From the Desk of the Editor,
Welcome to Issue Four, Volume Three of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we are offering more indie literature from up-and-coming authors.
Coming soon Larks Year One will be free in our online store. The ebook will feature all the art and writing from volume one. On a similar note, look for the January installment of Larks on Smashwords.com soon!
I would like to thank all the support we have received from our affiliates, friends, and most importantly our readers! Let’s make this the best Volume ever—Tweet suggestions, comments, and angry letters to @LarksMedia.
Daniel J. Pool
The Moon Went Fishing
By Melinda Giordano
A crescent moon, curved like a ship, balanced softly on the currents of the dim sky. The lunar canvas was gilded with cold, and its waning fragment was bright with winter’s cruel, sharp light.
Clouds smeared the horizon with twilight; fingertips plucked the stars from their night time aerie. The sun, rebuked, sank beneath the hemispheres, wrapped in a blanket of latitudes and longitudes. Night had truly arrived, a shadow descending from the heights of the sky’s perfect arc.
As the moon continued its gentle voyage, a single star – spared from the clouds’ harvesting – hung below it. It seemed to be suspended from the gliding bow, deftly maneuvered at the end of a thread, glistening with the dew that bloomed out of the chilly air.
A sparkling bait, it waited in the depths of the murky atmosphere. Alluring and artful, it was the pearl that once rolled in Phoebe’s palm as she reclined in her citadel beyond the planets. Delicious and distant, it lingered by the tender arc of light.
What did the moon wait for, with its shining lure? Perhaps galaxies full of fish and dragons were close by, drawn close by their inexorable, swimming orbits. Perhaps veils of light, the delicate frost of outlying worlds, would wrap themselves around that tempting hook.
The moon cast its line throughout the night, ready for the nibble and pull of bright, curious victims. It remained in patient grace until the sun returned, swathed in a bronzed and bloody haze. Only then did the radiant ship disappear, floating away on dark waves glittering with satellites, to wait for the return of its twilight sport.
About the Author;
Melinda Giordano is from Los Angeles, California. Her written pieces have twice appeared Lake Effect Magazine, Danse Macabre Online, GloomCupboard.com, Mirror Dance Fantasy.blogspot.com and Battered Suitcase.com. Another piece is due to appear in Scheherazade'sBequest. Melinda is interested in many histories: art, fashion, social and anything to do with Aubrey Beardsley.
Here is the art for January’s cover, “Is Under the Weather” by Eleanor Leonne Bennett.
Eleanor is a 15 year old photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic, The Woodland Trust, The World Photography Organization, Winston’s Wish, Papworth Trust, Mencap, and Dot Dot Dash She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.Only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review June 2011. Youngest artist to be displayed in Charnwood Art's Vision 09 Exhibition and New Mill's Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition.
See her website at www.eleanorleonnebennett.
An Excerpt from: Del City Nights or Thirty and One Nights
By Quentin A. Ponratz
The juice soothed his throat and a memory of the past.
The microwave beeped. He pushed the button which pushed open the door. He grabbed the mug from the inside of the microwave. He was careful as to not touch the parts of the mug that would burn his fingers. He transported the mug to an empty counter. He picked up the white package. He tore off part of the package. He poured the powder from the package into the heated water inside the mug. He clinked a spoon around the insides of the cup in a circular fashion. The powder dissolved. He picked the mug up again. He walked out of the kitchen and into another room where a girl sat on a couch. He held out the mug to her. She took the mug. He walked back into the other room and grabbed a bag of marshmallows. He walked back to her and sat down on the couch next to her.
“Thanks,” she half whispered as he handed her the marshmallows.
“It’s the least I could do.”
She laughed. “Yeah.”
“That’s why you came over, right? You wanted me to make you some hot chocolate.”
“Something like that.” She sniffed.
“But really. How are you doing?”
“Alright.” She shrugged.
He put his hand on her shoulder. “You can talk to me about anything you want.”
“Why is it that you can have two cups, and one cup, but then you have zero cups?”
“Well, the first two are obvious. You have two cups; it’s plural. You have one cup; it’s singular. That’s all fine. Then you go to zero and it goes back to plural. How is that? You have less than one cup, but now it’s plural?”
“Where is this coming from?”
“I have a cup of hot chocolate, but you have no cups. When you think about it, you’re no longer just without a cup, you’re without all cups.”
“I know, right? It sounds so sad. Now I have no boyfriends. I’m not just missing the one I had, but now I’m without a whole slew of boyfriends.” She let out a small sob.
He put his arm around her. He pulled her close. She set the hot chocolate on the table and leaned into his embrace. She cried. She shook in his arms until the sobs stopped, or at least paused. He rocked her back and forth. She brought her legs up onto the couch and folded them under her body. She pushed him back. Her eyes had puffy rings around them. She passed her arm underneath them.
“What’s wrong with me?” she asked.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“That’s what I’m asking you.”
“That’s my answer. What’s wrong with you? I can’t think of anything. You’re smart and pretty. I think you’re mostly perfect.”
“I’m a slow typer. I’m bad at spelling too. I can’t decide things easily. My left boob is smaller than my right boob. I’m—”
“That boob thing. Prove it.”
She punched his arm. “But really,” she looked down at her hot chocolate. Earlier she put two marshmallows in the cup. She ate one almost immediately. Then she had one marshmallow. The one left had since melted into the liquid. Now she had no marshmallows. A tear escaped her eye and ran down her cheek. “I’m a very flawed person. I’m surprised Ryan was even with me that long.”
“Don’t say that, Alex. You’re an amazing girl.”
“Ryan didn’t think so.”
“Well he may be my friend, but he’s retarded then. Why did you guys break up anyways?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Alright.” He wiped the tear off of her cheek.
“Thanks.” She looked at him. She looked into his eyes.
“You know… there’s something I’ve always wanted to say to you.
“I’m not sure I can say it.”
“I think I know what it is.”
He mouth smiled beneath her teary eyes. “I think so.”
“Do you want to guess then?”
“What? No. That’s not how this works.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think I can say it.”
“Well, I can sit here all night waiting.”
“Or… you could guess.”
“No. I’m not stooping to that.”
“What if I guess wrong?” she asked.
He thought about this before replying. “How right do you think you are?”
“I’m one hundred percent sure.”
“Then you should have no problem guessing.”
“But I do.”
“What if I’m wrong?”
“But if you’re one hundred percent sure, you can’t be wrong can you?”
“Sometimes the weather people say there will be a one hundred percent chance of rain, but then it doesn’t rain. There’s your answer.”
“That’s weird when that happens.”
“Don’t get off subject. There’s something I believe you want to say to me.”
“Then say it?”
“What if the thing I’m thinking of doesn’t line up with what you have in your mind? Then it will be just as awkward as you guessing wrong.”
“So you’ll guess?”
“I didn’t say that.”
He sighed. “Fine.” He rubbed his hands together. “Here goes.” His lips dashed forward and landed on her cheek.
“Was that it?”
“That wasn’t really you saying something.”
“I know. Doing that was somewhat less hard then actually saying it in words for some reason.”
“I’m still waiting on some words though.”
He breathed in deep. “I like you.”
“I guessed right.”
She looked down at her mug. She had no marshmallows. She cried. “You’re sweet, and I like you too,” she said through more tears, “but it wouldn’t be fair to you to do anything until I get over this.” She sniffed. “Is that okay?”
He nodded. It wasn’t.
About the Author;
Quentin A. Pongratz is an author and mathematician from Del City, Oklahoma. He likes to write quirky stories and hopes one day someone will take him and his writing seriously.
For more about Quentin see his blog at quentinap.com
The Disappearing Girl
By Russell Bradbury-Carlin
It was an “abandoned-house” party. This is basically a party in a house that only adults living in –- people without kids or those who are old enough that their children have moved away. And what we mean by “abandoned” is that the adults are gone –- on vacation or something. They’ll come back eventually. An abandoned-house party means that we can do whatever we want and not care about the damage. It doesn’t get past me that we never party in a house that belongs to another child or adolescent. No one ever says anything, but I think we are worried that if we trash one of our parent’s homes, no one would really get in trouble. The adult-world has basically thrown in the towel on us teenagers. By partying in the homes of childless adults, we can at least pretend that our parents care enough to smack the shit out of us if we were to ruin their homes.
At parties, I usually hang-out in the kitchen. It’s the one room, other than the bathroom, that people go into for a few minutes and leave. They come in for a beer or to grab a bite of something and move on. I usually exchange a few words before they go back to the main party. It works well for me. I don’t really have much to say to most people.
At this particular abandoned-house party, I was in my usual spot finishing off my second beer.
My friend Manji came running into the kitchen. “Holy shit, Nate! Someone just ripped the stairway railing out of the wall and threw it through a window like a javelin.”
Manji is actually short for Jumanji. Really though, his name was Herbert. Manji was called Jumanji because he was unusually hairy. His body was covered, almost entirely, with a thin layer of fine blondish hair. It wasn’t too noticeable unless you were up-close to him or he had his shirt off. Mike Burke, for some reason, in sixth grade dubbed him “Jumanji” after that old movie. It never made any real sense to anyone, but it stuck. Then it got shortened. Even his mother calls him Manji. That is a bit weird.
“I love abandoned-house parties!” Manji declared before he dashed back into the living room.
I leaned against the counter near the sink and carefully tugged on the damp label of my beer in an attempt to pull it off cleanly. Several kids came into the kitchen, grabbed beers or snacks out of the fridge, and left. I didn’t know who they were, and didn’t want to, so I ignored them.
The label separated from its glued portion and ripped off. I finished the beer and left it on the counter next to the large fleet of other empty or half-empty bottles that had been discarded by others. I realized I needed to go to the bathroom.
I walked down the hallway that ran between the kitchen and the front of the house. Some guy staggered toward me. He ran his hand along one wall as if the house was a boat lurching back-and-forth in a storm. I moved to the other side of the hall. The guy grunted as he passed me.
Then I bumped into a girl.
It was as if she had suddenly appeared out of nowhere –- materialized directly in my path.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.
I recognized her from school – from before I stopped going. But I didn’t know her name. I thought she was one of The Responsibles. That is what we called the “good” kids who try to suck up to their parents and other adults. It’s sort of pathetic since they still get treated like some kind of feral pet that keeps coming to the back-door for a morsel of food.
“No, I’m sorry. It was my fault,” she replied.
She was very light. Her hair was extremely blond, almost white. Her skin was pale. Her eyes a faded ice blue.
I began to walk around her but then stopped.
“How was that your fault?” I found I was a bit annoyed as I said it. “I walked into you.”
“Yes, but I had disappeared,” she said quietly.
“Not literally, but close to it.”
Manji ran down the hall and grabbed my arm. “You got to see this. Mark turned the upstairs hall into a Slippery-Beer-Run.”
I let him pull me away, even though I knew that a Slippery-Beer-Run was just a floor covered with lots and lots of beer. The object of the game was to run and slide across the floor in your socks without falling over. It was a hallmark activity in an abandoned-house party.
I glanced back at the girl. But it seemed she had disappeared, again.
I stood near the window in the bedroom at the end of the hallway. I had to get-up on my toes in order to get a good view of the hall. The crowd in front of me cheered with each contestant who made The Run. Manji stood next to me in his stocking feet. The smell of beer wafted around him. His socks and pants were soaked in it. He had only made it a quarter of the way down the hall before his legs slipped out in front of him and he landed on his ass.
I wasn’t really paying attention. I kept thinking of the girl. What had she meant about disappearing? I wasn’t afraid of girls. But I don’t quite know how to communicate with them. They didn’t have the same interests that I have, it seemed. I knew that I needed to feign interest in order to get a girlfriend, but I wasn’t interested in pretending. It was hard enough trying to not pretend. Girls were a hurdle because of all the thinking that I had to do in order to start conversations with them. Every single word had to be yanked hard out of my brain, carefully considered and then articulated. I dreaded all that effort, so it rarely happened. But with this girl that I’d only met for two minutes, I was eager to continue what we’d only just started. There had been a small bit of momentum.
“I’ll be back,” I told Manji.
I searched the house but couldn’t find the girl anywhere. I thought about sweeping the house carefully by walking the edges of the halls and all of the rooms, hoping that I might bump into her again and she’d materialize, if that’s what she really did.
Some of the party had made its way out onto the front lawn. I found the girl sitting on a boulder on the side of the house, just on the edge of the light that spilled out of the living room window onto the grass. Her sandaled feet shined bright in the light, while the rest of her leaned back into the grayish dark.
“There you are.”
She looked up and smiled.
“What’s your name? I’m Nate.”
“So what did you mean by ‘disappearing’?” I sat down beside her on the boulder.
“It has to do with something that my mother left me. But, you don’t want to hear about it.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Oh, come on. Don’t pretend to be...”
“I’m not pretending. I really want to know.”
“I’m starting to transition. Sometime after I turn eighteen next Friday, I’ll disappear forever.”
Katherine, it turns out, was born at the wrong time. At least that is how she describes it.
“My family has this weird trait. The second daughter of every generation, on my mother’s side, disappears after they turn eighteen.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. So, I went with the first thing that popped into my head.
“Well, I used to hear ringing in my ears every once in a while when I was a kid,” I explained. “I used to think that it was a signal from my real parents who lived on another planet and that I’d finally understand the signal when I turned eighteen. Then I would return home to them. It seems kind of silly now that my real parents have moved away. They left me instead of my leaving them.”
Katherine didn’t say anything. She stared out at the gang of kids hanging out on the lawn. She did have a small smile on her lips. I got the sense that she wasn’t bothered by what was about to happen to her.
“Hey, how come your clothes disappear, too?” I asked, and then realized that I was kind-of talking about her being naked. I could feel myself start to blush, which I hate.
“I don’t know, really. It seems to be things that fit tight on me, like shirts, pants, and shoes. Not hats.” She laughed at that.
I smiled but didn’t really laugh. Then her laughter and my smile faded and we were quiet for a bit.
“Can I ask you something else?” I broke the silence.
“Sure. What would I have to hide?”
“What do you think happens to you when you disappear?”
“I’m supposed to come back as a more powerful woman in the next generation -- a leader of some sort –- for the family or maybe even out in the world. That’s what my mother told me.”
“Do you believe that?”
“I’ve been trying to until recently.”
I wanted to ask her what she believed now. Instead I just sat there with her and watched the gang of kids pour some kind of flammable liquid on the lawn and light it on fire. They were trying to spell things like “Fuck Off” and “Asshole”.
A few days later, Manji was trying to pull together another abandoned house party.
“The McMillan’s are in France for two weeks. And their house is right down the street from the police department,” he told me as he sniffed a shirt that lay at the foot of his bed and then jammed it over his head to put it on. I watched the sheen of light move across the matted hairs that covered his back.
I had been living in Manji’s bedroom since my parents up and moved to the coast without telling me. His parents never said a word about it. I grabbed a sleeping bag and pad from his garage and slept on his floor. His parents kept the kitchen filled with food and never said anything to me even as I stayed in their bathroom for an hour each morning while I took long hot showers.
Manji was excited about having the party at the McMillan’s. He hoped that if it got rowdy enough, the police, whose station was so near they would have to know what was going on, would respond and try to break it up. Maybe even arrest one of us. I doubted that would happen. The police had long-ago given up on attending to teenager’s lawlessness, like the rest of the adult world. Now they were reduced to cleaning up after us.
Manji was unwrapping Chewers gumballs and putting the wrappers through his printer. Each wrapper came out with today’s date and the address to the McMillan’s house on it. This was how abandoned-house parties were announced. Manji and I crumbled up each printed wrapper. We’d make a few hundred then toss them around the town -- make them look like trash. Kids would pick them up –- “look at what a good citizen I am, picking up random trash” –- and know when and where the party was. Originally, this was done to be secretive, to hide kid’s plans from their parents. But now everyone, young and old, knew since it had been going on for so long. Many of the adults had once been teenagers who did the same thing. No one cared. It was our ritual.
I decided that I was going to drop wrappers in Katherine’s neighborhood. This way I had an excuse to stop at her house. It had been two days since the night I met her -- which meant four days until she turned eighteen.
Katherine lived near the center of town in a small yellow house. The yard was filled with gardens –- and I mean the entire yard except for the thin path to the front door. The path was lined with tomato plants. They were all corralled inside those round trellises. Hundreds of plump bright red tomatoes dangled along the walkway –- each looking like small bombs, ready to burst juice and pulp all over my legs.
I knocked on the door and a tall woman with long blond hair answered. She held the door open enough so that she blocked the entire opening.
“Yes?” She looked at me with suspicion.
“Is Katherine home?”
“May I ask who you are?”
It was odd to be regarded this way by a parent -- to be regarded at all. I usually just walked into my friend’s houses,
or went around and rapped on their bedroom windows. I rarely saw or engaged with their parents. I felt annoyed, but also intimidated at the same time. I wasn’t sure if I should just bull my way past her or say something. Maybe I should just ignore her mother and yell Katherine’s name until she came to the door.
“Well?” She asked.
“My name is Nate. I met Katherine the other night,” I said.
“Let me go see if she wants to see you,” her mother said. She closed the door and made me wait on the small front porch.
A large bumblebee hovered near my hand. I went to swat it away, but it must have caught sight of the bright blue flowers along the front edge of the house. It turned away and my hand brushed empty air.
Katherine came to the door. She glanced out at me, and looked me over as if she didn’t recognize who I was.
“Nate,” I pointed at myself, “from the party the other night.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said and stepped out onto the porch.
“I’m going to be tossing wrappers for another party tonight. I could use some help.”
Katherine looked around her yard as if she had only come out to check on the state of the wild gardens. Then she looked at me. “Sure, why not.”
She opened the door, leaned in and bellowed, “I’m going to go for a walk.”
I gave her a handful of wrappers and we began to walk along the sidewalks, tossing the crumbled invitations every hundred feet or so. The urge I had felt to connect with her began to waver in my head. The ease of our conversation the other night had disappeared, it seemed. I wasn’t sure what to say. Or more to the point, the things I wanted to ask her were difficult to just blurt out. So we walked in silence. And my unease turned more toward embarrassment. As the guy, I should probably be leading the conversation. I began to think to myself –- “fuck it. I don’t even know if I really like this girl. Why did I do this?” –- when she spoke up.
“What are you going to do when you’re eighteen?” She asked.
“Huh? Eighteen? I don’t know. That’s over a year away.” No one had asked me that question in a long time. Not since I was a kid and my parents had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Back then it was things like a cowboy or an astronaut. “I could get an accelerated high school diploma and go to college. Probably go find my parents, see if they’ll help me out. I don’t know.”
We walked a bit further in silence. I took to flicking the wrapping-balls with my fingers –- aiming at things like trees or mailboxes. Katherine just tossed hers absent-mindedly.
“Why did your parents have a second child if they knew they could have a daughter and you would disappear?” I blurted this out –- the question running from thought, straight to my mouth.
“They consider it an honor. Even though it won’t pay off for a generation, our family has always strove to have a second daughter. It’s rare. They usually have boys. Everyone thinks me and my parents are very special.”
“What do you think?”
“It’s been five generations since a second daughter has been born. After she disappeared, another girl, my great, great aunt Marie, was born. I’ve heard lots of stories about how much of a leader she was within our family –- starting a huge dairy business and paying for grandkids to go to college. But she died before I came along. So, I’m sort of operating on faith. I don’t know what I think. I don’t know if I have any choice about what to think. It’s going to happen whether I like it or not.”
“Aren’t you scared?”
“Oh, I was scared a long time ago. Now I’m just waiting.”
We had run out of wrappers long ago and were now walking through one of the small parks that are scattered around the city. We, again, weren’t saying anything. I enjoyed just walking with her and being quiet. I wondered if she felt the same. We didn’t discuss where we were headed, or how long we were going to walk. When we approached a fork in the road or the end of a street, we just sort-of made an unspoken decision to turn in one direction and keep walking.
“Manji and I went Trash-Tipping last Thursday,” I said for no real reason. Trash-Tipping was a game that twelve or thirteen year olds usually play –- essentially going around town on the night before trash-day and knocking over garbage cans. Manji and I had loved this game when we were younger and never really gave it up when most of our peers had moved on to other things. Manji had added some details: a toilet plunger taped onto a long pole. One of us drove around while the other brandished the plunger to either poke cans over or bat them down while we drove down the street fast.
I felt the urge to laugh, but held it in since it would make me sound like a kid –- laughing at trash-tipping.
“Do you want to see me do it?” Katherine asked, as if she hadn’t listened to what I had just said.
“Uh, do you mean now or when it becomes…permanent?”
Katherine half-smiled and she blushed. Her white skin bloomed with the faded red of blood flooding her cheeks. “Oh, I meant now,” she responded. “Sometimes it just happens and I can’t control it. In fact, that happens more and more. But if I concentrate enough, I can fade away for a few seconds. Sometime, a few minutes.”
“Sure,” I responded. “I think that’s why I bumped into you at the party.”
“Yeah, I’m not very social, so it has come in handy at parties recently.”
I wanted to ask her why she even went to parties then. But I wasn’t sure if that was too personal. I realized I needed a map of how to converse with a girl you think you are attracted to –- when to risk asking more personal question, when to talk about yourself, when to just be quiet. I was stumbling around now, map-less, but seemed to have mostly been going in the right direction.
Katherine stopped. We were standing near an empty fountain surrounded by benches and rows of hedges behind them. We were alone.
She closed her eyes and squinched them shut. Her eyebrows furrowed as if she was thinking hard. Then she disappeared.
It was subtle. The corner of the fountain and one of the benches behind her seemed to bleed through her as opposed to her fading. Then, she was gone.
“Over here,” she said from behind me.
I turned and there she was. She had moved around me in the few seconds that she had been invisible.
“Let me see if I can vanish for a bit longer. Watch carefully when I fade.”
She closed her eyes, furrowed her brow, and disappeared. I wasn’t sure why she wanted me to watch carefully. Perhaps she was going to try and scare me. I continued to stare at the spot she had once stood in.
Then she appeared –- directly in front of me –- close. Her lips materialized right on mine in a kiss. I flinched, in surprise. But I didn’t pull away. I kissed her back. I put my arms around her and we stood there for a long time.
“Want a beer?” Manji asked me.
“No, I’ll wait until she gets here,” I responded.
We were both sitting on a pair of Adirondack chairs on the front porch of the McMillan’s house. Behind me I could feel the deep bass rumble of loud music and the waves of chatter and yelling from the party.
“If this girl doesn’t get here in ten minutes, I’m going to knock you out, drag you into the kitchen, prop you up in your usual spot, and put a beer in your hand.” Manji took a long gulp of his own beer as if to demonstrate the result of his proposal.
We both sat there for a few minutes in silence. I was staring down the driveway, waiting for Katherine to appear out of the darkness. Manji was fidgeting around, not able to keep still. I knew he wanted to get back to the party. But he also didn’t want to leave me alone out here.
“I’m going to walk down to the end of the street,” I said. If I don’t see her, I’ll come back and you’ll find me in the kitchen. You go ahead back in.”
“All right. I expect to see you with a beer in your hand in ten minutes.” Then he walked into the house. I could hear his loud voice call out to someone inside.
I got up and walked down the driveway. But I knew that I wasn’t going to stop at the end of the street. I kept walking -- all the way to Katherine’s house.
I found her sitting on her front porch.
“I was hoping you’d come here,” she said.
I sat down next to her. “Why didn’t you come to the party?” I whispered, in case her parents were nearby, listening.
“As the day gets closer and closer, the more I realize that I don’t want to be around too many people.”
We sat silently. I could hear the clatter of dishes and water running on-and-off in a sink from inside. I assumed one of her parents was washing up after dinner.
“Can I ask you a question?” Katherine said.
I was staring out at the tomato-bombs lining the front path. “Sure.”
“How does it feel to have your parents just up and leave you?”
I didn’t respond for a long time. Not because I didn’t have a response, but because I knew that it meant something to tell her. I knew, though, that not telling her would mean something, too.
“At first it felt like a victory,” I began. “You know, when they were around I’d go out every night that I wanted. I got as drunk as I wanted and got home when I wanted. They never stopped me. Then I stopped going to school. My mom said, ‘are you sure?’ And I said, ‘fuck, yeah’. And that was it. So, when they up and moved without really discussing it with me and with the excuse that it was a job-thing for my dad and that they’d be back, I felt like I’d won something -- like I had pushed them so far that they retreated. Then, after a few weeks, I began to feel lop-sided, like the team at the other end of a tug-of-war game had started to let go. I guess, in some ways, that is how I’ve been feeling ever since –- like they let go of the rope and I’m teetering on the edge of falling backward. I’ve won, I guess, but I’m still probably going to fall backwards and land on the ground. Or maybe I won’t. Who knows? But I’m kind of pissed that they just let go -- ‘Hey, don’t fall into the mud’. Does that make any sense?”
Katherine reached out and took my hand. “Yes”, she said. She said it so quietly that it was more of a whisper.
My mind leapt to the party that I had walked away from. Manji was going to be royally ripped that I just took off. But I certainly wasn’t going to leave Katherine now.
We sat there holding hands for awhile.
“Do you know what my parents are probably doing right now?” Katherine asked.
I noticed that the sounds of dish-washing had stopped. “No. What?”
“They are carefully working on this scrap-book about me. It has pictures of me though-out my life. It has drawings I’ve made. My report cards. A little pouch with my baby-teeth. My father has been designing the layout for years. And my mother learned calligraphy so she could write out the little comments that will go underneath each item. She’s been crafting out the wording like little pieces of poetry. After I disappear, this will get put into a fire-proof box and saved until the next daughter –- me reincarnated –- is born. Then it becomes her’s...I mean mine, again. Sounds kind of cool, huh? All of this time and energy into cataloging my life. Only they haven’t asked for my input. In fact they probably have no idea I’m sitting out here. They think I’m in my room –- or maybe they haven’t even thought about where I am. They just assume. They’re more proud of who I’m supposed to be to them, then of me.”
We sat quietly, again. The party must have been breaking up because we saw a few kids walking by the house, away from the McMillan’s.
“The last thing that’s supposed to go into the scrap-book is a recording of me disappearing. They’re all set up to video it.”
“Maybe you’ll be able to remember all of this when you come back,” I said. “And when you’re old enough, you can open up the fire-proof box and burn the damn scrap-book.”
I couldn’t tell if she was smiling or not. I intended my response to be funny. But I could feel Katherine squeeze my hand tightly.
Another group of kids walked by us. It was two girls and a guy. They all talked loud. The guy took a deep slug from what seemed to be a beer bottle. Then he whipped it at the curb and it exploded in a loud crash of tinkling glass.
A little while later, the lights in Katherine’s house went off behind us. A streetlight down the road was the only illumination that kept us from total darkness. Neither of us had moved in a long time.
“It’s happening,” Katherine said. Her voice boomed a bit after the silence. “I can feel it. It won’t be long.”
“Yes. And I’ve decided something.”
“I want you to be with me when it happens.”
I brought Katherine a tuna fish sandwich that I made in the kitchen.
She was sitting up on a huge king-sized bed in the empty home of a family that was traveling. I knew they were going to be away for a few weeks. It was on the list of possible party homes. But, because it was on the out-skirts of the town and not close to the center, where it would be more obvious, it was not likely going to become an abandoned-party house soon.
“It was all I could find,” I told her, meaning the tuna fish.
“Thanks,” she replied and took a small bite out of it. “It probably won’t help. I’m just going to get weaker and weaker until I fade.”
We had been in the house for two days. Katherine had just left the front porch of her home with me and we walked right to the house. I asked her if her parents would be upset. “I’m sure,” she responded. I’m trying not to care. Maybe this will help them realize that my disappearing is about me, now. But it probably won’t. They’ll tell themselves that they’ll see me again when the next girl is born. To them, it’s kind of like I’m going on a long trip by myself.”
Most of our time in the house had been spent trying to decide where she wanted to be when it happened. As she became weaker and weaker, she realized she needed to be lying down.
“Are you scared?” I asked her.
“A bit. But mostly I’m sad.” She was sitting on the edge of the bed now, staring at the plush red carpeted floor. She took another small bite of the tuna sandwich.
I wasn’t sure if I should ask why she was sad.
She didn’t give me a chance. “I’m sad for a lot of reasons.” She paused. “I wish that I’d met you earlier.”
She put the sandwich down on the plate on the bedside table and laid down. I remained sitting on the end of the bed, quietly waiting.
Then, without saying anything, I laid down beside her. She rolled over onto her side and I spooned myself behind her. I put my arms around her. We both lay there and breathed in synch -- for what felt like a very long time.
When it happened, it happened quickly.
I was looking at the back of her exposed neck. Her skin became translucent. And then it began to fade.
She said nothing. I said nothing.
I tried to pull her closer, partly hoping that it might make her stay and partly hoping that it might make her feel more comforted if she was scared.
I couldn’t see over the back of her head. But I tried to imagine that she had that slight grin on her lips that she often had.
I continued to hold her tight. Then, suddenly, it occurred to me that I might fade away with her -- that like her clothing I was close enough to disappear, too. And for a brief moment I wanted desperately for that to happen. I realized that even though she was disappearing, and might not actually return, there was some hope. There was something exciting, possibly, awaiting her. A future.
Then Katherine faded away completely, like breath evaporating from a pane of glass. She disappeared. In one moment, my arms were filled with the weight and pressure of her against me. Then, there was a vacuum. My arms were empty. And I was alone, on a bed, in a stranger’s house.
I cried for awhile – for the first time since I was a kid.
My thoughts wandered for what seemed like hours. Then, I sat up and climbed off the bed. I had decided that it was time to get out.
About the Author;
Russell Bradbury-Carlin is a part-time writer living in Western MA. His stories and poetry have appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Rattle, Pindeldyboz, and Monkey Bicycle amongst others.
His website: http://RussellBradburyCarlin.com
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