Tell me bout the children Are the girls okay Let little Lucy know I would sew her Spring Fling gown if I could I wanted to rosebud pink with Swiss dots Spaghetti straps No don’t bring them here I want them to remember Meemaw like I was Like I’m supposed to be Don’t ask how I’m doin’
Did Bobby and Jack cover the hay From the summer rains Daddy’s gonna be mad if—that’s right some days it’s like he’s still here Even if you don’t love somebody They are still yours You are still theirs I never had a say in what happened to me Like an old tree growing with a fence You can’t break them part Without one being cut Don’t ask me about your father
Even in here I can smell the harvest It’s a warm sweetish smell Daddy and me would’ve been forty years Come October He done what he did And I never asked questions He’d slap me into next week if I did It’s not fair they blame me for what he done You know I would never hurt nobody What could I have done
My seed catalogs came today I turned the thin pages half the night Busting with Choices The papers say I should’ve known so many farm hands coming and going Always leaving their things behind Us never paying salaries and all I kept the books And my mouth shut Come spring they’ll move me from laundry to gardening I hope I’m not the kind that asks questions
Dry leaves tickled the side of Paulina’s right cheek. Her mother calls her Lina but she likes it when Daddy called her Yo Pauly in a funny voice. Wishing she was warm on the sofa eating cereal, Paulina is chilly. Wet grass smell with a touch of iron rose around her. Confused Paulina tried to inhale. Theo up the street had puppies and he said she could have one if she wanted and she wanted. She and Daddy had even gone to the store with the pets and stuff but Mom said oh no. Moms always say oh no. So when Paulina saw the pretty yellow dog from her bedroom walking in their yard she said yes. She is moving but not walking. Every thing is jumbled. Paulina’s mouth tasted of peanut butter and slippery salt. She loves peanut butter. Paulina made her new pet peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It was still dark outside with a little pink. Paulina thought, I’m afraid of the dark. Daddy told me there is nothing in the dark that is not in the light and to not be afraid. Paulina remembered being brave with her plate of sandwiches in the woods behind her house. Many eyes shined back at her in the dark between the trees. Weak light stabbed through the leaves overhead. Paulina can see her Tickle Me Elmo plate and the spilt sandwiches. She reaches for the back porch, the still open back door. The kitchen light, still on, grew farther and farther away. Crunch. Low growls greeted her. Howls tussled over and around Paulina. A scream awaken her but only for a minute. The brightening light blinked away. Sleep warm held Paulina tight and safe.
“Don’t be a little chickenshit, Ashton,” Jordie said. “Yeah man grow a pair,” Drew parroted. Drew waggled his eyebrows at Jordie in a way that he hoped she would find adorably sexy. Jordie wrinkled her pert nose. Aston threw a harder than necessary play punch to Drew’s shoulder. “Quit dick eating bro,” Aston said and left the pentagram and opened the door. Kaley with a K and Caeli with a C mockingly booed as Ashton left with one of the five candles. He flipped them all the middle finger as he strutted into the dark hallway. With dove gray walls and fresh vanilla wall to wall carpets, the model home was actually nice. Jordie had stolen the code from her mom a realtor. It was kind of a shame about the red marker five pointed star scrawled across the living room, Kaley thought. When Jordie asked him to sneak into an empty house to play Drew had hoped they would eat edibles and make out. Instead the gang showed up and Jordie was all set to play Telephone Black. It had taken forever to duct tape blankets over the windows on the first floor for complete darkness. The five of them, Jordie, Aston, Drew, Caeli, and Kaley, lit the candles Jordie brought and Caeli with a C stole her grandma’s rotary phone. The phone was heavy and grim with a stiff greasy cord. Aston pretended to pummel Kaley with a K with it and squeeze her boobs. His girlfriend Caeli pretended not to notice. Drew refused to touch it. With only four candles remaining the pitch black room in the pitch black house at midnight was working on Drew’s nerves. “Shouldn’t he be back by now,” Drew said watching Jordie watching the battered old phone. The numbers were yellowed and some half rubbed away. Drew wondered how Caeli’s Grammy made calls. “Who?” Kaley and Caeli asked. Drew pulled his eyes from the phone. “Aston,” he said. Both girls blinked back at him questioningly. “You play too much,” Caeli with a C said laying her tiny hand on his thigh. Drew Was taken aback. Then he laughed and Caeli laughed because Drew was kinda of cute even if he liked Jordie more than he liked her. Kaley laughed because it felt weird not to. “Shut up. You will disturb the spirits.” Jordie’s voice was so low the hairs stood up on the back of all their necks. “Telephone Black, Answer Me,” the four chanted. Jordie looked at Caeli with a C. The girl got up and reached for me of the four remaining candles. “Can Drew come with me?” Caeli asked. Her smile almost hid her nervousness. “That’s not how it works. You go alone into a dark room and blow out your candle and when you come back the phone rings and tells you how you will die or what’s in your future.” Jordie’s voice grew soft and sweet. I mean if you don’t want to know if you will marry some hot or rich.” “Or rich and hot,” Kaley said. Giggling to lighten the mood. Caeli hurried from the room. Drew watched the door. He turned to face the two girls. Kaley was looking at her nails, bored. Jordie stared into the phone like it was a campfire. He swiveled from the door to the girls to the door. “She probably making up with her boyfriend,” Drew said in a small voice. Kaley frowned up at him and then returned to the wonders of her manicure. Jordie chanted. With a huff Kaley grabbed one of the remaining three candles. “Let’ finish the ritual and get tacos,” Kaley called out merrily and headed out. “Wait, wait. Stop something’s wrong. It’s like a curse or a dream,” Drew called out. “You play too much,” Kaley said over her shoulder as she slammed the door stepping into the darkness. Drew felt as if his brain wasn’t connected to his feet. Stumbling over his limbs, Drew raced after his friend. The door closed behind him was a satisfied slam. A candle blew out.
Jordie sat alone in the model home, it was a little nugget of generic crap. The only cool thing was the pentagram, she thought. She lit a joint off the candle she bought from home. She wished she had dope friends at school down for anything. This could be a mad fire seance or some game with a Ouija board or something. Jordie took a long drag. Suddenly out of the dark a phone rang.
Click, clack. Leaving Carmella’s in her wake, Dru clicked home to her fifth floor walk up on her weary heels. The night sky had begun to bleed dawn. This late in the evening turning to early morning meant the city was empty as a sarcophagus. She wished she had eaten. Dru walked more quickly. Ahmar is such a tool, she thought her steps matching her pulsating anger. Her boss had kept her in the nightclub’s back office for hours after closing going over the books. She was a waitress, bar back, and now the accountant. Whoever bailed on Ahmar trust Druscila to plug the hole. This is not the life I signed up for, she thought, the glamorous bohemian existence I dreamt. Halfway home and fully furious, Druscila eyed the night sky and grew despondent. Wish not to live long as to live well, the quote floated down from the rafters of memory. Her memories spurted and Dru was a girl at her mother’s side tatting half listening to her mum’s wisdoms. Dru slowed, fingering her mind’s eye picture like a fine lace. That’s when she heard it. The scape of a soft soled shoe on pavement. Her hearing sharpened. Soft steps, a man’s steps, mirrored hers. Dru made a series of quick turns leading back to Carmilla’s. She could hear his breathing, tell from his stride he carried some heavy in his left pocket. Dru had been tracked before. Walking alone from work made her look like an easy target. But she knew to never lead a stranger back to where one sleeps, to never be vulnerable. This little scoundrel is in for a surprise, she thought chuckling. As her predator heart began to thump faster, Druscila felt electric excitement warm her cold skin. She remembered what she had gained as well as lost. Laughing out loud her canines switchblade sharp, Druscila walked confidently up a dark alley. The stranger ran towards her back. Without turning Dru listened to the rustle of denim as the stranger pulled a heavy stone from his pocket. She could hear the stranger’s heart, hear the blood sloshing through his arteries. This alley was a dead end in more ways than one. At least she would get that quick snack.
“Enter.” Janx’ voice was terse as usual. Instantly I was a little boy asking for a second cookie instead of a grown man, a crown prince, a bridegroom. Even though our union was in name only, a year long symbolic marrying of our clans, I still felt I deserved more. More what I had no idea? Steaming, I charged into my wife’s chamber. She was veiled of course. Her graceful back in a peasant shift faced me. Janx didn’t bother to look up. “What is it?” She asked while writing in a ledger. I banged my fist on her secretary desk. “My subjects kneel when I enter a room,” I bellowed. “Good thing I am not your subject.” Janx turned and folded her arms. In the four moons we have shared I’ve never seen her face but I feel she is always mocking me. Or ignoring me. “I am accustomed to being treated with respect in my—“ “Yes yes and I’m accustomed to having happy gentlemen callers in my bedroom. Your Grace we can play witty repertoire all night but I’m tired and you’re outmatched. Again what is it?” I grabbed her shoulders lifting my wife from her chair. “Wait is this the part where we recognize our animosity is really passion and we fall into each other’s arms?” Janx chuckled. I flung her back down and headed to the door. “Camryn stop.” I continued marching needing to leave our royal chambers, needing the sea to clear my spirit. “Please.” Her voice snagged me at the final door. “I’m not good with people. I get tired and—“ “Become a right sea hag.” Janx laughed and snorted. “I would have said irritated but you’re closer. Why are you so angry with me? Usually only my closest friends get this cross with me.” I sighed, a jangle of emotions ensnared me. Janx has spoken to the weavers, the farmers, and all of the guilds. She has joined the council of elders and meets regularly in the marketplace. And each night we eat dinner in silence. “ I see.” Her voice was tinged with a pity that stung. I realized I said my thoughts out loud. I ran my fingers through my hair. Suddenly I felt naked. She doesn’t ask about me because there is nothing to ask. I turned back to the door. “Do your people tell stories by the fireside?” I asked spinning to face her again. Janx tilted her covered face. “Yes the Lynnx tell stories mostly during the high holidays.” “Do you know the story of the Door in the Mountains?” Slowly Janx shook her head. “You you know of the man in the wood who guards the gateway and the questions that have to be answered? Do you know what lays on the other side?” My wife looked at me for the first time. I turned and left our bedroom for the comfort of the sea.
I said, “I love you.” I said it with the undulation of my first and seventh tentacles and my steady gaze but the tiny biped understood. I could tell because it loves me back and hearts joined speak a common language. I’ve never been in love not since my mother. Mating is a thing apart and I just try to get away before the female eats me. No this is a different love. I had been so desperate when I was captured. Squished in a jar for transport, incarcerated in a barren tank for isolation, I turned ashen from grief. In the large tank I was frantic I could smell the ocean so close but when I pried open the lid, swirled down the irrigation pipe, inched across the itchy tiles, my door was shut against me. I squeezed that door. I squeezed myself black with mottled violet streaks. That was the first day I saw it peeking from behind the larger two legger who rubs headache inducing smells on the floors. The big one bought my captors and returned to my glass nightmare. As they looked fate me I was so exhausted I could only remember its smell, the smell of salt from its tears. The little biped was my ocean of sadness. It would visit every night after my failed escape. First I shot ink at it because I was pissy about my capture. It just stared mouth open. Creepy. Then I camouflaged myself against the plastic coral and stared back intimidatingly. I did the many nights. It would look for me each night, searching hungrily, and then sit quietly. Also creepy. Then I didn’t see it for a few days. I realized I missed my creepy friend, my little ocean. Finally one night I was bouncing a mollusk against the tank filter when it appeared. I rushed to the glass. It showed me me on white made from black lines. I liked this magic. It made more of me in black lines. I was swimming in the ocean of its magic. I moved my body to match its lines of me. We delighted in each other. I waited for its joy during the lonely nights. I showed my little two legs all my colors. Doing acrobatics for its pleasure. I could feel its happiness and I felt alive. It would sing to me. “you are very beautiful, you are so smart as smart as dog my book says, are you happy here in this box after living in the whole ocean.” I didn’t know this sea song it was frankly rather odd, but I knew it was making the sounds for me. I felt seen. One night I was tapping my favorite shells against the glass and contemplating chewing one of my arms off when it came with a shiny twig. It used the stick to open my door to the sea, a hole in the floor, a tunnel to freedom. I cherry reddened in excitement rainbowing all my appreciation. Quick as a flash I cracked the seal with a scallop shell. Lifting with four and five, I declared my love. “Goodbye goodbye my friend. Be safe and go home. I will miss you,” it sang to me. My biped was happy and sad and I was sad and happy. The hole was a tight fit but the ocean called to me giving me the strength to push on. And now I’m swimming home as fast as I can but I will always be with my love, my little ocean. It loved me back, I know it.
Hushed explosions and rapid gunfire Leak out from the living room Rap rumbles Upstairs as heavy footed children tumble A frustrated dishwasher clatters While the comforter-laden washer lumbers towards a raucous freedom
Along a winding cobblestones of plots Behind a fortress of verses listening to the Voices chitter in the thicket of my keys
“And that’s not even the worst thing she even did.” Magdalena exhaled. She blinked hard not to cry. Randy looked up, down, and everywhere except at Magdalena’s face. She had just told him about her mother, who disappeared for two weeks then returned home with a fake kidnapping story. She talked about the little girl fear and confusion of her mother’s loss; and the confusion and anger of her mom’s return. She talked about the notoriety and the trial and the whispers that followed her even after her moths was gone for good. “And that’s why I never talk about myself and my past. I grew up the town freak. I’m okay with my crazy but I hate that pitying look.” They sat in the quiet of a small stream on an arch of flat stones. With a wry smile Randy turned and studied her half face. “What are you thinking?” Magdalena asked. She could feel the weight of his eyes but she didn’t way to see his look. “I was just thinking this is the best first date I’ve ever been on.” Magdalena’s laughter skipped over the surface of the water. Randy scouted closer to her on the rock bridge. “Look your childhood was a train wreck and I’m a socially awkward dungeons and dragons loving anxiety laden introvert. We met at a coffeehouse ‘cause my pitiful ass was conned by my make believe girlfriend. You could tell me your great uncle was the Alabama leprechaun and I’d still think you were the bee’s knees.” They exploded into laughter and Magdalena’s shoulder brushed his shoulder. Slender grasses along the crick’s edge tousled by the wind joined in the laughter. The meadow stretched out before them. Magdalena studied him under her lashes. Randy scooted until their hands nearly touched. In the quiet of Magdalena’s favorite place, they talked. “Bee’s knees, seriously my guy.”