My Brain a Splitting Continent

The sun has set and I am standing on the back porch, leaning over the railing.
I hear the screen door creak, his heavy boots sliding.
“Are your friends picking you up tonight?” The nicest question he’s asked in a while. He’s imploring about nonessentials. Something is coming. A faint alarm spins my gut.
He leans against the house under the yellow glow of the porch light and I turn so my side is toward him—I don’t want my ass in his view, and I can read his body language this way. His arms are crossed over his plaid belly, hands under his armpits. He’s nervous.
Hesitating, “Amy, I want to tell you something.”
“What? ‘Is Jeremy going to be there?’”
“No. I trust you.”
Silence. The crickets are loud this spring. I hear the frogs mating out back behind the pole barn. Beyond the tree line, a semi’s headlights float.
“That’s a shocker,” I smile at him. He smiles back and makes room for himself.
“Amy, what are you going to do with your life?”
My smile ends. I look down at Kurt Cobain on my black t-shirt, and hear
“…‘nothin’ on top but a bucket and a mop and an illustrated book about birds…”
I look into the railing’s grain. “I dunno. Why?”
I cannot fully absorb this question. What was I? Who am I but space? I cannot entertain this.
Silence.
I feel his presence suddenly. The atmosphere has changed. “I want you to know something—something I think no one tells you—you have so much potential in you, Amy–so much more than your sisters. You’re talented, you’re smart, you’re brave. There are so many things about you that you will use in this life and you don’t even know it.”
I turn my back to him and watch the tear seep and spread into the wood. Come on Lori…
“I just wanted to tell you that, because you don’t know. Because you act like you don’t care. Because I…”
What is paternal love but the sick twisted measure of a man? I do not know. I think of Jeremy when he says this, and I feel a sickness colliding with compassion for my stepfather. For the quickest moment of my life he is not a monster. He is human. It’s almost love.
The moment passes and I imagine him looking at my body again—yet something in my heart tugs, 16something that has always been a mystery and desperate for me.
“Thanks,” I say coolly, as if in passing. I can’t look at him. Headlights, bass. “Lori’s here.”
“Ok. I just wanted to say it. Have a good night.”
“Thanks,” I say without looking at him and skim down the steps toward the car, heart pounding.
“Hi my Jo-Jo Bean!” Lori smiles, her bouncy self turning down Tupac and putting the Buick in reverse. Night slips around me, the only light from the dash. She hands me a cigarette.
“Hey turn that up,” I say and smile. As if nothing had happened. As if I would forget this.

* * * * * *

I save up for a stereo. It is three hundred dollars and two and a half feet wide. I clear off my dresser with the scarves draped over it, Kurt Cobain on the wall in back. I take my time with my prize; my favorite possession. Speakers hooked up, red to red, black to black. I inhale its plastic newness, the luxury. I open up the four-disc changer and gingerly place Lynrd Skynrd in “disc 1.” I skip to number seven and as the electric guitar starts I gauge the volume by the round knob. My stepfather knows I am angry, so the loudness is acceptable today.
...if I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me…
I turn it to the right more, until my chest can feel it. It’s the only thing I can feel these days–physical vibrations. The lyrics take me outside myself. I think of Forrest Gump–Jenny standing on the banister of the balcony before her shoe slips. I know that–the curiosity, almost psychotic. No feeling. No thinking.
Next comes “Rage”–Paul York’s take on Bach and the angry, almost cutting violin terrifies me, like a slice through a vein. I want to play it. I see my future in it. I want to be afraid. I want to feel, fear, cry. Anything. (FYI –THIS SONG, RAGE, STILL TERRIFIES ME)

I go to the full-length mirror by the door, a pile of purple and blue eye shadow on the cement floor. The dim light from the lamp shines in the mirror behind my head. I stare as I always do. Waiting for something. I take the shadow applicator and press into the purple powder, as purple as the crayon. I stroke it beneath my eyes and around one, so it looks bruised. Then I hollow out my cheeks, defining the high cheekbones in darkness. I am satisfied and go up the basement stairs to show my family. My stepfather Scott and older sister Nikki are in the kitchen. My mother cross-stitches in the dining room by the bay window. I walk around to face her and wait for her to look up.
“Mom? Can I go to Janelle’s?”
“Yeah,” she barely speaks through pursed lips–a thin white line. She doesn’t look up. I watch her dry, knobby knuckles bend and pull the needle to the dark thread, punched through and in the hooped fabric.
I go back to the kitchen. Scott looks at me, then my chest. He is pale. Read More

A Kind of Daydream (a Billie Holiday essay)

A Kind of Daydream

Lady Day’s voice dips and drones and flattens the back of my throat as we open the summer together.  I’ve waited a whole year for this.  My car coasts so easily on the black road that climbs up and swoops down green hills, as if I’m not even driving but simply along for the ride.  The heat comes in from all directions; it radiates through the glass and wilts the lilacs on the dashboard; it blows in the front windows and weaves out the back.  I’m sweating but I welcome it as much as I welcome this annual tradition.  Somewhere deep within the miles of trees, our cabins await us (along with about two dozen other family members) on clean, clear lakes just beyond Delta in BayfieldCounty.

White clouds and treetops scroll across the silver hood and up the window.  Shadows dance across my arm as I steer the wheel.  Through muffled static, the notes from the piano lightly dance up and down scales, and the trumpet sounds miles away –backdrop rhythm.  The bass clarinet’s riff sways and blunts my spine, taps my sandal on the pedal.

    …like a summer with a thousand Julys…you intoxicate my soul with your eyes…

Her voice is the long, velvety cord that laces all the different sounds together in a lovely, melancholy song.  I reach to turn her up.

…all of me…

            Everything is alive and bursting green.  I drive well below the speed limit; I am in no rush to get there.  I have carried the same thought every year since childhood –the faster we get there, the faster the long-awaited week of camping will be over.  But now that I’m older, the drive has become one of my favorite parts.

Pavement gives way to fine rocks and ruts, and we are swallowed up by the national forest, hidden from the sun beneath the canopy.  I look in the rearview mirror and see my toddler sound asleep.  Her plump cheeks are pink from the sun, and the gentle breeze that floats through the open windows cools her skin.  Strands of golden hair wisp this way and that around her face, which has lolled to the side of her car seat.  Life is good.  If I could choose my heaven, it would be this drive, unending through this country on a bright summer day, just Emma and me.

…I see your face in every flower…

We reach the sun-bleached “Fresh Farm Eggs 4 Sale” sign, and I know we are almost there.  The car rambles across the rickety bridge over a shallow creek and into cylindrical beams of sunlight pouring through the leafy ceiling.  Burning campfires waft in through the windows, and there is a blinding flicker through the leaves –sun on the open water.  The road again bridges a small river and then skirts the very edge ofDeltaLake.  I gently brake and look around: everything is just as I remember it.  The few cabins here have been dusted out and families are unpacking coolers or resting in their lawn chairs.  Pink flamingos and windmills line their private lanes and encircle their summer homes.  We nod and smile at each other as I roll by.  On the other side of us, the lake gradually opens wide to the sky.  Just a few yards out, a boat sits still on the glaring ripples with two men, black against the sun, puffy in their fishing vests.  It’s time to turn off my music.

We drive on, and the music comes from outside now.  There are birds singing high above us somewhere, and gravel spits from beneath the dusty tires.  I hear the echoes of branches breaking and laughter from hidden campsites.  I suddenly remember the frogs and become more cautious of the little bodies that love to hurl themselves across the road.  The water ends and we are bordered by Birch trees that hide yet another campsite–Scenic Drive Resort.  I take us further in, left up the hill, where the pines grow thickly.  The welcoming sign to Flying Eagle Resort comes into view.  I’m almost reluctant to turn, but I take us down the bumpy drive that will wind its way around the wooded resort and bring us to our cabin.

…It’s just the thought of you…the very thought of you, my love…’” –I look back to see her cheeks jiggling with the bumps.  She stirs.

“Emma, we’re here!”

Matters of Time (sketch/lyric essay)

Me and Mike on the right
Me and Mike on the right

He is standing at the end of the dock with a cigarette hanging from his dry lips.  When the sun rises soon, it will warm his bare feet on the planks of warped wood–just inches above the soft water.  His spirit belongs to older generations–an ancient part about him that sent him away from cities and busy people, never trying to chase or capture time.  Maybe it was because of the rheumatoid arthritis; he had it since he was seven and now, almost thirty, he’s found where he belongs–taking each day slow and steeped in chamomile, never knowing or planning for the next flare up.

He tinkers with cameras and foods and clay until they make sense in his hands, creating masterpieces in the long afternoons of tea and painkillers.  On summer nights he sat outside his house, smoking in the dark, capturing fireflies with shutter modes, trying at it every time he noticed the camera buried somewhere on the counter.

He embodies that Beat-look–aged blue jeans worn thin at the knees and seat, torn and meticulously patched, fitted and worn white t-shirts, shaggy hair.  He doesn’t give a damn about troubles or answers; he likes to watch the way things move and take their time.  I once sat for two hours watching him creep up on a skunk to catch a shot.  I got lost around him, the way he stole time with a naturally sedated articulation and spread it out like night, talking about politics or to whatever was turning in his hands at the moment.  Taking a drag, taking a sip, and sauntering back and forth with the pace of an old man on Sundays.  I loved him.  I envied him without jealousy.  I loved how he drew me into that world of his–like we were kids again behind that old red fence full of knots and spy holes, waiting for Spaghettio’s and blowing up frogs.

Mike has already had his hips replaced.  It comes and goes; it worsened when he reached his twenties.  His bouts in his youth were shorter and he remained somehow elastic and tireless.  I couldn’t keep up with him.  Now they stretch and tear, and he gets so tired.  When he cried to me I knew there was something so deep in him that I could never understand—all the way to his bones.

I listened to him over the phone and watched him when we were together—amazed at how this wild boy had been defied by his own body.  He was beautiful.  Sometimes it got so bad he’d be in the hospital, worn away to his skeleton, his eyes protruding out of his hollow face.  He was embarrassed when I saw him.  Some days he couldn’t get out of bed, or turn doorknobs and steering wheels.  But some days he could fish with me until the sky turned navy blue, and teach me again how to clean fish.  His streaks of health, we learned, were becoming more and more sparse, but when he rounded back out into a healthy body, he picked up where he left off—as best as he could.

When his wrists are swollen, he fills space with dreams.  He wants a sailboat, and he’s taking me away, out in the ocean.  He tells me this as he sculpts his clay and I play at my old charcoals.  Sonny Boy Williams, Ali Farka, and Billie Holiday take turns breezing out my kitchen windows and down my stairs.  I make him tea and tell him about the cherry blossom trees in Japan.  He talks about oceans and masts and ropes while creating a sculpture with his very own, private signature—a kind of howling like a metaphor in the sinews of his figures.

“Amos (that’s my nickname), we’re gonna do it some day.  Man, just picture it—out on that water, the clearest, blue-green water.  Just watching the sea and breathing in that air.  And we’ll do just this, like we always have.”

I think he started sculpting for two reasons: he was left immobile and looking for things to help the time pass (he has also become a chef, he tailors his own clothes, plants gardens), but I think he also came to a hard conclusion about his situation—optimism is bullshit, you have to take what you get and appreciate it.  He wracks himself blind with depression when his body gets so weak and he is so ready to take on the world.  He can’t work; he’s on disability.  He lost Lindsey, the girl he wanted to marry.  The American Arthritis Foundation did a full spread on him and his sculpting in their magazine.  He wonders if he needs surgery on his wrists and knees.

            With Mike, every moment felt limitless.  I remember the time we raced to my house in a storm.  He had about a block on me.  I ran as fast as my short legs would let me, splashing through growing puddles in my PF Fliers.  The seat of my cut-offs was slimy in mud—we’d gone hurdling down the muddy slopes of Suicide Hill and splashed into Bay City Crick.  It was a jungle down there.  The spray-painted remainders of ancient sewage canals were broken bridges that loomed over the stream and burry themselves into the wall of the ravine.  I imagined hieroglyphics and secret codes whispering to us.  When we crossed them, every step could have been a booby-trap, so we silently made our way, testing each other for nerve.  Then it started to pour.  Rain showered down through the canopy of leaves and thunder cracked.

“Yes!” we screamed, and made our way up the muddy path.  I kept slipping and sliding, grabbing for vines and thorny branches to pull myself up.  Mike was just ahead of me.  When I busted out of the scratching brambles and woods, Mike had spiked it down the street, racing me to my house.

The rain stung my skin.  My wet ponytail slapped me in the face—side to side—as I pounded the sidewalk.  The storm put a yellow shadow on everything, making the grass and lilacs blot in electric color.  I saw his skinny legs leap up to the front porch, and he waited for me, panting and soaked through his white t-shirt.

“This is friggin’ awesome Amos!”  We paced on the porch.

“Should we go back?”  My heart was pounding.

The door opened and my older sister, Nikki, appeared through the gray wires of the screen door.  “You guys are gonna be in trouble.  When dad gets home he’s gonna see you all wet and you’re gonna get it.”  She disappeared.  Inside I heard Cindi Lauper singing the theme from The Goonies.  We went in and lay down on the carpet, reeling with excitement.  Thunder echoed down the avenue.

            We were eleven when we came to a place where we thought the earth stopped.  We dropped the banana seats in the weeds and didn’t say a word.  Ahead of the overgrown field that covered old train tracks, the land ended.  It dropped somehow.  We were sweating.  This was what we were looking for.  The heat permeated with milkweed and dandelion.  Thorns caught on the strings of my cut-offs.  I still remember the wild flutter in my chest.

“Amos…holy shit,” his words carried their way to mine and we stood in silence.  We didn’t hear the highway muffled by the woods behind us—just the sound of water breaking against something, and the snap of twigs beneath our feet.  We started to run at the same time but came to a screeching halt at the end of the world—a concrete slab no wider than a foot and as long as the shore seemed to go; a concrete wall that dropped off and stretched forever in both directions.  Clear water slapped and splashed another ledge four feet below.

“Let’s do it, Amos—count of three.”  He grabbed my hand and we screamed out the number, jumping in on “THREE!” shoes and all.  Over and over we climbed and jumped.  We were too thrilled to speak.  We looked at each other while we were under water, trying to reach the bottom.  Our limbs looked green in the yellow rays of sun that shot through the water.  We decided on a name—The Swim Lot—and we pedaled back to tell my sisters.

This last August our families camped together in Delta, Wisconsin.  Deep in the forest on an inlet of Spirit Lake, all is black in and outside of my cabin at four in the morning.  I woke up and waited for Mike to meet me at the screen door.  I heard a whippoorwill.  Pine and birch and a smoky oak soaked the atmosphere.  It was chilly.  I gathered my fishing pole and gear and waited on the porch in the dark.  I lit a cigarette that glowed the rails and hanging life jackets in a blinking red.  I could smell the pond scum still dripping from the vests.  The lake was barely visible, lit by the moon and stars in hazy electricity behind the black pillars of trees.  In the distance, I heard his steps crunching on the gravel.  I saw a faint red glow bobbing towards me.  I smelled kerosene and coffee.

“Holy shit, Ame, you got up.”  His grin was a casual half-smirk but his eyes were alive—we hadn’t been able to do something like this together in a long time.

“Coffee.”  His gear and thermos clanked together and he picked up some of the bait.

“Where’d you get that?”

He held up an ancient lantern, “Some rummage sale a long time ago.  Works awesome.”

He led the way into the darkness.  I couldn’t remember the last time I was outside when the only light for miles around was from the stars.  We whispered to each other but stay mostly quiet.  I take in the smells and sounds and dark shapes and fresh air as much as I take in Mike, limping ahead of me in a red glow.  It was like we were eleven again without permission.

The surface of Spirit Lake was covered in thick wisps of steam that lent to it’s name.  A fog drifted around the upturned rowboats and shaky dock that had been there since we were kids.  The fog pooled and spread and slipped around us.  We slinked into the rowboat and the warm water bogged and recoiled against the hollow tin.  I watched Mike’s silhouette against the backdrop of scattered diamonds, turning down the lantern, barefoot on the dock.  He handed me the coffee and poles and untied us.  We dipped in and over the water.  The oars screeched and creaked.  We went slow, listening to the oars and to the fish that flopped from the surface.  I told him I’d row.  The night before, at the fire, I saw his wrists and ankles were swollen ends to his skinny limbs.

“Nah, maybe later.”  He breathed in deep.  A loon landed close to our boat and we watched it.  Its call echoed across the black lake.  We sat and fished.

“Amos, when I die, I wanna come back to this, right here.”

Lady Daydream

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
A Lyrical Travel Essay, my first

A Kind of Daydream

Lady Day’s voice dips and drones and flattens the back of my throat as we open the summer together.  I’ve waited a whole year for this.  My car coasts so easily on the black road that climbs up and swoops down green hills, as if I’m not even driving but simply along for the ride.  The heat comes in from all directions; it radiates through the glass and wilts the lilacs on the dashboard; it blows in the front windows and weaves out the back.  I’m sweating but I welcome it as much as I welcome this annual tradition.  Somewhere deep within the miles of trees, our cabins await us (along with about two dozen other family members) on clean, clear lakes just beyond Delta in Bayfield County.

White clouds and treetops scroll across the silver hood and up the window.  Shadows dance across my arm as I steer the wheel.  Through muffled static, the notes from the piano lightly dance up and down scales, and the trumpet sounds miles away –backdrop rhythm.  The bass clarinet’s riff swaysaaaaaaaaaa and blunts my spine, taps my sandal on the pedal. 

…like a summer with a thousand Julys…you intoxicate my soul with your eyes…

Her voice is the long, velvety cord that laces all the different sounds together in a lovely, melancholy song.  I reach to turn her up.

County E slopes into County H and disappears behind a wall of oaks around a bend.  This is where the road begins to wind and zigzag throughout the countryside, taking its sweet time to reach Delta.  A series of sharp angles skims us past Benson’s Horse Ranch, where horses graze fearlessly close to the fence, barely looking up at the flash of chrome and blaring trumpets.  Another turn and we ease parallel with a grove of maples and pines behind the familiar old fence that is becoming less and less visible in the overgrowth of bramble and daisies.  I wonder if it all looked the same sixty years ago.  I wonder if someone drove through here in a shiny black 1940s Coupe –my dream car –listening to Billie Holiday crooning out of the radio.  I imagine the reflection of leaves rolling over its rounded surfaces, the quiet whir of the white-walled tires, my fingers curled around the slender wheel.

…all of me…

Everything is alive and bursting green.  I drive well below the speed limit; I am in no rush to get there.  I have carried the same thought every year since childhood –the faster we get there, the faster the long-awaited week of camping will be over.  But now that I’m older, the drive has become one of my favorite parts.

Pavement gives way to fine rocks and ruts, and we are swallowed up by the national forest, hidden from the sun beneath the canopy.  I look in the rearview mirror and see my toddler sound asleep.  Her plump cheeks are pink from the sun, and the gentle breeze that floats through the open windows cools her skin.  Strands of golden hair wisp this way and that around her face, which has lolled to the side of her car seat.  Life is good.  If I could choose my heaven, it would be this drive, unending through this country on a bright summer day, just Emma and me.

…I see your face in every flower…

We reach the sun-bleached “Fresh Farm Eggs 4 Sale” sign, and I know we are almost there.  The car rambles across the bridge Read More

Limbo

          A palm reader told Nikki that you were caught in Limbo.  I listened to her guilty cry from the other end of the line and imagined you in a hazy purple space where only your eyes existed—looking away, stirring with something.  I imagined you in this blank, vast nothingness without form, waiting. 

            The night you fell and died on the floor of a bar, I was dancing in another city—wasted.  You used to pull us behind the tractor—us three bouncing in the wagon around and around the old farmhouse.  Grandpa sat at the kitchen window drinking Old Style, staring at the humming birds.  You breathed beer in our faces as you put band aids on our scrapes or shushed us until we forgot our hurts.  I searched for treasures in the dirt driveway—round beer tabs, pennies—beneath the pink blossoms that fell like snow from the apple trees.  You climbed one of them and roped a swing around one of the branches as we stood below, catching the petals on our eyelids.  I sat on your long lap of faded denim while you let me steer the old mower.  I held onto the skinny wheel, arms spanning its perimeter.    

            On the weekends that you had us, we’d wake you up on Sundays, jumping on your bed.  You were fresh smiles and morning kisses, reaching for us and laughing.  An itchy, beige blanket divided the one room we shared on the second floor of the farmhouse; it glowed in the sun that filtered through the yellow shade.  You were the kind of dad that waited until we were in the tub, covered in bubbles, before you came in to wash our hair.  I brought you a cassette tape of me singing Patsy Cline—I was five and knew all of her songs by heart.  You said you loved it and played it every time we came.  You took us out on a country ride in the brown boat of a car.  Nikki and I sat up front, Jodie sat in the back.  You held a beer and my door swung open when we drove through a pothole that made my feet hit the dash.  Gravel and green blurred by; Nikki held onto me and John Denver sang.  At dusk we’d walk through the fields where the broken barn fades and we’d weave around the hay bales high as mountains, taking turns holding your hands.  These were the years that sopped and soaked into your memory.  These were the girls you knew us by—toddlers clinging to your knees.

            You became persistent and sidetracked when, a short time later, we got a new last name.  You were being replaced.  We stopped calling you daddy.  We trailed behind you in the garden giggling your name “John, John, Daddy John”.  It was the only time we saw you mad and we giggled even harder.  Then we started seeing you every other weekend.  Then it was once a month.  Then maybe Easter.  They told us you were “slow” and “simple”.  We didn’t know what that meant; we knew you were like one of us, and you quietly did whatever we would say.  We knew you loved us.  You showed up crying and pleading after a few months had gone by, begging to take us for the next weekend.  They gave you another try, and we waited in our pretty dresses by the front window.  Mom watched us as the time slipped away “Goddamn him” and we went upstairs to change.  We were told what was wrong with you, “He’s…an alcoholic.”  “He’s…mentally slower than…”  “He’s…stuck.”  I had wished you would’ve understood what was wrong with me.  I wanted to crawl in your lap and tell you our new dad was the monster under my bed.  I’d imagine what you’d do—the look that might’ve flashed through your big blue eyes, the fall of your sheepish posture, broad shoulders sinking—you with your helpless hands, embarrassed; passive hands, scared, your brain slowly mushing into a sponge.  I learned you could never save me.  You slinked away to the bars for good, every day, at ten a.m.. 

            At fourteen I sought out your apartment on one lousy Sunday.  I knew you had been living out of your car but then moved in with your brother.  You didn’t know my face when you opened the door.  “You looking for Francis?” you asked politely.  Well it had been seven or eight years.  Frightened and nervous after I said my name, you offered me a quick seat at the little kitchen table.  I stared at its gray, marbled top and at the laundry and boxes and rotten food strewn about.  You caught hell though I didn’t really want to give it to you.  I had mixed up all your intentions and put them under my bed.

            Weeks later, I broke into your house in a fever.  I dashed up the stairs and found your bedroom where I rummaged through your things, not caring to put anything back.  I was disappointed to see you hadn’t thrown our things away.  Our pictures covered the cracked walls and the letters we’d sent you over the years lay in neat piles around a bare mattress.  You still had the cassette tape of me.  Auntie Carol later told me you played it all the time—in those lost years.  I knew that smell of you—I still do.  If filled the dank, yellow house with the lonely hallways.  I wanted you to come rushing for me.  You would’ve repeated things you’d heard like “there’s no such thing as monsters” and I would’ve persisted like a child that there was.  You’d be drunk.  You’d never fill that void.  I wanted to cry for you when I stole out the front door.

            We were in our twenties when we looked over at you in the funeral home.  Your lashes were long and waxen.  Your eyes bulged beneath their lids.  Your large hands with the bitten finger nails were gray.  Random thoughts shot through my mind in that cold room where they released all of the alcohol from you.  As your children, we were to go through your house and choose what we wanted.  They gave us your address and it took us to a different side of town, near the lake.  This place was hollow and empty aside from the trash.  No food, no laundry basket, no towels.  Old Style sat warm in the refrigerator.  The same clothes you wore when we were little still hung in the closet, reeking of you.  I kept a shirt.  An old, beige blanket was nailed up over the window.  Letters were found here and there in the laundry and newspapers across the floor.  I searched for treasures—keepsakes.  Beer tabs and pennies.

            You called me Salt because of my white-blond hair.  Nikki was Pepper.  Jodie was Paprika.  “I love yous’, I love yous girls” you used to always say.  You never tried to teach me to be tough—you always let me cry until I was better.  So alone, so alone, and did you realize that in the end?  Did you feel it in those short hours before you were drunk again?  Did your brain sop all that away?  The bartenders said you carried pictures of us three in your wallet and showed us to them every day, bragging about where we worked and how we were doing.  Somehow you kept up on us.  Nikki can’t stop holding your shirts.  She shouldn’t have paid the five bucks to the gypsy.

The Nothing Caper

It came in the night. We were all sleeping in the house and I woke to it lifting my sheets; it made my nightgown bleed. My doll saw it all so I ripped out her eyes the next morning before breakfast. Then it started coming in my dreams, and I thought there was a monster beneath my bed gathering my dolls and things. On the scratchy carpet where the sun comes in, it branded my skin with its tongue, so I gave it my voice. Mother and father swallowed it up.

They found me in corners and closets and they didn’t hear their words running from my mouth. I didn’t know so I swallowed the words whole; they fed me spoonfuls of throbbing aches that echoed deep in my belly, burning my insides until it dulled and smoothed over.

I began to sweat them out my pores like a broken fever. I washed and raked my skin. Something curdled and clotted the mainstreams of my heart as I took their pieces and ate them. I choked and spewed out a doll that didn’t have eyes. Her messy dress had burned away so they stitched her a new one and kept it inside and I ran away, hungry.