Chapter 20: Back to the Cabin

February 11, 2014


Dear Diary,

Yesterday, I decided to turn over a new leaf. I’ve been thinking about what Shizuka said to me about how all the kids aren’t the same and about how some of them weren’t so bad. I decided that I was going to go into school with a positive attitude — maybe get to know some of these not-so-bad kids. I mean, if I thought about it really hard, the reactions to Nick’s performance the other night were NOT all positive. Some of the kids made faces, others walked away. Not that I wanted to remember that night. The mouse’s tiny eye, the flickering flames still haunted me.

But it’s time to move on, right? So I went to school determined to have a good attitude.

Got through first period. Fine and dandy! Second period? super! Third period? Well, that’s about as far as I got, because when I walked into Ms. Simmons’s art room, I could tell something was wrong.

Remember how much she loved Shizuka’s and my project? Well she loved it so much, she put it on the wall.

And someone else must have hated it so much, they tore it down and drew all over it with a Sharpie.

Ms. Simmons was walking in at the same time as Shizuka and I did. She must have left the room for a minute in between classes. So all three of us saw it at the same moment.

Our project — our beautiful bird fashion catalog — was torn up and drawn all over with mustaches and dicks and all sorts of awful ridiculousness and just strewn all over the floor. There was a boot mark on the corner of one page.

I saw it and I got all choked up. I can’t believe I had such a wussy reaction, but I did. It was everything I could do to hold back earthquakes of sobs. I don’t know WHY I was so upset. It’s just a school project, and even if we did work hard on it, it’s not like it hadn’t been graded yet or something. We’d gotten our A. So I don’t know why I started crying, but I did.


It was embarrassing. Shizuka put her arm around me and we just turned around and walked right out of the room. Ms. Simmons looked mortified. She had her hands out, her mouth hanging open like she just couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

She was crouched on the floor picking up the pieces of our drawing, her hair falling in her eyes, as Shizuka led me out into the hallway. She still hard her arm around me, and once we got outside the door, she pulled me into a hug and we just stood there for a minute, leaning against the lockers, me crying like a dumbass into the shoulder of her sweater. Then the bell rang and she pulled back. “Are you going to come in with me?” she asked, gesturing at the open door to the classroom. I couldn’t see Ms. Simmons crouched on the floor anymore. She must have finished picking up the pieces of our project.

I shook my head. “I’m not feeling well,” I lied, and Shizuka shook her head, gave my arm a squeeze, then went into Ms. Simmons’s room alone.

I went to the nurse’s office, where I feigned a stomach ache and managed to convince the nurse to let me go home.

Mom wasn’t thrilled about picking me up, but I think she was glad at least that it wasn’t because I’d gotten into a fight.

We were silent all the way home. I didn’t want to tell her about what had happened, but it was obviously what was on my mind. Who did it? The obvious culprit was Madison, I guess, but WHY? Why would she care about our silly little art project? Could it be Nick? Some other dumb jerk who doesn’t even know us? Who was just trying to be funny? Someone trying to get back at Ms. Simmons? Could it have nothing to do with us? That seemed unlikely, but maybe.

I mulled it over  as we rode past naked trees and muddy snowbanks and fields and the occasional house, all the way to our driveway.

“Remember that you have an appointment with Dr. Reynard this afternoon,” mom said as we got out of the car. Crap.  The appointments are bi-weekly now, which is better than weekly, but still. THAT evil woman was the last person I wanted to see. I shook my head.

“Mom, please,” I begged, clutching my stomach. “I really don’t feel well.”

Mom sighed, but didn’t protest. “Alright,” she said finally. “Just rest. I’ll call and tell her that we have to miss this appointment.”

I nodded, and went inside to lay on the couch. Mom went into her office and closed the door, and I could hear the muffled sound of her voice speaking into the phone, then, silence.

She stayed in there after the phone call while I lay on the couch, wondering whether I legitimately was sick because now my stomach did kind of hurt. I tried closing my eyes and resting, but felt too keyed up. So I got up off the couch and went to the window that looks out on the back yard.

The birds, I noticed, were out of food. I hadn’t fed them in a couple days, and a wave of shame washed over me. I grabbed a scoop full of seed and a suet cake, slipped my coat back on, and went out back to remedy this sad situation.

I was hanging up the suet cake when I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye. I just knew it was Clancy.

Then there he was, right in front of me! I’d never seen him get that close, but he fluttered down onto the iron bird feeder post and just sat there looking at me, less than a foot from my face. I kept perfectly still, my hand still poised on the suet.

He looked at me, his eyes filled with intelligence, and I looked at him. It was cold out, frigid. The air smelled like snow but it wasn’t snowing, hadn’t snowed for at least a week. The ground was covered in crusty old snow, dirty with mud and criss crossed with animal tracks.

And then, as I stood there looking at Clancy and he sat there looking at me, my eyes just welled up with tears and I started to cry. My body shook with emotion. All that had built up over these past couple months: Mom and dad, dad and Sofia, Madison, Dr. Reynard, the nightmares, Nick and that poor mouse, the story of the robin — All of that just came bursting out of me.

I thought Clancy would fly away for sure, but he didn’t. He just stood there looking at me. He inched closer, in fact, and then, ever so gently, touched my hand with his beak. Not a peck. Not a bite. Just a gentle tap.

But that tap felt like electric. It zapped through my body from my finger to my spine, then ran up into my brain like wildfire, where it set off a bomb.

The whole world went dark.

Then I was walking through the woods again, through the canopy of squawking, screeching, singing birds. I looked up at the skeletal trees towering over me. Time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. The sun went down. The moon came up. The seasons flew by. The naked trees grew buds, then flowers. As I walked, petals rained down on me like a spring shower, the moonlight glinting off them as they fell. The birds kept singing, singing. The leaves grew and grew.

Flashes then: Flashes of memories. But were they MY memories? They couldn’t be. But they were memories all the same. A big, hulking man standing in the doorway of a cabin, some kind of animal trap slung over his shoulder. A floorboard that lifted up and a leatherbound book shoved underneath. The fog rising off a marsh in the morning sun. The red-winged blackbirds flashing their crimson epaulettes and strutting. A woman, sweet and young, baking bread and humming, then wild-eyed and old, dying screaming in her bed.

Screaming. Refusing death.

A young girl then, my age, with tanned skin and her long hair braided down her back, laughing, smiling, twirling in the dappled sunlight of a forest clearing. Her eyes are such a deep brown. She takes me by the hand, and laughing, I leverage her wrist to pull her in closer. I wrap my hands (masculine hands) around her waist and she looks up at me, blinking those big brown eyes. Her mouth is slightly open and I can see where one of her front teeth overlaps the other.

I kiss her. Tenderly at first, then insistently. She kisses me back. Her lips are soft. She tastes like cherries.

Then another memory. She and I are together, in the dark. The door bursts open and HE’S there. The big man with the animal trap. He steps across the whole room in one big stride and pulls the girl up by her hair. She screams and I grab for her but she’s gone. He’s taken her outside, still screaming.

It is almost dawn, still dark but the first birds are singing as I bust through the front door and out to where the man and the girl stand. He has a musket to her head.

“You did this,” he says, as he fires the shot that kills her. I dive toward them but I’m too late. Her body slumps to the ground, her face mottled with blood and a blast of gunpowder and…I don’t even want to imagine what else. The man looks down at me, the rising sun behind him blinding me, turning him into a flaming silhouette. He draws back and spits, the saliva landing on the dead girl’s breast.

“You bury it,” he croaks, and walks off, his heavy feet thumping across the carpet of delicate purple flowers.

One more memory: I am packing up my things. I need to leave. This man is a madman and he’s murdered the woman I love. Worse, I didn’t do anything to stop him. I hate myself. I want to start over.

And then there he is again, torch in hand.

“You did this,” he says again, shouting this time, out of control. And the cabin goes up in flames.

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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


February 8, 2014

No dad this weekend either. Fuck him.

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Posted by on February 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chapter 19: Happy Prisoners

February 5, 2014


Dear Diary,

It’s weird writing “dear diary” over and over again, day after day. “Dear” anyone is not something anyone ever says, at least not anymore. Maybe back in the days before Instagram and Twitter and Youtube, people were writing “dear” all day long. “Dear mother,” “dear lover,” “dear brother.” Dear diary was a natural extension of the letters we wrote, I feel.

Not anymore. I guess it would be more natural or genuine, in 2014, to write your journal entries as a series of 140-character non-sequiturs, or just keep a photo album of selfies, instead. “Here’s me in class.” “Here’s me in front of the Washington Monument.” “Here’s me making a duck face at my grandfather’s funeral.”

But I guess I was born in the wrong time, because I kind of LIKE writing “dear diary.” It feels weird, but also familiar. Quaint. Comforting.


Shizuka and I handed in our Bird Fashions project (which is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself, although now I can’t look at our robin anymore because it just makes me feel sad.) Ms. Simmons flipped through it right then and there and said it was amazing. We were pretty proud of ourselves, and high-fived in the hall before lunch.

After lunch, we stood outside in the paved area that is high school’s answer to a playground, I guess. It’s kind of spartan and prison-like. There’s one door that leads out there, and it is equipped with a metal detector and a teacher guarding it at all times, who has to buzz you in if you need to go to the bathroom or something before the next period begins. There isn’t a fence around the paved area, but it feels like there is. If we step outside of the imaginary boundary, we get a whistle blown on us and we’re ushered back inside the building to think about our wicked ways. There are two sad basketball hoops, ostensibly put there so we can play basketball, but there are no balls, and the hoops are naked, just bare,rusty metal holes with no net. It’s sad.

I hear sometimes about a time when kids were allowed to leave campus during lunch, go to the diner and grab a burger, or, if they were naughty, skip the rest of the school day and go swimming in the river, or smoke dope in the woods. Those times are now long past. We are prisoners. There are no bars on the windows like in Brooklyn, but we are prisoners.

Happy prisoners though, right? Upbeat, optimistic prisoners with our whole lives ahead of us, right? Yay!

Today while hanging out in the prison yard, we were approached by Alex Jason (aka Blue Jay.) He came up to talk to Shizuka about homework for bio, so he wasn’t talking to me exactly, but I still got to enjoy the view. He was wearing this cool vintage Nirvana t-shirt and jeans that were form-fitting but not too skinny. Not like those jeans that some boys wear that look like jeggings. Just like, cool. He was wearing black chucks, like he always does, and his hair was perfect as usual except for this one little cowlick in the back.

The cowlick makes him irresistible.

Anyway, after he talked to Shizuka, he turned to me and smiled and I just about died (GET IT TOGETHER CAROLINA! Geez!) He said “I don’t apologize, like, ever. I never say I’m sorry. But I’m sorry you were bothered by Nick the other night.”

I was about to thank him for his concern when Shizuka scoffed and said “thanks for the non-apology, Alex.”

“Oh, whatever,” he shot back. It didn’t sound mean. It sounded playful. I couldn’t tell if Shizuka was playing, though. “Carolina knows what I mean. Don’t you Carolina?”

I guess I did. I mean, it wasn’t him that did it. It was Nick. And if Alex Jason never apologized, maybe he wasn’t sure how. I guess the intent was there, right? I nodded.

Then he reached out and touched my hair! Like, he took a curl between his fingers, and brushed it back away from my face. It was… embarrassing. I’m sure I blushed. I felt a warm flutter deep inside of me, and I’m sure I blushed. Then he walked away.

“You can’t let him get away with shit like that just because he’s pretty,” Shizuka said, as soon as he’d walked away. Honestly, he was probably still close enough that he could hear her. Maybe she wanted him to.

“I thought you liked him?”

Shizuka looked at me sharply. “I DO, but just because you like someone doesn’t mean they get a free pass to be a jerk. He’s not Nick, but he IS a pretty big narcissist. I’m just saying you need to be careful. Keep your wits about you. Don’t be a chump.”

Then the bell rang and we all reluctantly headed inside.

I know Shizuka is probably right (she’s almost always right,) but there’s just something about him. I know it’s cheesy, but when he touched my hair… it was like magic.

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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chapter 18: A Robin Named Grayson

February 2, 2014

Dear Diary,

Today I went over to Shizuka’s house again to work on our art project. It’s due this week, so we really have to hustle, especially since we didn’t get to work on it last weekend. Actually, maybe it’s a good thing dad didn’t come again this weekend, because he would have distracted me from this very important work of art.

I went over after lunch and Shizuka’s mom was actually there for once, along with Koa.

Her mom has this really kickass lumbersexual thing going on, kinda looks like Josie Packard from Twin Peaks, now that I think about it. Short hair, effortlessly pretty, elegant even in an oversized plaid shirt. She made us tea and mochi and then left us with Koa while she went in her office to grade some papers.

Today we were doing the last three of our bird models: The Robin (this is our spring catalog, after all,) the Goldfinch, and of course, our pièce de résistance, the Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

Koa was hanging out at the kitchen table with us, practically inhaling mochi and reading some really in-depth account (with diagrams, even!) of beaver dam construction. He was being pretty quiet, and honestly we were, too, as we were really engrossed in what we were doing. Shizuka was playing these cheesy old enka records she found in her mom’s stash, and they made a surprisingly good soundtrack to our project.

Then out of nowhere, Koa looked over at my drawing and said “we found a robin, once.”

Shizuka gave him a very stern look and told him that I did not want to hear about that, but he went on as if he hadn’t even heard her, inching his chair toward me and leaning in, close.  He gripped my arm in his little hands and I could see the dirt under his fingernails. He smelled like jasmine tea and honey, and had powdered sugar on his cheek.

“It was hurt,” he went on. “I think it ran into the window or something. I was going out to play and I found it on its back. Its feet were up in the air kinda kicking around, otherwise I would have thought it was dead.

“I got close to it, and it looked at me. It was a couple years ago, like maybe two or three?” Koa looked at Shizuka for confirmation and she nodded reluctantly.

“So I ran in and got Shizuka and she came out and we picked the bird up and put it in a box. We found out later you’re not supposed to touch them in case they have like, Avian Flu or something, but we didn’t know that back then.

“We turned him over on his belly and put a little washcloth on him like a blanket. Shizuka got an eye dropper from her science kit and washed it out and used it to drop little drops of water in the robin’s mouth. He drank sorta, but when we put bird seed in front of him, he wouldn’t eat it. He just lay his head down and went to sleep.”

“He was so pretty,” Shizuka now said, caught up in the memory as well. “He had these grey feathers around his eyes, like eyebrows. We named him Grayson. We thought we’d rehabilitate him and then he’d fly away and be all better.”

“Or maybe stay with us,” Koa offered. “We thought maybe he’d fly away when he got better, or maybe he’d want to stay with us, like a pet.”

“Dad was there on the phone, and when he got off, he tried to call all these people, like wildlife rehabilitators, to see if somebody would be able to help the bird.”

“Grayson,” Koa corrected. Now that he’d been reminded of the bird’s name, he was going to be adamant that his sister use it.

“Grayson,” Shizuka repeated. “But nobody would help with a robin. They’re not endangered or anything. There are a million of them. Everyone said ‘oh if it were an owl or a hawk or something, we could do something, but not for a robin.’”

“So dad drove us to Rick’s Fishing Shop and we got live bait, because we figured robins like worms. Dad mashed one of the worms up when we got home because Shizuka and I were too grossed out to do it, and we tried to put it in Grayson’s mouth. He didn’t want to eat it, though. He just let the mushed up worm dribble off his beak and then like, laid his head in it and closed his eyes.”

Koa was still gripping my arm, and here he laid his head on my shoulder as well and squeezed his eyes shut, as if trying to conjure up a particularly difficult memory. Shizuka and I waited patiently. The clock ticked. I could hear their mom cough a few times in the office down the hall.

Finally, Koa went on. “That night, we put the bird in my room, to keep it warm. It was spring but it was still cold out at night, and we didn’t think Grayson would be able to regulate his body temperature since he was hurt. So dad put the box in my room.”

“Koa wanted it in there,” Shizuka interjected. “He cried when dad suggested we put the bir-I mean Grayson in the garage. He wanted him near.”

“I did,” Koa admitted almost hesitantly. “But then I was laying in bed, and it was dark except for my night light, and the box with the bird in it was on my desk across the room and it was so quiet. I almost thought it died a couple times. I had to get up and look. But every time I got up and looked, he was still breathing. I could see the little washcloth rising and falling, and he would look up at me and his eyes looked so…so…clear. Like he couldn’t sleep either.

“Then I’d lay back down in bed but I kept imagining him in the box, looking at me, and I wanted to help him but I didn’t know how. I didn’t get any sleep that night.”

“The next day was Mother’s Day. I remember,” Shizuka continued. “We had Nick’s family over–Mom and dad were really close to his parents back then–for brunch. The adults were all sitting in the kitchen drinking and Nick and I went outside just to hang out and talk and Koa was in his room-”

“-I was trying to give Grayson some water but he wouldn’t drink it anymore. He wouldn’t eat the mushed up worms, either. He just lay there, looking at me.”

“And then Koa came out with the bird in the box. He thought he might like the sun, or that maybe the sound of the other robins would perk him up.”

“And Nick looked at Grayson, and he said ‘that bird is very sick. I’ll take care of it for you.’  He took the box off into the woods. I was really relieved. I figured he must know something I don’t, right? Some way of healing? He came back and the box was empty. Grayson must have flown awa-”

Suddenly, Koa shut his mouth, mid-sentence. This look of awful realization crossed his face. “Ane-chan?” he said, his voice shaking.

Shizuka looked sick. I must have looked sick. Koa’s face suddenly crumpled, as if he were about to cry.

“Let’s not talk about it anymore, Koa,” Shizuka said, and pulled her little brother into a hug.

Boys will be boys my ass.   

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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chapter 17: A Damn Fine Cup of Coffee

February 1, 2014


Dear Diary,

Dad was supposed to come this weekend, but now he’s not because he’s too busy. We were supposed to watch the rest of Twin Peaks. I even made pie, and I hate baking. We were going to have two damn fine cups of coffee and pretend we were staying at the Great Northern. And now we’re not.

I should have known he’d pussy out at the last minute. He came up last weekend when he thought I was in distress. Fine. Great. Thanks dad.

But then mom made him uncomfortable, maybe getting a little bit too close to the truth of his fucked up midlife crisis that he’s going through, and now he’s not coming back, at least not for now. He’s reassured himself that I’m not babbling in the corner eating bugs, and that’s enough for him.

Do I think he’s sleeping with Sofia? Do I think she’s his girlfriend, like mom said? Do I think he’s with her now, instead of with his family?

Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know one thing: Whether he’s sticking it to her or not, he’s enjoying the simplicity that she brings to the table. She’s got no kids. She’s got no strings attached. She’s just a free-spirited twenty-something trying to make it in New York. She can don a sparkly top and tight jeans and be the candy on his arm for a night and she’ll never bother him with her bad dreams, or yell at him or throw wine, because he owes her nothing and she needs nothing from him.

She’s not even real. She’s just a ghost.

We’re real. We’re solid. We need him.

But we’re messy, and I guess dad’s not doing messy these days, at least not like he should be.

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Posted by on February 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chapter 16: Boys Will Be Boys

January 28, 2014


Dear Diary,

So yesterday was my second appointment with Dr. Reynard and you know what? Fuck that bitch.

There, I said it. Fuck her.

She asked me how I was doing. Fine. “You don’t look fine,” she said, so I told her very briefly what happened the other night with the mouse. very briefly, mind you, because she’s not a talking sorta therapist, remember. She is there for meds. She’s there for setting straight the fucked up minds of chemically unbalanced folks, for de-psychofying the psychos of the world with CHEMISTRY, NOT TALKING.

I basically just said “Oh I’m feeling kinda off because I saw another kid kill an animal.”

And then I lost it. The tears just started streaming down my face and my body started shaking with sobs and I just… I don’t know. I just felt so sad thinking about that mouse.

“You’re crying over this?” she asked, kind of incredulously. Her question only made me sob harder. “This is just boys being boys, you know,” she went on. “It’s normal for young men to have that urge to kill things. It’s their hunter instinct.”

I stopped crying and looked at her, probably with an awful bitch face but I don’t even care. “Isn’t killing animals a sign that someone is like, a sociopath? Don’t serial killers start out that way?”

She shook her head. “No, you’re exaggerating. This isn’t anything like that, I’m sure.”

Dr. Reynard did not elaborate.

She looked at me with this disgusted sneer on her face and was like “Let’s talk about your reaction, though. Do you think this is a normal reaction for a person to have?” The sneer kind of turned into this fake look of concern.

I thought for a moment in silence. I looked at her bookshelf. The Art of War. Some weight loss books. Atlas Shrugged.

I shrugged.

“Was this animal your pet?”

I shook my head no and rubbed my fingers along the smooth brown leather of the couch, trying to distract myself, to go someplace else.

“Okay. Was it someone else’s pet? Was it a dog or a cat?”

Again, I shook my head. Rubbed the leather of the couch. Hard.

“Well there you go,” she said, like she’d solved some mystery. “This is not an appropriate reaction, Carolina. You’re getting all bent out of shape over a wild animal. Wild animals die all the time. They get run over by cars. They get eaten by hawks. They get caught in mousetraps. Do you cry every time you see roadkill, Carolina?” She looked at me sharply, her eyes burning holes in my skull.

I tried to avoid her gaze but her eyes followed, taunting, challenging.

“No,” I admitted.

She nodded like she got me to admit some great truth, then started scribbling in her pad. “I think you’re still having some problems regulating your emotions,” she said. “I’m going to up your dosage.”

Up it?! I’m still having these awful headaches, and just, no! No! NO NO NO! I shook my head vehemently. If we up my dosage every time I cry, I’ll die of an OD before I turn 15.

“Listen, Carolina. I hate to be blunt, but this isn’t up to you. Okay? I’m the professional. Your parents are your guardians. You don’t have any say in the matter, really, and honestly, even if you weren’t a minor, I would say that you’re really not in the position to judge what treatment is best.”

I felt cowed. Am I really that crazy? That far gone? Like tie-me-to-a-bed-and-give-me-electroshock-therapy crazy? Like so-crazy-I-don’t-know-how-crazy-I-am crazy?

“Am I that bad?” I asked.

“Oh I wouldn’t use the word bad,” she answered. “You just have symptoms that are rather…distinct. And the symptoms are definitely treatable, we just need to get you on the right amount of medication. Okay? People with your…problems…have a tendency to not want to take their medication, even though it’s what’s best for them. The fact that you don’t want to take it is just a sign of how much you need to take it.”

She looked at me with this hideous, wide smile on her face. She looked like a scary clown, like John Wayne Gacy, or like the clown bed in the Simpsons that Bart is afraid will eat him if he falls asleep.

I nodded. I took the prescription from her outstretched hand. I went into the waiting room while she talked to mom, and then we left.

I am not upping the dose. I don’t care what she says, or what mom says, or anyone says. I’ll break the goddamn pills in half if I have to. Honestly, I wish I didn’t have to take the drugs at all. The headaches are still tearing my head apart. I feel sleepy, sick, and numb (most of the time.)

I did ask mom on the way home whether I could see a different doctor.

“You don’t like Dr. Reynard?” she asked, sounding genuinely curious.

No. I hate her. She’s a terrible person. If I could toss her in the fire like that poor little mouse and listen to HER pop and fizzle, I’d do that.

Oh god, sorry. No I wouldn’t. That sounds horrible. I swear I was joking.

I didn’t say that, obviously. I was just testing the waters, seeing whether mom was amenable to letting me see someone else, seeing whether I could push her gently in that direction without having to admit what a cunt Dr. Reynard had been and causing mom to make a scene. (Mom, when angered, is somewhat reminiscent of the goddess Kali, and I didn’t necessarily want to unleash the great destroyer on Dr. Reynard, bitch or not. In this small town, it would get back to the kids at school, and I’d certainly never hear the end of that taunting. No, best not to rock the boat, at least not too much.)

So I said something that I thought mom would understand. “I just think she’s maybe too pushy with the medication. Like now she wants me to take more? What about holistic methods of healing?”

Holistic healing. Mom loves holistic healing. If only kombucha and a good long bike ride could de-psychofy me, she’d be all over that shit.

She looked relieved, like I’d said something she’d been thinking. Bingo.

“I agree, honey,” she said. “I think there’s way more to healing than just throwing pills at the problem. But our insurance won’t pay for the kind of therapist I’d send you to, and the medication does seem to be working, doesn’t it? I mean, you’re not having those spooky dreams anymore, right? You’re sleeping?”

Mom looked at me then, the concern all over her face, her eyebrows knit together beneath her thick-rimmed glasses, her heart-shaped lips pursed tightly, and I just caved.

“Yes, I’ve been sleeping. No, no more nightmares.”

I sighed at looked out the window. Mom turned back to her driving. We drove the rest of the way home in silence.

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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Uncategorized


Chapter 15: Snap, Crackle, Pop

January 27, 2014


Dear Diary,

Ok so I did the rest of my homework last night and woke up early so I could finish writing this before school. I want to get it all down while it’s fresh in my mind, so I don’t forget.

So where did I leave off last night? Hmm. Oh yeah, the power failure. So that put a damper on mom and dad’s argument (thankfully. I didn’t want to have to choose sides.) Instead of fighting, they got busy lighting a fire in the wood stove and filling buckets with water, just in case. (I’m actually not sure what that’s “just in case” of? Our power pretty much never went out in Brooklyn, and if it ever did, it wasn’t long enough to start dying of thirst, for sure.)

We spent the rest of the night in the (relative) dark, huddled around the woodstove. I wondered if dad was happy that the power went out. I wondered if he was gathering ideas about rustic country living  for Sofia’s “twee novel.”

I kind of liked it, even though mom and dad were absolutely determined not to talk, and were just kind of sitting there in angry silence reading on their Nooks. I read my book with a flashlight and it was peaceful. I’d like more nights like that, minus the angry silence, of course.

The power stayed out the rest of the night, and into Saturday. We all slept in the living room on the floor in front of the wood stove in sleeping bags, because the rest of the house was completely freezing with no heat.

When I woke up in the morning, mom and dad had pushed their sleeping bags together and were like, cuddling. That made me feel a little bit better, even though it was entirely possible that they’d done it in their sleep, and weren’t even conscious of the fact that they had kinda sorta made up.

Having the power out during the day isn’t quite as big a deal as having it out during the night. It was warmer, and the sunlight meant I could read without a flashlight. The only problem really was that dad and I had planned on re-watching Twin Peaks (dad is a huge David Lynch freak. I think he’s pretty cool, too.) Obviously that didn’t happen. I mean I guess we could have streamed it on his phone, but that would have meant draining the battery, and we didn’t know when we’d be able to charge it again.

It is amazing how long it can take to get power back out here in the sticks. It was still out in the evening when I got a text from Shizuka asking me if I wanted to go to Alex Jason’s house for a bonfire.

Bonfires are this weird thing, around here. If you started just burning shit in your yard in Brooklyn, you’d have the 5-0 on you before you could blink twice. Here? People create these raging infernos behind their houses and nobody gives a shit. Where’s Smokey the Bear when you need him? Anyway. The popular kids have these bonfires all the time, at all different people’s houses, whoever happens to be in a position where no adult is there to care what they do. I hear they can get really wild. I’ve seen the videos online. Everybody whooping it up like a bunch of coyotes, these towering flames, and lots and lots and lots of refreshments.

There’s always booze and pot of course. And coke (gross.) And I hear that last time, Madison’s friend Paige was tripping on acid and almost threw herself into the fire.

She managed to only singe her eyelashes and eyebrows before someone (they say Alex Jason,) pulled her out and smacked some sense into her (um, hopefully not literally. I don’t like Paige, but I totally do not approve of violence against women, yo.)

So when Shizuka asked me if I wanted to go to this bonfire party, I wasn’t super keen on the idea at first, but I also kinda wanted to escape my parents and their awkward detente.

Dad sealed it for me. I guess I must have been looking at my phone with some kind of pained expression because he asked me what was wrong. I told him that I’d been invited to a party. That I didn’t really want to go, but I also kinda did.

He practically pushed me out the door. “This will be a good opportunity to get your mind off of whatever has been bothering you.” When I said that a lot of what has been bothering me has been some of the kids who would probably be there, he answered that “the best defense is a good offense,” and told me that by showing up and acting like I just don’t care what they think, I will discourage further teasing and other bullshit.

He’s probably not wrong, he’s just an asshole (not really.)

Anyway the way he put it made it sound all brave and noble, and I kinda got that old punk vibe from him like yeah! Fuck them! Fuck the system! Fuck their social structure and their popularity contest bullshit! I’m gonna go to their party! I have just as much of a right to be there as anyone else! I was invited.

Mom was more cautious, and I could tell that she was kind of irritated by dad’s plan, but she seemed like she was trying to keep her mouth shut now and not start any more fights, especially after throwing the wine glass the night before. I caught her looking at the spot where the wine splattered a few times, with a kind of embarrassed look on her face.

She wasn’t going to say no. She was too caught up in her own mortification.

So I texted Shizuka and said I’d come.

Dad drove me to Alex Jason’s house. The party started at 8pm, but he got me there at 8:30 so I could be fashionably late (his words, not mine.) There were only a handful of kids milling around in the front yard, but then Shizuka ran up to the car and dragged me to the back (with me yelling to dad that I’d walk home later and not to worry, I’d be home by 1am for sure.)

The back was a different story. Way more kids. Still not nearly as many as at the New Years Eve party, though. This was intimate by comparison. But there still seemed to be a lot of people.

Alex’s backyard, of course, has a pool and a patio with expensive looking wooden furniture and a barbeque on it covered in snow. There’s a good couple of acres of cleared yard before it gets eaten up by the forest. There is an old wooden playset thing with a twisty slide and a tower with a pointy storybook roof and three swings.

In the middle of the yard, stood the fire–Roaring, towering, and hot. I was quite a few feet from it when I first felt the heat emanating. It felt like a weird, unnatural heat, something that shouldn’t exist in January but only did because we humans are fucking sorcerers.

There were kids everywhere: On the patio, lounging on the furniture and playing flip cup on the table, swinging on the swings and shaking the playset with the burden of their adolescent weight, and of course, crowded around the bonfire, beer bottles in hands, cigarettes in other hands (gross,) partying it up. Being kids.

But I suck at being a kid. So I grabbed my beer and then just kind of stood by the fire, eyes shut, drinking in the warmth.

Shizuka made her rounds and then came back to stand by me.

“You ok?” she asked.

I opened my eyes and looked at her. What had I done that made it appear that I wasn’t ok?

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I answered. “Just thinking. I mean, I don’t really fit in with these people.”

Shizuka looked at me, confused. “These people? Carolina, these people are like, all different. It’s not like they’re all the same person. A lot of them are total dickwads, yeah, but some of them are nice. I don’t think you’re being fair.”

I was kinda shocked. It felt like a punch in the gut, her saying that. Like I was the bad guy! “Well, they don’t like me,” I mumbled, and kind of avoided her gaze.

I like you, dummy!” Shizuka practically yelled.

I was embarrassed, and looked around to see if anybody else was watching. To my surprise, they didn’t seem to be.

“And I’m sure other people would like you, too, if you’d just give them a chance,” she continued.

That was kind of a lot to chew on. Am I the engineer of my own misery? I mean, a little bit?

That's me on the left, pretending to be a normal teenager.

That’s me on the left, pretending to be a normal teenager.

I was standing there just kind of thinking about that when Nick (gag) came running out of the house. He had something cupped in his hands, and was yelling as he ran.

He came up beside me at the fire and kind of shouldered me out of his way. “Hey baby,” he breathed at me as he did this, which sent shivers down my spine. I was thinking about channeling Cher from Clueless and giving him a big old “As IF!” when he started yelling to the group, as if making an announcement.

“Attention, everyone! Attention!”

Most of the kids at the bonfire stopped talking and looked at him. He had his hands raised over his head, cupped around something. I thought I could hear a tiny squeak come from between his clenched fingers.

“Here’s a joke for you all. See if you can guess the answer.” His hands were still held aloft. The smell of hard liquor and weed and something sour emanated from him. He was sweaty and stickily hot.

Everyone stood in silence, looking at him. Some laughed nervously.

“What sound does a burning rodent make?”

Alex Jason was standing on the other side of the fire. He rolled his eyes and sneered. Around him, more nervous laughs.

“Nobody?” Nick asked.

There was a long moment of silence. Nick’s hands were still cupped, still held aloft. More tiny squeaks. More nervous laughs. I gaped at him in horror. He wouldn’t, would he?

Oh, he would, apparently. He shouted “Snap, crackle, and pop!” and then in one long motion reeled back, then flung a tiny furry body into the fire.

I swore I could see the mouse’s terrified little beady eye flicker in the flame as it sailed into the bonfire.

Then a tiny pop, and a long, hissing sizzle. The mouse was gone, totally consumed by the inferno.

I heard yells, vaguely appreciative chuckles, the slap of a couple high fives. Disgusted squeals from some of the guests. A few people walked away shaking their heads. But it was all in a fog. I felt alone. It was just me and the mouse.

And then the memory of the dream, of Clancy burning up in the fire, calling out in that chilling human voice, his body turning to ash in my hand.

The bile rose up in my throat. I looked at Nick. He looked at me, grinning, the bonfire lighting up his face menacingly. He was a monster.

“What’s wrong, bay-be?” he asked in this gross sing-song voice, this big, shit-eating grin on his face.

“You’re disgusting,” I answered, and my stomach just revolted. I had to run off to the side, into the bushes, and vomit. How could he do that? I know it was just a mouse and they only live like a year anyway but how could he? How could he be so heartless and cruel for no reason? How could he be so sick that that amused him? And how could other people be so morally bankrupt that they just laughed it off?

I could hear him yelling after me, “I’m disgusting? Who’s the one puking after like what, one drink? Lightweight!” More guffaws. More high fives.

When I was done puking, I wiped my face and stood in the brush, looking back at the scene. The bright, almost blinding light of the bonfire, sparks rising up into the deep blue sky. The shadows of my classmates crowded around it, laughing, joking, having fun. People breaking away from the group for cans of beer or cups of mixed drinks.

Somewhere, in that fire, the burnt little body of that mouse. Probably ashes by now, probably nothing.

Nobody cared that he died, except me.

A tear slid down my cheek and I wiped it away. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Then there was the flutter of wings behind me. I looked back, and although it was dark, I swore I saw Clancy fly off into the woods, the firelight illuminating his red head, making it glisten and dance.

Obviously a hallucination or something, right? I mean, what the fuck?

I left soon after. That was enough partying for me for a while.

So that was pretty much my weekend. Sunday was relatively uneventful. The power came back on. Dad and I watched Twin Peaks for hours, and I loved it but was distracted all day, just feeling wrong. Mom just did her own thing in her office. I don’t think I saw her all day.

Dad had to leave this morning because he has a lot of work to do back in the city, but he says he’s going to come back next weekend, so that’s exciting!

Now I just need to survive a week of school.

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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Uncategorized