Summer Shenanigans

It was the summer after eighth grade and we were bored. The afternoon’s heavy air kept us from working on our tree fort, which was made of wooden boards that we stole from a construction sight down the road with my father’s wheelbarrow. New houses were being built in the neighborhood, and we didn’t want them there anyway. All the places we played manhunt or paintball in on the weekends and in the summers were being replaced with fancy homes and long driveways. It only made sense to slow down the process by stealing the workers’ slabs of wood when they went to grab lunch from the deli around the corner. Every day they went at the same time, like clockwork, and we were teenage geniuses.

Our tree fort leaned against a thick tree trunk, tucked in the middle of the green woods behind my house in the suburbs outside of New York City. It was the only woods left in our little town, from what I could see. We sat, sweating on the crooked benches made from slabs of wood. My twin brother Cory, and our neighbors, Evan and Rachel, who were siblings, spoke about the upcoming school year as I doodled on the uneven walls around us with a black marker. Like me, Cory and Evan were going into ninth grade, and Rachel was going into seventh.

Evan glanced over at me a few times before shouting, “What are you doing?” He folded his fat arms and his lips grew into a smirk.

I slammed a hand over my creation. “You can’t see it yet.”

“You know I’m just going to scribble over it like I did to the rest of your stupid drawings,” Cory said. We locked eyes of the same shade of brown. “You’re making the fort look stupid.”

“I bet it’s another drawing of Dylan.” Rachel grinned at me as she tied her frizzy hair up with a rubber band.

“No!” I threw my hands into the air, revealing my masterpiece.

“What did I tell you?” Rachel said proudly.

“I don’t get why you like that kid anyway,” Evan laughed. “He doesn’t shower.”

“I don’t like him!” I stamped a sneaker into the dirt.

“Just admit it,” Cory said.

“No.”

“Just say it, Leah. Then you can stop drawing all of your Dylan fantasies all over the fort,” my brother said, wiping his forehead.

“It’s not a Dylan drawing this time! And the only reason I drew Dylan before is because he’s fun to draw.”

Evan began making kissing sounds and I felt the color of embarrassment make its way across my face. Read More

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Snow Globe Quest

The snow drifted sideways on the other side of the living room window that was dressed in a kaleidoscope of lights, nestled in garland. My eyes followed Caleb’s truck as it plowed down the powdered street away from my house. He had gotten his license not long ago. During the drive to my house, he drove carelessly as he sung the wrong words to the radio through the clouds of thick smoke that we both exhaled. I wasn’t sure whether to blame the swaying of his truck on his lack of driving skills or the fact that he was high. I told him to chill out because the roads looked slippery, but before I could finish my sentence, he glared at me with heavy pink eyes as he pulled up to the side of my house and told me that I was hallucinating because he was the best driver in the world. I jabbed him in the shoulder, called him an asshole and got out of the truck.

Aaron, a dorky kid I’ve been friends with since elementary school, was at Caleb’s house with us earlier. When Caleb tossed his little bag of weed on the table, Aaron looked uncomfortable and suddenly needed to pick up his sister from work.  He wanted to have a study session to study for our final exams that were coming up before winter break, but Caleb’s new habit, or as Aaron called it, “his new phase,” distracted us. With all of the new experiences and changes in our lives, the three of us weren’t handling our first semester of college well. Especially Caleb. He barely made it out of high school. He graduated because they wanted to get rid of the schmuck.

As I closed the blinds, my cell phone vibrated across the dresser beneath me. When I went to grab it, I lost my balance and knocked over the Christmas decorations my mother set up on the dresser. I  knelt down beside some stupid looking smiling snowman and a posed plastic reindeer sticking its ass in the air and placed them back on the dresser. Aaron sent me a text asking about homework for our history class. I jabbed at the letters on my screen with my thumbs on my phone’s keyboard, picked up the snow globe spiraling around the wooden floor, and placed it on the red and white cloth that laid over the dresser. When I shut the ceiling fan light, the green glow of the nightlight reflected off the walls. I stumbled through the hallway that smelled of pine and went to bed.

I dreamed of colors. Frozen blue flickered into shimmering purple, shimmering purple blinked and I saw icy white.

I couldn’t breathe.

When I woke up, I was lying on my back in the snow, but I wasn’t cold. I was warm. I held my breath. I didn’t try to breathe because I knew that I couldn’t. I gripped what felt like handfuls of sand. I felt my heart accelerate. I had to breathe—I tried to fight it but I couldn’t. I opened my lips and a cool rush of moist air plunged its way down my throat. I screamed nothing.

My body felt relaxed.

But I couldn’t move. I breathed heavily, staring up ahead, but I didn’t even know what I was looking at.

My fingers tickled the white that was sprinkled around me, and when I looked at my palms, shiny diamond-shaped glitter glistened off of them. It had a bright purple tint that stung my eyes after looking at it for more than a few seconds.

I rubbed the back of my hands across my eyes before I got to my feet. That’s when I noticed I was barefoot and in my blue plaid boxers, wearing my white t-shirt. That was what I wore to bed the night before. I brushed back the hair in my face and had a look around.

“What the hell is goin’ on?”

I squinted my eyes.

I stepped through the snow that didn’t crunch, but swirled up to my knees then fluttered back to the ground. I was caught off guard when I heard a bark. I hesitated before turning around. When I did, I focused on a gray and white, wolf-like dog. Its bushy tail curled over its back and its ears stood straight up. It wore a wreath around its neck and attached to its red harness was a green sleigh. I stared at the dog, alert in the distance.

“The hell is that dog doing?” I mumbled to myself. “What do you want?”

The dog sniffed the air. A growl rumbled from its chest.

“Come here,” he demanded.

I leaped back, dumbfounded. Then I laughed and held my head. “Holy shit am I high.”

The mutt came prowling toward me. I bolted away but didn’t get far. I smashed into a foggy slab of glass. I laid flat on my back and began gasping for air when I realized where I was as my fearful eyes crawled up the curved wall. The dog wearing a wreath dragging a sleigh, the purple-tinted sprinkles of snow, the curved wall. I was in the snow globe on the dresser in my living room. I saw the top of the bookshelf through the foggy glass wall. It was enormous. I got to my feet and pressed my sticky hands against the glass. I saw the couch down below. It was 10 times its size. I touched my knees, my legs, my ankles, my torso, my face.

My body had shrunk.

I heard the scrape of the sleigh and the rattle of the dog’s paws close in on me. I sprung around, arms outstretched, knees slightly bent.

“Kodiak!”

The dog stopped in his tracks. His blue eyes shot to the side, but his muscular body still pointed at me. I glanced over to see what he was looking at and felt my heart clobber my chest.  A polar bear wearing a red scarf began to gallop over to us. I felt my confused body give up and I planted my face in the shimmering snow. Read More

Easter Eve

I squinted as the hazy lights from a car slipped between the blinds and scanned across the wall. I was able to see my brother, Skylar, across from me. He sat with his back against the wall, head slightly tilted, as he wondered what I would say next. I glanced back at the bed behind me, where my brother Derek was, curled up on his side with his stuffed panda squashed into his bony chest. His eyes were shut but I knew he was listening.

When the lights went off downstairs and nothing could be heard except for the hum of the refrigerator, I scuffed my way into my brothers’ room hugging a pillow, my sleeping bag trailed behind my feet. We were excited, we wanted to share our thoughts. We sat up, legs jumbled in blankets, and talked about where the Easter eggs would be hidden by the morning, what kind of toys and candy would be burrowed in our Easter grass that overflowed from our pastel, straw baskets, and whether the Easter bunny was real or not. I had mentioned that I knew that he wasn’t real after Skylar said he wanted to see him in our living room. He didn’t know whether to believe me or not. Derek had no say in the conversation. He just flipped his pillow to the cold side, buried his cheek in it, and told us that we should sleep.

I adjusted myself in my sleeping bag on the floor in between their beds and turned around.

“I think I have double A batteries in my Furby that we can use,” I said.

Skylar sat crossed legged beneath his comforter as he fumbled with the back of his battery-less Star Wars stormtrooper toy. It was equipped with a motion sensor on its white belt. Its plastic legs were stiff and its flexible arms hung down; one hand clutched a black gun. When something moved in front of it, the tip of its gun would flicker red and the sound of a laser would electrify the room. It was the perfect way for me to prove to Skylar, the youngest of the three of us, that the Easter bunny really was Mom and Dad. We just needed batteries. Read More

The Door that was Always There

My bangs were stuck to my forehead, the taste of freedom lingered in the summer air. I had two more days of riding the bus before eighth grade would become history, before it would mesh together with the few years before it, before it didn’t matter to me anymore.

I didn’t know it then, but the end of my eighth grade year would become impossible to forget.

My head bounced against the window stained with fingerprints, my hair was frizzy. I rested my sticky palms on my knees as I zoned out. My vibrating cell phone brought me back to reality as it buzzed in my pocket. I took it out, and when my eyes set on his name, I smiled.

“Is it him?” asked Hannah, who sat next to me, as she took the ear bud for her iPod out of her ear.

I nodded my head as I read my text message.

Hannah laughed as she eyed my face, her blue braces shined. A crinkled piece of purple gum was tucked in her cheek.

“What did he say?”

“He wants to hang out today.” My feet shuffled.

Hannah squealed as she leaned over to see the text message Damien sent me. “That is so awesome, Meg! You better hang out with him, you need yourself a dude!” Read More

Eleven Years

Jacob held his green-gloved hand above his squinted eyes. He stood on the last step of the porch and studied how the colorful Christmas lights reflected against the icicles that hung from the roof. When his mom finished buttoning up little Susannah, she opened the door and Christmas music escaped into the crisp air. Jacob laughed at his sister in her puffy white coat and called her a snowman, waved to his grandparents who stood behind the wreath on the screen door, then ran in front of his mother and sister to the car.

The ride home seemed longer than usual. Jacob and Susannah tried to occupy themselves by looking at the decorated houses that Mom seemed overly excited about. They weren’t too interested. They hoped Santa had gotten to their house early. Mom told them the man on the news said Santa would be making his rounds early because of the storm that was on the way.

“Daddy’s home!” Susannah said when she saw Dad’s work van in the driveway.

Jacob leaned over the empty middle seat to get a look at the driveway as their car pulled up behind Dad’s van. “I wonder if he saw Santa!” He threw off his seat belt.

Jacob and Susannah raced to the stoop.  Jacob got there first and flung his arms into the air, proudly claiming victory. Susannah ran passed him and touched the door. She argued that he had to touch the door to win. When the spotlight above the door went on, the kids forgot about their argument and jumped up and down at the sight of their father, who wore a Santa hat. He opened the door and knelt down to hug both of his children with pink noses and snow in their brown hair. Susannah gave her father a sloppy kiss on the cheek, then followed Jacob to the Christmas tree. There was nothing there other than the smell of pine.

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