watch the kid across from me finish his breakfast sandwich every Tuesday on that bus. In my English class, Susan Taylor still complains to Jessica Knox about how we didn’t get enough time to finish our reading assignment. And every goddamn day in history class, Ms. Keller still calls for the girl with the curly hair who sat in the third row to the left, in front of David Spinelli and behind Bailey Adams, and only then realizes that she has made a mistake.

an excerpt from: Going Through the Spectrum

 Darkness surrounded him. These nightly fits were sure to mean something. Pain in his nose started to swell. First a shooting, razor sharp pain, then an itch. Oliver’s hand darted out to his night stand. In the cluttered mess of study sheets, day old tissues and medication bottles he snatched a tissue from its box. He brought the tissue to his nose. The boy let out a gigantic, painful sneeze. A sound that could only be mimicked by that of a howling wolf escaped the boy’s open mouth. Pain branched and crackled throughout his lungs. In all of this pain he’d somehow forgotten about the heartbreak that had taken place only ten hours ago. In curiosity, Oliver glanced at the tissue his shaking hands held in front of him. What he held in his hands was a tissue, spotted and smeared with black. Oliver’s eyebrows furrowed. He took his quivering index finger to the edge of his nose and lightly dabbed above his lip. His finger looked like it had been blotted in sky black ink. Before the boy could scream or run to face his own reflection, his bony knees gave out and he lay on the floor, unconscious.

White. The four walls surrounding Oliver were white. White, white, white. His mind and memory were fuzzy. It felt like the black and white static on a television screen. White was a word that kept reappearing back into the boy’s mind. The walls were white. His sheets were white. The sky was white. The tiles beneath him were even white. Oliver looked down into his thin, pale arms. IV tubes branched into them, and clear fluids sunk into his veins. He watched with intent as they flowed.

Oliver was alone. His mind was empty. White? Not only in the frost colored hospital room, but everywhere. He felt loneliness sink into his heart. Elsie, what he needed was the girl who had spent six years by his side. The girl who would laugh along with him to nothing. The girl who could comfort him without any words escaping her narrow lips. The girl who had fire for hair. Once again, Oliver fell into a deep sleep, this time caused by medication, not a tissue soaked in death.

Three hours had passed when Oliver found himself sitting up in the hospital bed. His ears led him to a nasally voice coming from a corner of the room. “Yes Mrs. Owens, Oliver is awake.” The lady dressed in white projected her voice through the phone. “You can come during our visiting hours, he’s in a stable condition. Not yet, we’re planning on running some more tests,” Tests? Oliver grew uneasy. That same lump in his throat surfaced itself against the boy’s translucent skin. Surely it was a clump of nothingness this time, there was no doubt.

The lady hung up the phone and advanced towards Oliver. The small white name tag fastened onto her uniform spelled out Nurse Lawson. “How are you holding up, Oliver?” Nurse Lawson spoke. The boy couldn’t reply; it was that lump again. Oliver could only nod his head. She let out a smirk, “You’ll be back to normal in time.” Nurse Lawson turned on her white heels and continued out of the blank room, and Oliver was left with the white noise.

Oliver sat in the silence; it devoured his frail teenage body. Tick tock. Tick tock .The clock overlooking his bed screamed out. He turned his head to the window and observed the outside world. The sky was white horse grey. Puffy clouds hugged each other and swirled into the nothingness that hung above. Tiny snowflakes danced in the heavens. Oliver could almost hear the sorrows of the wind clawing and scratching at the rain spotted window, if it wasn’t for that terrible ticking noise.

Red. When Oliver opened his weary eyes all he could see was red. The fiery shade fused into his white emptiness. The white pillows were now red. The white sheets were now red. The white tiles were now red. His eyes were bloodshot, maroon branched and crackled to his pupils. The room was no longer stark white. Fragments of blazing color interrupted the desolation. The amount of redness did not frighten Oliver, he had seen it once before: In the locks of Elsie. Oliver welcomed the crimson with open arms, it was all he had left of the girl.Was it all he had left at all?

Oliver’s insides were obsidian like the night sky. His blood flowed dark through his fragile veins. His lungs were spattered black with nothingness. Oliver’s being was an empty hull bobbing among the swells. The world surrounding Oliver leaked white. The clouds that swirled above were blank, an empty canvas that had shown no desire for color. Dull white snow fell and crowded around his shoes. Oliver’s world was painted black and white; what he needed was red.

A Short Story: Keys

 

Keys

The lone soldier, clad in green like the woodland surrounding him, felt the crunch of stray twigs shiver up his body. The sound accompanied by his footsteps cracked and popped the thick silence held by bare branches. All around him were rooted and effervescent signs of life and growth. The firs let out long sighs and exhales of sorrow, and fallen leaves hummed an unfamiliar string of notes. The soldier himself did not. He did not share the same exhausted sighs or melodious tunes. He did not find rhythm with branches and rhythm with the bark. He only walked.

 

The grey blotted sky yawned until the stars appeared and the sky resembled a charcoal pen. The soldier grew weary and his muscles grew weak. Five hundred and sixty seven steps later he found himself sitting amongst the now dead leaves. Under his backpack and uniform they crunched like broken bones. His stony hands groped the ground, easing once they met with his gun. The soldier gripped his weaponry, holding it tight to his body. Just in case. The cold stock of his gun stung at his fingertips, but he did not move. Just in case.

 

His eyes opened to the sound of twigs breaking. The soldier became tense and he readjusted his hands on his rifle. His muddied combat boots lifted him to his feet. His head snapped. To the left. To the right. Above. Below. A calloused finger tip shook as it met with the trigger. Just in case. The silence felt thick in the air and seemed to remain there. The soldier began to walk once again.

 

The familiar faces etched in bark whispered back to him. The same firs and evergreens and the same pines encircled him. The soldier continued to hold his firearm, it’s body unevenly balanced in the crook of his arm. The woods were vast and the treelines thick. The gun mimicked the weight of a boulder, straining muscles and pulling at the soldiers uniform. His hollowed eyes moved toward a figure in the distance.

 

The figure was large and boxy, but from a distance seemed smooth and delicate. He walked closer, over piles of dead leaves and fallen tree trunks, feeling moss squish under the weight of his combat boots. He walked until he became closer and closer and closer and closer. He walked until he could decipher it’s identity and he walked until he recognized an old friend.

 

His dirtied hands caressed the wooden side panels of the instrument, the feeling struck a contrast to the usual, mud and rocks and bodies and blood and metal triggers. The soldier did not question the pianos location, sitting alone in the middle of a forest, much like himself. He did not want to know the truth. He wanted to sit.

 

After days or months or years fashioning chairs of tree stumps and stones, the cushiony feeling beneath him was a feeling now unfamiliar. He brought his fingers to the keys, the cool sensation of ebony and ivory provoked a slight twitch to the corners of his chapped lips, a smile.

 

    This smile was a stranger. It cracked his skin and drew blood. Then the soldier moved his fingers, first slowly, playing soft scales and light chords. This was the same smile of his five year old self. And that of his six year old self and that of his seven year old self. It was his smile until eighteen years had passed. It was a smile he had forgotten.

 

  The stresses and the tensions and the bruises and the bandages melted off him. The forest grew loud and harmonious. The firs hummed Mozart and the twigs snapped in various metronomes. The simplicity of the music, and of the past vibrated through the soldier. His combat boots eased on the damper pedal and the woods were alive. He found rhythm with the branches and rhythm with the bark. He shared the same exhausted sighs and melodious tunes. The soldier rose to his two feet and removed his rifle from the straps around his shoulders. Gently, and with shaking hand, he placed the gun down. With kicks he attempted to bury the firearm, under leaves and twigs and moss. The soldier did not look back, he only walked.