This Is Not A Haiku
Not a haiku, this
Five, seven, five, syllables--
A fairy died. Oops!
. . .
Well, I tried.
there's this myth we expel a little of our soul as we breathe. so the people we spend the most of our time around slowly exchange more and more of their soul with ours.
there's proof, too. it's in out transferred mannerisms, inside jokes, subtle preferences, opinions that are shaped by conversations. how we go about our day, like who we want to talk to first thing in the morning, if we clean our desks all at once or over time, how we view others and their hobbies. everything we know is a reflection of our memories and experiences and the people around us.
i believe i'm the person i am today because of everyone around me, and their soul. my parents, friends, even fictional characters. cheesy? perhaps. true? yes. we're influenced by art and social expectations and ideas and ambition.
but, most importantly, we become who we are because of the people around us.
and my soul is only mine as much as it is theirs.
the road most traveled;
she boasts that she
has never lost a fight-
when in fact
she’s never fought one.
what is right
she should follow
but day by day
she inches away
Harder than college, easier than home.
Seems like I need 15 words to submit so here’s some extra words :)
Warm that nest will stay
"Conas tá tú?"
"Tá mé go maith, grampa"
Irish dances in my head
I'm there once more.
Space opens to his left
Beside the pot,
filled with pond water
Tea waiting to be shared.
The nest is empty,
but it's still warm.
In The Elm
JoJo, Angel, and Eugene saw the toilet paper twisting in the elm tree outside the toymaker’s house. White ribbons of quilted cotton, draped through the branches. Fluttering from the crown of the tree like a veil. It was a warning sign. A message from the children of this neighborhood. Stay away from this house. Stay away from the toymaker.
But Eugene saw something that caught his eye; brightly colored toys in the windows, like candy, and a buzzing mechanical robot that was marching in the entryway. It waved at Eugene with itws clamp-like hands.
Eugene ignored the toilet paper drifting in the elm. Ignored the peeling paint, the unruly hedges, and dark shadows within. He ran through the drifting cotton tendrils on short, six-year-old legs, chasing the bright red wind-up robot.
Eugene followed the robot inside—its plastic legs clicking, its wind-up knob buzzing. He ran behind it, right into the dark entryway, and the door slammed shut behind him.
JoJo and Angel pounded on the door, screaming for their brother. They shouted for the neighbors, for the police, for any adult who would listen; help them get Eugene out.
After an hour of running around the toymaker’s house, searching for a way in, their father pulled up in the family van. He got out, and cast them a stern glare.
“What is with the noise out here? Are you trying to call in the National Guard?”
JoJo and Angel ran to their dad and clung to his pants, crying, talking over each other. He shushed them. Neighbors watched from kitchen windows, clutching their phones.
“Okay, hush. It’s okay. One at a time.”
“Eugene is gone!” Angel said.
“Eugene.” JoJo wiped his eye. “He went inside, and we can’t get him out. Nobody is answering.”
“Okay, that’s enough games today.” Their dad pushed them toward the van.
“We’re not lying!” Angel insisted.
“I don’t think you’re lying.” Dad said. “Just confused. Eugene came home a few minutes ago. You must have missed him.”
JoJo and Angel looked up at the van, and they saw Eugene sitting in the front seat. He had a frozen, plastic smile on his face, staring out the front windshield.
They got in the van in silence, staring at the back of Eugene’s head. Their dad got in the front, buckled in. He frowned.
“You kids didn’t TP that tree, did you?”
Eugene barely spoke at dinner. When he did, his answers were simple. Mechanical. Happy one-word nothings that made their dad smile. Dad was distracted, watching the news.
“Weird times.” Their dad said. That was his favorite phrase, when he didn’t want to explain what was happening on TV. “Weird, weird times.”
After they brushed their teeth they were marched off to bed. Angel had her own room, the “girl’s room”. She grabbed JoJo by the sleeve before dad could nudge her off to bed.
“What’s with Eugene?”
“What’s with who?” Dad asked. He had ears like a fox.
“With Eugene. He’s weird.” Angel said.
“Good.” Dad said. “Better to be weird than normal, am I right?” He chuckled, pushing Angel into the pink-and-white room. “One bed time story, then you go to sleep. In the morning I want this bedroom picked up. It looks like Barbie had a kegger in here.”
“Keg-rur?” Angel asked.
“A, uh, a party.” Dad said.
JoJo followed Eugene into the boy’s room. It was all Legos and model planes and army men; staging a beach landing under the bunk beds. Half-spent toilet paper rolls stood in for sandbags. Eugene kicked through them on his way to the bunk ladder, trailing quilted paper. He climbed the ladder and crawled into the top bunk without a fuss. He didn’t even wait for dad to come read them a story.
JoJo sat on the lower bunk. He picked up a plastic superhero in a colorful red cape, and pressed his nose to the emblem on the chest. A child’s meditation.
“What happened in the house?” JoJo asked.
Eugene didn’t answer.
“We tried to follow you, but the door was locked.” JoJo said. “Did you leave through the back door? Was the toy-man home?”
JoJo got frustrated. He decided to wake up his brother, if he wasn’t faking it, and get some answers. He stood on his own bed and looked at Eugene’s back. He used the action figure to prod him. First in the spine, then on Eugene’s neck when he didn’t respond. Eugene was still. Silent. Like the dead.
“Eugene!” JoJo shout-whispered.
His brother didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. In the silence, JoJo heard the gentle, motorized whine of a wind-up toy.
JoJo knelt closer, listening. Then he saw it; a tiny plastic knob in the back of Eugene’s neck. It was twisting slowly, like a little gray screw. Like the wind-up plastic toys that came in happy meals and cereal boxes.
JoJo jerked back, fell from the bunk, and bounced up from the floor like he was made of rubber. He sprinted down the hall and slid on the hardwood floor in his socks. He gripped the doorframe of Angel’s room.
“Something’s wrong with Eugene!”
Their dad was on his feet and down the hall to the boy’s room in record seconds. He kicked through the toys and the toilet paper sandbags, and ripped the blankets back from Eugene. Angel and JoJo listened to them exchange soft words.
Their dad nodded, kissed Eugene on the forehead, and left the boys’ room. He knelt by JoJo and Angel in the hall.
“Your brother is feeling under the weather. Maybe a cold, or something. Let him sleep tonight.”
“I mean it. Both of you. Let him sleep, or I’ll take away the toys.”
Their dad stood and pointed to their rooms. He waited for them to crawl into their beds, and he shut their doors halfway. JoJo heard his dad’s feet thumping down the stairs, and the TV clicked on again. More weird news.
JoJo closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but the sound of the wind-up knob twisting in Eugene’s neck kept him awake, late into the night. He heard the rain patter against the window. He heard the thunder in the distance, like a cymbal crash.
Angel and JoJo stood outside the toymaker’s house. JoJo was armed with a plastic shield and a pump-action water gun. Angel had her toy wand, which lit up and made enchanted noises when she swished it through the air. She knew it was fake, but she liked to hold it anyway.
Eugene, or the thing that had replaced Eugene, was back at home with a thermometer in his mouth and a wad of toilet paper for tissues. Sick with a cold, their dad claimed. Even in broad daylight their dad couldn’t see the knob in Eugene’s neck. Not even when JoJo and Angel both pointed to it.
The red toy robot gyrated in the house’s doorway, marching in slow, mechanical circles. Toilet paper hung limp in the elm, disintegrating in the yard from last night’s storm; A faded warning for them to stay away.
“Ready?” JoJo asked.
“Ready.” Angle said, wielding the wand like a mace.
JoJo gave the robot a blast of water, knocking it on its back. Its legs peddled in the air. The kids stepped over it, entering the dark house.
Angel gasped when she saw the inside. To the eyes of a seven-year-old the toymaker’s house looked like a tea party come to life. The front room was lined with plush victorian chairs, ball-and-claw sofas, and distressed vanities and dressers with looping brass handles. Everything was cracked, weathered, peeling pink and powder-blue paint.
On every surface of every coffee table, side table, and dresser, were tea sets. Steaming pots and delicate little cups of China on glazed saucers. So many beautiful, intricate tea sets cluttered together. Platters on platters, with pots and cups ready to fall off the corners of the tables.
Angel could smell the chamomile and cookies. She saw the warm steam, and she reached for one of the teacups, but JoJo grabbed her arm.
“Don’t touch anything.”
She looked at JoJo, ready to argue. She just wanted to save a little porcelain cup that was balanced on the edge of the table. But JoJo’s expression was grim.
She nodded, thinking of Eugene. She followed him deeper into the house, toward the kitchen.
The kids heard the buzzing of the toys before they saw them. They turned the corner into the kitchen, and saw a field of wind-up figures that covered a vast linoleum floor.
The kitchen was massive. Easily as large as Angel’s elementary classroom. The black-and-white checkered floor was littered with so many jittering, marching, spinning toys, that it looked like a field of animated confetti. Like sprinkles, there were so many toys. All bouncing off each other, colliding, in a chaotic dance that would have been wonderful to behold, if not for the toymaker who sat amongst them.
The toymaker was a black-and-white island in the middle of the colorful swirling plastic. The back of his head was as bald as an egg, and his skin looked like white wax. He was facing away from them, bent over a little white table. His rumpled black suit was stretched over his rounded shoulders and wide stomach. Like a pear wearing a pianist’s swallowtail tuxedo. He had a screwdriver in his thick, soft hand, twisting violently at the back of a tin soldier.
In the corner of the kitchen, beyond the toymaker, they saw Eugene. He sat with three other children, whom Angel and JoJo did not recognize. They were all silent, sitting in the glow of a television with knobs on the front. Their eyes were vacant and wide, with dark sleepless circles. Cartoon animals danced on the TV, and the children’s pupils tracked their movements.
The buzzing in the kitchen was deafening. Like a mechanical beehive. Angel turned to JoJo, made a shushing motion with her finger to her lips. JoJo rolled his eyes.
JoJo looked at the toymaker, who was cursing softly to himself, eyes down, as he worked on the tin soldier. JoJo began shuffling toward the TV, trying to nudge the buzzing wind-up figures out of his path.
Angel watched JoJo’s progress, gently kicking the little parti-color figures out of his path. She pressed her knuckles against her mouth and held her breath.
JoJo’s sneakers pushed a tiny dancing bear back, which collided against a rainbow octopus, which slammed into a purple plastic dinosaur that stood as high as JoJo’s knees. The dinosaur teetered, and clattered to the floor, taking several other toys with it.
The toymaker looked up, and smiled.
“I knew you’d come. I told Eugene here, you’d come. Didn’t I Eugene?”
The toymaker’s face was slick and round and perfectly smooth, yet his voice and eyes were ancient. His eyes practically glowed green. He used a silk handkerchief to pat the sweat from his soft cheeks and narrow, bald head.
“I suggest you sit.” He said. “Take a toy. Watch cartoons. You’ll like it here. Your brother does.”
JoJo rushed to Eugene, scattering more plastic toys across the checkered linoleum. He shook his brother, who seemed comatose, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor.
“I said sit!” The toymaker bellowed. He held the screwdriver in one hand, and a tiny wind-up knob in the other.
The toymaker’s suggestion to pick a toy made Angel glance at the children’s hands. She saw that each of them was holding a plastic figure. Eugene had a little red robot. The other kids were holding a panda bear, and a racecar.
JoJo pointed his water gun at the toymaker, and Angel rushed past him. She slapped the robot out of Eugene’s hand, and for the first time, he looked up at her. His bottom lip trembled.
She waved her sparkling, blinking wand in front of Eugene’s eyes, like she was trying to hypnotize him.
“When I snap my fingers you’ll wake up.” She said.
“You’re a dummy.” Eugene said.
The toymaker took a step toward them. He lumbered, like a bear. His legs seemed barely capable of supporting his pear-shaped body. A toy UFO cracked under his shiny wingtip shoe.
“You’re not being very nice.”
JoJo turned the water gun away from the man, and pointed it at the TV instead. He stuck the barrel of the gun against the vent in the top of the TV, threatening to soak the components inside.
The toymaker hesitated. Smiled. “I can wait. You’ll get bored, and you’ll forget.”
His confidence rubbed Angel’s nerves like steel wool, and she used her wand to slap the toys out of the other children’s hands. They looked up at her, and she saw the spark returning to their eyes.
“Alright, enough of this.” The toymaker said. “Sit down, now, you twits.”
He came toward them again, crushing plastic as he did. Angel dragged Eugene to his feet. He followed her numbly, and She took him to stand behind JoJo, who still held the TV hostage.
JoJo smiled. He lowered the water gun, which made the toymaker pause. The toymaker’s eyebrow twitched.
“What’s dad always watching?” JoJo asked Angel.
Angel smiled too. She reached for the knob on the front of the TV and turned it. The channels clicked loudly. She read the numbers on the dial, and put it on the news.
She knew immediately she had found the right channel. On the screen, a blonde woman with perfect hair who looked like Angel’s Barbie sat behind a desk. She was talking about people dying. People getting sick. People disagreeing. People in the streets, protesting. She told the audience—the toymaker—that they’ll never guess which celebrity was giving away their money to their Twitter followers. And all they had to do was keep watching...But first, a look inside the president’s office, and the strange announcements he made today…
Angel, JoJo, and Eugene edged away from the glowing television, and the toymaker who stood frozen like a statue. They shuffled through the ocean of colorful plastic toys, out of the noisy, buzzing kitchen.
The other children followed. And the toymaker never looked up from the news.
The rain had destroyed the toilet paper in the elm tree. Angel, JoJo, and Eugene spent an hour throwing roll after roll up into the tree, replacing what the rain had taken. The elm was so shrouded in toilet paper by the time they were done it looked like a bridal veil. To warn the other children; Stay away from this house.
The kids left their toys lying on the overgrown lawn as they ran home. Their fear evaporated as they distanced themselves from the old, dilapidated toymaker’s house. As they ran down the sidewalk, laughter bubbled up, and they giggled and held up streamers of toilet paper. Like a victory run. All the way home. To dad, and the sick toy that was still lying in Eugene’s bed.