Leaning against a brick wall like some kind of fashion model, he glances toward the biggest building in the city and flicks his cigarette so nonchalantly that it makes smoking look like sign language rather than a bad habit, and now he's got me wondering what I can do with my own hands, how I can turn movements of a hand into words that will make him squint and then smile.
theNewerYork Tweeted this cute little writing prompt on Thursday:
Here was my response:
BUT here's the FULL version:
The belly of death: Hairballs. Dust bunnies. Dead skin. Pubic hair. The back of a sterling silver earring she had lost days ago. The spider crawled around, stumbling over the dirty souvenirs of all their dirty days. One of his legs was gone; he must’ve lost it when he got sucked. There was nowhere to build a web here. Nowhere to feel safe here. He was alone, right next to the dead ladybug that just landed near his seven feet.
The big glass bottle wasn't even mine. I didn't even know it existed until Chris slapped a price sticker on it and placed it amongst the other items scattered throughout our lawn. But I liked it--its pronounced roundness, scuff marks, small neck, mini handle. It wasn't even mine, I know that, but I was devastated when some scruffy-looking stranger picked it up, handed my boyfriend one dollar, and walked away carrying it lazily by that mini handle that I liked so damn much.
Yard sale day. One of the worst days of my summer.
And to think that it was all my idea in the first place.
"Chris, why don't we get rid of all our stuff in the basement?" I asked a week before our big sale--the sale that we advertised online and in our local newspaper.
Boom. A week later and there we were, sitting on our back porch, inviting people to swing by and basically steal our shit like untamed monkeys.
'Cause that's what a yard sale basically is--a place where people can invade your lawn and carry away with them the things that used to mean something to you.
"How come none of this stuff means anything to me anymore?" I asked Chris.
We sold my sister's old basketball for 50 cents.
"Catch," Sarah says, throwing the basketball with all her might toward her older sister.
It bounces on the hot pavement and I run after it in my flip-flops.
"Run faster, Ash, o'else you're not gonna catch it!"
My seven-year-old laughter parades into my mother's ears as she leans against the door that leads into our one-car, one-truck garage. She looks young and beautiful. For a moment, I think I can somehow see my childhood reflected in her two front teeth.
"Here, Sarah," I say, throwing the basketball over my head, "next time try not to make me run after it like that."
"Will you take $1 for this disco ball?"
Suddenly I hear Janet Jackson's "All for You" playing in my childhood bedroom, where I used to plug in that very disco ball and dance like crazy in front of my small wooden-framed mirror. In addition to this disco ball and one awesome strobe light (also for sale at our yard sale), I had a blacklight that made all the stickers I plastered below it glow a bright neon green. The disco ball was there, disco balling around, when my sister walked in on me dancing like a mad woman, pretending that I was Janet Jackson (minus one exposed breast) live in concert.
I watched Chris work the lawn; he was a natural salesman, but his price slashing was getting to be a bit outrageous. Older customers waddling in to our yard with their canes wanted to pay half price for already cheap items ("Instead of 50 cents, I'll give you a dime for this!") and Chris accepted every offer.
There went my pack of old guitar picks. A pair of Chuck Taylor's. A purse. A wallet. An old kerosene lamp that I probably could've done something funky with, thanks to the invention of Pinterest. And what did we make on all of these items? A lousy $4.
"Chris, I feel like I'm better off keeping all of this stuff."
He looked at me with his you've-got-to-be-kidding eyes. Then I got self-conscious because the last thing I wanted was for my boyfriend to think that I was being materialistic.
"I'm not materialistic, Chris . . . I'm just saying . . ."
A couple in a green Ford Escort jumped out of their car and started perusing our items, hands behind their backs, walking so slowly around the tables that it was driving me crazy. Man, they were taking their grand old time. Meanwhile, I was secretly hoping that they wouldn't find anything they wanted to buy, that they would just jump right back into that green Ford Escort so Chris and I could start carrying all of our stuff back down to the basement.
"This penguin fountain . . . this is a real nice fountain."
I can't believe I sold that cute little penguin fountain for $3. I bet my mom paid approximately $25 for it a few years ago. Poor mom. She poured so much money into my penguin collection. And what did I spend my Saturday doing? Giving it all away. And it's not that I don't like penguins anymore; I love penguins! I'll always love penguins.
And I especially loved that penguin fountain. I kept it in my bedroom. It hung on my wall, to the right of my bed, and I turned it on at night because the sound of the running water helped me fall asleep.
I wondered if we could cancel our yard sale. Run around the neighborhood and take down all our signs stapled to the staple-covered telephone poles. Call the newspaper's advertising department and tell them that we wanted our money back. Box up my penguin collection and strobe light and walk up to the playground to see if that old woman was there and if so, would she let me buy back Sarah's basketball?
I couldn't help thinking that all my items for sale had feelings, and they couldn't help feeling betrayed by me--just like Radio, Lampy, Blanky, and Kirby from one of my favorite childhood movies, The Brave Little Toaster.
At 3 p.m., I started boxing up all my stuff.
"Chris, I promise I'll find a place for this stuff in the basement . . . and I promise it won't take up too much room."
"Oh. Well I was planning to just donate all this stuff to Goodwill."
To Goodwill? What good was that?
We spent the next hour packing Chris's car with boxes full of all the unsold items that used to mean something to us. All the things that we treasured, at one time or another. All of the items that I wanted to keep without worrying that Chris would think less of me.
My entire penguin collection is now lining the shelves at our local Goodwill. I don't have the heart to go in there. I'll probably avoid the place for months.
"Just think: now all of these things can mean something to other people," Chris said, wiping his hands on his denim jeans before putting his sweaty arm around me.
Mrs. Harte - Grade 6
October 19, 2012
I just want to briefly tell you about my farm. I can either give you the short vershun or the long vershun about my farm but I think I'll give you the short vershun because I'm not good at writing papers.
Also, this is a tough draft. Oooooops, I meant rough draft but I think they both mean the same thing :-P
I think it is stupid that people think that farms are just full of cows and pigs and horses and chickens. I'm here to tell you in this persuaysive paper that farms can be full of any animals you want them to be as long as your farm is a good place for the animals to live and as long as you take care of them. Also you might want to own at least one plaid shirt.
I think my house has a farm because we own a lot of animals. My brother Josh has a ferrett named Ferry, I have a cat named Scarecrow because Scarecrow loves birds and my dad has a fish that I think he forgot to name but with no offense to the fish. My mom stopped having pets because she said that they are too smelly. This is my farm: a ferrett a cat and a fish.
You only need three animals to have a farm. But guess what? I have more than 3 pets because sometimes we see deers in our yard and these deers come back a lot because my dad feeds them apples and corn. Deers can be good pets. Shy but good. We also once upon a time had a squirrewl or some kind of rat in our house because I remember mom was really mad that this in particular animal was hiding in a wall but I told her to calm down because any animal we have is a pet and a part of our farm.
To have a good farm, you should bathe your animals and feed them too. If you want, your farm can grow, like if you find a lost dog. If you find a lost dog, take him to your farm's lost and found. Step two is name that lost-but-now-found-animal Grace. Grace is short for Amazing Grace because of the lyric I once was lost but now I am found. On our farm Grace #1 is a spaniel type of dog and Grace #2 is like a lab mix or something. They are both really good outside dogs and we still have them on our farm so I wasn't lying when I said I live on a big farm.
In conclusion, I think I've reached the number of words we are supposed to have for this essay and I hope that you will consider owning a farm. But you probably already have a farm already if you own, say, a cat a ferrett and a fish.
P.S. People who don't own farms, like our neighbour lady, is a very lonely person.
The pink and white flowers reminded him of her: fragile, beautiful, and slightly weathered by the storm that their families ushered near the shore where they stood, feet in the sand, the bottoms of their pants rolled up past their ankles.
Little did Shakespeare know that he kinda-sorta wrote the prequel to their love story. Welcome to the modern day Romeo and Juliet. Thankfully, nobody's dead yet.
Sam and Taylor are gentle people. Artsy people. Funny people. Good-hearted people. These are attributes you must remember they retain, for they seem easily forgotten by the people who mean the most to them because the people who mean the most to them don't approve of them feeling the way they do.
Taylor shopped for groceries while Sam took a bike ride through the city. He wanted to get out of the apartment and pick her flowers--fresh, just-plucked-from-the-dirt flowers that you couldn't buy in that grocery store. He imagined putting one of those flowers in Taylor's hair and then dancing with her on the street while passersby watched and wondered what made them happy enough to dance.
Happiness doesn't come as easily when everyone is waiting on the sidelines for a love that feels so right to go terribly wrong. Sam's family didn't like Taylor and Taylor's family didn't like Sam, making both families even when it came to being at odds. As much as Sam and Taylor tried to stick up for one another, their family members kept their ears closed and sang out of tune "la-de-da's."
Sam told Taylor to meet him in the park at 7 p.m. He wanted to hold her hand and go for a walk. He wanted to tell her about how sad he felt today when he saw an older couple walking down the street in Chinatown. They weren't holding hands. They weren't even talking to each other. Sam couldn't figure out what made them grow apart and why affection had somehow lost its appeal. He knew that wasn't the kind of relationship he and Taylor had, or ever would have. They were going to be an old couple someday, sharing two entrees at a fancy restaurant and holding hands across the table.
It was 6:57 p.m. Taylor walked toward Sam with a noticeable bounce in her step, and he knew it wasn't just because she got a great deal on sushi at the grocery store.
"These are for you," Sam said, holding out the pink and white flowers.
"They're lovely," Taylor said. "Thank you."
"Can I put one in your hair?" Sam asked.
Taylor giggled and nodded her head.
"Will you dance with me?"
"Only if you'll dance with me," Taylor said, draping her arms around Sam's broad shoulders.
Love. That's what makes people happy enough to dance in a park full of middle-aged men walking their dogs and young women jogging and teenage couples sprinting to the nearest frozen yogurt shoppe.
"As much as I like these flowers," Taylor whispered, "I'm going to drop them right here, right where we are dancing."
Taylor thought that maybe someone would come along and take a picture of the flowers and wonder why they were there. But thinking and hoping are two different things. When it came to hoping, Taylor hoped that the person who noticed her flowers would find the kind of love that she found: the kind of love that is fresh, admirable, and in full bloom--just like the flowers themselves.
There was nothing wrong with crossing his arms while sitting at a stop light, Luke told himself. That was how he was feeling today: in an arms-crossed type of mood, his hands locked into place and unmoving. A nice change.
A Bob Dylan song played on the radio in his car. The windshield wipers seemed to keep time with the beat, and the sound of rain provided an unremitting backdrop that almost accompanied Dylan’s unmistakable vocals. Luke turned the heat up and glanced into his rearview mirror, taking sight of the city's bright lights. For a moment, he wondered what it would be like to drive with his eyes closed. How would it feel to drive blindfolded, listening to Dylan the whole way home, as if he were on some semi-slow-motion roller coaster? He liked that idea.
Luke had his foot on the brake pedal and his eyes focused on the light, waiting for it to turn green. It was one of those “five minute stop lights,” the kind that made Luke think that he would be waiting there forever. But he had nowhere to go but home.
He never knew where the man with rotting teeth who walked the streets was going, though. He always seemed lost. Never carried a map. Forgot to pinpoint his destination years ago, it seemed. Luke spotted this tall and skinny man a few feet away, hurriedly making his way toward the railroad tracks.
He was wearing dark denim jeans, a black sweater, and white tennis shoes. He had a backpack slung over his left shoulder but no umbrella over his head that would keep him sheltered from the cold droplets of rain. Luke had seen the man around and always wondered if he was homeless. His belongings showed signs of wear and his spirits, just the same.
Luke turned around and looked at his backseat; for a moment, he imagined the man sitting back there, looking out the window in silence. Instead, Luke saw a brown suitcase, a baseball hat, and a red flashlight taking up space on the floor. An old water bottle looked rightfully in place because it could silently roll around when the car was in motion.
What Luke liked most about the city in which he lived was the constant movement. The pizza place on the corner took pizza out of the oven nearly every three minutes; the local bands were continuously strumming and drumming; the shoppers in the mall never quit going in and out of dressing rooms and twirling about in front of wide mirrors. There were escalators and elevators to ride, as well as plenty of stairs to climb. Hurrying from one place to another was the accepted way of life.
Luke enjoyed observing people. He liked to take note of actions and reactions, always keeping curious. This habit of people-watching appropriately lent itself to Luke obtaining a career as a greeting card writer. His application to the Cause I Said So Card Company was immediately accepted ten years ago on the basis that he would create positive reactions for recipients upon opening their cards and reading the sentiments inside.
This was an easy job for Luke. The difficult part was maintaining that he worked in the advertising department at a candy factory when his friends inquired about his career. Being a greeting card writer was a job that required no secrecy; Luke simply chose to establish that himself because he longed to witness genuine reactions from the people who received his cards, including his friends.
Writing greeting cards--whether they be thank you, get well soon, holiday, thinking of
you, special occasion or birthday cards--was not only a rewarding career, but also a lonely one.
Luke considered himself the most sentimental man in the history of lonely men. His family members lived 600 miles away. His friends were seasonal: he only saw Von in the winter, Chris in the summer, Pete in the fall, and Jim in the spring. His wife never existed because he never found one. He gave up his search five summers ago when he was turned down by a fashionable brunette who always wore her hair in a ponytail.
Luke’s favorite place in the city was a café that housed the smell of fresh-baked bread and vanilla bean coffee. A regular, he ordered the same thing every Wednesday: a turkey sandwich on French bread and an extra large ginger peach tea. The total always came to $8.25 and he would insist that the polite cashier keep the change from the $10 bill. Luke spent his time in the café completing crossword puzzles while eavesdropping on conversations that ranged from business to casual. Occasionally, he would read a magazine. He looked forward to watching other regulars enter the café; they would nod and he would reciprocate.
His routine went something like this: after his lunch at the café, he would stop by the greeting card shop less than a mile away. It was there that Luke would find some of his very own greeting cards lining the aisles. He would pick out a few cards, purchase them, and make a quick stop at the newsstand a block away before returning to his apartment. This routine would seem to negate the very purpose of his job--considering that he was being paid to make the cards, only to use his paycheck to buy them--but such a thought never occurred to him. He was determined to prove to strangers that other strangers care.
Browsing through the newspaper at the kitchen table in his apartment, he’d write down the names of the people who appeared in the obituaries, the newborns in the birth announcements, the couples celebrating their golden wedding anniversaries. There seemed to be no shortage of people that Luke could look up in the telephone book. Once he copied all of the addresses onto a blank sheet of white paper, he’d begin the task of filling out each card. He didn’t write much, mostly because what was printed was his writing in the first place, and it was just enough to get his point across. Luke simply signed his name—“A friend in the neighborhood.” He mailed a handful of cards every week, paying the increasingly high postage fees without any complaints.
His favorite card-giving memories came while he sat in the café, slowly sipping his hot tea. If there was ever a time he could get away with putting a few “Have a Great Day!” cards on empty tables, he would do so. Then he would secretly watch his recipients open the cards and express confused reactions, which were immediately followed by smiles. Oftentimes there came a sweet comment regarding the sender’s random act of kindness. These cards contained no money, no gift cards, no coupons—just the element of surprise.
There were times when Luke couldn’t help but wonder if he would ever be discovered, if his handwriting would give him away.
One day, it did.
The cashier at the café compared his handwriting from the crossword puzzle to the card she received from him on her birthday.
“So you’re the secret greeting card giver-awayer?” she asked with a smile.
Luke winked and walked away, carrying his food and drink back to his favorite table. He wasn’t sure how she figured him out, but he wasn’t upset. If anything, he sensed that she would keep his secret.
The rain refused to let up and Luke’s windshield wipers continued to swiftly dust off the raindrops. He thought to himself that today was the first day he had seen that homeless man in nearly a month. He wondered what he had been up to all this time.
Just as Luke was about to yawn one of those never-ending yawns, the stoplight turned green. He made his way up the hill leading to his apartment. It wasn’t until he was about to turn onto his street that he saw a man lying face-down on the side of the street. Luke automatically put on his four-ways and hopped out of the car in a panic.
Once he got closer to the limp body, he recognized the clothing and pushed the man’s
shoulder a little toward the sky so that he could see his face and confirm that it was him. It was.
It looked as if the man had fallen, but he appeared to have a black eye and a bloody lip. Luke assumed that he had gotten beat up, but there was no reason for anyone to commit such a crime. This man had never bothered anyone in the community. Luke tried to take his pulse as he stared at his back, hoping to see some kind of upward and downward motion that would signify that he was still breathing. Once he found a pulse, he called 911 and waited for the police to arrive.
The homeless man's demeanor intrigued Luke. It was obvious that he didn’t have any money to spend and had very little in the way of social skills, which may have contributed to his isolation. Perhaps this is what made Luke sympathize for him. Last month, Luke decided to go out of his way by purchasing him a “Thinking of You” card and placing in it a $20 bill, as well as a gift card to a nearby restaurant. It was a step away from Luke's typical card-giving routine, but it was a step that he wanted to take. While on his way to work that particular morning, Luke saw the homeless man walking along the street. Luke upped his pace, his suitcase in one hand and the card in the other. Once he caught up with the man, he tapped him on the shoulder.
“You dropped this,” Luke told him.
“Sure . . . uhhh, no,” the man said, avoiding eye contact.
Luke smiled and assured the man that the card belonged to him.
As Luke waited in desperation for an ambulance, his curiosity got the best of him. He unzipped the man’s backpack and looked through its contents. There, along with a pack of crackers and an empty water bottle, was the card Luke gave the man a month ago.
He hadn’t even opened it.
April positioned a wooden dining room chair in front of her living room window and reached her hand into a bag of rippled potato chips. She had no shame.
Meanwhile, her boyfriend Andy sat on the couch, watching TV and wishing that his girlfriend wasn’t a window widow hunter. He was dressed in khaki shorts, a ketchup-stained white undershirt, and white socks. Style? Not so much.
“Maybe she won’t show up tonight,” Andy said, turning his head toward his girlfriend’s back. She sat motionless, concentrated. Salty fingers and all.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, Andy. You know damn well that she’s here every Tuesday.”
Andy damn well did know this, but he supposed that April had finally scared “The Bingo Bitch” away last week when she wrapped a nasty note around the driver’s side door handle of Bitch’s car, which was parked along the street, right in front of their garage, blocking them in like nobody’s business. Andy called it the Scroll of Threats. It detailed what April would do to The Bingo Bitch if she parked her “boat” in their driveway for the ninth week in a row and thereby prevented April from using the parking space solely designated to her by the landlord. “I will make sure you sail away in this huge-ass boat with one large cargo of a fine,” April wrote.
“She’s here every Tuesday because the poor lady just wants to play . . . “
“B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! And Bingo Bitch was her name-o!” April sang.
“All I’m saying is that you should sit down on the couch with me and just let her park her car and walk into the fire hall in peace.”
“It’s a fire hall, Andy, not a church. The closest she’ll get to peace is getting a piece of me.”
“Give that poor woman a break. She . . . knows not what she does?”
“Well, I know what she does, and what she does is piss me off. Every single Tuesday evening. So guess what I’m doing this week if she parks in my spot? I’m calling the cops.”
Andy sighed and returned his attention to the TV screen while April returned her eyes to the street. She was ready to catch The Bingo Bitch red-handed with a wallet full of money that could very well be inserted into the imaginary parking meter that April had established in her mind. The clock on the wall ticked and tocked, which meant that it in April’s world, it would soon be time to rock ‘n roll. She shoved a few more chips into her mouth, rolled up the bag, and waited. Meanwhile, Andy surfed from one channel to the next, unable to decide between a sitcom and a reality show.
“There she is! The Bingo Bitch has arrived!” April exclaimed.
“Where is she parking?”
“Up our asses.”
Andy abandoned his comfortable seat on the couch and walked toward April. He placed one hand on her cold shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Andy. I’m just stepping out to have a word with her.”
“A civil word, okay? Not a civil war.”
After slipping her feet into a pair of old clogs, April casually stepped onto the porch and cleared her throat. She knew one thing was for sure: The Bingo Bitch wasn’t going to sail this sea without encountering a nasty storm.
“Just so you know, you can’t park in front of my house at your convenience, lady. This isn’t your driveway,” April yelled. “I mean, since when did God pass on custody of the universe to you?”
As Andy stood looking out the window, he noticed that The Bingo Bitch could not hear April. He chuckled as he imagined her sitting down at her Bingo table, reaching into her purse, and pulling out a small case.
Thank goodness for hearing aids.
My brain shuffles a deck of cards as I sit in my English class, watching my Queen of Hearts teacher explain how to label sentences. Subject, predicate, direct object, preposition, conjunction. One of my favorites is the infinitive: to run, to frolic, to sing “Happy Birthday” while washing your goopy hands in a public restroom.
This dark-haired sweetheart of a teacher is explaining to all my joker classmates that an adjective is a part of speech that modifies a noun or pronoun. She writes, “The boy is wearing a blue sweater” on the chalkboard, and I raise my hand to answer that the adjective is the word blue.
“That’s terrific, little girl,” she says.
If my heart were chewing a piece of bubble gum, it would have blown a bubble . . .
. . . because I realize that she can’t remember my name. My name changes every day, that’s why.
Why I have a new name every day of the year is quite simple to explain: my mom and dad fought so much at the time I was born that when they were trying to decide on what to name me that morning in the hospital, a heated argument ensued. The doctors stood around for a few minutes before shaking their heads and carrying me into another room, leaving my parents alone to decide what name I should be referred to for the rest of my life.
“Let’s name her Isis,” my dad suggested. “You know, after that Bob Dylan song.”
“Let’s name her Ana,” my mom sarcastically answered. “You know, after that Beatles song.”
“How about Isis Ana? Or Ana Isis?” Dad asked.
“I don’t think I like either combination,” my mother said. “Maybe we should just name her after my mother, Elaine.”
Dad immediately refused. Legend has it that he almost saw that name coming, too.
“And what about my mother?”
“Your mother has yet to pass away,” she answered.
“Well then forget it, okay? We just won’t name her. It sounds like that’s what the hell you want. She can go by her last name only.”
To further complicate things, my parents weren’t married.
“Your last name or my last name?” my mother asked.
Dad left me after my Mom left my Dad.
Supposedly the two only got along when they went out to eat and Dad’s company paid for the meal. They were together for five years, and according to my older cousin, those five years involved countless battles over money, relatives, and my name. I was told never to believe that I was the reason that their relationship (and engagement) failed. Somehow, however, I managed to convince myself that I was.
At the age of five and a half, I was adopted by my aunt and uncle whose house you could only enter after your vehicle slid down their excruciatingly steep driveway. Their house was one of comfort to me. It had a unique smell that filled my nostrils the way my aunt would fill my favorite Jungle Book cup with warm milk. The pair kept me fed, hydrated, and educated. Unlike my parents, they were in love, and perhaps most importantly, they were also in love with me.
What I loved most about living with my aunt and uncle was the way I could observe them and learn about cooking, music, movies, and sports. I would watch my aunt bake me cinnamon rolls and cupcakes in the kitchen, and then cross into the living room to see my uncle cheer on his favorite football team. I could always see the patch of snuff lodged between his gum and lip at the front of his mouth, but I didn’t mind. In between
commercials, he would sing to me and I loved that sour smell of him singing.
I realized I was different when I got to kindergarten. I was playing in an indoor sandbox with a girl named Laura, who had a broken arm and a stiff purple cast encasing it. After she finished building her mini sandcastle, she told me that she wanted to whisper a secret into my ear.
“I’m a mummy! Tut Tut Tut! What’s your name?” she asked.
I panicked. What was my name? My mind got twisted like an animal balloon, and all I could think about was Mother Goose. Oh, and how I loved rhymes. That’s it. Rhymes.
“My name is Hummy Gummy!”I replied.
Laura laughed and picked up a pile of sand with cupped hands.
“Make a shovel with me,” she said, looking down at her hands and then up at me with her dark brown eyes.
We spent another five minutes shoveling sand into the middle of the box. I wondered if we should add water, perhaps flood the landscape, but my aunt said that it was time to move on to the next station, where a pretty lady would take my fingerprints and then hand me a coloring book complete with farm animals and sea creatures drawn with black, bold lines.
Throughout elementary school, I spent each day introducing myself to my classmates and teachers. Our daily routine involved walking into our homeroom, lining up at the water fountain, and taking turns sipping water. I stood to the left of the water fountain and after each student swallowed the last gulp of water, I shook his or her hand and announced my name for the day.
Kevin Minus was the only person who found it rather impossible to keep up with my consistent name changes.
When we played Red Rover in gym class, Kevin would never know what to shout from across the gymnasium.
“Red Rover, Red Rover, send . . . ummm, that girl . . . right over?”
His turning the game into a game of question always made me feel more confident in my ability to conquer his team. This was a nice change of pace, considering that Shawn Pagorto could bring me to tears by scrunching up his face, balling his fists, and yelling, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Kaylie Finn right over!”
Poor girl. Shawn had a crush on her. And to make matters worse, Kaylie was shy. Instead of running full speed ahead in attempt to break the line of hand-holders across the room, she walked slowly, with her arms crossed. When she got close to the opposing team, she would clumsily step forward and then break into a quick jog.
Kaylie was one of my best friends, along with Laura, who ignored my name changes and refused to call me anything other than “Hummy Gummy.” Laura was the only friend who managed to give me some sort of go-to name, and while I loved her for that, I still felt compelled to keep renaming myself on a daily basis.
While my aunt and uncle had every intention to name me and frame my birth certificate following the adoption, I became stubborn and uncooperative. I had lived without three names for half a decade, so why would I need them now?
“What would you like your name to be, darling?” my aunt asked as she poured a glass of Lucky Charms into my cereal bowl one morning.
I was only in first grade, and my answer reflected that.
“Mother Goose,” I said, gathering all the marshmallows onto my spoon and clumsily shoving them into my mouth.
“How about Daughter Duck?” my uncle joked.
I chuckled. My uncle always made me laugh. He called me his favorite daughter and I called him dipshit.
My aunt had the radio tuned to the oldies station, and Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” was introduced by the DJ. His voice crackled over the loudspeakers as I watched my aunt finish packing my lunchbox.
I finished my cereal, watched my aunt stuff my lunchbox into my bookbag, and then asked for her help to toss my Little Mermaid bookbag over my back. I couldn’t wait to jump on my school bus, open up my lunchbox, and eat the cupcake that my aunt had packed for me. There was no waiting for lunchtime when it came to cupcakes.
That day, I named myself Good Golly Miss Molly. (And good golly, was that cupcake delicious!)
The only thing that wasn’t delicious, however, was the way I always thought of my parents when I ate cupcakes. Cupcakes reminded me of my fourth birthday party; my parents invited a few of the children from my preschool over to my house and made us eat cupcakes rather than cake. They gathered around the table to sing “Happy Birthday” to me, but I didn’t even get to blow out any candles and make a wish.
“How come you don’t have a birthday cake like my mommy got for me?” Laura innocently asked me as she wiped icing from her upper lip using her tongue.
“We’re saving up money for her birthday party next year,” my mom answered Laura. “She’ll have a big cake then because it’ll be her going away party, too.”
If I had candles to blow out that day, I would’ve wished for my parents to love me.
I’m in sixth grade now, still sitting in a classroom full of students who do not know—and show no interest in learning—the parts of speech. Why I know them so well is because more often than not, the names I create for myself contain nouns, adjectives, and the like. Most of my names also rhyme or contain alliteration.
“The little girl in the yellow vest is intelligent,” my teacher writes on the board. I am wearing a yellow vest. I think she is referring to me, but possibly only to make up for forgetting my name earlier. “Can someone name one adjective from this sentence?”
Laura raises her hand.
“Terrific job, Laura!” the teacher announces before writing “adj” above her correct answer.
I put my hand in the air. The teacher seems reluctant to call on me, perhaps fearing that she’ll embarrass herself again by forgetting my name, which, in turn, serves as a reminder that time must be taking its toll on her memory.
My teacher smiles and writes “adj” above my correct answer. I turn to Laura and shrug my shoulders, well aware that my teacher is really struggling to remember my name. She is cleverly biding her time by keeping her back to the class and avoiding eye contact with
“I’m Dizzy Miss Lizzy today,” I say, slowly bringing my hand down to my lap.
A deer friend of mine used to frolick through the woods behind my house. I don't think he ever made the dough, so he moved away. I was thinking about that deer friend of mine today, and I hope he's just fawn.
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .