CNF: Levels of Acceptance

I hear you out there. You’re enjoying your night, clinking glasses, knocking forks against plates, and murmuring pleasantries around the table. I wish I could join you. My belly rumbles as the pungent smell of cayenne pepper, lemon and garlic crusted, oven roasted chicken floats up the stairs, down the hall and through the small key hole of the door. I can just taste the thick heap of coagulated sugar sitting at the bottom of the Kool-aid container. 

From my perch on the opposite side of the door, I kneel before the hollow wood and close my eyes. I imagine the red ring the sweet liquid leaves as you raise your glasses to your lips and slurp. Tongue stained, teeth bared as ice crunches between them. 

I take a deep breath in. Is that apple pie I smell? Or has my imagination, overwrought with the need for belonging, begun to invent things? I inhale deeply.

Definitely apple pie, then.

I sigh as I sit back on my haunches, my damp hands pressing against my thighs. My stomach growls again and I turn my head. “And what do you think we will eat?” I ask. 

My brother sits on the floor not too far from me. We don’t use the furniture because that would mean we existed, should we mess things up. He is unbothered, or at least pretending to be, and twiddles his thumbs on his lap. 

“Something,” he murmurs so low I wonder if I imagined it. I imagine a lot. I’m not sure why. I make up stories in my head. I tell myself untruths so real that life doesn’t seem so bad. I turn back to the door and I tell myself a story: They’ll come to the door any second. They will unlock the door. 

The First Level of Acceptance

They won’t be holding paper plates in their hands to force us to feed on the floor like animals. No, they’ll have open palms and open hearts. Generosity will shine from their eyes and they will beckon us forward. Inviting us into their lives. 

The Second Level of Acceptance.

We will rise, eyes wide with gratitude, bellies growling, also in gratitude. We’ll follow them downstairs where two extra place settings have been polished and two extra plush chairs have been drawn. Everyone at the table will stand to their feet.

Are we equals or royalty? I don’t know, but I feel respected. 

The Third Level of acceptance. 

I will reach back and grab my brother’s hand. He’s older but I’m mentally stronger, I know,  and more determined. When we sit, they sit. They’re watching us, waiting as we pick up our utensils, and we smile apologetically, knowing, in our haste to feed our starving bellies, we’ve forgotten our prayers. They don’t mind and we bow our heads, though we are unable to take our eyes off the glistening food. After prayers, they once again wait for us to begin eating. 

The Fourth Level of Acceptance. 

We don’t sit in silence. Oh no, the room grows louder with mirth and converse of past indiscretions and future aspirations. We, my brother and I, tell tall tales and ensnare them with our dreams. Dreams that peg us as more than two black kids whose mother didn’t love them, stuck in the foster care system, locked away in closets, while the ‘real kids’ ate at the dinner table. They’ll look back at us in agreement. “Yes, you’ll make it out,” they’ll say. Their eyes showing they truly believe in us. 

The Fifth Level of Acceptance. 

The story ends there because I’m not sure how the night would go on, not even in my head. I’m never there to see what happens to the family after their meal is over and the forks are crossed. 

Are they crossed? Or are they thrown haphazardly atop the chicken’s carcass or the half eaten bowl of overcooked mashed potatoes? Do they disperse to their respective corners? Do the children help clean up the dishes? Is the mother calling out bedtimes and homework reminders? 

I don’t know this part because they retreat to a section of the house I cannot hear with my little girl ears, no matter how hard I strain. I lean closer to the door. The clink, clink, clink of utensils bounce off the soft walls of my growling belly. I stay there until my toes go numb from the kneeling position.  I want to get up but I’m afraid to miss something, anything. 

A deep timber rings out, the father is saying something in a stern voice. Voices grow closer. The stairs creak under lazy feet. Finally, we have been remembered, I think as footsteps pitter patter across the hall to the door. 

I scramble back, gangly legs too long for my body propel me across the carpet to the place next to my brother. My place they’ve put me in. The key scrapes in the door and I hold my breath, remembering my story, hopeful. The door swings open on old hinges. 

“You better not have been touching nothing,” the woman growls between clenched, red-stained teeth. She sweeps the room with her gaze as if to find something, anything, we’ve stolen, or broken, or to find us as if we’d somehow escaped. We shake our heads. Then the paper plate appears. Just one, for the two of us. 

Level of Acceptance: Zero.

CNF: I’m Not Afraid of Water

Note: I just wanted to preface this and say that I’ve capitalized certain pronouns for a reason. However, I didn’t want to explain to remove the effect until after it’s been read. 

Creative Non-Fiction:

 

I’m Not Afraid of Water

 

“I’m not afraid of water,” I whisper to myself and bend my knees. There aren’t any bugs or leaves in the water, that I can see, and yet I search and search. Procrastinating, as usual. I’m afraid, even though I know that The Sky’s the Limit summer camp is one of the safest places for me to be. I know that no one will hurt me here. They would have no reason to come here. 

They, the caseworkers, always came too late anyway, I felt. They always showed up after I’d already been hit, or kicked, or burned. They always wanted a status update after someone had already pushed me, or pulled a knife, or held me in a grip so tight I couldn’t breathe. You might feel like my anger was misplaced. They could save me. They could use their pen as a weapon and fire it in my defense. I’d be able to leave the wandering hands, and the wandering eyes, and I would be safe. 

Yes, you might come to that conclusion, but I didn’t. It’d been so long since I was able to trust anyone, if I ever could, and I know I would rather they be as far away as possible than to have them near with their false promises. Even I, at twelve years old, knew what weight someone’s word carried. There, standing at the edge of the pool, I wondered why no one ever gave their word to me and kept it.

***

 As the boat pulled us through the water, I stare up at clouds shaped like animals and flowers. The sun winks at me from behind them and I smile in return. Even at six, I know the sun brought happiness, healing, and warmth to the soul. I close my eyes and let the serotonin roll over my skin.

  The wind is heavy, here in the back of the boat, and I think if only a bigger gust would take me away. I think maybe if I step up on the small boat seat, the plastic rocking beneath my tiny feet, the wind might hear my thoughts and whip me up into its arms, taking me away from Them. 

“Hey,” His voice exclaims behind me, as if He read my thoughts. She yanks me away from the edge and my eyes fly open. The hardness in Her eyes, devoid of love, makes me flinch and shrivel into the small life jacket strapped too tightly around my tiny waist.  

“Do you want to go back?” She spat the words out through tight lips. I stare up at her, imagining fangs emerging from behind them. Venom dripping from their tips as She would bare Her teeth at me. She gives me a hard shake, “Do you?” I move my chin slightly and She nods. “Good, now sit down and stay there until I tell you, you can get up.”

I scramble across the boat on unsteady legs and climb into my plastic place, it’s one of those seats that holds a storage area beneath it for valuables or things that need to stay dry, wallets and the like. It’s supposed to lock in place, but He’d messed it up somehow and it never closes quite right.  

I peek a glance at my brother and his face is turned from me, I could see from the set of his shoulders that he was angry at me. That I almost ruined our day. Either that or he was desperately trying not to look at me in case he gets roped into my disobedience and They make him ‘sit down and shut up’, too.

 I stay there, in the seat, using my peripherals to look at the lake around us. I know I can turn my head and look but I’m afraid. I’m a heathen, They say. An animal unable to resist my instincts, and I know it’s true. Sometimes I get so angry I slam my hands down on my thighs until they sting. Sometimes, I’m so mad, I scratch at them until they bleed.

So, I know if I turn my head to look, I won’t be able to help myself. I’ll get up, wishing the water of the lake would take me up and drown me – not really but my imagination is vast, and I could see it. The water filling my mouth and pulling me down, down, down into its dark arms. I know She’ll just stop me again, grabbing me tight until her nails dig deep, breaking the skin. Little beads of blood would appear at the puncture site. It wouldn’t be because She loves me. She would stop me because my death would be hard to explain away as “You know foster kids, they’re just so reckless.” 

***

I’m standing in front of the pool again, having moved closer to the shallow end, taking a deep breath in and expelling it out through my open mouth. ‘I’m not afraid of water,” I whisper again. Duh, I’ve gone camping. “But that doesn’t mean I can swim, stupid.” I know it’s dumb, pretending I can talk to myself, but it comforts me. I am, after all, the only one that cares what I have to say. 

 “Just get…in,” the last word is yelled as I’m picked up and I feel tight arms wrap around my waist, I see it drawing near- the deep end. Ten feet of deep blue water. I shake my head and thrash, elbows and knees bending and jerking spastically. I’m small, although I’m twelve, and my brother is so much bigger than I. Long lanky arms and long lanky legs to match. He’s pretty enough to be a model, everyone says so. I don’t care about that, I just want him to put me down, and he does. 

 My head whips so fast as he catapults me into the air. My legs pull in tight, not into a cannonball, into fear. I hit the surface of the water, but I don’t see the pool. I see the lake. 

***

We’ve released the anchor and the boat is rocking in place. I want to get up from my seat, to lean over the edge and feel the water on my fingertips, but She hasn’t said so yet.  

Him, Her, and my brother are getting the fishing poles ready. A small white bucket of squirming worms sits at my feet. Hooking the bait is my job, my punishment, but what they don’t know is that I love fishing. I like to see that worm fly in the air and bring me back a nice little fishy. I like to see the pulse of the gills as it sucks in air instead of water. I just don’t realize how morbid it all is. 

One after another I’m handed the poles until I receive mine. I don’t put a worm on the hook, just tap, tap, tap at the sharp edge with a fingertip. 

“You can get up. Just stand there for a bit, let us get going first,” He says, His voice quiet, as to not disturb the fish. 

I hide my excitement and turn to the water. Lifting my pole, I pretend to fish, whipping it back and forth with my hands. It was made specifically for a small child. It’s tiny pink reel and lever fit perfectly in my hand. The pole’s long rod is pink with extended silver eyelets that hold the line in place. I swing it back and forth with gusto and this time it snags. I yank it forward a split second later without thinking. 

 A howl fills the air and I turn around so fast the pole almost smacks against the lip of the boat. My brother is doubled over, grasping at the fleshy space between his neck and shoulder. My eyes fill with tears when I see the blood between his fingers. I look quickly to the line hanging from the end of my pole. There, just at the tip of the large hook is a small piece of bloody flesh. 

Everything seemed to move at once. She went to my brother, snatching up at towel on Her way. The man came to me, hatred in His eyes. He speaks but I do not hear what He says. I can only feel the fear building in my chest, freezing me in place. With one hand, He snatches the pole, with its fleshy prize, from my hands. With the other He grabs me under one shoulder. His meaty fingers dig into my underarm, His thumb pressing against my clavicle and I’m off my feet. He tosses me, like a rag doll, into the air and my jaw snaps shut. 

For a moment I wonder if the wind has finally granted my wish, if I’d float away on pillows of clouds. Then I’m falling down, down, down until the water breaks my descent. 

I go under, as you initially do, the life jacket unable to win the battle against gravity. My arms and legs flap, I’m helplessly trying to right myself. The emptiness beneath me threatens to pull me deeper into the darkness. I feel something, a fallen branch maybe, scratch against my leg and I panic, kicking at it, at anything. The life jacket finally does its job and my head is propelled above water. I sputter, expelling murky lake water, my eyes burning from the strain to stay open and alert underneath it.

***

I open my eyes under the pool water, the chlorine stinging at the corners. I try to stay calm. I’ve been here before, but I thrash a bit, unable to control my limbs. Remembering what I’d seen the other campers do, I make like a frog. Kicking my legs out and bending at the knee. With my arms, I push the water down, down, down, hoping the momentum will keep my head above water. It does.  

I take a deep breath and dive my head under. I move like I’d seen swimmers do in the movies, pushing my arms in front of me and then back to my hips, kicking my feet up and down. I felt the air on my heels as I kicked, though I was sure all of me was supposed to be under water. My chest burns as I tried to hold the air in. Finally, there it is, the side of the pool. I grasp it like a life line and pull myself up. 

My brother’s there, whooping and hollering, excited he taught me to swim, I’m sure. “You did it,” he yelled. I’m angry. How had he forgotten? How could he forget? I never forgot, I think. I will never, ever, ever forget the lake 

***

I sat, bent at the waist, with my chest touching my knees. Taking in small breaths so as not to bend further, I pray to the sun,‘Bring back the warmth’. My teeth chatter so hard I think I might grind them to dust. 

After reaching in and effortlessly yanking me from the water, the man had thrown open the plastic seat. He’d revealed the small storage space beneath it and gestured to me. “Sit. Now,” He growled, barely contained wrath seething just beneath the surface.

Small for my age, at six, I was able to fold myself down. My heels brushed the bottom of the boat, the seat of the plastic chair drug into the back of my head. The metal top of the storage box dug grooves into my lower back, causing bruises that will one day save me, us. He’d thrown something on top of the seat. I can’t see what it is but it’s heavy. With every rock of the boat, as we speed to the dock, the seat digs deeper and deeper into my back. 

Later, no one fetches me from the boat. The ride back to Their home is spent alone, in the wild of the wind, at the mercy of the highway. Even once we reached Their house, a small off-white building with red borders, They get out of the truck and escape without me.  

My brother comes to get me sometime later. I hear him clambering into the boat with his bony limbs. He lifts the seat from the clutches of my back, and I look up at him.  

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” I say, or whisper, and he nods. I can’t tell if there is pity there, or anger, or frustration. I take in a full breath, for the first time in what felt like days, and flinch. It hurts to breathe, hurts to move, hurts to think. The marks on my legs hurt, I can’t see them, but I feel them burn as I unfold myself.  

“I’m sorry,” I say as my eyes tear up due to the pain. We carefully climb down from the boat. He nods again but doesn’t turn back to look at me. He leads the way to the house, and I trail behind him on fawn’s legs. 

I wonder if I’ve received my full punishment or if the other side of the door holds more pain. I wonder if the bruises will ever heal or if I will have a permanent mark. I wonder if Rosa, our caseworker, will come to save us this time. 

I look at the back of my brother’s head. I wonder if this is when he starts hating me, because I know he will, just like everyone else. 

 

 

 

 

Good Readdance,
Jade

Book Review: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

wanderersbychuckwendig
One of the greatest things about reading is that when you’re truly drawn in you slack off on everything else. This book is roughly 800 pages. I read it in under two days. At one point, I didn’t eat, take a break or go to the restroom. That’s how awesome I found this book. I can think of many adjectives that could show how I felt but I won’t add them here, for ramblings sake.

I would definitely suggest this book. It actually gave me some Stephen King vibes. I wouldn’t say it touches horror or suspense, but in the actual structuring of the novel. The way it bounces back and forth between important characters, the chapter length, the character development. I must say, Benji, (Dr. to you, thank you) is my favorite character! The plot was also right up my alley, bit of intrigue, bit of romance, loads of death. Yum. I must admit, I’m a big sucker for disaster movies and books. I like to see the first movies of civilization after it all begins to fall apart. I loved the ending of this book and there’s no doubt that you’ll like it as well. If not, I don’t know what’s wrong with ya! Or you can just write in the comments and let me know your thoughts.

Also, I don’t want to say that I’m biased, because the book was fantastic but I love several of his other books as well. Zeroes was one of the first books that I read by him and I thought it phenom! I also really liked Blackbirds, which is the first book in his Miriam Black series. I have two others in the series and one in ebook (I believe) but haven’t read them yet. He also writes a series of Star Wars books! If you’re into that sort of thing, check those out as well!

If you have any book suggestions or any reviews you’d like to see here, let me know!

Good Readdance,

Jade

Link

Caribbean Festival Shooting

Caribbean Festival Shooting

There they were

scattering like roaches

Filling spaces between tents

 

Pop

Pop

Pop

 

One way in and one way out

Roaches with long arms and legs

Running for their lives

 

The sides fold down like paper

Green spikes of night rise up

Barbed wire bending

 

Crumpling beneath fingers

A hole made from nothing

Pop

 

One way in and one way out

Back the way they came 

A lost one unable to hear the maternal cries

 

“Please make way for the ambulance, someone is hurt”

It repeats though ignored

Steps slow

 

Sweaty clown faces 

Red tinted legs

Huddle tightly on a long trek back

 

Slowly moving 

Silence stretching

Reappear in tomorrow’s light? 

Led Me Here

After graduating from high school, it took me four years to move from Missouri to Florida. Four years to get away.

Being left behind scares me, still. 

Catapulted from the present to the past, I’m often held prisoner by my mind. 

Don’t let me go. 

Ever felt like you’re so happy you can’t do anything but cry? Tears of true joy fall, deep breaths get deeper, teeth like piano keys. It’s a wild look of jubilance. 

Fall in love. 

Girls should close their legs. Don’t let the man in, don’t let the Devil in, she said. 

How do you move an immovable object?

Isn’t it funny how leaving doesn’t always mean you’ve left? 

Just in case you didn’t know, contrary to your words, I know I can. 

Kites wave wildly through the wind in Missouri. Like Dreams, they snap free, and in their free fall they die. 

Let me go, please. Please?

My mind is a mystery to me. Often times I wonder if I’m too stupid to understand or if I’m just brilliant. 

Not everything the light touches is good. 

Obviously, things go well. They aren’t always bad. It ebbs and flows. Well, it ebbs more than it flows. At least it used to. Lately, the flow has pulled me along on a litter made from my hopes and dreams. There they are again…dreams. 

Possibly a good time to stop here as the further I fall into this deep hole the further I’d have to climb myself back out, later, when I’m lucid. Lucid? Lucidity? Ludicrous? Lame? Liar? Layered? Lucid.

Q …

R…

S…

T…

U…

V…

W…

X…

Y…

Z…

The words fill me up but I can’t make them come out. 

They strangle me, dark tendrils of ink wrap around my neck and fill my throat. Fill me up starting at my mouth, working down to my toes and out from underneath my nails. 

However, I can’t continue. The letters sit in their jar, waiting for me to put them in order, to assign them a meaning. 

Later, when I’m lucid.

Hometown

Home Town
Thick, glazed, grilled

Dark meat with burnt tips

Sweet mustard

Honey dippings

Sticky fingers

 

Wide sweeping pavement

Tall gargoyle like structures

Fountains made of hopes and dreams

Thick forests of green

Expansive fertile lands

 

Blue, green, yellow city streets

Music of the blues

Storefronts oen to canvased walls

Brick red schools

Metal bridges, glistening heat

 

Thick smog

Painful ice rain

Wispy winds that kill

Mounds of cold marshmallows fill streets

Booze hoppers in clogged feet

 

An Ode to Iris Giana

An Ode to Iris Giana

 

The pain was too much

It’s shard-like fingers tight around my limbs.

Stabbing through my heart

Spearing through my belly.

 

The fear held me fast

My mind on what would come next.

I could barely keep still

Hardly unexpected.

 

Just as I felt alone

He arrived and his face said it all.

I held back my tears

He held onto my hand,

 

And then you were there

Born before your time with wide open eyes.

Your tiny paper thin nails

Your soft translucent skin

 

Told you “I love you” before it was too late

So your soul would always know

Our hearts will always hold you

Although the pain is still too much