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

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.

 

A/S/L?

 

printings

Sometimes when I go to type a website into the search bar, I forget what I was going to look for–only a moment, then I look and realize my fingers have typed f-a-c-, and the autocomplete has already filled in Facebook.com.

This terrifies me.

Once upon a time, there was a time, a dark time, before snapchat, before twitter and Instagram, before even Facebook, there was AIM.

In this era, there were places of mystery, adventure, and–as parents always warned–danger. These places, rife with perverts and catfish, were called chatrooms.

I was ten. My older brother was fiddling around in Microsoft Paint. It was an advertisement for Tommy Hillfinger.

“What are you doing?” I asked. He showed me how skillfully he’d removed all evidence of advertisement from the photo.

“Some girl on this chatroom asked for a picture of me,” he informed me. He saved the picture of the Hillfinger model, then sent it. He clapped his hands. We went upstairs to have a snack. By the time we got back to the computer, the picture had almost sent. As we ate he said that the girl had sent him a picture of her tits! Which he then explained was another word for boobs. I asked to see.

He pulled it up. I whistled; I’d just learned to whistle.

“Want a copy?” he asked, conspiratorially. I tried to nod, but my wide-eyed look was answer enough. He hit print. At that moment, our mother called us to dinner. In a panic my brother shut the computer off completely. My heart calmed, he took a breath.

“Coming!” he called.

We scampered up the stairs, they were thick, carpeted–good for scampering. It was lasagna. Our father came home halfway through dinner, he didn’t care for lasagna.

We should have known better, thought more, but we really liked lasagna, even though we’d already snacked. We were both on our third, maybe fourth helpings, when our father came into the kitchen holding a piece of paper.

My brother went pale first.

“This,” he turned the picture to us, “is not what the internet is for.”

I, instead, went red. My father, shaking his head, walked out folding the paper as he went.

Our mother looked from my brother to me.

“Idiots,” she muttered.

We were grounded from the computer for a month. I couldn’t wait to be an adult; when I could print as many pictures of boobs as I wanted.

You Wouldn’t Want to Float to China

china

I was nine when I found out people could fly. It was simple. Just two steps to the left, then up.

A girl in my class taught me. Her name was Kelly. She had bangs.

“Just like this,” she said, before showing me. I frowned.

I followed the motions. I froze. Like a bubble in cola, I floated. I began laughing as I floated. As I rose, my stomach sank. I started to panic, flail.

“Just calm down,” Kelly said, floating up to hold my hand.

“I want to get down,” I told her.

She shrugged. She held my hand. She began to blow upwards. I followed her lead until suddenly our feet struck grass. I fell, even though it wasn’t a hard landing. I stood up, red faced. Kelly laughed.

The shock hit me all at once. “Why don’t people do this!” I asked Kelly.

“My mom says it is useless. We don’t move any faster and it’s not like cars can fly,” she made her voice more shrill, mimicking her mother. “plus, it’s dangerous. If you don’t pay attention you’ll float off to China. And, they eat dogs in China, you know?”

“They do?”

She nodded.

I thought of my dog, Squeaks. I shuddered.

“I don’t want to go to China,” I decided.

Kelly nodded, approvingly.

“Can everyone fly?” I asked Kelly.

Kelly nodded. “I think so. Mom said she can. My uncle said that people in Spain do it all the time but he said that is because they are lazy and don’t have anything better to do.”

I didn’t know anything about Spain. I suspected Kelly didn’t either. I didn’t say anything.

I really wanted her to like me.

But she didn’t and I grew up. I checked the internet for her the other day, just curious. She is living in Spain, working for Microsoft. I worked up the courage to message her, asked if people in Spain really fly all the time.

She never got back to me.