Missing the Hogwarts Express

young_macho

We were having some sushi near the Cardinals Stadium in St. Louis. It was too early to have a whiskey, so I ordered a beer.

The waitress nodded politely.

“Don’t you want to see his ID?” my brother asked the waitress. She looked at him, then looked at me, an eyebrow raised.

“You don’t have to,” I grumbled, hand in my pocket. She walked off.

I shot my brother a look, “thanks.”

He smiled. “You’ve been wanting someone to ID you for days, trying to help.”

“I know how you feel,” my cousin interjected from across the table. He was turning thirty soon, too. He looked younger than me though.

“A few weeks ago,” he told us, “I was at this bar and when I ordered my beer, I took out my ID automatically. The bartender just looked at it and said ‘does that make you feel young?'”

My brother whistled, “geez, that’s harsh.”

“I know!”

My mother, whose age is not allowed to be written anywhere in the known universe, looked from my cousin to me, “fuck you both,” she added.

I turned, opened my mouth–thought better of it.

“It’s just,” my cousin began, treading softly, “we’ve gone past our Hogwarts moment.

The waitress came back, setting down my beer. We ordered some sushi before asking, “Hogwarts moment?”

My cousin nodded. “Yeah, you know, when someone comes and takes you away somewhere magical or tells you about some magical adventure. The chosen one is never thirty. That guy tried to help with those books about magic college–”

“The Magicians?”

He nodded.

“But, even that was early twenties, I mean–what are thirty year olds good for in any book these days?”

We all thought for a bit.

“Falling in love?” My mother tried.

I sighed, “getting murdered.”

We brainstormed for a bit but never got much further than love and murder. By the time the waitress came back we were deep in thought. She placed the sushi down in front of us and paused. She looked down at me, my face fallen. She sighed.

“Would it help if I checked your ID?”

Not thinking, I looked up. “Could you take me on a magical adventure?”

Her face took a step back before the rest of her could react. “Uh–” she managed, before heading off to another table. I turned back to a frowning family.

“Looks like it’s murder for you then,” my brother said, before helping himself to some sushi.

 

Killing Chickens

killing_chickens

As a kid my mother used to make a joke when the McDonald’s drive-thru took too long. This was before they took credit cards.

She’d say, “what, are they killing the chickens or something?”

My brother and I always laughed, or rolled our eyes or both.

We got older, yet still we laughed, rolled our eyes, or both. We started dating. My brother had long-term, strong, targeted relationships. I dated like shotgun pellets in a tree full of birds.

Once, I was dating a girl named Fern; her real name was Kate, but people called her Fern. She didn’t like McDonalds.

We were on our way to the train–it was late. My mother asked if we’d like to stop for McDonalds. I said, “yes.” Fern said nothing, but ordered a milkshake. The line was slow, long.

“What, are they killing the chickens or something?” my mother said.

I didn’t laugh as hard as I usually would have; it was cut short. Fern was bristling, I could feel her heat.

“McDonalds tortures birds,” she muttered to me.

I rolled my eyes. “I know, please, not now,” I tried.

So, she addressed my mother. She went on for a while. I’d heard it before; “it’s barely real meat anyways, they keep them in cages, poison them”–I’d seen the documentary with her.

Fern was practically in tears by the time she finished educating my mother from the backseat. It took so long that we had made it to the window before she finished–out of breath and wet-eyed.

I put my arm around her and sighed. I couldn’t see my mother’s face. The drive-thru window opened. It was a young girl, two nose piercings.

“What, were you killing the chickens?” my mother asked the girl.

They both had a good laugh. Fern took the train alone.

 

Oranges are Better in Spain

spain_oranges

Hank and I walk down a street in Grenada with a group of twenty-somethings. “Woo-hoos” sound so much worse echoing off of two-hundred year old cobblestone, I think.

“Woo-hoos sound so much–what?”

Hank is looking at the road ahead. I follow his gaze, a man in a ski-mask is half-way out of a car window. Before anyone can react, he starts throwing. The group scatters as something orange whizzes by my face. I look up, it is raining oranges. They burst open on the ground around my feet.

The car passes, yelling something in Spanish. The crowd of twenty-somethings come out from under an over-hang. Some are crying, some are screaming after the car. Hank picks up an orange and tears it open. He starts to eat.

One of the bigger twenty-somethings punches a road sign. “I’ll fucking get you, you bastards!” he screams. Some of the girls start complaining that their night is ruined and the men of the group start offering to guard them on their trip back to the hotel in case the crazed orange bombardier strikes again.

The man who punched the sign has a bleeding hand. He takes the lead as most of the group heads back to the hotel. A few of us stay. Hank is examining the oranges, occasionally picking one up and putting it in his backpack.

“That was nuts,” a guy beside me says.

I look around us. “Nope, oranges, those were oranges, look around you.”

I smile, he doesn’t.

“Who would do something like that?” he asks me–or humanity, I’m unsure.

“Like what? Throw oranges?”

He nods, “yeah, it’s fucked up.”

“It’s oranges. It’s not like they threw rocks.”

“Oranges can still hurt.”

I roll my eyes. “It’s oranges, man, it was funny. It’s not like it was a drive by shooting, or something.”

The guy puts his hand on my shoulder. I frown down at it. “So, you’d do something like that?” he asks, annoyed.

I step away from his hand. “No. But, if you’d asked me twenty minutes ago, sure. But now I’d just be a copycat and I refuse to be a copycat, that’s messed up.”

“I don’t think that’s very funny.”

He looks like he might hit me. Hank comes between us, bends down and picks up an orange. He examines it. There is a small tear on one side. He sticks his fingers in and rips it open. He holds half out to me, half to the guy.

“Still good,” he mumbles through juicy lips.

The guy pushes Hanks hand away and storms off. I take my half. Hank takes a big bite off the remaining half.

“Oranges are better in Spain,” he says.

 

 

As Good a Time as Any

immortality

On the day immortality was invented, my grandfather threw himself off a fifteen story building. I was there, we all were there. Mom was crying.

He sat on the edge off the roof. He gave us a long speech about life that I don’t remember much of. I do remember that mom was crying and at the end of his speech, she asked only, “why?”

My Grandfather, who moved well for his age, stood up and sighed. “Honestly, I was just waiting for all the assholes to die,” his eyes lingered on my step-father for a noticeable moment. Then, he sighed again. “But,” he continued, “it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, now.”

My aunt, unmoved, grunted. “Childish,” she muttered. My Grandfather hugged her anyways. He hugged everyone. He came to me last, the youngest. He didn’t hug me, he looked down.

“Whatever comes next for you, it isn’t life,” he told me. He walked to the edge, turned and looked around at all of us.

“Oh well,” he said, and jumped–the best an old man can jump. It was enough. He fell even as my aunt cried “don’t!”

I couldn’t hear him hit the pavement.

By the time we ran and looked down, he was already there, a crowd was forming. A little girl stood over him, she looked up. She didn’t seem too bothered.

In fact, no one did.

The Paris Test

paris_test

We find a Vietnamese place between where I live and Q works. It’s fair since neither of us likes walking too far from where we need to be.

“Why are we getting Vietnamese?” he asks.

I shrug. “I wanted soup.”

“We’re in Russia. They practically invented soup.”

“Yeah,” I agree, “but,” I point to the bowl, “this is the only soup they won’t put mayonnaise or sour cream in.”

Q nods. “I am so tired.”

“Why?”

He sighs, “I went on a walk last night with some racist girl.”

“How do you know she was racist?” I ask.

He shrugs, “The Paris test.”

I choke on a bit of soup. “What the hell is the Paris test?”

“I ask them if they like Paris.”

“So?”

“So, if they say no, they are racist.”

I sit back and try to find some secret meaning in what he said. I don’t. Instead, I say, “what?”

“Well, you know how racist Russians are. If they don’t like Paris, it’s because of the immigrants.”

I cross my arms, “that’s–”

“And,” he cuts me off, “what do they say after that?”

I sigh, “that they are dirty and cause a lot of crime,” I mutter.

“That they are dirty and cause a lot of crime,” Q repeats, pointing at me. He raises an eyebrow.

I sigh. “Okay, yeah.”

“To be fair, it’s mildly racist for Russia,” he admits, “like the other day, I was playing never-have-I-ever with some Russians and one girl–out of nowhere just goes ‘Never have I ever run down the street with niggers.'”

“Uh–what does that even mean?”

Q throws up his arms. “Who knows.”

“So, walking girl was just mildly racist.”

He nods, “for Russia.”

“Right.”

“In England, she’s an outright bitch.”

We finish our soups in relative silence. When the table is cleared Q wipes his hands on a napkin. “She did say the n-word, though,” he admits.

“So, she’s full racist then.”

“Yeah, full racist.”

“So are you going to see her again?”

He sits and thinks a moment, “it was a really long walk. I don’t think I want to do that again.”

A Slippery Slope

anarchy

D and I sat on the couch binge-watching Sons of Anarchy. I looked over at the fridge. It sat, mocking.

“Mehh!” I groaned, longingly, fingers outstretched toward the refrigerator.

D nodded, sleepily. He batted the air in the direction of the fridge.

“I think we deserve superpowers,” D decided.

I curled up further into the corner of the couch. “Mhm.”

“Because,” he continued, “we wouldn’t abuse it, you know.”

I nodded.

He flicked his finger at the refrigerator. “You know, I’d just open that fridge and make a beer come to me, that’s it. I wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

The thought of beer made my stomach turn on itself.

“I’m too hungover for beer.”

D sighed. “Well, we could use it for water too, that wouldn’t be an abuse of power?”

Someone just shot someone in Sons of Anarchy. I watched, unblinking. “Mhm, but it’s a slippery slope. First water, then” I waved at the TV, “murder and stuff.”

D groaned, lit a cigarette.

“Well,” he said, “what about just liquids?”

For some reason the word liquid made my hangover hate itself even more. I closed my eyes.

“Even blood?”

“Hm,” D thought for a moment. “Okay, well I wouldn’t use it for blood.”

“Me either,” I agreed, almost asleep.

The episode ended. The screen went black, a message appeared: PLAY NEXT EPISODE?

I looked around. The remote sat beside the TV. I waved my hand at it. I looked over at D, he was nodding slowly.

“A slippery slope,” he mumbled. We both closed our eyes, resigned.

The Worst Art Teacher in Hell

devil's_santa

I got a job working in Hell.

Lucifer doesn’t speak English, so that’s something.

“He understands a bit, so be careful,” the math teacher tells me. We work at the school for kids of wealthier residents. I teach art. There isn’t a Staples in Hell, but there is a printer.

I hand out the worksheet; a color by numbers. Lucifer’s son sits in the front right corner, as always. He’s a sweet kid. I think the other teachers baby him too much. When I hand him the printout, Santa with Rudolph and a bag of toys, he colors the whole thing purple. I give him a high five. He smiles, his teeth are razor sharp, but white. At the end of my hour, the math teacher comes to collect the kids.

She goes pale. I follow her gaze. The purple Santa looks up at her.

“Oh no!”

Lucifer’s son looks at his drawing, then up at the math teacher.

“You have to fix this,” she says, in a panic.

I frown. “He’s four,” I remind her.

She shakes her head. “No–no.”

She walks over to the desk and pulls a fresh Santa from my pile.

“Here, you have to fix it.”

Lucifer’s son looks about to cry. I cross my arms.

“No.”

She turns to Lucifer’s son. She picks up his drawing and crumples it into a ball.

“Again,” she growls at him, in Latin. She turns back to me.

“You help him.”

She walks out before I can protest, taking all of the other students with her. I sigh and sit down.

“Come on.”

I pat him on the head, he manages not to cry. Together, we color in Santa. It is pristine, red. I write his name at the top, a little askew to make it look as a child might have done it.

Lucifer’s son looks at his own name, he nods, knowingly.

“Go to math,” I tell him, in Latin.

Before he goes, he hugs me. I can’t help smiling even though his teeth cut my leg a bit.

Once he is gone I flip over his drawing. On the back I start writing:

2+3=7

5+2=9

1+6=3

Gvlerbintinkinstry

His name was Francis and he was born with an odd gift. By the time he was twenty, he was still a baby and his mother was dead. They switched him to goats milk and kept him in a cage.

I found him on an app; F4F. I’d been having trouble making new friends in Russia. So, I signed up and put in my information, interests, morals and so on. It set me up on something called a F4Fate.

“It’s a date,” my grilfriend said.

“A friend date.”

She shrugged. “Still a date.”

I went anyways. He was ten minutes late, led in by his caretaker.

“His name is Francis, he was born with an odd gift,” his caretaker told me; her name was Olga.

I was half-way through my second beer. “Hi,” I told Francis.

“Omphlalaa boogle-snarf,” Francis replied, unenthused.

Olga shrugged. “He doesn’t speak English. He’s been alive for, hm–” she looked away, “a few thousand years at least. We felt like he needed some social time.”

I frowned at Francis, he didn’t seem too interested in anything, especially me. “I–uh, I don’t speak Russian very well,” I told her, or him, or both.

Olga sighed. “He doesn’t either, we don’t actually know what he speaks, a dead language presumably.”

She seemed bored.

“Humble-gruff!” Francis cried. Olga checked her watch, then nodded. She held out her wrist to Francis, he kissed it. When he did, her wrist glowed a bit. I frowned.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Olga reassured me. “He just takes a little life now, keeps him able.”

I leaned away from the pair. Francis did look old, but not frail. I ordered another beer.

“Umgfrlumpus!” he said, pulling his lips from Olga’s wrist.

I shrugged and ordered him a beer too. Olga declined. We sat in silence for a while. This is what I get for looking for friends on an app, I thought. Francis hummed to himself as he drank. I wondered when I could leave without running the risk of having my life wrist-kissed out of my body. To pass the time I had a go at Francis.

“So, what do you like to do?” I asked him.

He grunted. “Inklifundershuck.”

I sighed, then frowned, thinking.

“Inklifundershuck?” I said. Francis looked up at me. He raised an eyebrow.

Then, he smiled. “Jusflrunhcter,” he said.

“Klimblginter,” I replied.

“Vlimpsitsfik!” he cried.

I leaned toward him and held up my finger.

“Tlipl-shfffter.”

He followed suit, saying it softer, “Tlipl-shfffter.”

At this we both burst out laughing. Francis turned to Olga and held out his finger. ” Tlipl-shfffter!” he spat at her, “Tlipl-shfffter!”

He had to put down his beer he was laughing so hard. Olga looked from him to me in a confused sort of horror. She looked at her own finger.

“Tlipl-shfffter?” she asked, “what–what are you guys talking about?”

I shook my head, catching my breath. “Absolutely nothing,” I told her, feeling as though I’d finally found a friend I understood.

 

Getting Ready For Spring Cleaning

horror

**Someone asked me to try and write a horror story. I have never been a huge fan of horror and never tried to write it but, well, here it is:

 

I only felt fear once in my life. My brother woke me from the other room. He was screaming. I got up and ran, I got there only a moment before my parents. He was crying, shaking.

“Someone was trying to strangle me!” he cried. My mother sat on the edge of his bed, held him. My father led me back to my room.

“It’s okay,” he told me, “it was just a bad dream.”

I tried to sleep, couldn’t. Thirty minutes might have passed, or maybe I slept. I was woken by my mother.

“Sweetie,” she shook me. I felt her there before she shook me, but kept my eyes closed. She shook harder. I opened my eyes.

“Were you in your brother’s room?” she asked. I frowned up at her. I looked around, my father was standing at the door.

“No,” I told her. “No, I was sleeping. Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, just had a bad dream. Go to sleep.” She kissed me on the head, just where my hair starts, as she always did. They left, talking low. I didn’t sleep well.

The next night it happened again, the screaming. My parents made it there first this time. They all turned when I walked in. They didn’t say anything. My father walked me back to my room, left me there without a word.

The next day, I saw my brother once, in the kitchen, his wouldn’t look at me or talk to me. As he walked away I saw bruises around his neck, he was crying.

My parents came to me in the afternoon, sat me down.

“You can’t go into your brother’s room at night,” they told me.

I looked from one to the other, confused. “I don’t,” I told them, honest.

“Okay, well your brother says it’s you.”

I frowned. “Me, what?”

My father spoke now, “he says you’ve been going into his room, and–well, attacking him.”

I laughed, mostly because my brother is a year older and twice my size. They didn’t laugh. I began to cry, uncontrollably. My mother came over and put her arms around me.

“I wouldn’t,” I tried to sob.

My mother kissed me, “of course not.”

That night it happened again. Then, again. After the fourth night my mother slept in bed with me. The next day her and my father told me I’d be sent to therapy. She slept in my bed every night for a week, I talked to the therapist twice that week. At the end of it, I was allowed to sleep alone. I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to breathe. I opened my eyes and my brother was there, sitting on the edge of my bed, his hands around my neck.

I looked into his eyes, there was something different, they looked cleaner. It was then that I felt the only real fear I’ve ever felt. I felt it just before everything went dark around the edges. It was only then that he let go. I coughed for a long time. He sat and watched. By the time I finished coughing I was already crying.

“I just wanted to see,” he told me, his eyes no longer clean.

He leaned in and kissed me where my hair met my forehead. He left.

I screamed.

My brother got there just after my parents. My mother sat on the edge of the bed and held me. My father stood by the door, at a nod from my mother he went and took my brother out.

“He tried to strangle me!” I cried into my mother’s shoulder. I said it over and over. She didn’t say anything. I pulled away, looked up at her and realized, she was crying too.