Heart to Heart

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 The lady down the street has brought me another pie. Apple, this time. It was still steaming when I noticed it on my doorstep, though she didn’t knock. If she had, I wouldn’t have answered. Jeffrey, she told me once, was her husband’s name. I’m pretty certain she went through my mail, because I don’t recall ever introducing myself to anyone in this neighbourhood.

I’m in the witness protection program. As far as anyone is concerned, I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life. I won’t tell you the city, but it has a lake, and the leaves turn orange and red in the fall. I don’t have a wife or children. I ceased being a son a decade before either of my parents died. Those were the conditions I accepted when I signed my life away to the President of the United States.

Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table, watching my cat sunbathe on the windowsill. Earlier, he pawed a stray potato towards me. He’s been watching me ever since, waiting for my next move. I was going to make soup.

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it’s all about scale, climb and rest and climb again,

just to turn around and see the scale

the hills, more than hills, when you grow up without them.

now they are heights to climb—can’t see Perth this way

without a light plane and a pilot’s license

who knew the clouds cast shadows that wide, or that from afar

the Earth crawls with life, all of us ants on an apple

—you knew, you all knew—

but no one told me, not in those words

there is a kangaroo at the top of Mt Taylor, staring,

so seamlessly tucked into the bush I barely notice him

until he snarls

looks at me, knows I don’t belong,

but I want to stay with the sky a little longer, push my luck,

waste my time. is there something over the peak?

down in the scrub? anything beyond those hills?

double check, triple check.

I leave him be, standing on the edge of the field in the brush

and I do what I’m told to do, Take It All In, think up something worthwhile,

because nature has a tax, nature makes you think, nature gives you ideas,

nature gives you stillness, a chance—

meadows look better far away, and so do cities,

unless you find the flowers,

for which you have to look close, quick! there!

 

Lover Lover

I say I like honesty, I tell myself

I like honesty because

I keep making friends with lovers

with one-sided feelings

 

I know how those go, I am a girl

who lies on her bed in the daytime

earbuds in, staring into the middle-distance

watching a second life play out like

shadows on a sheet during a storm

 

I am a cautious person in life and

in imagination, knowing all too well

how the two fool around with one another

and at sixteen, how a thing between a boy

and me can turn my insides out

 

here I should admit, I am unlikely

and in all my state I attract people

who are all smiles and false impressions

who are my friends, my very best friends

until they admit otherwise

 

I can be bitter, even at my calmest

when I am told over the Internet

from age sixteen onwards, that I am loved

in a way I do not reciprocate

and that a relationship I thought

—dangerously—was equal, was not

 

I have lost too many people

to feelings felt, words unsaid for months

and months and months, amongst it all

I’m rarely spoken to in person

about feelings so personal

they ought to inspire intimacy

 

this is where I leave most, because

I haven’t been met with the chance

to share feelings, but instead have been stuck

receiving them, dealing with them

addressing them

 

if I am that girl for you, on the bed, daytime

through the blinds and eyes staring off

at something an arm’s length away

then you will know, because I will tell you

 

 

I Misheard You

For a long time I misunderstood the chorus of David Bowie’s song Changes – I misheard the lyric “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strange)” for “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (Turn and face the strain)” and went on singing and dancing to it in my bedroom at 1AM, fully dressed and fully awake. And I LOVED that misheard lyric – it was about pushing myself out of my comfort zone, wading through mud to get to a better version of myself.

I noticed my mistake after Bowie died, when I pulled my headphones over my ears and listened to the song at full blast. I heard the “ge” and had a little pity party for my belated understanding. There was a physicality to that lyric that I mourned when I learned it wasn’t the right one. According to Google, strain means “to force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make an unusually great effort” – that’s the type of motivation my masochistic, overworked brain likes to hear!

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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.

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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.

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