Brody Finds a Butterfly

Monica DeJesus

Brody finds a butterfly on the sidewalk and doesn’t know whether he should step on it or not. It’s injured, crippled wings are still attempting to take flight on the hard sidewalk. Brody read once that a butterfly’s wings are patterned certain ways to protect them from predators. He also read that if you touch a butterfly’s wings it will kill them instantly. There’s no one around. There hasn’t been for quite a while which is unusual for these walks to school. Could she have fallen? Not many high trees in the city, not much greenery at all. The only thing the young boy sees is some bare bushes nearby, branches sticking out every which way. She seems to be an orange miracle. The only color in this dull morning.

Brody finds a butterfly on the sidewalk and doesn’t know whether he should step on it or not. He tries to remember what his daddy told him on the first (and last) hunting trip they ever took together. Scully, their German Shepherd puppy, was new to the hunt but so was Brody. The only difference is that Brody was much more eager to follow instruction, to appease his father however he could. Brody learned too early in life that you don’t get too close to a man with a loaded gun…or if you do make sure mommy is front of you to make it stop. Scully, merely a young pup with no conceptions beyond instinct, wanted to run! There was soft snow everywhere, so enticing and so new. The outside world never-ending in his little head. Brody however, even at six years old, knows that everything ends.

Brody finds a butterfly on the sidewalk and doesn’t know whether he should step on it or not. Much like Scully, there’s still life in her it seems. She’s crawling towards the grass, bottom wing in shreds left behind as she continues this trek. Brody remembers Scully crawling towards them, leg bleeding and useless and filled with metal behind him. They were both crying in the silent, empty wood. Scully was an early Christmas present from mommy, their friendship still new, but Brody remembers looking into Scully’s eyes and feeling his heart break. Daddy would tell him to step on it. He’d say, “Sometimes mercy is ugly.” and shoot it in the head. BAM !
A door slams across the street loud enough to jolt Brody out of that snowy day. He brushes his hand across his face, expecting the same color of red, and comes away empty. That’s always a surprise to him. Sometimes he looks in the mirror and sees Scully’s blood like face paint across his youthful cheeks. But mommy says that it’s only a nightmare, that sometimes they happen when you’re awake. Mommy promises that Daddy saved Scully and Brody wonders if it means the same when Daddy pulled the gun out at them. Did he want to save them too?

Brody finds a butterfly on the sidewalk and doesn’t know whether he should step on it or not. wings are still fluttering. He sniffs and wipes at his eyes with cold stubby fingers. After he squats down closer, he reaches out his fingers careful not to touch her wings. They’re beautiful. Bent and covered in holes and she’s beautiful. Without a second thought, the broken thing crawls onto to his fingers seemingly relieved not to have to crawl anymore. Her wings stretch out and start to flap gently. Brody read once that butterflies don’t feel pain. She crawls up his hand and settles into his palm, orange wings tickling his palm. Butterfly kisses. He can feel his mommy’s eyelashes against his cheek for just a fleeting moment before she’s forever gone again.

Brody finds a butterfly on the sidewalk and doesn’t know whether he should step on it or not. He holds her in his hands, careful to keep her safe from the wind and looks at her tiny eyes. They’re not as expressive as Scully’s. It’s merely an insect. He opens the side of his hoodie to shield around her and continues his walk.

A Tale of Shrouded Love

Jordan Palma

This short story is inspired by the one-act play Trifles by Susan Glaspell.

Entering the dark, frosty room, Elaina Hale began to flashback to a life she had forgotten. Memories of a love she had forgotten filling her mind. The fireplace sat unlit, her breath coming out in a plume of smoke in front of her. She wraps her arms around herself.

“God, I haven’t been here in forever,” Elaina stated with trepidation.

“Well, there was good reason for that,” Her husband Lewis answers.

“I told one of my men to start the fireplace.” Henry Peters, the sheriff states, not really caring about what Elaina said.

“Here, in the bedroom.” George Henderson, County Attorney yells downstairs as he walks through the house inspecting each of the rooms for warmth.

“I prefer to stay here.” Abigail Peters, wife of Henry, says as she looks around the living room with a mixture of disturbance and appraisal.

“I’ll keep you company.” Elaina states.

“Are you sure you girls will be fine by yourselves, not going to get frightened now, are we?” Henderson teases as he chuckles to himself.

“We’ll be fine.” The girls state as the men make their way to the bedroom.

Looking around the small house Elaina notices different points of disarray. Dishes piled in the sink, trash overflowing from the trashcan, dust on every surface. The phone is off the hook. She frowns to herself as she goes to place it in its rightful spot.

“Do you believe what they are saying?” she asks Abigail.

“I don’t see how I cannot, all things considered.” Abigail replies as she brushes her fingers across a bookcase.

“When Lewis told me what he had seen I couldn’t believe it, the Minnie I know would never do such a thing” Elaina states as she walks around the room examining the photos on the wall the phone now in its rightful spot.

“Were you two close?” Abigail asks.

“We used to be…” she stated looking down and pausing. A sadness crosses her neighbor’s face Abigail had never seen.

Footsteps pound as the men traverse the staircase back down to the living room.

“You two have fun gossiping.” Henry taunted as the women’s conversation died down when the men reentered the room.

“So, is it true what happened?” Elaina asks choosing to ignore Henry’s comment as she moved to stand beside her husband who was beside the small worn-out couch.

“What we can tell so far is that John was strangled by a rope.” Henry states.

“Minnie already admitted that to me.” Butted in Lewis.

“She did not say that she strangled him though-“ states George “a very important distinction”.

“So, what are you looking for?” questions Abigail.

“Why evidence, of course, what else?” Henry scoffs while rolling his eyes subtly.

“What sort of evidence?” asks Elaina impatiently with a twinge on her face that signals displeasure.

“Why she did it”- George mumbles as he walks into the kitchen “what made her snap. You’d have to be pretty disturbed to do this”.

“Minnie is a terrific gal, she couldn’t have done this” Elaina insists desperately as she follows George into the kitchen.

“She’s never so much as gave me a cross look” Abigail adds now following the group into the kitchen.

“Well women become hysterical everyday”-Lewis argues back “they don’t know how to control their emotions”.

Elaina frowns at this, choosing to say nothing as she watches George pull a chair over to the kitchen cabinets, climb on top of it and feel atop the cabinets.

“What on earth are you doing up there?” implores Abigail.

“Looking for evidence, of cou- “he stops “Aha” he says as his hands make purchase with something metal. He gets a hold and pulls it down.

“A birdcage?” he questions seeing what he had uncovered.

“I didn’t know they had a bird” states Lewis.

“I haven’t seen one around here, have you?” Elaina ponders aloud.

Changing cabinet tops George begins to speak as he blindly explores “I haven’t eith-“ midsentence he stops pulling his hand back covered in a red goo. “What the fuck is this?” He snarls in disgust as he scrambles down the stepstool.

Stepping closer to inspect his hand Elaina says “it appears to be jam” raising her eyebrows while trying not to laugh.

George grumbles as he steps across the small kitchen to the sink. Only to become enraged when he discovers that there is no-running water.

“COME ON ARE YOU KIDDING ME” he yells in frustration, kicking a wash bucket across the room “That cow couldn’t keep a house you think she’d be dammed to make sure all the bills are paid” He exclaims as the men chuckle in agreement.

The women lock eyes sharing a look as he attempts to clean his hand with a nearby rag.

“Let’s just keep looking around okay, Georgia,” Lewis says, poking fun at George’s outburst.

The other men begin to chuckle again as they headed up the stairs once more with George sulking at the rear.

Waiting for a moment as to ensure the men were out of hearing range Elaina began to complain.

“To think they can come into a woman’s home, put it in shambles, and complain while doing so.”- she states frowning and walking back into the living room “Only men could be so rude”.

“It is part of their job in a sense…” states Abigail hesitantly as she follows Elaina and sits in a wooden rocking chair beside the couch. She notices a quilting basket next to the chair.

“She was making a quilt”-says Abigail attempting to change the subject as she picks up the basket and begins rifling through it.

“Oh, you’re no better” Elaina scoffs as she turns her back and begins examining books on the bookcase. A minute passes. She turns back to Abigail and gives up her façade of uninterest as she walks and sits on the couch next to the chair.

“Can you tell what she was planning?” Elaina asks.

“I’m not sure”- Abigail says as she notices a box that had been covered by squares of the quilt. She picks it up and gently shakes it before setting it on the coffee table.

The box is wrapped in ribbon with a beautiful intricate pattern on the outside.

“What is that?”- asks Elaina, studying the box “Do you think she meant for it to be there?”.

Abigail joins Elaina in examining the box. They once again share a look. No words must be said. The box shall be opened. Elaina gently gathers the box in her lap and starts undoing the ribbon. As she lifts the lid, she can see a piece of silk. She grabs the silk by one edge and pulls, and into the box comes the carcass of a bird.

“Oh my god” gasped Elaina putting the box on the coffee table as if it had burned her.

“What is it- “asked Abigail looking in the box and gasping herself.

“Its neck” chokes out Abigail in disgust.

“It was… It was… strangled” Elaina stutters.

They sit there in silence for a moment contemplating.

“Do you think…” Abigail begins before trailing off.

“No, no this was not Minnie. You didn’t know her before she met John. – “Elaina insists.

“She used to be so happy, so full of light and laughter. Every room she walked into she would brighten.” She looks down and smiles a private smile.

“What happened between you two?” Abigail questions as she begins to ponder some things herself.

“There was a time when we were best friends. Minnie and Elaina, Elaina and Minnie.” Elaina replies chuckling to herself “We were in show choir together, although Minnie has always been the real star. We did everything together, hell we even lived together. I thought we’d be Minnie and Elaina forever. But then” she begins trailing off “then she met John and things changed.” She frowns.

“Who could do such an evil thing you suppose then?” Abigail wonders aloud.

“You did not grow up around here, did you?” asked Elaina.

“Why no, I had never met Minnie until they brought her in yesterday.” Abigail replies.

“Then you did not know John. John Wright was a legend of his own around here.” Elaina ruefully replies.

“I’ve only heard good things?” Abigail questions.

“He doesn’t drink or smoke and always pays his debts on time but John has always been stern. I once heard him described as a ‘hard man’ and thought it was perfect. Some say he never completely came back from Korea” Elaina remarks.

“Minnie was like a bird in a way she was pretty and sweet but timid and fluttery, she has always needed someone to ground her so she wouldn’t fly into the sun. For a long time that was me. But then she met John and he clipped her wings so she couldn’t fly at all.” Elaina begins tearing up thinking about the past.

Abigail is stunned at her neighbor’s emotion. After all the years of their acquaintanceship she had never revealed any relationship with this woman. Certainly not one of this caliber. She stands and moves to awkwardly embrace the sitting Elaina.

“When I was a young girl, I had a kitten and this boy took an ax and” Abigail trails off trying to empathize “they did it right in front of my face and oh I was so mad I could have done something horrible” she ends now tearing up herself.

“I should have known something like this would happen, I should have stopped by and checked in even though we weren’t”- she pauses “friends” she continues ranting “anymore, I knew how John was. Us girls know. We have to stick together”.

“This isn’t your fault you had no way of knowing this would happen” Abigail soothes trying to calm her down.

“They never had children” Elaina wonders aloud “Minnie always dreamed of a big family but John, John was an impatient man, to say the least.”.

The footsteps above them begin to boom signaling the men nearing the stairs. Elaina quickly dries her eyes on her handkerchief and stuffs the bird back in its box before putting it back in the basket. The girls sit beside each other on the couch as if nothing unusual has occurred when the men walk back down the stairs.

“I see you gals did some investigating of your own” Henry drawls noticing the quilting basket has been moved.

The girls look at each other before Abigail replies “We were curious about what she was working on baby.”

“Maybe you could take her pattern to her so she has something to work on” Elaina suggests perking up slightly.

The men burst into laughter at the idea.

“That’s a great idea, while she’s at it she can quilt us some new blankets for the jail bunks” George exclaims while laughing.

Abigail frowns but moves to stand closer to her husband.

“Come on babe what’s a little lady going to do with a few quilt patterns” she says as she cozies up to Henry.

Henry envelops Abigail in a grope and stays there for a moment before giving her a big wet kiss on the mouth.

“Just for you doll I’ll see about giving the bat some of this stuff since y’all are best friends all of a sudden” Henry says eyeing Abigail with a lustful look.

“Thank you so much baby I’ll make it worth your while” says Abigail while smiling at her husband.

The men begin to make fun of their friend for giving in to his partner while walking outside.

“Grab that quilt shit will you doll” Henry calls from the threshold of the door.

“Sure, thing sweetie” she returns her back turned to him as she rolls her eyes.

Standing there in the living room the women looked at each other and a decision was reached although no words were said. Elaina took the box and hurriedly stuffed it in her coat pocket before taking one last look around the small house and smiling sadly.

“Thank you” Elaina said before walking and quickly embracing Abigail in a hug and leaving to join her husband.

So there Abigail stood in a living room of a woman she had never met knowing more about her life than she possibly could have imagined. She walked over to the ill-fated quilting basket, picked it up off the coffee table, and walked out the front door never to return.

The Flower & The Human

Andre Thompson

There once was a flower living comfortably in a beautiful field.

A human came up, and yanked it from the ground.

They wore the flower on their head because they thought it looked pretty on them.

The flower didn’t really know what was going on, but it was nice to be off the ground.

The human loved their new flower accessory and wore it everywhere they went.

The flower loved seeing all the new places far from its little field.

One day the flower asked for some water, as all flowers needed to survive. 

The human didn’t seem to hear it and continued to walk.

The flower didn’t mind too much, it was only kind of thirsty.

But as the days went on the flower began to become more and more dehydrated.

The flower assumed that the human would eventually realize their favorite flower is dying, but they didn’t seem to notice or care, parading around the world singing about their new flower. 

Eventually the flower called out and the human seemed to react.

“Can you please put me back to my roots, I can’t live on your head forever”

The human made a disappointed look at the flower and placed the flower back to the spot they’d originally plucked it from.

The flower was on the brink of life and began to think, “Are all humans like this? Don’t they know flowers need water? Why didn’t the human notice when I called out? Why did the human only notice when my petels began to fade?”

The flower began to wonder if humans ever even noticed flowers could speak at all.

The flower began to fear humans.

It tore off all its petals so no one would notice and mistreat it ever again.

The flower began to resent the idea of traveling, leaving the safety of its home.

“What a stupid idea. I should’ve never show that human my petals. They’ll just tear me from the ground and parade me all across the world like I’m some accessory”

The flower paused, and began to wonder where these complex feelings of hatred came from.

“I’m a flower. I shouldn’t even be able to think, I just need to relax. If someone sees a pretty flower their going to pick it up and show it off it’s just what happens I shouldn’t complain”

Even so the flower began to grow its petals back they never felt the same.

An ever so slight sense of discomfort flowed through its stems.

And those feelings reflected through it’s petals which were darker now.

The flower became worried that these petals would single them out even more.

But no one seemed to notice.

No one even seemed to care.

Some of the other flora even complemented the flower on the new petals.

Everyone just accepted or ignored the flower’s petals.

Because everyone was worried about their own problems.

Drills, Intruders, & the Mental Health of Children

Brianna Harris

I remember being 7 years old in elementary school. I was in the 3rd grade living in freedom with no worries, no fears, just dreaming, and imagining what I wanted to be when I grew up. I even remember my 3rd grade teacher’s name, Mrs. Haggerty. Mrs. Haggerty was my favorite teacher in that school, she taught me a lot. I learned how to read, write, solve math problems, the connection between culture and environment in social studies, and about the weather and climate in science. No matter how many students were in the classroom, Mrs. Haggerty was always prepared. One day I remember coming into class and Mrs. Haggerty telling us students about how we were going to have an intruder drill at the end of class that day. I then asked her, what is an intruder? “An intruder is somebody who can come into wherever you are and cause harm to you,” she said.

I asked her, why would an intruder want to harm us? As she paused, “well, when people go through things and never talk to anybody about them, they start to view the world differently. Either they want to cause harm to themselves, or they want to cause harm to others.” Later that day, on the intercom we all heard a voice loudly say, teachers and students we have an intruder on campus, CODE RED! I repeat, CODE RED! Mrs. Haggerty, while rushing to the door, turned out the lights, and used her key to lock it, “everybody go into the corner and be very quiet,” she stated. Imagine being a child not fully understanding what that means. Fear, worry, and anxiety for all parties involved.

Twenty minutes later, I heard someone tugging at the door. My heart raced, even though
it was a drill, it still felt real. During drills you had to remain in the corner until you heard, All
Clear! The drill is now over! While heading back to our seats, Mrs. Haggerty asked us if we had
any questions about what we had just been through. I raised my hand, Mrs. Haggerty answered,“yes, my dear?” “Mrs. Haggerty, if an intruder were to come to the school, why would the police not already be here? Aren’t they supposed to protect us?” Mrs. Haggerty chuckled, “yes, they would already be on their way, I am sure somebody would have called them.” “But Mrs. Haggerty,” I then replied, “why can’t we have them already here?”

Around the early 2000’s school intruders were not common in elementary schools. It was
a time where there were no school shootings, no parents worrying about their kid not coming
home. Also, no calls being made to the teacher’s family letting them know of the protection that the teacher gave to the students in their last final hours. Being in the 3rd grade, I was taught to hide, but why wasn’t I taught to express the way I felt? Why were we as students not informed to speak up about the challenges we were facing, whether at home or at school? During that time, we did not really hear too much about mental health and going to therapy to talk if we were not ok. Also, it made me wonder why there were no police guarding every doorway surrounding the schools?

I remember reading “What Gun Violence Does to Mental Health,” an article by Christina
Caron. Caron was a reporter for the New York Times. In her article, Caron talked about an
incident where there were two teenage intruders who came into Columbine High School in 1999, killed 13 people and injured 21 more before taking their own lives. As I read into the article it gave me insight on how poorly America has failed our children. How is it that we let children grow up with no voice, bullied, and then label them as socially awkward? Imagine the mental stability of that child who now grows into a teen unable to handle the problems of the world. Is it so hard to believe that the lack of mental health support and opportunity to express their opinions can create adults who can become future school shooters?

The issue of how children are treated is not a new concern. Maria Montessori, the founder of The Montessori Method of Education informs us on how “No social problem is as universal as the oppression of the child.” There is no problem so dominant in the world as the oppression of the child, which often ends up being ignored. Many times, we train children how to avoid execution, teaching our children ways of survival rather than giving knowledge to the unknown. At what times are we going to start listening, educating, and giving compassion to the children? Society is silent.

Society can unknowingly plant seeds that can affect children in a negative way up until adulthood. Allowing children to go through the beginning stages of life not knowing what they are carrying inside is a scary place to be comfortable with. Unexpressed emotions can lead to depression, mood disorders, suicides, and other mental health issues. It also can create more mass violence in schools. Not only does this affect children’s mental health but also affects those in the community, and the nation.

Depression is a mental disorder that affects mood, behavior, and overall health, not only in adults but children as well. It causes feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. For children depression can be a chronic, debilitating condition with major impact on family, social and intrapsychic life. Early detection makes it easy for first treatment, which is key to preserving a child’s continued growth and development. Depression can consist of many co-morbid diagnosis, psychosocial stressors within the family, developmental differences, and medical illnesses. Studies show that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety (Moran). 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression (Moran).

What can we do to ensure children have a safe place to express themselves? How can we encourage teachers all around the world to make it easy for children to understand what is going on around them? Let us start with putting therapists who are trained for children interaction in schools, instead of having guidance counselors who are only placed in schools for academic inquiries. Children need adults who will understand, listen, and will help them overcome any fears, worries, or anxiety. I would love for schools to push teachers to inform children with valuable and more detailed information about how, when, and why drills are necessary, instead of just telling children to hide in a corner or hide under their desks. We tell children how to do a certain thing or how not to do a certain thing, but we do not explain the basic principles of why they are doing it. Children need to grow up in the world knowing it is ok to ask questions. Society needs teachers like Mrs. Haggerty who not only informed us of specific information about intruders and drills but gave us compassion to feel safe.

Mrs. Haggerty’s class never felt unsafe for us students, her classroom was a safe place, a second home even. Although Mrs. Haggerty was just getting used to intruder drills, there was never a question she could not answer. The freedom, love, protection, and patience that she gave to us showed how much she cared about us. But even Mrs. Haggerty’s approach to these drills can be improved. By focusing on educational programs about mental health and gun violence, so that young students will have a better understanding of what is going on and why, future children in classrooms (and teachers) will be more equipped to make sense of the chaos and confusion that surround gun violence and legislation. Students deserve to be treated as intelligent humans, not just framed as vulnerable and scared children who lack the maturity to think critically about mass violence and their own mortality.

Works Cited

Caron, Christina. “What Gun Violence Does to Our Mental Health.”,What Gun Violence Does to Our Mental Health – The New York Times ( Accessed 24 October 2022

Moran, Amy. “Depression Statistics Everyone Should Know.”,Depression Statistics Everyone Should Know ( Accessed 27 October 2022

Montessori, Maria. “The Oppression of a Child.”,The Oppression of the Child ( Accessed 24 October 2022

Mikey’s Rock

Emmanuel Rojo

Halen threw his fists into the air as he celebrated being the first swimmer to reach the far side of the pool. He was proud to have finally become the fastest swimmer on his middle school swim team. Halen had been training intensely for weeks to accomplish his goal. He climbed out of the pool and started drying his short rough blonde hair and long lean, pale, body. While in the locker room as he was finishing putting on his khakis and white polo, his teammates came up to him,

“Great Job H!” praised the captain.

“You’re getting faster beanpole,” stated a friend, while giving Halen a shoulder punch.

“You’re finally faster than me now,” said Halen’s rival from across the room, “took you long enough.”

“The hard work has paid off, huh?” smirked another.

“I see you, Michael Phelps,” stated someone else.

Halen responded, “Ha-ha, thanks, bros, I appreciate it.”

On his way home, as he was crossing a pedestrian bridge, he saw a kid named Mikey Foster who was sitting on a big rock by himself in the river that ran under the bridge. There were other smaller rocks that he would step on to get to his big rock that was around twenty feet away from the grass. He was fishing. Halen would see him fishing on that rock every day on his way home from swim practice. Mikey was short and chubby; he always wore old, dirty, black shirts with worn blue jeans. He had neck-length, dark black hair, and even darker bruises on his suntanned skin from other kids beating him at school. Halen knew Mikey because he used to be on the local swim team with him in elementary school, Mikey wasn’t very good, but he could always make the team laugh with his goofy swimming technique and clumsy character.

“Why didn’t he join the school team?” Halen asked himself under his breath. “He could have gotten better with hard work… just like me.”

Halen also liked fishing, he would always contemplate whether to join Mikey or not, but he would always remember that the bullies would also walk across that bridge, and he didn’t want to be seen with Mikey. At school, Mikey would get bullied because of his appearance, being poor, sitting by himself at lunch, and carrying around his old worn fishing pole in his book bag. He was called names and his lunch would be thrown away by the bullies. Halen saw this and felt bad that no one would say anything. The teachers would see it too, but they would just look the other way.

“I’ll definitely sit with him tomorrow at lunch,” Halen assured himself as he hurried home.

Lunchtime arrives the next day and the first thing that Halen sees as he steps inside the lunchroom is the bullies breaking Mikey’s fishing pole in half and throwing it away. Halen looks the other way and sits down at his usual table with his friends. I’ll talk to him later, he thought. Later that day as he was walking towards the bridge, he looked over and was surprised. Mikey was not there. It was the first time that he was not there on his rock fishing. The next day Halen didn’t see Mikey at school or on his rock. Halen would have to wait till Monday to try to talk to Mikey.

“He probably can’t afford another fishing pole, that’s why he hasn’t been at the river,” Halen assured, “I’ll bring my two fishing poles on Monday!”

Monday came.

“Mikey is dead,” said Mr. Henry.

“Mikey Foster from my fifth period?” asked Mr. Henderson.

“Yup, the police report said he must have been at the river fishing and accidentally fell in and drowned.”

“When was this?”

“On Thursday.”

“What a shame.”

“It really is. Did you watch the game yesterday?”

Halen was distraught. He was scanning the lunchroom for Mikey when he overheard the teachers talking about the tragic news. He could not have been fishing, Halen told himself, he didn’t have anything to fish with. Halen skipped practice and stopped by the bridge with both his fishing poles. The sky was gloomy, it was about to rain. He heard a voice.

“You’re too late,” a boy around his age said.

Halen jumped back. “Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m his friend”

“Who’s friend?”

“You know,” the boy said sternly, “Mikey’s friend.”

“What’s your name?”

“My name is Peter, your name is Halen, and you were too late. Mikey is gone because you just watched him from a distance.”

Halen raised his voice, “It’s not my fault! I didn’t know –”

“But you did know, he just wanted someone to talk to, someone to stand up for him, someone to save him.”

“Why didn’t you help hi –” Halen froze in the middle of his question.

Peter was gone. Halen stayed at the bridge for a few hours. Before he knew it, it was dark. The river was covered in mist, and it was dead quiet. He was about to leave when he heard a small splash from the river. Looking all over, he couldn’t see what made that noise. All of a sudden, he felt a chill come over his body and he couldn’t move. Some of the mist was circling one spot, what made Halen start to cry was the fact that the mist was swirling right over Mikey’s rock. Halen felt a light force pressing him against the bridge railing, he felt like something was trying to tip him over.

“STOP!” he screeched.

The force let go and the swirling mist stopped. Halen ran home while hearing a faint voice telling him to come back.

Even after getting home, Halen still felt like he was in a nightmare. He laid on his bed stiff as a log, still hearing voices whispering in his head telling him to go back. He could not sleep all night, before he knew it, his alarm went off and it was time to go to school. During school, the whispering voices in his head turned into loud shouts. He would cover his ears and bury his head into his arms, but the yelling just got louder and louder. He had an eerie feeling like someone was watching him. As each class ended, the feeling got stronger. Halen almost expected someone to be around the corner, waiting for him. Not a single thought was on Halen’s mind besides yesterday’s horror and the voices in his head. Even though he didn’t sleep, his heart was still beating out of his chest and his eyes were wide open. When it was finally time to leave, he sprinted towards his house. However, just as he had crossed the bridge, he tripped and hit the back of his head on the hard ground. Halen was knocked out.

“Wake up, wake up Halen, Mikey needs you to save him,” Peter said while nudging him.

“Why is it so dark?” asked Halen groggily. “Why are you saying Mikey needs saving?”

“You’ve been sleeping for a while now,” responded Peter.

He then pointed towards the river. The mist was there again, but this time even thicker. It was raining relentlessly; Halen could feel the ground rumble as thunder roared in the sky. As Halen was regaining consciousness, he saw the thick mist swirl once again right above Mikey’s rock. Halen’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach. He could not breathe. While rubbing his eyes with his fist, he saw a frightening sight. The mist above the rock was forming into the figure of a kid. Halen’s heart was thumping ferociously in his chest, and he was drenched in cold sweats and rain. He wanted to run away but his body was frozen.

He whimpered, “Mikey?”

“Please save him,” pleaded Peter.

“It’s too late!” cried Halen. “He’s already gone… there’s nothing I can do about it,” Halen said with tears in his eyes.

“Save him!” commanded Peter. “Mikey is DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! And it is all your fault!”

“I’m sorry!” Halen screeched. “I’m so sorry Mikey!” Halen wailed as he put his forehead on the grass and beat his fist on the ground.

“Don’t look away!” Peter ordered. “You look at him. Look at him!”

Halen lifted his head and looked towards the swirling mist. The figure’s shape was more defined, it was a short boyish figure.

“Stop! Please come back!” pleaded Halen. He suddenly felt himself getting closer to the river. It was Peter who was pushing him. Halen told Peter to stop, to let him go.

Peter kept repeating, “Mikey is dead. It’s your fault… you must pay.” over and over again.

As Halen was inches away from the water, he managed to push Peter away from him. Halen immediately sprinted past Peter and was desperate to get home. At that moment Halen fell forward. He didn’t slip, it was Peter who pushed him down. Halen tried getting back up, but Peter was grabbing Halen’s ankles. Holding an ankle in each hand, Peter was dragging Halen back towards the dark misty river.

“HELP! SOMEBODY HELP ME!” Halen screamed.

“Mikey also wanted help… but nobody looked his way,” Peter said.

“Please stop!” Halen pleaded.

His fingers were now bleeding from clawing at the ground, desperately trying to stop moving towards the river. His face was covered in mud, he could no longer tell how close he was to the river. His legs were restrained, his hands were bloody, and his eyes were covered. What can I possibly do? Halen asked himself. Is this it? he wondered.

“Yes, this is it for you,” Peter told him. “This is what you deserve.”

As Peter said that he threw Halen’s beat-up body onto his shoulder and carried him to the rock where the misty figure was. The rain had finally washed some of the mud off of Halen’s eyes, he could see blurrily now. Even with his poor vision, there was something he could see crystal clear. The misty figure was not so foggy anymore, he could tell it was Mikey. Mikey turned towards him. He could not believe his eyes.

Mikey finally spoke, “Hey Halen, how are you doing?”

Mikey then walked to the edge of the rock and stared at the rushing water.

“STOP! Please, Mikey, I’m so sorry.” cried Halen. “Let’s talk, please.”

Peter threw Halen down on the rock and said, “It’s too late to talk, you must save him.”

Mikey then jumps into the river.

“NOOO!” screamed Halen.

“Save him, it’s the least you could do,” Peter whispered as he picked Halen up again.

Halen flailed his arms and legs frantically trying to hit Peter. It was no use. Peter while carrying Halen, jumped after Mikey.

“You hear the news Mr. Henderson?” asked Mr. Henry.

“Yup, another kid was taken by that god-awful river,” Mr. Henderson replied.

“They need to close off that river, these kids don’t know how to swim these days, it’s too dangerous.”

“Yeah, they sure do.”

“Yeah… you watch the game last night?”

Works Cited

Glaspell, Susan. “TRIFLES a Play in One-Act by Susan Glaspell.” One-Act-Plays, One-Act Plays,

Jacobo, Julia, and Sabina Ghebremedhin. “Family of 13-Year-Old California Girl Who

Committed Suicide after Months of Bullying to File Wrongful Death Lawsuit against the School District, Attorney Says.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 15 Dec. 2017,

My White Privilege

Caleb Sims

An event that is important to my life happened 2 years ago in November of 2020. It was at this time I was an undiagnosed schizophrenic. I had been off of my medication for a week or two and was starting to have hallucinations. Along with the hallucinations I was going through a true psychotic break. It was at this time that I grabbed a cop’s gun and tried to take it away from him. I wanted them to shoot me. I feel the only reason I am alive is because of my white privilege. If I were a black man, I believe that the police would have shot me.

In November of 2020 I was in Texas living with my cousin and his fiancee. I had just left rehab a few months prior and his was the only place I could go to. I moved to Texas and enjoyed it for the first few months. I was still collecting stimulus checks so I just stayed in the house, smoked weed, and played video games. I ended up getting a job at a gas station a five minute walk away. It was around this time that I stopped taking my Lithium. I felt fine for the first few days but eventually it crippled my mind.

I met a friend named Cincere while working at the gas station and would smoke weed with him after work. My schizophrenia picked up around one of the times I was hanging out with him and I thought he was a cop. He clearly would throw up gang signs to some people but I was still not convinced. After a week or two I thought he was planning on robbing the store and setting me up for it. I thought I was going to go to prison so I cut my tattoo off of my face, swallowed a bottle of Lithium and asked my cousin for his gun.

My cousin would not give me his gun and asked me what my problem was. It was at this time that all the Lithium I took kicked in. I thought If I stood still my cousin could not see me and that aliens were coming to get us. He put me in the car after calling his dad and drove me to the hospital. I was in despair, I wanted to die. I thought that the KKK had come and murdered my whole family and replaced them with look alikes and that I was truly alone in the world. At the hospital I saw a cop standing inside the waiting area. I charged him and reached for his gun at his hip. I grabbed the grip but could not get the gun out. I turned around and ran outside the hospital with him chasing after me. Once outside I yelled “It’s grand theft auto bitches!” and tried to take a car a man was sitting in.

The cops caught up to me and took me to the ground and handcuffed me. I then yelled “My name is Jesus Christ and I’m here to be executed by the state!”. The cop called for backup and more came. The police officers put me in the back of a suv. I proceeded to throw up a lot of Lithium and bile. One of the officers opened up the back door and put his hand over my back and prayed for me. They took me to the emergency side of the hospital where they gave me a catheter to drain out the Lithium. I stayed in the hospital for about a week and was then moved to a mental health hospital.

I believe that the only reason I am alive is because I am white. Police brutality is a huge problem in America, especially against black and brown men. If a black man had charged the police officer and grabbed the gun he would have been shot, there is no doubt in my mind. My brothers and sisters are biracial. They will not get the same opportunities with the police as I have had regarding their mistakes. One wrong move could be the end of their life whereas I have been given many chances.

People like Tamir Rice and Porter Burks did not get a second chance by the police officers. They were shot without any regard for themselves as a person. According to, “Black people are 2.9 times more likely to be killed by police than white people in the U.S.”. Seeing a statistic that shows the disparity between race in police-caused killings, is an indicator that there is still an underlying problem with race in America. In fact it has been found that police killings of African Americans does not matter whether or not the suspect put the officers in danger (Campbell & Fagan: “even when there are no other obvious circumstances during the encounter that would make the use of deadly force reasonable”).

These statistics support my claim that my life was spared due to my race. I even tattooed my face to get rid of my white privilege. Instead I was looked at as a kid who made a bad choice. It never came into contact with my character as race does for African Americans. My brothers and sisters live a harder life than me because they have to grow up faster in a world that endangers them based on color.

“Mapping Police Violence.” Mapping Police Violence,

Jeffrey A. Fagan & Alexis D. Campbell, Race and Reasonableness in Police Killings, 100 B.U. L. Rev. 951 (2020).


Lis Anna-Langston

My mother grew azaleas outside the back door of our cabin in Mississippi. Creamy butterscotch rays slanted across her face when she knelt on the brick patio next to her azaleas in the fading afternoon light.

Pruning and doting on those pink petals was a sideline for her, touching the softness, clearing weeds. Lying next to those bushes cast off the rest of the world. Those were the days after the smack. The days when a joint would suffice. The days before the blow, the paranoia, the FBI. Those were the times when sleeping all day in the hammock next to the swiftly tilting colors of her azaleas was enough. I watched her there, moved by a gentle wind and ran wild with my pony around the lake. I named him Pancho Villa.

I was six years old.

Flowers brought to her eyes a sense of peace, to her hands a sense of purpose. Those azaleas that knew nothing of dirty syringes or leftover roaches in the ashtray.

Or maybe they did.

Maybe those bright pink flowers were the only thing on earth to see her as she was. Who she really was. A flower planted in the middle of dusty Mississippi, struggling for water, breath. Maybe those azaleas felt the pulse of her heart when she touched them and trusted her to know which leaves should go when no one else trusted her to drive into the city because all of her old friends were poison ivy.

There were other flowers living out there with us by the lake. Mimosa, cattails, wildflowers, and fields of buttercups I collected in old paint cans to set beside my bed, next to jars of flickering fireflies. But her favorites were always those azaleas, as if she truly had a bond with those flowers, truly loved them more than the dark rooms from whence she’d come, her veins like a highway of weeds taking over.

Gloria Gaynor Thinks You’re a Bitch

Lis Anna-Langston

Becky Myer was my best friend. Every day she waited for me in the wide-open space of the playground for me to get off the bus. Third, fourth, fifth grade passed and so did we, sometimes because she gave me the answers. One November day she wasn’t in front of the monkey bars. I couldn’t hang around because I’d been chosen to sit in a think tank all day with a bunch of brainy kids who ate organic snacks I’d never even heard of.

Chia pudding. Kale chips. Raw date carob cookies. I shuffled off to the side, practicing to be invisible. In the hierarchy of snacks, I was pretty low on the totem pole, so I pretended to not be hungry and secretly thanked the universe for my get out of kale free card. After we made goal setting collages, kids piled into waiting SUV’s while I waited for the old yellow school bus. It was just me and one other kid, so I had plenty of time to plan out the weekend. Becky was the bohemian. I was the organizer. Little sticky notes soothed my nerves, lists gave my life meaning, a gold sticker next to a job well done made my soul shine.

A guidance counselor called me out of free time to tell me Becky had to go live with relatives because her mom had been sent to the correctional facility. I sat across the desk, staring, feeling annoyed. Not because I didn’t expect her mom to land up in a place where she only got visitors once a week. My mom had been there twice. I was just annoyed that my best friend got shuttled around because her mom couldn’t get her life together.

After school I hiked across the playground and cut through the woods that ended at a road leading out to her house. The hardest part was that if I walked the shoulder then cars constantly stopped and asked why I was alone. Trading nosey adults for corn stalks I walked across the fields. Becky didn’t mind being slapped by stalks, so she’d go first and press them back from the path, but my leaf savior had gone the way of the highway.

Forty minutes later I stared at an empty house. From the outside it looked like it was about to fall over. The inside wasn’t much better. Standing on my tippy toes I could see through the windows. Convinced no one was inside I went to find the key Becky kept hidden in an old birdhouse, so rickety even the cardinals steered clear.

The inside of the house was a mess. I had to cover my nose because no one bothered to take out the trash, which wasn’t new, but still gross. Kitchen, living room, tiny dining room, two bedrooms and a bath. Didn’t take long to search the entire house. My eyes swept around the room looking for clues. A message on the fridge, a note written on a scrap of paper, crayon smears on a door. Anything to tell me where she’d gone. I didn’t find a message, but I noticed not a single thing of Fancy’s had been moved. That worried me. Leash, food dish, water bowl, the little hoodie Becky bought her from Goodwill was just thrown on the floor. I snatched it up. Becky saved for months to buy a fleece hoodie because Fancy was part chihuahua, part mutt, and never grew a winter coat.

Something ugly formed in the pit of my stomach. Becky’s mom could be a real piece of work. I went out back to make sure there were no fresh holes covered in loose dirt. Walking the property, dodging piles of trash and bags of beer cans no one ever bothered to recycle, my heartbeat settled down when tall grass stretched untouched to the tree line. After circling the yard a few times, I slipped back behind the shed and stopped. I hated the shed and it smelled awful, but it had a dirt floor. Becky was convinced it was haunted. The sun sat low on the horizon. I didn’t have time to play games. If I thought Becky’s mom had done something terrible, I just needed to yank the door open. Dark would come and I’d be stuck hiking back through the creepy corn fields all alone. Still, I hesitated. The shed was different than the house. At least the house had memories of sleepovers. The shed was a haunted hut.

Then I heard it: a tiny whine. A whistle of air from a nostril. A fleeting desperate sound. My heart sank. Convinced I was going to find her dog in its final death throes, I stopped. Leaning into the old wooden slats I listened, swallowing. A whimper, followed by a strained whine. Tears filled my eyes. I tried to be brave and squeeze the handle. Becky was the brave one. Not me. She was always the one who picked first and held on the longest. A scratching sound came from the other side, followed by a deep-throated scream that made my blood cold. I jerked the door open, watching it dangle on rusted hinges. Dim light pinched my vision but after a second, I saw Fancy chained to the wall, unable to move, her huge bug eyes staring right at me.

Leaning my head forward, I looked around to make sure we were alone. Twisting awkwardly, she made a gagging sound and for a second, I thought her neck was broken. Chained tight to the wall with a muzzle strapped to her face to keep her from barking, she tried to move but couldn’t. I ran straight for the funny-looking little thing, gray with a white patch on her chest. She had no front teeth and a broken left foot she hitched up in the air when she was tired. Tied so tight she couldn’t sit down; I covered my nose with my sleeve and wrestled with the rope. Trying to get away, she’d clawed and dug at the dirt, but only made it worse. Standing on one hind leg was the only thing that kept her from falling into the hole she’d dug and hanging herself.

A skinny chain was wrapped tight through Fancy’s collar, but all I had to do was slip it off. The worst part was she’d peed down the back of her legs, probably because she was scared. A series of loud barks burst out of her as I pulled the muzzle off. Bumping my hand with her nose, she rubbed against my leg. When Becky found her limping across a parking lot, she named her Fancy. When she was happy, she did this kinda fancy prance. At the moment her fancy prance was a bolt for freedom.

Outside I had enough light to check her fur. Except for the shaking, she seemed to be okay. The clubhouse Becky and I started in an old, abandoned barn wasn’t far but I didn’t have enough time. It was the one place I knew she’d leave me a note. A message. A list of what to do. There was no way I could take Fancy with me. She was limping too bad on that old broken foot that never healed properly. I ran back into the house and put all her stuff in a plastic grocery bag and dragged her bag of food to the front yard.

Across the street, a girl sat on the porch steps staring at her phone.

“Hey,” I yelled, “can I borrow your phone to call my uncle?”

“Why do you have Becky’s dog?”

I stated the obvious. “Because they moved.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Tons of drama that day.”

“Do you know where she went?”

The girl shook her head, “Nope.” Handing me her phone, she added, “Make it fast.”

I called my uncle Bull. “Hey, I need help,” I whispered, standing under the crepe myrtle.

“I’m right in the middle of frying ham.”

Fancy sat down next to me, pressing into my leg.

“It can wait,” I hissed. “Please?”

“God, what has your mother done now?”

“Will you just come get me please? I’m at 24 Oakcrest Drive.”

He screamed, “Ouch,” dropped the phone, and disconnected the call.

Uncle Bull took five times longer than any other human being in the world because he never drove over 45 mph. Streetlights kicked on as Fancy and I huddled together in the dying shrubs. The warm feeling of her fur against my arm was nice. Only half of me had to be cold.

I saw Bull’s face briefly through the windshield as he rounded the corner. Fancy and I pushed out of the bushes and ran to the curb.

He rolled down the window of his rusted Corolla. “Why do you have a dog? And what are you doing way out here?”

“Becky got sent to live with relatives.” My voice quivered like I was going to cry. I stopped, pretending like I needed to swallow. Blinking back my impossible emotional state I finally managed, “I came out here and found her dog chained up in the shed.”

“God, that’s a funny looking dog,” he said. “Lucky she didn’t get euthanized.”

“You’re always so cheerful,” I said. “We need a ride.”


This was where my fake vigor took a dive. “Your house?” I said quietly.

“Oh, no you don’t,” he leaned back from the open window. “Not my circus. Not my clowns.”

“It’s not mine either. What am I supposed to do? Chain her back up in the shed?”

“You really want me to answer that?”

I glared at him. If my intense glare didn’t work, Fancy and I were going to have to hoof it back to my house, and I had no idea how I’d hide a dog.

“I had a hamster once,” he whined. “That thing made me nuts.”

“You were my age,” I said flatly.

A car did a slow roll as it passed, staring straight at Bull.

“Get in before someone thinks I’m abducting you and your dog.”

I touched Fancy’s shoulder to get her to follow. Together we ran to the passenger’s side and climbed in.

“What is that smell?” Bull started in.

“She was chained to the wall and couldn’t move and kinda peed on herself.”

“Great,” Bull exhaled, shifting the car into gear. “I’ve got the world’s greatest niece and a strange dog covered in urine.”

“There are worse things to have,” I smiled, big and cheesy.

“Not that aren’t sexually transmitted,” he said, pulling away from the curb.

The entire house reeked of fried potted meat. Turning the knob to heat more mystery meat, he said, “My blood sugar tanks with bad drama.”

Hoping to pacify my growling stomach, I chimed in, “Mine, too.”

Pointing at the fridge he said, “Liverwurst.”

White bread. Liverwurst. Mayo. I made it extra big so I could share. Fancy and I went off to the extra bedroom that was unofficially mine when Bull didn’t have a roommate to save money. Fancy gobbled bites and looked so hungry that I gave her the entire sandwich. Then I went to find a bowl to get water.

When Bull went off to his room to upload new digital collages to his Myspace page, I hoisted Fancy into the bathtub. All I could find was an old bar of green soap that smelled like toilet cleaner. Fancy kept trying to jump out, so I rolled up my pants one-handed and climbed into the tub. I carefully washed her head as she side eyed me. “It’s going to be okay,” I whispered. “We’ll find Becky.”

Her wet tail wagged at the sound of her favorite person’s name. My heart crimped a little as I lathered under her chin.

“I promise,” I said.

After a brisk towel dry, I went in search of a box, and found one in an upstairs closet. That particular box had been there for years. Certain no one was going to come looking for the contents, I shoved them back into a corner. Fancy watched me from the hall.

With a steak knife in the kitchen, me and Fancy hunkered together on the floor and sawed an opening in the side of the box. I explained that we had to be careful so we didn’t spend our evening in the emergency room. When that task was complete, we had a box with an open top and a U-shaped opening on the side.

After I got Fancy situated, I announced, “I gotta go home.”

Bull turned around in his office chair covered in duct tape. “I gotta win a million dollars. What’s your point?”

Tilting my head towards Fancy, I said, “You know,” all cryptic like.

“I said I’d help, not babysit.”

I shrugged, “Maybe she can help you socially adjust.”

His eyes rolled so far back it pinched the corners of his mouth into a frown.

“Come on,” I said in my best aw-shucks cartoon voice.

“This violates my personal boundaries.”

“You don’t have good boundaries. That’s part of why you’re in counseling.”

I turned to Fancy, kneeling down so we were nose to nose. “You’ll be safe here. Slap the door with your paw if you need to go out, like Becky taught you.”

Tail wag at the sound of her favorite person’s name.

I hugged her tight and whispered in her ear. “She’s my favorite person, too.”

My mom was in the living room spraying her armpits with perfume when I walked through the back door.

“I gotta meet a John,” she said quickly. “Don’t tell anyone I left you alone.”

Johns and dates were different. I’d figured out that much. Johns came from Craigslist. My mom hated dating, so I figured Johns were the way to go in the future.

“Why do you look like you sucked on a lemon?”

“Becky’s mom got sent to the correctional facility, so she had to go live with relatives.”

“Dang,” she said, capping the perfume bottle. “I told her not to steal from that junkyard. I told her that old fart was gonna press charges.”

Whatever that meant.

When she lurched down the street in her old Escort with a busted tailpipe, I snuck into her bedroom to call and check on Fancy. Bull didn’t like people touching his stuff or changing his schedule or super loud noises or asparagus.

I picked up the receiver and it took me a second, but I realized the line was dead.

I slammed it back down. Not willing to accept the truth, I unplugged the cord and plugged it back into the jack and checked. Nothing.

I fell back on my heels, sighing loudly. So that’s why Becky hadn’t called. No one paid the phone bill. On top of everything else, I had to figure out a way to turn the phone back on. Walking into the hall, I couldn’t imagine what that would be.

The guy at the pawn shop was salty last time and huffed, “I’m not supposed to buy from anyone under eighteen. Those are the rules. Plus, I ain’t got a market for old rain boots.”

But here was the thing: I needed those old rain boots and would still be wearing them if they fit even a tiny bit, so I knew someone out there needed some gosh durn rain boots. He just pulled three one-dollar bills from his wallet and handed them over. Which was cool, but I wasn’t a charity case, so I needed a way to bring in some moolah.

I thought about crying. It was dumb but I did. Becky and I made a pact to never cry. It fueled the enemy, she said. It didn’t fix anything. Crying wouldn’t bring her back. Crying was a luxury, Becky liked to say.

I went to my room and closed the door. The room was cold, and I imagined the power bill wasn’t far behind the phone. Sitting in the dark was my least favorite thing, so I turned the glaring overhead light on to take inventory. Just seeing Becky’s stuff eased my nerves. She loved fancy things like floaty dresses and faux-fur-lined boots, cake pops, and High School Musical.

A purse shaped like a pig. A plastic glitter rod. Uno cards, flashlight keychain, cherry scented lip balm she stole from Ferguson’s Drug. Becky and I did everything together. This would be my first night in three and a half years without her nearby A sense of loneliness invaded the room and I pushed it back with thoughts of our best times together.

One time we were playing dress up, and she pointed the plastic glitter rod at me and yelled, “Gloria Gaynor thinks you’re a bitch.”

Without pause, I launched into the most amazing rendition of “I Will Survive”. It was hands down hilarious, and we laughed until we cried. We didn’t really know what the B-word meant. We just heard it a lot at home. Pretty sure we weren’t even using it correctly made it even more hilarious.

From that day forward, all of a sudden, Becky would stop in the middle of the mall and yell, “Gloria Gaynor thinks you’re a bitch.”

Clutching my invisible mic, I’d belt out my best song as shoppers swerved around us, fanning the air like crazy was contagious.

A little Hello Kitty charm sat on the floor next to my mattress. I picked it up and squeezed it tight, like some plastic thing shot out of the butt of a machine mattered. I lined all her stuff up neatly against the floorboard and went to sleep.

My mother woke me up in the middle of the night.

“What?” I said, totally disoriented.

“Get up,” she said, somewhere in the dark.

“For what?”

“They’re watching the house.”


“I don’t consent to the feds watching me,” she screamed. “I got constitutional rights.”

I rolled my eyes in the dark and scooped up Becky’s stuff, shoving it in a plastic bag. We ran through the woods in pitch black with no flashlight, to where the woods gave way to a field, and the field ran alongside a two-lane road.

Her friend Lucinda was waiting, parked on the shoulder.

“Go.” My mother slapped the dash.

Lucinda did a U-turn and sped off. I slept on her living room floor, wishing I’d brought my pillow. I started counting insanity in minutes.

The longest night of my life was followed quickly by the longest day. Some kid had an asthma attack, so the office ladies wouldn’t let me in to call Bull. The last eighteen minutes of school took a month. I twitched and shifted, sitting on the edge of my seat, ready to bolt the second the bell rang.

Out front, Bull waited in the roundabout. A second after I called his name, Fancy put her paws on the armrest and popped her head up to look out the window. I swear she did this kind of dog smile that smoothed the edges on my frazzled nerves.

“Hey, girl,” I said, scratching her soft ears.

“God, your principal is a dick,” Bull said. “Get in.”

Since Bull drove like an easy listening channel, we had plenty of time to catch up. “How was your sleepover?”

Tightening his grip on the steering wheel, he informed me, “It peed on the floor.”

I gave Fancy the side eye. “Did you take her out?”

“I was arguing with this clown on Myspace about Ron Paul.”

“You have to take her out.”

“I know,” he said, sighing. “New stuff is hard.”

“Yeah, me too,” I said, putting my arm around Fancy.

“How’s your mother?” Bull asked.

Not in the mood to harsh my mellow, I answered, “Same.”

She wasn’t, of course. She was worse.

“How’s school?”

“I’ve been reading Robert Browning’s poetry and learning French.”

Oui. Oui,” Bull whistled through his teeth.

Back at Chez Bull he logged into his Myspace page. “I’m really behind on my work.”

I dropped my book bag on the floor and ran outside. Fancy’s ears were as big as her face. After she did her business, we set off in the direction of the clubhouse. Becky and I had been going out there for years. An old pickup truck inside an even older barn was our second home. Becky’s reasoning was that if the barn fell down in a strong gust of wind, then we’d be safe in the steel cab.

Raccoons and opossums hung out in the barn, so I banged against the door. The loud noise freaked Fancy out and she refused to walk inside. Worried she’d run off, I slipped her leash through a wooden slat. Opening the driver’s door, I checked for a note. Nothing on the windshield or in-between the seats. Nothing in the glove compartment where we kept important club notes and the treasury. Our three dollars and eighty-four cents was safe. I leaned back in the seat. Sure there was going to be a note I didn’t have a backup plan.

Fancy sat at the entrance to the barn and shivered every time the wind blew. Not ready to give up, I checked the entire truck inside and out two more times. By then it was getting dark. Fancy trotted along the corn rows with her head hung low and her tail tucked. When Becky was around she pranced all fancy like, tail wagging, stretching her head high.

Nothing I did worked.

The money from the treasury was in my pocket. Desperate to shake Fancy from her funk, we stopped off at the drugstore. I had barely enough money to buy a rawhide if I emptied the ‘take a penny’ dish. I unwrapped it in the store and came out smiling. Fancy just stared at it, barely wagging the tip of her tail. We sat on the curb, under the streetlights, while I spent a solid fifteen minutes trying to convince her it was the greatest treat ever. Finally, I scratched her head and stuffed the rawhide in my plastic bag. We started off for Bull’s house and I knew what I had to do. I didn’t like it, but I knew it was the only way. I had to find Becky.

My armpits and palms went all sweaty when I watched guards search Bull. I started to wonder what I’d gotten him into. Then they searched me, waving a plastic wand up and down my body.

“You going in?” The guard asked Bull.

Shaking his head he said, “Nah, I’m just the ride. I’ll be outside.”

Nerves flared up, making me lightheaded. A guard pointed to a door. I fist bumped my uncle and followed armed strangers toward my goal. Hall after hall ended and began with huge metal doors, locked then unlocked then locked again. I swallowed, feeling claustrophobic. The panic of being trapped set in and I stumbled forward, feeling like I’d made a mistake. I was just about to ask to leave when a door opened into a large room with tables and chairs.

Across the room, Becky’s mother entered wearing handcuffs and chains. Like Jacob Marley, she clanked across the room to a table where she flopped down in a chair and glared.

The guard went back to the door, and Miss Myer leaned forward and whispered, “Well if it isn’t fatty Phoebe.”

Squeezing my fists together at my side I asked, “Where’s Becky?”

She grunted like a pig. “Fatty, fatty Phoebe,” she chanted, tilting her scarred face.

I’d never liked Becky’s mom, and this was not our Oprah moment.

“Where is she?” I repeated.

Looking me straight in the eye, she laughed. “What a little loser. You’ll never find her. She was sent into foster care out of state.”

The words ricocheted around my brain. Foster care out of state. I knew the smirk on her mother’s face was bad.

“Have a nice day, fatty,” she whispered, then yelled. “Guard.”

By the time I saw Bull I’d given up trying to hold it together. Tears streamed down my face. In the front seat of the rusted Corolla, I turned into a big ball of snot, tears, and slobber.

A guard tapped the glass of the driver’s window and Bull rolled it down.

“You got a problem?” The guard asked, eyes sweeping across the front seat.

“No,” Bull fumbled with his keys. “She’s just upset.”

“It happens a lot, but you can’t stay here. You gotta move along.”

Bull drove in silence, white-knuckling the steering wheel because my boo-hooing wrecked his nerves. After a few minutes, he touched my hand lightly and said, “Phoebe, what happened?”

“What does it mean that Becky went into foster care out of state?”

“Crap,” he said, so quietly and evenly that I lost all hope.

I knew it. It was why I’d emptied the treasury to buy Fancy a treat, but I had this sudden sinking feeling that if I’d just left the money alone, then maybe she’d come back. I told him about the club money and how it started the whole chain of events.

He inhaled sharply. “Family court doesn’t work like that.”

“Nothing works with grownups. Their entire world is a big broken mess that kids like me and Becky have to navigate every day.”

He frowned and made a dismissive humph sound but didn’t argue.

“I gotta get my medication adjusted. You gotta stay at your own house a few days.”

I turned in the seat and stared at him. “You’re joking?”

“No. Don’t make me feel all weird about it. I just got to work it out. I’m not good with change. It’s just for a few days. Three days, tops,” he said.

Three days was a long time.

I carried Fancy in my arms through the back door. My stomach felt like I’d swallowed a car tire. Fancy stretched upright, laying her paws on my shoulder. With her soft fur and warm body against my forearms, I put my chin on top of her head and she looked up at me. I could feel her tail wag against my side, and her heartbeat. My mother was gone. We went to my room and closed the door, relieved.

That night Fancy slept in my room. I got up in the dark hours of dawn, went outside, got her everything she needed, left her in my room, walked to the bus stop, went to school, wrote monologues, read books, walked home, got Fancy, and walked out to the clubhouse. My biggest fear lay deeply entrenched in the eight hours Fancy had to be alone all day. I constantly worried I’d come home to some sort of “accident.” My mother loved accidents. My favorite toys or keepsakes always ended up broken in “accidents.”

When I came home from school the next day, Fancy sat on my bed and didn’t wag her tail.

“The dog goes,” my mother said in the hall behind me.

I wasn’t giving up without a fight. “It’s not your dog.”

Fancy stared down at her soft blanket. I was so worried for her. I’d been foolish in bringing her into the house.

“I can’t afford an extra mouth to feed.”

“It’s just for a few days.”

She slapped me hard in the side of my head. “Is this your house? I don’t think so.”

“Gloria Gaynor thinks you’re a bitch,” I screamed.

Then she hit me again. Normally, I blocked and dodged. Not that time. She hit me so hard blood spurted out of my mouth as my loose tooth landed smack on the floor. I did not move, or cry, or plead. I did not budge, or run, or beg. I never took my eyes off her, never looked away.

“Say goodbye to your dog,” she screamed.

Blood dripped down my chin. “Someday I’ll say goodbye to you.”

“Is that so?”

Fancy lunged through the air growling, snapping.

My mother fell back against the wall, screaming, “She tried to bite me.”

I didn’t know what to do. I should have seen it coming. I called to Fancy and she jumped down but didn’t wag her tail. I didn’t want anyone to see me with a busted lip, so I got an ice cube and pulled Fancy outside. I led her out into the trees and sat down on the ground. “I don’t know how to stop this,” I said, “but I love you, and I’m sorry, and I’ll figure this out.”

Fancy sat next to me, so close her fur smashed against my arm.

“This is a mess,” I said.

Fancy hung her head and started to shake.

The next morning, I laid on my mattress on the floor next to Fancy. I knew the second I left the house my mother was going to give her away. I had assignments to turn in at school, tests to take. I said goodbye and left, but I just couldn’t. I climbed back in through the window and we hid in my closet. Quickly, I shoved all our stuff in plastic bags and wrapped her bag of food in my blanket. Fancy and I slipped out and ran through backyards, trying to stay low. Fancy must have known we were avoiding doom, because she stayed right next to me regardless of how fast or slow I moved. Avoiding main roads and nosey neighbors, we arrived at the clubhouse by midday. The sun slanted high. We climbed into the truck and I closed the door. Securing everything in the truck, we explored the area.

Late that night, we hiked over to dumpster dive at a fried chicken place. I’d never been without Becky. Fancy stood guard, and our take was pretty awesome. Fat and juicy old chicken parts settled the growl in my stomach. That night, we fell asleep huddled under the blanket, and between the two of us managed to keep warm. Fancy woke in the middle of the night barking. Raccoons jiggled the back windows, trying to get a tasty biscuit. My heart shot out of my chest, but once I figured out we were okay I laughed at the bandit faces. Dropping extra biscuits and chicken through the window, I snuggled back down to sleep.

The next morning, I woke with my head on Fancy’s rump. Sunlight slanted through old wooden beams. The absolute silence was incredible. I couldn’t remember a time without TVs and radios blaring, people yelling, the sounds of Bull struggling with his sanity. I resolved to live in the barn until I was old enough to get my own place.

Money was an issue. And water. I took the small amount of change I had and bought a bottled water at a convenience store down from the chicken place. I moved old barrels and troughs to collect rainwater. It was sketchy, but all we had. Fancy wagged her tail when I called her name. The next night it rained, and we had to pee in the barn, but granola bars held the grumble of my stomach at bay. I read my library copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the pale barn light, I sat in the front seat of the truck and read it all in one sitting. When Aslan died, I cried. I cried for Aslan. I cried for Fancy. I cried because the White Witch was real, and she had a black heart, and I had to live with her.

The next night, flashlights danced across the fields as Fancy and I made our way to the chicken place. A deep suspicion tightened in my gut. We hung back in the shadows and watched. Hiding in the tree line, we waited until the lights moved on, then grabbed dinner.

A slow creaking woke me in the middle of the night. Fancy sat up and barked.

“Shhh…” I said in the dark.

A bunch of people swooped around the truck, jiggling the doorknob.

Strangers on the other side of the glass yelled, “Unlock the door.”

I pushed deeper into the cab, holding Fancy. “Go away,” I yelled.

More people filled the barn, yelling to each other. “We found her,” a chorus of voices shouted.

Except I didn’t want to be found.

“Unlock the door,” a man with a flashlight yelled, trying to pry open the door.

“No,” I breathed, slow and quiet.

The old door creaked loudly and popped open. Suddenly, hands and arms surrounded me, pulling us from the truck. “Stop,” I screamed, but no one paid attention.

Sitting in the back of a police car with Fancy, an officer tossed a blanket over my shoulder. I had a bad feeling about being rescued but didn’t know what to do. I sucked in a breath and decided to lay low until we could run farther. The same officer dropped me off at my house, and my mother was all fake smiles until she shut the door.

“That dog goes. It’s brought nothing but problems.”

I held tight to Fancy and our plastic bags. “No.”

My mother was on me so fast I didn’t have time to duck. “I got cops crawling all over me now. Do you think I need this crap, missy? All because you can’t do as you’re told.”

Snatching Fancy by her collar, she dragged her to the door as I screamed. Fancy growled, but her head was twisted too far to the side. I ran, but my mother was out the door fast.

Big tears filled my eyes, even though it made me feel stupid. I grabbed the rest of our stuff and ran all the way to Bull’s house. The door was unlocked, and he found me in the living room, crying my eyes out.

“Phoebe,” he said, “we’ve all been looking for you.”

“She took my dog,” I screamed. “She took my dog because she’s evil.”

“Becky’s dog?”

I nodded, crying so hard I could barely breathe. Uncle Bull wasn’t into drama, and simply walked out. I skulked off to my room and slammed the door. I flopped back on my bed and stared at the ceiling until tears rolled out of my eyes and into my ears. The watery slosh made it sound like the bottom of the ocean, dark and alone. It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything. I just didn’t have what I wanted, and that made me feel selfish and I hated myself even more. I’d screwed everything up.

Bull’s rusted Corolla lurched to a stop out front, but I didn’t move. I just laid there, hoping he’d leave me alone. A few minutes later, a knock interrupted my silence. I rolled over to unlock the door. Bull stared down at me, but I didn’t see his face. All I saw was Fancy, standing behind him in the hall. The second she saw me, she did this whole body wiggle.

“Fancy!” I yelled and looked up at my uncle. “What happened? How did you get her?”

Bull snorted. “I know things about my sister she don’t want anyone to know and I drove over and told her so. I’ve had just about enough of her crap. You can stay here until she works some things out.”

That night, I tucked Fancy into bed. She futzed around on top of the blankets, looking as exhausted as I felt. I listened for sirens or doom or the sound of my mother’s busted tailpipe. When everything seemed okay, I closed my eyes and fell asleep sitting up.

The phone rang, waking me up. Fancy jerked upright in bed. From the kitchen I could see Bull passed out, one leg slung over the side of his bed. I grabbed the receiver, hoping to restore the silence I’d favored.

“Hello,” I said, annoyed.

Fancy plopped down on the linoleum, leaning into my leg.

“Phoebe?” A little voice whispered.

The breath I was about to take jammed in my throat. “Becky?” I whispered. Fancy wagged her tail. “Oh my God, what took you so long to call?”

“Your phone is dead. I couldn’t remember your uncle’s name. When you ran away, I saw you on the news. They interviewed your uncle. You call him Bull, but his real name is Theodore Kowalski. I called the operator. You saved Fancy. I knew you would.”

“Well, I had to find her. She’s your best friend.”

Silence filled the line, then she said. “You’re my best friend, Phoebe.”

Tears pushed against my eyelids.

“Hey,” she whispered.


“Gloria Gaynor thinks you’re a bitch.”

A laugh choked out my tears and the next thing I knew I was doing a weird uncontrollable half laugh half cry. Fancy pushed into my side making a low whining sound.

“I can hear her,” Becky said. “I can hear Fancy.”

A big shiver rippled down Fancy’s spine, and she ran to get her rawhide, plunking it down on the floor. I looked at her sweet dog face.

“End of an era,” I whispered.

“Or beginning of something new,” she offered. “Let’s make a list.”

“I like the way you think, Becky Myer,” I said, reaching for a pen.

“What a long week,” she sighed.

“It had its challenges,” I said, smoothing Fancy’s fur. “But tomorrow is a new day.”

“You’re always so positive.”

“Positive you’re my best friend.”

Becky laughed a little and I melted into the quiver, into the jangled spew of emotion and knew that even if we were far apart something held us tight. Tighter than school logic or expectation. The kind of thing that holds all of the tiny pieces of the universe together. Like a best friend glue, invisible yet true.

Alyssa Crummey

Essay on Dreaming in Cuban

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia is a novel that follows Celia del Pino and her family as they live through the revolution and its aftereffects. Unlike the rest of her family, Celia stays in Cuba, even after everything that has happened, even after her daughter and the rest of her loved ones leave. Lourdes moved to New York with her daughter Pilar and tried to integrate herself as much as she could into the country and their new lives, however Pilar didn’t share the same desires, and in-fact wished to be more in-touch with her Cuban roots and her grandmother. Unlike Lourdes, Celia’s other daughter Felicia holds on to a lot of Cuban practices, and to her roots, especially when it comes to her religious beliefs and things such as Santeria.

Throughout the novel Dreaming in Cuban there were many mentions the religion and practices of Santeria. What is Santeria? It is defined as “a New World religion forged in Cuba but with roots in Roman Catholicism and the Yoruba religious traditions of West Africa.” (Encyclopedia of ARH). The way in which this religion is viewed and practiced has changed a lot since the time it was first introduced in Cuba and areas with high Cuban populations, some of it’s practices have become integrated in many people’s daily lives, and even in the healthcare system in certain areas.

Santeria itself is a branch which was formed in Cuba as a result of slavery, specifically an influx of slaves from Western Africa, and has ties to Yoruba indigenous religion (Calalloo 1). Within this religion, there is a meshing of both catholic and Yoruba beliefs, which make up components of Santeria. An example of this being that many who practice Santeria believe that “saints from the catholic church are also African spirits” (National Geographic Video 00:01:08). This is due to the fact that every catholic saint has certain attributes which were also matched with Yoruba spirits (NGV 00:01:51). The way that this religion is seen, practiced, and how accepted it is, have all shifted over time, most of these changes occurred after the Cuban revolution “After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Santeria began to spread to urban areas of the U.S.A. including Miami, New York, and Boston.” (Forensic science international 1), and it has become a much more common practice nowadays.

Santeria has also been rumored to have had an influence in politics and on politicians, examples of this being how after a conference in Havana in 1928, the president at the time wanted to celebrate with “the Inauguration of a new park, and on the celebration day, a Ceiba tree was planted in the center of the arena” (Religious Symbolism in Cuban Performance 2). The Ceiba tree was also mentioned in Garcia’s novel, on page 55 when Celia goes to Felicia’s friend Herminia who is a Santera for help “Herminia never mentions the ceiba tree, but Celia recognizes the distinct cluster of its leaves among her many herbs.”. Unlike Felicia who was both a believer, as well as someone who practiced and later on became a Santera herself, Celia participated in some practices however she was much more cautious, this is also mentioned on page 55 as well with the quote “Celia is uneasy about all these potions and spells. Herminia is the daughter of a santería priest, and Celia fears that both good and evil may be borne in the same seed. Although Celia dabbles in santería’s harmless superstitions, she cannot bring herself to trust the clandestine rites of the African magic.” Fidel Castro was another political figure who was rumored to have ties with the Santeria religion, one of the main things that caught people’s attention was when Castro gave his first televised speech to the nation, a “white dove landed on his body, and stayed there throughout the oration” (Religious Symbolism in Cuban Performance 9). White doves had been a symbol of the holy spirit and this event caught the attention of many. Although his involvement was never confirmed nor denied. When considering why a politician may want to have ties to religions or practices such as Santeria well, “many in cuba are initiated to stave off death, disease, curses and other supernatural powers” (Cuban Political performance 8). Along with that, there was a lot of conflict when it came to politics in Cuba so many politicians also participated in the religion if they had many enemies and wanted the power of the spirits to help them stay ahead, as well as to “build alliances with communities” (Cuban Political performance 8).

This religion is also known as a “syncretic faith” (Forensic science international 1), which is the same category practices such as “voodoo” are in. Since Santeria is an African derived religion, it is also very oral based, at-least in Cuba. “These types of religions are rich in symbols and knowledge practitioners use colors, ritual objects, movement, music, and esoteric words to represent mythic events” (Cuban Political performance 1). Many different types of objects are used in rituals, and many different animals are used as offerings for the spirits. Although, typically there are “preferred” items and animals, such as “Candles, tobacco, herbs, and substitutional symbols in place of actual objects are also used.” (Forensic science international 1) When it comes to animals, it varies depending on the different “orishas”, including chickens, doves, pigeons and pigs. There were a few examples of this in Dreaming in Cuban the first one being on page 8 during an offering a Santero tells Felicia ““Elleguá wants a goat,” the santero says, his lips barely moving.” Felicia isn’t happy about this, but her friend tells her “You have no choice,” Herminia implores. “You can’t dictate to the gods, Felicia. Elleguá needs fresh blood to do the job right.”.

Goats and their blood are very common offerings for the spirits for Santeria practices. There are many times in which one might need to refill or offer fresh blood for offerings in this religion. One of those times being “If one God is brought into the home the others have to be fed with fresh blood (NGV 00:02:48). They also often times cannot use sick animals due to the idea that if a sick animal is used, it will bring sickness instead of health, so they have to use healthy animals in order to “receive” health (NGV 00:03:29). Another instance where goats were used as an offering during a ceremony in Garcia’s novel is when Felicia was being initiated as a Santera, “The goats to be sacrificed were marched in one by one, arrayed in silks and gold braids. Felicia smeared their eyes, ears, and foreheads with the coconut and pepper she chewed before the babalawo slit their throats. She tasted the goats’ blood and spit it toward the ceiling, then she sampled the blood of many more creatures.” (Cristina Garcia 112). The ways of living differ slightly for those who practice Santeria, after her initiation Felicia “She dressed only in white, and didn’t wear makeup or cut her hair. She never touched the forbidden foods—coconuts, corn, or anything red—and covered the one mirror in her house with a sheet, as she was prohibited from seeing her own image.” (Cristina Garcia 113).

How has Santeria changed? Well….how has it not? Although a lot of the practices are still either the same, or very similar, the question that one should be asking is…how has people’s perception of Santeria changed? It’s become a much more common practice, and people are also much more open about it now, “it is common in Miami to find dead animal offerings on the banks of the Miami River.” (Forensic science international 2) As well as in court rooms for good luck or in hopes of receiving good news. It has become such a popularity that it is even used to attract tourists to certain areas “Today, Santeria is a major tourist attraction. The beach resorts in Varadero hold night shows enacting the dances of the Orishas (afro-Cuban deities), Santeria souvenirs are sold throughout Havana, and foreigners go to Cuba to get initiated.” (Healing practices and revolution in socialist Cuba 10).

Not only is Santeria much more normalized now but it has also integrated itself into the medical system in some areas. “Herbs are essential to Santeria, and it is through herbs that Santeria practices become entangled with state-sponsored ‘green’ medicine and urban agriculture. According to Santeria beliefs, herbs belong to the Orishas, whose personal essence and power grant them their healing powers.” (Healing practices and revolution in socialist Cuba 11). It has become an inclusion in many people’s lives through it’s many different roots and forms.

Originated with slavery, found roots and places in politics, becoming a new religion/practice within itself that many used and continue to use for comfort, security, health and many other things on the daily. This woman in a case study who is a “follower of Santeria, she takes comfort from her spiritual beliefs, tries to maintain a positive attitude, and optimistically cites the phrase ‘when one door closes another opens’”. (David Strug pg 10), similarly to the way that Felicia from Garcia’s novel, and sometimes even Celia, who wasn’t completely a true believer, turned to the religion for comfort as well. It’s found itself into the healthcare system as well. Santeria has become a key portion in quite a lot to such an extent that “Statistically, it is hard to gauge the pronounced popularity of Santería in Cuba, because while 82% of Cubans are officially documented as Catholics, the initiation into Santería, or Regla de Ocha, requires baptism in the Catholic Church. (santeria in Cuba 4). The author of Dreaming in Cuban also brings this up in the end of her story when she is interviewed and asked why she mentions it, she says “Santería was traditionally an unacknowledged and underappreciated aspect of what it meant to be Cuban. Yet the syncretism between the Yoruban religion that the slaves brought to the island and the Catholicism of their masters is, in my opinion, the underpinning of Cuban culture. Every artistic realm—music, theater, literature, etc.—owes a huge debt to Santería and the slaves who practiced it and passed it on, largely secretively, for generations.” (Cristina Garcia 152).

Works Cited

Case, Menoukha. Callaloo, vol. 32, no. 1, 2009, pp. 307–13, Accessed 15 Apr. 2022.

Garcia, Cristina. Dreaming in Cuban. Random House Publishing Group, 1993.

Gold, Marina. “Healing Practices and Revolution in Socialist Cuba.” Social Analysis, vol. 58, no. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 42–59. EBSCOhost,

Maha Marouan. “Santería in Cuba: Contested Issues at a Time of Transition.” Transition, no. 125, 2018, pp. 57–70, Accessed 15 Apr. 2022.

Miller, Ivor L. “Religious Symbolism in Cuban Political Performance.” TDR: The Drama Review (MIT Press), vol. 44, no. 2, Summer 2000, pp. 30–55. EBSCOhost,

Pokines, James T. “A Santería/Palo Mayombe Ritual Cauldron Containing a Human Skull and Multiple Artifacts Recovered in Western Massachusetts, U.S.A.” Forensic Science International, vol. 248, Mar. 2015, pp. e1–7. EBSCOhost,

Prothero, Stephen R., and Edward L. Queen, II. “Santería.” Encyclopedia of American Religious History, edited by Prothero II, et al., Facts On File, 4th edition, 2018. Credo Reference,

“Santeria.” , directed by Anonymous , produced by National Geographic. , National Geographic, 2013,

Strug, David L. “An Exploratory Study of How Older Cubans Cope with Difficult Living Conditions.” International Journal of Cuban Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, 2019, pp. 228–46,

Melisa Yang

Conversations with an English Apparition

It had begun from his fingers, bereft of the compassion; it had ended with her weeping, forced acceptance,
and a broken goodbye. When she last checked his profile, she found there was no option to message—he had blocked her. She barely remembers the conversation.

Hand above her head, she envisions grasping at the stars and pretends it’s him. He used to wait for her to see the same sky, she recalls—it would appear before her eyes five hours later. She never would admit it, but she felt comforted when he sent pictures of it, blurry, because he had bought his phone for around 300 pounds. She thinks she could tell which stars belonged to which constellation in his photos. She felt obsessive. Disgusting. But, she was only eighteen. And he would be twenty-three in September. They met two years ago. So he might have understood.

“The moon is full tonight,” she thinks she said once. He would have hummed. She pretends he would have reached out in return and would have squeezed her hand gently. In her dreams, his hands are calloused and warm. He is the one who freezes the house.

Summer pardons itself with the haste of a scorned lover. Leaves shrivel on the trees she had taken pictures of to show him. “Look at American nature,” she had said. “Look at how different we are from you.” Please, visit.

She imagined he smiled in his little British way. She imagined he sees his Reading trees and wonders if they would survive in the American heat. He lives near sheep. She had cooed for half and hour over this fact when she was made aware of it months prior. She’s sure he would have thought all of America as depressing as London.

It’s fading memories and heartache, the requirement for the full teengirl experience. She knows souls travel. She will wash her face in the sink and she will see him frowning in the mirror, cold fingertips holding her reflection’s face the way he promised to. He will knock cups from the cabinets. He will flip lightswitches. He will wish she could pray and mean it.

Stop, she will plead. Go back to England. It is screens and screams. Warm and cold pillows. She is an infant again. She always was when he was around. That’s what she liked about him.

“I don’t want to feel guilty for not being with you,” he had said. “I need to set us free.” I have known you since a child, she had replied. She imagines he broke down before his phone. She imagines it was painful when he died. Maybe she hopes it was.

“He also struggles,” says a friend. I know, she wants to say. I can feel his pain from an ocean away. I see him within myself; he is not well. He spooks the dog and cats. He pulls at my bedsheets. He crawls under them and weeps beside me. He holds me and says I am half of him. His fingers pass through me.

But she doesn’t say a word. She pretends the news comforts her.Winter weaves nostalgia into the wind; it is the scent of carrion. It is ashes she asks for at the vet but will never see. She grieves and he is beside her. He holds out his hand. She takes it. I will be anything you wish me to be, he says. As you once sacrified to be for me. I will comfort you the way you have comforted me for a millenia.

She closes her eyes. Maybe she loathes him. The ride home is quiet. It is midnight and the cat carrier is empty. It is dawn and skin feels like it was slipped on. She knows grief all over again. It is her new companion.

Is this how you felt when you found its body in your garden? she wants to ask. She remembers his grief was so overwhelming he had eaten a spoonful of sugar to calm down, given to him by his Nana. She has no Nana to do that for her. He tries to offer her a spoon but he is not strong enough to lift it; his feet don’t even touch the floor.

Slumber in the late season. She is carried by CVS melatonin and a loving touch against her cheek. He lives within her skeleton. Her hand is his. He is an edifice towering above all heaven when he wants to be.

“Let me see you again,” she pleads. He shakes his head. She will only ever be with the ghost left behind.

When she showers, their conversation goes differently. He stayed like she wanted—she changes for the better. They move into a cottage in the English country side. Their children will be named after historial Victorian figures. They both had a love for history. They both learned musicals but don’t have the talent for singing. It’s still fun. She smiles in the mirror. He smiles back. It is a lovely thought, he says. You
were always so creative.

I could draw you from memory, she says in return. I know the molecular compounds that create you as I know the words your mind wants to speak. As I would know how it feels to have your breath against mine.

She thinks he adores this. When it is summer, she enjoys the friends she has made. She is outside, hand raised above her, tracing the half-eaten moon. He sits beside her. Always beside her. It is hot.

“This is nothing,” he had once said. “My room has no heater, you know. You Americans have it lucky.”

And she had rolled her eyes and laughed.