Break of Dawn

Dawn slipped her fingers between Carlo’s. They squinted their eyes from the sunlight as they walked out of the dorm building.

“I’m just gonna head to class from here,” Carlo said, taking his hand from Dawn’s.

Dawn grabbed her cellphone out of her back pocket and slid her thumb across the screen. “You have 15 minutes. Come to The Cup with me.” She crossed her arms and frowned.

“I want to read over my notes.”

“You can come to The Cup with me. I’ll test you.”

“Nah, just go.” Carlo pointed his hand with the notebook to The Cup, the coffee shop across the field.

“Hug me first.” Dawn closed her eyes and held her arms open.

Carlo wrapped his arms around Dawn’s shoulders and kissed her blonde head. “Bye Dawn,” he said before letting her go.

“Text me when you’re out,” Dawn said as Carlo walked away.

*

The bell on the door jingled as Dawn entered The Cup. She stopped as soon as she stepped in. The counter’s line ended near the entrance. She scanned the couches and tables in the dining area for someone she knew.

“Looks like everybody had the same idea.”

Dawn smiled and turned around when she heard his voice.

“Andriel!” She hugged him. “You’re out of class early. Usually I don’t see you here for another 20 minutes.”

“Yeah. Professor showed up late, turned on some movie made in the ’80s about the culture of Guatemala and was on his iPad. He obviously didn’t want to be there today so why should I?”

Dawn shrugged. “Nobody cares about anything anymore.”

“Nope.”

The line moved up and Andriel puffed his chest out and purposefully walked into Dawn. “Excuse me, miss,” he said in a deep voice.

She grinned and pushed him away. “You’re such a creep.”

Andriel rubbed one of his big hands through Dawn’s hair, pulling it in front of her face.

“Cut it out!” She laughed and parted her hair. Read More

Live On

My mother would scrunch her nose and her forehead would crinkle. Her blue eyes would slant and her barely visible eyebrows would almost touch. “I don’t like fish,” she’d say as she’d either push the plate away if my grandfather placed it in front of her, or wave her hand in front of her nose and back away as he opened the oven with his navy blue mittens.

*

“You ready for some swordfish, Casey?” my grandfather raised his voice above the hum of the stove’s fan. He had his eyes on the fish as he carefully placed it on the long plate on the counter. He removed the mittens and grabbed bottles of green seasonings to cover the peach flesh with.

He pointed his sweaty nose to the kitchen table as he made his way over with the dish.

I clutched the back of the kitchen chair that I always sat at (it used to be my mother’s spot at the table when she was a kid) and shook my head no. My hair flopped back and forth over my shoulders and I bit my bottom lip with my buck teeth.

“No? What do you mean, no?” My grandfather looked at me, eyes squinted. “This is good fish. It’s home cooked. I thought you liked it.”

“I’m not hungry.” I looked at the blue tiles on the kitchen floor. Little particles of dirt clogged the once white cracks.

My grandfather eyed my face, but I pretended not to notice. Read More

Eavesdropping

Last semester, one of my fiction professors assigned the class an eavesdropping assignment. That night, I was reading in the library when an unhappy couple caught my attention.

I raised my head from my book as I heard feet shuffle across the carpet. It was just about midnight, and I hadn’t seen any other students in the library’s basement. I sat cross-legged on a chair, one elbow leaning on the round table, the other on the corner of my open book.

A sigh came from between two shelves. “I can’t believe this.”

A short guy with black hair shook his head as he looked up. He held a cup of coffee in each hand and his jeans swished around his sneakers. He tucked his chin downward to sip from one of the white cups as he headed to one of the fluorescent-lit study carrels.

He gently kicked the green door, and it squeaked and swung back into a blue chair that was in the way. Next to the chair was another chair, where a girl with puffy chestnut hair in a dark sweatshirt and blue pajama pants sat. She slouched across from her laptop that was surrounded by packets of paper and a notebook.

“You’re so lazy. I can’t believe you couldn’t get your own coffee,” the guy said as he handed her one of the white cups. “You made me go all the way to Starbucks and come back here. You’re so lazy.” Read More

Unclipped

You’d think my Aunt Ebba would own a cat. One of those fluffy Persians that could sit on her lap as she stroked its fur with her scarlet finger nails. But no, she owned an obnoxious cockatiel named Pikachu.

Aunt Ebba loved to talk—she spoke three languages. So did Pikachu. He was all that she had left in her maze of a Victorian house. They’d watch Spanish soap operas together; Pikachu would recite French poetry as he stood on her shoulder, nuzzled up against her chin. It was astonishing, but quite sad. Aunt Ebba was lonely.

She hadn’t worked since her job at the florist as a teenager. After that, she went to college to study literature, but no career came from it. She married straight out of college, into a wealthy family. Her first husband was my Uncle Ty. He was a stock broker from New York. Aunt Ebba was in love with him; she gave up everything for him. She moved from her close-knit family in Jamestown, Rhode Island to live with him in his luxury apartment in Manhattan. He led a stressful life, and died young of heart failure. They had one son, my older cousin, Winthrop.

After Uncle Ty died, Aunt Ebba was depressed. She wouldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep. She’d call my father, her brother, and cry to him on the phone about how she saw Ty in her dreams, and how she thought he was leaving her “signs from the other side” wherever she went.  She’d talk about how Winthrop looked so much like him, with his curly hair and small lips. My father would twist the phone’s cord as he gently spoke, and glance over at me and my mother, who stood behind me, hands on my shoulders. She would take me into another room when my father was on the phone with Aunt Ebba. I was a little girl then, and the sad tone in my father’s voice would upset me. My mother, with her teal watery eyes, would take my wrist and lead me away.

“Aunt Ebba has that really bad cold again, Liliane. Daddy needs to talk to her to cheer her up,” she’d say as she squatted down in front of me to stroke my hair when I asked why my father was unhappy. Read More

Tokalu

My mother hated that sound. The sound of the gun. It excited me. My tongue dangled out of my mouth and my ears perked up more than usual. My sister Winona and I would scramble toward it. If it caught our mother, Imala, by surprise, she scattered to the den. When Winona and I were kits, we weren’t allowed to venture into town near the people, their dogs, and the gun to watch the greyhounds race. Our mother didn’t like the idea of us wandering over there–even as young adult foxes. When we were kits, Winona and I would sometimes sneak out when our mother was hunting. She often caught us on our way home. She’d lecture us, ramble on about how people are nothing but selfish, inconsiderate, evil-hearted monkeys who believe they rule all land, water, and skies. Our father was shot and killed by a fully-clothed man, who most likely shot him for his fur. He succeeded with the help of his hound dog. Winona and I never met him. We were born shortly after that tragedy took place. When we were older and about ready to be on our own, we did what we wanted. I was often out of the den, journeying somewhere. Mom pretended not to worry when I strayed off and told me that she wanted me to go out and do my own thing, but her nervous habits gave her away. When I told her I was leaving the den, she’d pace, her bushy tail would hang stiff. She’d avoid the subject of my father altogether, even though it was the one thing on her mind whenever I or Winona left the den. It was me she worried about the most. Winona never went too far. My mother didn’t want me to be alone. Sometimes she’d ask if I’d met any nice vixens to settle down with. But I doubted any vixen would be able to handle the things I liked to do. If they were all like my mother and my sister, I thought.  Read More

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

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