This is something like a love letter. This is probably something like a rant. This is too many words, brain-spillage. This is not poetry. This is not prose. I am sorry if that is what you were expecting today. I’m sorry if I am not what you were expecting today. I am not what you need. I am I. I am probably not what you were expecting today. I am single-drop hemoglobin in vast, ocean-endless veins. You are type-O carrying while I am AB-incompatible, toxic. I am I. I am I, inside of I. And I tend to lack the propensity required to carry on conversations. I tend to lack the emotional drive to lend myself to others more than just temporarily. I am I, internal-searching. I am I, inward-facing. This is expulsion. Evac/Recharge. Evac/Recharge. I am lack of responsibility for you. Do not leave your feelings in my hands. Do not expect me to hold water or sand. I am sieve. I am leaking. I am not fit for holding. I am vessel of me. I am awareness-raised yet surprise-unwarranted. When I say I am inconvenient. When I say I am unreliable. When I say I am lacking. I am dissociating. I am I. Please believe me.
Josey Wales is old, and arthritic. She is asleep now, like always, her face and legs twitching comically, but if it is only in her dreams that she can play the games of youth, then why wake?
Like her head is a crystal ball I can see through her hair, and her skin, and her skull. I can see into the machinations of her mind. I watch as she positions herself between the wall and me, her body crouched, her eyes eager. She turns to face the wall as I wind up to throw. She knows from experience that the ball will come from the wall’s direction. My shoulder is stiff, my arm ragged, but the tennis ball still has pretty good “zip” when it leaves my fingers. To my satisfaction the ball somehow finds the correct, darker brick in the center of the narrow strip between the two garage doors, the brick for which it was aimed.
She would catch it. No matter how fast it comes, no matter how high the bounce, no matter what she would catch it, but for that other ball, the one already lodged between her teeth. So instead of catching it she can only watch the thrown ball sail past her nose and bounce on the concrete drive to get caught by me and thrown again. She wants it so badly. Her eyes watch it, anticipating the next bounce. She finally pounces in whichever direction the ball goes until she can deflect it off of her face. When she finally does deflect it, she has it! Nose to the ground, she happily gives chase until it stops rolling beneath the shrubs. She must drop the ball in her mouth before she is able to bury her face in the hollies and pluck this new ball out, but then the old one is there on the ground and she must have it too, so she drops her new for the old, and on, and on, and on until I can take no more, and must save us both from madness by picking one of them up. I hold it in front of her mouth, teasing. She drops the ball she has and she “high-tails” it into the yard. Josey trusts the game. It has never let her down.
She is at full speed in only a few bounds. I lead her correctly. There! It strikes ground three feet in front of her nose. At its next bounce she cranes her neck for it. It is a tricky bounce, to the right, but she deftly adjusts and grabs it hungrily from the air... the winner! She lifts her head proudly, displaying her trophy for all to see. From his shaded spot on the sidelines her biggest fan, General Sherman, applauds. Sherman is above any sort of physical exertion, but he is ever a happy spectator.
Behind her, a ball striking concrete stops her victory celebration. She races back to her spot between the wall and me, her eyes wide, the trophy forgotten in her mouth. It all begins again, time after time, day after day. The weeks, months and years fly by like her tennis balls.
It is Josey’s game, and she more than loves it. If she cannot play, then why wake?
Let’s Play (repost)
Megan didn’t have real friends, never mind a boyfriend or a date to the St. Valentine’s Day dance at school. Tonight, everyone was celebrating love with candy and flowers – even her parents, and probably kissing, she made a face; but she, like every other night, would sit at her computer playing games. Even so, she felt a little thrill of excitement as she sat down at her desk and typed in the password on her computer.
For a few weeks now, she’d been chatting with someone she had met in various gaming rooms online. At first, she thought it was weird that he, she assumed it was a he, kept showing up in whatever game she was playing, but then she started looking forward to seeing the familiar skull and bones icon pop up no matter what game she was playing. It was almost like having a friend. He seemed to want to be with her, even if it was only virtual reality. He would give her hints about how to get higher scores, or ask her how her day was and actually respond with more than, “that’s nice” or “I’m sorry.” She had started looking forward to the secret moments with SB, as she called him.
Megan stared at the computer, a little shocked, a little excited. Her normal home screen had been replaced by a black screen; in the center was a blood red heart laying on top of a white skull and bones. In the middle of the heart, in black letters it said Be My Valentine. Below the heart to the right was a button that said, “Let’s Play.” She hesitated a breath, giggled, and then placed the arrow over the button and clicked. Suddenly the screen turned a murky, swirling charcoal and gray and a hand began to emerge, covered with a shiny substance…as if the screen had melted and conformed to the new shape. Megan looked surprised but not afraid when it touched her hand. A gentle caress. But when she looked from the hand to the molten screen, a face began to form and, as terror struck, the hand reached up to cover her mouth and stifle her scream.
The announcement carried over the Rocky Mountains and into the sky. “Welcome, ladies, gentlemen and fledglings of all ages, to the fifty-kilometer, intermediate airathon!”
The crowd lining the mountains exploded into cheers. They gathered outside colorful streamers that ran along peaks and valleys of the mountains, marking the path of competitors.
I stood at the starting plateau inside those streamers, stretching for the race.
Was Focused. Tense. If I made good time today, I could apply for the women's pros. The prize for first-place could pay my tuition at Arial college.
I flapped my wings, feeling the wind rush through them.
“Hey.” A girl spun to face me. “Watch where you flap those things.” She had dark brown eyes and hair that was a shade darker. A stark contrast to wings with pearly white feathers.
“Sorry.” I folded my wings in. “Just restless.”
She smiled. Put a hand on her slender hip. “First intermediate race?”
“I can tell.” She strode up to me and stuck out a hand. “Remember your training, and you’ll be fine.”
I took her hand in a clumsy grip. “Thanks. I’m Kestrel.”
She shook once. “Terna.”
“You’ve done this course before?”
“Once.” she Stretched her slender wings over her head. The sun glared behind them, making the feathers near transparent. “It’s nottoohard.”
Someone scoffed from behind us.
I spun to see a tall man with glossy black wings.
He grinned and flipped spiky hair of the same colour. “Not too hard, if you stick to the main route. If you take the shortcut, though...”
“That route’s not for beginners.” Terna snapped.
“Actually,” I said, “I’ve been training for it.” The shortcut went through a narrow, twisting canyon. I’d tried curving tunnels and made it through… barely.
Terna fluttered her wings. “Don’t try the shortcut. It’s dangerous.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. Was she just trying to minimize the competition?
“Or,” I said, breaking into a casual smile. “Maybe you’re afraid I’ll beat you through it.”
Black-wings laughed and bounced on the balls of his feet. Expanded his massive wings out to their full length. “I think I like you, uhhh...”
“Kestrel,” I said.
He nodded. “Raven. And you’ll never beat me through the canyon. I’m a future Olympian!”
I rolled my eyes. “Sure, buddy.”
The echoing voice of an announcer cut off our conversation. “Flyers, take your marks!”
We broke up and strode to the starting line.
The crowd went silent.
My stomach tightened as I got down on one knee, one foot forward, other foot back. Take-off position.
Terna knelt beside me, her movements easy and light, feathers smooth and streamlined. She looked like a pro marathoner.
“On your marks!” the announcer boomed.
We raised our wings.
I looked ahead at the take off point; a cliff about 100 meters away. Just enough space for a running start.
The cliff dropped out of sight and then back up a sheer mountain-peak far above our heads, colorful streamers lining either side of it.
I catapulted into a sprint, feet flying over the ground as I pulled ahead of Terna.
All around me, competitors pounded the ground like thunder.
Raven was in front of me, long legs gliding over the terrain, putting distance between us with each stride. I swallowed the impulse to put on a new burst of energy. Don’t forget your training. Steady pace.
I leaned forward and unfolded my wings as I raced toward the cliff. Launched off the edge and shot forward with a sudden thrill of weightlessness, wings lifting me into the air, stomach tightening to hold up my legs.
I shifted my wings and catapulted into a dive down the cliff face.
Dozens of competitors plunged with me, and I was struck by a sensation that we were all hovering in one place while the land raced past us.
Terna pulled up beside me.
I didn’t see Raven, but gave him no more than a passing thought.
Stayed my course as the ground raced up at me.
Ten meters away. Five. Two. One.
I veered into a swooping arc over the ground, then straight up the mountainside like a rocket. Other flyers flanked me on all sides. We all shot higher and higher, with fast, steady beats of our wings.
Terna was now looming above.
My muscles strained with the effort of rising at a vertical sprint.
The peak felt lightyears away, jutting into the sky like some distant star forever out of reach. We slowly closed in on it, panting, progress slowing as we reached the tip.
I gave one last pump of my long wings, rose up past Terna and over the edge.
As soon as I cleared the peak a blast of wind caught my wings and threw me backwards. I folded them in, shifted my weight and shot down the other side of the mountain.
Terna was right on my tail.
So was a group of lean boys with grey wings.
Catching currents of air, we rode down the peak and over the mountain ranges that stretched beyond it. We followed the colourful streamers through dips and curves, jagged rocks whipping past us.
I flapped hard to keep pace, shifting my body one way, then the other. Veered around an overhang, then surged over a rolling hill of flowers.
Along the sidelines, the crowd cheered and clapped.
Above these long twisting mountain ranges, we could glide over air currents and preserve our strength.
As I settled into a flow, the sheer joy of flying expanded in my chest.
This was what I trained for. Not the money or the cheering crowds. Not even to put myself through college or join the pros.
Only to soar up and down jagged mountains, or skim so close to the ground I could touch it. To shoot up on a wave of air and see the jutting peaks spread out in every direction, as far as the eye could see.
To slice through the clouds in sprays of water droplets.
To see fellow competitors flying with me, floating and shifting in and around each other, forwards, back and sideways in an aerial dance.
Sometimes I would pull ahead of Terna. At others, she would glide past me. She was light and quick, darting in and around other competitors. But she didn’t have enough weight to gain momentum on the dips, so every time we veered down a steep decline, I would shoot past her. Once we were flying level again, she would gain on me.
It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Raven since take off. He couldn’t possibly be behind us, could he?
The grey-winged boys were keeping a steady pace with us. And I mean steady. They dove and soared round curves and bends at a constant speed. Discipline, precise, not using an ounce more energy than they had to.
We hit thirty kilometers, then thirty-five, with me, Terna and the grey-winged boys pulling ahead of the other competitors.
Raven was still nowhere in sight.
Off in the distance, the colorful streamers split into two directions. One path continued over the mountain peaks. The other veered down into a canyon.
I put on a new burst of speed.
Terna shot into an aerial sprint right beside me.
We swerved and wove around each other, fighting for the lead.
But neither of us could match the grey-winged boys. Silent as a breeze, they picked up speed and soared past us like we were treading air. A tight formation slicing through the sky. They’d been holding back.
But their trajectory was forward. As Terna and I raced towards the shortcut, they stayed level, sticking to the wide-open space above the mountains.
If there was any chance of beating them, it was through that canyon.
We came to the break, and I dove straight down.
Terna dove ahead of me. But as we shot towards the canyon, I inched into the led, wove round her and shot into the canyon first.
The tips of my feathers brushed either side of the rocks. I shifted my wings sideways as the canyon narrowed, flying in a precarious balance that took every fine motor muscle to maintain.
I pulled farther ahead of Terna as we shot towards the canyon floor, then veered up and flew diagonal between its walls.
I was in the lead!
The next instant, a dark shadow swept over me, looming from somewhere overhead. I glanced up and saw a black silhouette gliding above the canyon, with massive black wings.
Where had he been this entire time?
Raven tucked in his wings, shifted sideways and shot straight down into the canyon. He pulled up at the bottom a few meters ahead of me, flying with his wings almost vertical, one tip brushing the canyon floor, the other reaching into the sky.
Then he veered around a bend and was gone.
In the narrow space of the canyon, I pumped my wings in short, fast bursts, trying to catch up with him, racing through on an angle, feathers brushing the walls.
A breeze underneath ruffled my feathers, and I glanced down to see Terna there, skimming the ground with her small wings still outstretched to their full length.
She glided past me as we sped towards the curve where Raven had disappeared.
Then she veered up, tilted sideways, and shot round the curve a foot ahead of me.
Next second, I darted round that same curve and shot into a winding tunnel. Swerved through dips, curves, sharp turns and switchbacks.
Every time I turned a corner, Terna flashed in front of me.
I’ll get you back.
As the canyon narrowed, Terna had to shift her wings sideways, and instantly lost her fluid grace.
I, on the other hand, was just starting to find my rhythm, body constantly adapting and re-balancing every second. Like a kestrel bird careening through the air.
This was my element.
I angled up and rose above Terna, then levelled off and picked up speed. Pushed past aching muscles, burning chest, pounding heart gasping breaths.
Beneath me, Terna fell behind, then disappeared as I rounded a sharp corner.
I nearly shouted in triumph, but snapped back to focus as another twist forced me to veer the other way. I narrowly missed crashing headfirst into the wall
I re-balanced and charged forward with reckless speed, barely making each turn.
Raven was still ahead of me somewhere, cocky and handsome with his long black wings.
I had to beat him.
A flash of black ahead told me I was close.
On the next turn, I saw him, swooping round curves with long wings completely vertical.
I was higher up in the canyon than him, staring at the tip of one of his wings. On the next curve, I shot ahead of him, brushing so close to those glossy feathers I could have reached out and grabbed a handful.
I’d gained a small lead on him when the canyon walls began to broaden.
I flapped hard, aware of Raven shooting right behind me. It was wide enough here even for his massive wingspan, and I knew he would use the opportunity catch up.
With one flap of those mighty wings he began to gain. He would pass right underneath me and take back the lead if I didn’t do something.
In a snap decision, I tucked in my wings and dove in front of him, the same way he’d done to me at the beginning of this crazy canyon ride.
With another shift of my wings, I catapulted forward.
My wings brushed the canyon walls as I shifted them sideways in a space that was rapidly narrowing again. The small drag threw me off balance. Sent me careening out of control through new twists and turns.
I barely made a hard left, shoulder grazing a corner and dislodging rubble that clattered behind me.
The curves and dips raced up out of nowhere, forcing me to make sharp swerves. The effort tore through my muscles and chest.
I should have slowed down. Re-balanced. Got a rhythm back.
But Raven and Terna were right behind me. The grey boys were overhead, racing to the finish.
I couldn’t slow down now.
Had to win.
I scraped around another curve.
Nearly flew sideways into a wall, before slamming my hands into the rocks, planting my feet and pushing off round the next turn. The push renewed my momentum, fatigued wings catching the air as I rushed back into an erratic flight.
Another switchback and a light appeared, shining from somewhere round the next corner.
I put on another burst of speed. The turn was narrow, just wide enough to fit my wings, if I shifted them completely vertical.
I struggled to line myself up, aching wings slow and clumsy.
One more turn….
But I didn’t shift my wings fast enough. They scraped the rocks as I shot through the turn, throwing my entire body into a spin.
I bounced round the curve, twisting my wings frantically, trying to get my balance back.
On the other side of that curve, the canyon fell into a steep drop.
There was no time to re-balance, slow down, or do anything besides tuck in my wings and prepare for a dive.
I shot down the drop, half flying, half falling, in an erratic crash-dive.
The top of my right wing slammed something jagged. A snap echoed in my ears and pain shot through me like lighting.
And then I was falling; right wing splayed out, catching the wind and sending me careening into walls at a high-speed crash.
I didn’t know up from down. Only knew I was pitching down a steep tunnel, and all I could do was curl into a ball, everything tight against my body.
But my right wing remained splayed out, a mess of tangled feathers that no longer listened to my commands. I rolled over it again. Another snap, and a scream, bounced off the narrow walls. My scream. The sound strange and distorted in my ears.
My vision faded as a bright light hit my eyes, and I was vaguely aware of going airborne into a free-fall.
My senses returned in a white tent.
There was a dull, rumbling din outside. Cheering as competitors crossed the finish line.
I sat up with a groan. The pain in my right wing had dulled to a persistent ache.
I grit my teeth when a doctor gently pulled it out to assess the damage.
She was a severe-looking redhead, with red wings folded neatly outside her white lab-coat. “Beginners should not try the shortcuts,” she said, frowning.
My reply was hoarse. “I know.”
Why hadn’t I listened to Terna? She was just trying to help.
“Can you fix it?”
She took a breath and eased the wing back into a mangled fold. “Humerus broken. Radius and ulna snapped. Smaller bones splintered.” She walked around to face me, arms folded. “In layman terms, shattered.”
My chest tightened. “What does that mean?”
“Even with reconstructive surgery, mobility will be limited. We could remove it, but then you’d be unbalanced, and that could lead to back problems.” She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “I’d hate to remove a healthy wing, but the left will be useless without the right.” Her severe expression softened. “Either way, you’ll never fly again.”
My stomach plummeted.
The cheering outside pounded in my ear, announcing every flyer that soared over the finish line on perfect, beautiful wings. Like I would never do, again.
“I’ll give you some time to think about it.” The doctor walked to the entrance of the tent. “In the meantime, some fellow competitors want to see you. Shall I let them in?”
I rubbed my eyes and swallowed the burn in my throat. “Yeah.”
The doctor pulled the tent flap back, and Raven and Terna raced to the side of my bed.
“Bold moves, champ.” said Raven. “A little too bold, by the look of it.”
“Are you alright?” said Terna. “Why on earth did you take the shortcut?”
The burn in my throat intensified. “I’m fine. Perfect.” I looked at Raven. “You came out of nowhere in that canyon. Where were you the rest of the race?”
He grinned. “You know, for flyers, it’s amazing how often competitors never look up.”
I tried my best to smile back. “Riding the steady air above the mountains? Smart. Did you win?”
He shook his head.
I looked at Terna. “You?”
She lowered her gaze. “We didn’t finish. We saw you falling, and the medics were too far away….” She glanced up at me. “You don’t remember.”
“You caught me,” I said, with a surge of gratitude. “Why’d you do that? You lost the race.”
Another cheer rose up, outside. Someone else had just soared across the finish line.
“S’okay,” Raven said, leaning back on one long leg. “There’s always next year.”
“Some things are more important than winning,” Terna added. “You’ll listen to me next year, right? No more reckless flying?”
“Next year?” I muttered. “Think I’ll watch.”
“What are you talking about?” Terna said. “You can’t give up.”
I took a breath. “My right wing is destroyed. I’ll never fly again.”
They grew silent.
A brief suspension of sound and time, where I could clear my mind.
I thought of how much lighter I would be without my wings. Able to sprint faster than I ever had, before.
“But if I can’t do an airathon….” I said, voice steadying.
There were ground races, with runners who could no longer fly.
I imagined tearing up and down steep hills, on mountain ranges over which I’d once soared.
Imagined the breeze and steady pound of my feet.
I glanced between Terna and Raven. “I’ll join the para-races. As a runner.”
After all, running could be almost.
As good as flying.
Okay so here’s the schtick. You’re going to stick your hand in there, no, not there, there, and then just hold it there. Now don’t move. I mean it.
Okay now you over there with the pigtails. Get the fuck over here. I want you to take your foot across, yeah like that, and then just hold it. No you can’t use the bathroom. I don’t care if it’s emergency. Well, Sally, you should’ve thought of that before you decided to play the goddamn game.
Alright now Will. I want you to get over here. Okay you little fuckface take your left arm, no your left arm, jesus christ what’s the point of school, and you’re going to place it right next to Sally’s leg. See that little dot? That’s where you want to go.
Now Sally see that blue spot right there? According to this, you want to take your other hand and reach for it. Just, yeah okay you got it and NO WILL ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME SHE DIDN’T EVEN TOUCH YOU AND YOU FELL. Great fucking job kid now we have to start all the way over. Clear the mat. And get that fucking dirt off it what do I look like a cleaning lady? Alright let’s do this again.
The heavy press of history's
enhanced by poignant victories,
is better than I dreamt.
The Monster looms above left field,
the Bud Deck over right-
both witnesses to firm belief
and neverending pride.
Elation spreads like wildfire
as people take their seats,
when over home the first pitch flies
with monumental speed.
No fan base beats Red Sox Nation-
we won the lottery;
just seeing a jersey elates us-
Throughout the innings, bats do crack
and balls thwack into gloves
while everyone at Fenway Park
doth show their club some love.
During the seventh inning stretch,
Sweet Caroline is sung;
the bullpen's warming up pitchers
and beer flows over tongues.
A sea of reds and blues awash
in hopeful rally caps;
but win or lose, they're friends by gosh-
united by a pact.
No fan base beats Red Sox Nation-
we won the lottery;
just seeing a jersey elates us-
It started with a bit of money
What we had in our pockets really
All fun and games
But the thrill of winning a hand
The thrill of being on top
It hooks you
You crave it
Need to feel it again
So you make another bet
A little bit more this time
The money that was supposed to go towards food
It's harmless really
So what if you have to skip a meal or two
but here's the thing
You don't lose
You keep on winning
Beginners luck or maybe you're just a natural
Either way the cards love you
You just can't lose
And then you do
You laugh it off
You can still win it back
You've done it once, you can do it again
So you raise the stakes
It's not just cash anymore.
You bet anything you can get your hands on
Property, information, everything you have
Because you have to turn it around
But lady luck just isn't with you
The cards just won't cooperate
Then the bell rings
And it's all over
Go-fish is an unforgiving game
And the first grade classroom is an unsympathetic casino
You played until you had nothing left
I played until until I had nothing left
Guess I'll have to borrow a pencil from Jimmy for afternoon classes