Lost Innocence

wp-1457988085995.jpgShades of orange, yellow, and brown cover the landscape of our home. It’s that season again – when our three large trees shed their foliage to become barren reminders of a spring long gone.

We can play hot lava in the backyard now, with grass acting as lava and the leaves as solid ground. With youthful exuberance, we bound from group to group until I am the only one left standing. I jump in the air and giggle at the remains of my brother and sister. Their lifeless corpses jerk on the ground as if being swallowed by the lava.

Dad comes out and says with a derisive sigh, “Looks like raking season is here.”

“We’ll do it!” the three of us exclaim.

He smiles and nods before disappearing into the shed.

When he returns, he hands us each our very own rake.

“Careful of splinters,” he says as he returns to the shed.

I start raking. Little brother watches intently, and I realize this might be the first time he’s ever raked. He mimics my every move, and I smile and move even more deliberately than I did before. The rake becomes an extension of his two hands as he pulls one lone leaf closer to the center.

“Boring. When can we play?” little bro asks.

I twirl my rake in the air, imagining I’m a ninja, and he follows suit, albeit awkwardly. We whack our wooden handles against each other’s and yell out “Cowabunga!”. The metal prongs are dangerously close to us, but I only half think about how much it would hurt if we scratched ourselves with them.

Dad exits the shed with a tall ladder. “Be careful, kiddos.”

We nod our heads furiously.

“Whatcha doin’?” I ask him.

“Gutters,” he says with a tsk.

We make a giant pile of leaves in the center of the backyard. It towers almost as high as little brother, and it looks perfect for the next game.

We play it all the time in autumn. Every time there is a pile of leaves, we measure it up and down. We push leaves higher into the pile to add buoyancy and enjoy the thrill of flying into the air and falling onto it without a care in the world.

With a big running leap, I watch my brother land and flatten the pile. A spray of leaves scatters and cascades onto the dry earth. A few flutter in the wind and land on his arms and legs. With a giggle, he gets up and runs to do it again.

I look at the pile and notice branches sticking up from within. My smile fades.

“Not fair! It’s my turn,” little sis says.

The two start to run towards the defeated pile, but I run out in front of them, arms spread eagle.

What if little bro or sis falls into one of the branches? What if it goes all the way through? I wince.

“You can’t,” I say.

With a gasp, sis looks at me hurt and confused. Little bro starts to cry.

“You’ll get hurt!” I say.

I know they won’t listen, so I walk away and come back with some garbage bags. I clean up the pile while they run around the yard doing somersaults and swinging their rakes around like swords and staffs. I sigh sadly.

“Oh, to be young again,” I whisper.

 

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Sheltered

“We just gotta get you drunk,” my best friend says to me.

Her words were earnest and true. I’m about to turn nineteen, and I have yet to go to a teen party. I often wonder if movies like Can’t Hardly Wait and American Pie get them right. I’m curious how alcohol might taste. I’m not wanting to get drunk, though. I just want to know how it would be to open up a bit. Maybe let a boy kiss me or even fondle me. I’m not ready for where that would lead, though, so maybe not so much.

I nod at her. Life isn’t exactly great right now. I’m coming to the realization that I might not be able to go to Texas Wesleyan University next year despite deferring already for a year. I might be stuck in this stupid town another year because I can’t afford to live out of home yet. I have no car or license, for that matter, and I’m always loaning money to my folks.

A party is sounding better every second.

“I have an idea,” she says with a sheepish grin. “What if we give you a surprise party at my place?!”

“Oh! I love it!” I say.

“I’ll ask you if you want to stay the night. And then later, I’ll say to your parents, ‘We’re going to throw her a party!'”

“Sounds foolproof. Let’s do it!” I clap my hands excitedly.

My best friend has recently moved out of home, and now she shares a trailer with another girl. It’s not exactly a big place, certainly not glamorous, but at eighteen, still in school, and working at the movie theatre, she couldn’t afford much else. Still, it is the perfect place for me to have a big party.

*****

“I talked to your mom and dad,” she says to me two days later. She’s driving me to a local restaurant so we can meet up with a few of our friends where I will likely pay for everyone’s food just so I can feel included again.

I see the look on her face and nearly burst into tears, “The night’s ruined.”

“Pretty much…” she says.

I brace myself by digging my nails into the palms of my hands.

“You can’t stay the night,” she says.

“Get fucked,” I think out loud.

“They want you home by nine because you have work tomorrow and they don’t want to be waiting all night for you to get home.”

I kick the underside of the car’s dashboard.

“And they mentioned they may call at some point during the night too.”

“So basically they knew it was going to be a party with alcohol…”

“Pretty much.”

I dig deeper into my palms til the nails break skin. The heat rushes to my cheek. I turn my head to the passenger side window, and gaze at the void.

“You need to get out of there,” my friend admits.

“I will soon,” I say. “Maybe I can pick up more shifts at the movie theatre and come live with you.”

But my heart’s not in it. My mom will never approve, and my dad will just be angry with me for hurting my mom if I do go. Not to mention the crippling debt. They need me too much.

*****

I sit on the futon and smile at the chatter around me. As always, I’m certain the only reason I’m included is because I pay for the pizza. Strawberry daiquiris and loud music drive the message home more. I sit beside the phone, waiting for it to ring, so I can be the party pooper who says to stop the laughing and revelry. My best friend kindly makes and drinks a non-alcoholic version so I can feel included, but I don’t. Well after she leaves to drop me off and comes back, these people will be drinking, making out, dancing, whatever happens at a party. I wish I knew.

I sigh. If only my parents didn’t know where she lives, I could rebel and not come home. If only I could gather the courage to stand up to them maybe I wouldn’t be so boring. Maybe people would like me more.

I leave to go back home and try to look happy. I have to fake being surprised, after all. I have to fake the excitement of having a birthday party that my friends put together. I barely have it in me to do. But I do it anyway. My mom gives me an almost knowing smile. It mocks me and says indirectly, “You’re too young to drink anyway.”

When I finally lay my head down on my pillow, moisture sticks to my cheeks. Only one year left of my teens. I’ll never know if Can’t Hardly Wait got it right or not.

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Uninvited Guests

Slums wadn’t all that bad before de ‘plosion. Me and mine had a good life. Squattin’ in any ole empty house, hootin’ ‘n hollerin’ wid our pistols, eatin’ possums and squirrels ‘n roastin’ dem in barrels of fire.

Wad a good life.

‘Til dat ‘plosion. Now we stuck in dis hell.

*****

Aww, gentrification! It’s the buzzword at the moment. What better way to improve life than to make a place liveable again? I was excited when the real estate agent explained my new digs. The fact that there was once a family of squatters in it made me even happier. A house with a history. That’s the dream!

The organic coffee shop around the corner was renovated with actual remains of the explosion. The story was: there was a big meth lab here. Somehow someone got their hands on nitro instead of – errr whatever it is they use to make meth, meth-y. It caused the biggest urban explosion ever. Destroyed all the houses, the people, the pests. Everything. How awesome is that? This neighborhood has so much character now. With it’s white-picket fences sitting on all the ash and bone that seeped into the dirt. I was immediately in love with the place.

It was my first night living in the new house when I started to second guess my decision, though. The house sat on the edge of what used to be called the hillbilly slums, and apparently it was the only one to be relatively untouched.

As I completed the finishing touches on my hydroponic – errr – herb garden, I saw it.

“What the hell are you doing in my house? Get out!” I screamed. A little boy sat on the lounge, eating my popcorn and chucking bare kernels at the TV. He looked to be covered in soot, but mostly I just noticed his feet. Toenails, specifically. They were so long.

“No, you get out,” he hissed back. “This our house!”

I stormed over to him, but before I could do anything else, a man was standing over me.

“You heared da young’un,” he said.

I jumped back. He was missing most of his teeth, clothes filthy, hair fiery red. He was pretty scary. I watched him pass right through my couch to sit beside the boy.

I might have fainted after that. Maybe.

When I woke, I caught them burning some … oregano. I wouldn’t stand for that. I jumped to my feet – pilates has given me lots of buoyancy – and stormed to stand in front of them. They stretched their heads to either side to look at the TV.

“Hey! That’s mine,” I said.

“No cause for hollerin’. ‘Nuff ta go ’round,” the ghost man said. He stared me down with his ghostly eyes but extended his hand in a token gesture.

I blinked a couple of times. It was good oregano. Shame for it to go to waste on the dead. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “What the hell.”

I sat down beside those soot-covered hillbillies and wondered if there was such a thing as dead herpes. But one whiff of the goods, and I forgot all my troubles.

I didn’t bother to learn their names. What’s the point? They’re dead. During a cloud-induced state, though, I might have agreed to let them stay here with me.

Now I dunno what ta do. I think the ghost man is tryin’ ta take ova my body. I am startin’ to talk like ’em. They spend all deir days here, tendin’ to my herb garden while I try ta write. Mayhap dey planned dis all along… 

 

Mayhap me and mine can finally be free of dis hell! Damned hipster takin’ my home. Now we gonna take it back!

 

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