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“I was young. All old men are young—they are seven, and twenty-three, and seventy-eight all at once. Standing at the peak of that hill, I was ten. Double digits were new to me, and I was wearing them in like new sneakers.

‘Yew!’

I took off, soaring past my friends still struggling their way to the top. They would have watched me as I passed, feeling the whoosh of the air as I went, my calls becoming distant as I disappeared into the tree line. They would have remembered how that stream of cool air feels on a shiny face and pushed forward, knowing the climb would be worth it.

‘Yew!’ I yelled, so my friends nearing the top of the hill could hear me.

A seagull had perched on the bow of Captain’s dinghy to watch him eat his breakfast. It was early morning on International Waters, and the Great Garbage Patch swayed as the town slept. The houses had been salvaged from the mess left over, from tarp and tin, and they moved with the wind and the currents. Storm clouds sat on the flat line of the horizon, waiting.

Captain sat in his ship, a carved-out stream twisting through the mess ahead of him. They used the stream for transport between towns, because now there were towns—dozens and dozens of them spread across the sea. Some he could see, and others he didn’t want to see. The morning mist covered them all, sometimes hanging around until late afternoon, when neighbours turned into strangers, and the children started to cough.

The seagull on the bow squawked.

“Cap!” a boy yelled from a nearby house. It was Opa. Captain waved in the boy’s direction but didn’t break eye contact with the bird.  The gull’s eyes were round and yellow, with pinpricks of black at the centre. It closed them in a flash, unaware of the game. Captain only chuckled, handing it the last corner of his sandwich.

“Cap!”

Opa clambered to a stop beside the boat, and when he noticed the small seagull perched at the end of the ship he bent down to pet it. The bird clamped down on the bread in its red beak, its head dipping under the boys touch.

“My parents need more samples of the water today, Captain.”

“To save the world?”

“Yessir.”

The boy stood to attention. He was a scrawny kid with shaggy hair, prominent ears, and a brown face scattered with sun-born freckles splayed like wings over his nose and cheeks. He stood straight as a poll until Captain nodded, and he relaxed into his usual slump. He scooped the seagull into his arms so that its yellow feet dangled out from under his elbow. The bird was perturbed but not particularly surprised.

Opa caught sight of something and froze.

A group of kids was approaching. Ruth, with her frayed pigtails, was at the head of it. The others swarmed behind her like little birds in a V formation, all in the same weathered and mismatched clothing. Opa threw the seagull from his arms and it flapped in a panic, landing behind Captain, puffed up to double its size.

“Oi,” Ruth yelped. She stopped in front of Opa and the others followed her lead, their skinny arms crossed over their chests, their noses in the air.

“You aren’t supposed to touch the birds,” she said.

“Yeah,” said a boy at the back.

“Yeah,” said the girl flanking her right.

“They’re diseased,” Ruth said.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah. They’re gross.”

“Shush Ellen,” Ruth said. She turned to Opa. “They aren’t pets.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“They sure act like ‘em,” Opa said.

Captain smiled.

“Hey!” Ruth barked, her cheeks red. Opa shrunk behind her, cautious of getting caught in the crossfire. She looked down her nose at Captain until he frowned.

“Are you ready?”

He nodded, and with a wave of Ruth’s hand they moved into action, swarming around the ship.

“Ready?” Ruth said.

“Ready.” Opa said.

They felt for their footing in the rubbish. The stream was narrow and difficult to navigate because the waves didn’t always agree with the path the towns had made. It was too neat, and the ocean wanted chaos. So, as a well-wish and a routine, it had become tradition to launch Captain on his voyage. In the beginning it was about exploration, because a home never felt like a home until he had found its hideaways, its nooks and crannies, the spaces that made it a worthwhile place to be. Now it was about being in motion, and collecting whatever he could salvage, because sitting still made him older.

The kids shouted as they made their way downstream.

“How’s it down there, Cap?”

“Ellen, keep up!”

It was the towns wake up call. Parents poked their heads through windows, bed hair drifting in the cool morning breeze.

He didn’t look back as the boat picked up speed. He looked to the sun. When they let him go, the kids cupped their hands over their eyes, but he was just an outline: an old man and his boat. So then they scooped their hands around their mouths and hollered.

“Don’t forget the water,” Opa called out.

“To save the world,” Captain said to himself, saluting the sun.

Continue reading “Home”

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The Hole in the Pocket of My Bag

There’s a hole in the pocket of my bag that I suspect holds five pens, a stick of gum, and a lost fortune.

Sometimes I poke my hand through the tear in the fabric, prying out lost treasures: an old spray bottle of lens cleaner, a hair tie, a loose gem from the Pirate Princess of Thaw’s tiara.

When I reach in, blind, I fear I might lose my fingers to a rattle snake or a wild boar. I suspect one day I’ll feel the bite, see the blood, and never know who or what the inflictor was. It has scurried into a fold or a crevice, never to be seen or named. Sort of like Schrödinger’s Cat. Sort of not like Schrödinger’s Cat.

Also, there are futures that I imagine—rife with drama, a gun pointed to my head—where I’m asked to produce something ordinarily impossible: a trombone, an entire mango flavoured ice cream cake, a particle travelling two times faster than the speed of light. And in those futures I poke around the hole in the pocket of my bag…And the impossibilities are there!

A lifesaving antidote, a perfect pair of prescription glasses, the soundtrack to Mission: Impossible, an umbrella, a toaster, a Thin Mint, Unified Field Theory written on a napkin, Mary Poppins herself!

I could sew the hole shut, trapping the possible impossibilities inside. I could keep all the items in my inventory found and not lost. But where’s the fun in that?

Nothing ever truly feels lost anymore. Not even the imaginary. More-likely-than-not, it has slipped through the hole in the pocket of my bag. If I feel around and don’t come across it, it just doesn’t want to be found yet.

Ghost Boy

There was one figurine left, sitting in the far corner of my Grandma’s glass cabinet. A porcelain ballerina tying her shoes, looking demure as she crisscrossed the ribbons across her ankle. I had to get on my tiptoes to reach it, and as the shelf dug into my chest all I could smell was dust.

“Um…Liss?” Maggie called. She was standing right above my head – I could hear her small, sensible shoes shuffling around the attic floor. I grabbed the ballerina by her head.

“What!”

Sliding the glass cabinet closed, I caught my muted reflection in the mirror and saw the bags under my eyes before anything else. I pushed my fringe from my forehead.

“What!”

“Can you come up here?” Maggie said.

Continue reading “Ghost Boy”

CHECKLIST:

CHECKLIST:

Book x1 (The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury)

“Chicago’s got more alleys than…anywhere else in the world.”

“Why are we running?”

Charlie’s orange hair tumbled behind her, and I followed it. We flashed past closed garage doors and roller bins, weaving between groups of kids playing in the lane.

“Elena?” one of them shouted at me. I caught a glimpse of more red hair – Charlie’s little brother stopped bouncing his tennis ball to stare at us. The storm clouds overhead roiled with the promise of rain.

“We’ll be back for dinner!” I yelled. The cold air stung the back of my throat as I breathed in.

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I Have a Pet Snake: A Guide

  1. What Not To Do

I have a pet snake. I got her in the height of my Harry Potter freak-out, when I thought evil was edgy and Voldemort had a point. Her name’s Nagini, in homage to The Dark Lord’s viper sidekick. She’s only small – her scales are a patchwork of burnt orange and normal orange, with stitches of cream in-between. She’s adorable, really. However, what I originally had in mind was something bigger, and scarier. Instead my parents pulled out a pintsized earthworm on my 15th birthday, their shiny faces all smiley and grossly expectant. I gotta say, she has the evil attitude down. To this day all she ever does is sleep, eat, and glare at me. If I knew parseltongue it would be lost on her. She is not a conversationalist.

This is supposed to be a helpful guide to owning a snake. It’s more of an autobiographical tale of what-not-to-do. Take it from me, I would know.

Continue reading “I Have a Pet Snake: A Guide”

Echo

The bowler hat had its own spot on the sidewalk. It was kicked and nudged so much that it generally stayed in the same position – an arm’s length away from its owner, tipped on its top and begging.

The woman wore the hat at night. The rest of the time it pleaded on the pavement, and the crown of her grey hair was left in the sun to bleach into white.

The homely colours she once wore – grandmother’s colours – had been washed out by the wind that whipped the sidewalk. Every person who walked past her painted her further into the background.

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Swayze

Patrick Swayze stared at him from the bedside table. His sisters were chittering on the other side of the door. He had tried the handle but they were pushing it closed – two against one, it wouldn’t budge. He slid to the floor with his back against the door. Swayze looked on. It was just his head, framed in sparkling wood and stickers, his eyes staring at him through long lashes.

The bunk bed opposite him was a plush madhouse of animals and worn out dolls. He counted twenty on each. The walls were light pink, almost white. Somehow they’d managed to squeeze in a desk between the bunk bed and the door. It was topped with gel pens, loose sheets of paper, and brightly coloured paperbacks stacked wonkily by the edge. They were precariously close to falling on Swayze and his disgustingly lopsided grin. One of his sisters banged on the door above his head.

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