Last Seen

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The hardware store assistant led Amy and her new fiance Eric into the materials section of the Decor-A-Home store. “Now do you guys want a bed frame that’s made of wood…”

“Too expensive,” Eric muttered. Their price range was tight, but a turquoise Hermes saddle bag hung from Amy’s arm. Though it could’ve been a birthday gift, the store assistant took it as an invitation to up sell.

“Wood is more sturdy. It lasts generations, and if you get a classic style, then it will never be out of fashion.” The assistant looked to Amy. Amy had a long, pointed chin that didn’t match her squinted eyes or tomato-like nose. She hefted her bag higher on her shoulder and turned to Eric.

His clean-shaven face was round and baby-like. He had slicked back his hair with gel to appear older, but it wasn’t working. Amy placed her slender hand on his forearm. “Maybe we could splurge, just a little. For the children or grandchildren. We could pass the bed frame down for generations.”

“Like your bag?” he asked. 

Amy withdrew her hand and turned to the store assistant. “We’ll see your other material options please.”

“What about wicker? Beach themes are all the rage.” The assistant lead them further through towering stacks of planks and boards and screws. “The wicker can come in any color you want and is more flexible.”

This time Amy gauged Eric’s reaction more closely. What she saw is impossible to say because his face didn’t change.

The assistant pressed on. “We also have metal, a very popular choice right now.”

Eric glanced at the metal poles and checked his watch. He had an appointment soon, one that couldn’t be rescheduled. “Metal works. Now can we pick a style?”

“Actually, first we’ll go through the paint shop and pick a color.” The assistant led them into the next room. It was basically a bright gymnasium overwhelmed with people. Sunlight flooded the room from windows up high. On the two walls and the floor, the room gradually transitioned through every possible shade of one color to shades of the next one until the rainbow (plus black, white, and gray) was completed.

Eric grabbed his forehead as if the colors had given him a migraine. “Amy, you pick. I’ll go on to styles so we can get out of here faster.”

The assistant was supposed to stop him. She was supposed to stay with the guests at all times. But she’d had a rough day. So she’d say the guest was in the bathroom. Sometimes you can’t keep up with everyone.

“I’m going to the blues.” Amy called as she disappeared into the teeming crowd of store assistants and customers.

The assistant bobbed and weaved trying to keep up, but she’d lost sight of Amy. In a store as big as Decor-A-Home, it was easy to lose someone. The assistant took a breath and spun slowly, scanning every inch of the blue area. When she was satisfied that Amy’s pointy chin wasn’t there, the assistant moved on to the next color and the next, systematically. Protocol told her that she should use the intercom to find Amy, but the assistant couldn’t afford another negative mark. Maybe Amy had gone to the bathroom.

The restroom was filled with women but not Amy. The next best option was to find Eric. He would know where his wife had run off to. The assistant did one last sweep before moving onto style.

Eric was standing right where he said he would be. He’d found a beautiful scroll pattern frame. “Will you tell Amy that I want this one in dark brown? I’m sure she’s already picked out an absurd pastel color.”

“Actually, I don’t know where she went. She said she was going to the blue section, but I couldn’t keep up with her.” The assistant tried to keep her face blank and her tone casual. If she panicked, then so would Eric. 

“Amy likes to run off. I’ll check and meet you here.” 

Before the assistant could object, Eric was speed walking back to the paint section. The assistant found contentment in the fact that Eric was all business. Then five minutes passed with no sign of his return. Making sure to stay in sight of the scroll frames, the assistant edged towards the paint shop. 

After ten minutes, she went looking for Eric. Young couples, old ladies, and families with fussy kids all perused the paint section. They got in the way. The assistant pulled aside one of her coworkers and gave a short description of the customers she was looking for. No luck. 

She had to go to the intercom. Keeping her eyes peeled the entire way, the assistant went to the center of the store, lifted the radio for the intercom, and asked Eric and Amy to report to the store center. The assistant dreaded the conversation she’d be having with her boss later. At least she’d be able to get this couple helped and move on. But they didn’t come. After ten minutes, the assistant came over the intercom again urging the couple to meet with her. Maybe they were talking and hadn’t heard. Maybe the intercom system had sounded gravely the first time.

Ten more minutes passed and no one came. The assistant went to the registers. Five were open plus a self-check out section. She gave a detailed description to every attendant. No one had seen Eric or Amy. 

“Are you sure?” the assistant asked the man at self-check out. 

“Yeah. They could’ve decided this store’s too expensive or that they’d come back another time.” He said this doubtfully. Usually people would have the assistant escort them out rather than run away.

Eric didn’t seem like the running away type. 

“And you tried the intercom system?” the worker asked.

“Twice.” 

“Then that’s all you can do. If they come through, I’ll let you know. It’s not like they’re in danger.” 

“Yeah.” The assistant convinced herself that Eric and Amy were capable adults who had probably just left. Then the assistant helped five more customers before the end of the day, luckily avoided a talking to about losing guests, and forgot about the couple.

A week later the missing persons report came out.    

Island of the Lost

foggy, lost, island
Image via Gabriela Palai from Pexels

Lampless light bulbs floating in the sky illuminate the island of the lost. People rarely lose lamps. Of course, there are objects: eye glasses, sports balls, jewelry (a whole garden of glittering gems). But there are also ghosts. For example, whenever someone loses their pride, a piece of that person comes here. Don’t worry. You won’t miss that part of you. It’s just an image that flickers and glides around. A snapshot of how you looked and how you felt before.

When people lose their health, it comes here also. Health is a blue pulse of light that wedges itself between old t-shirts to waste away.

And yes, there are memories. Every memory that you forgot appears here. Packed tight in jars, they drift in the ocean, sometimes washing up on shore. No one is here to open them, not anymore.

The only things that don’t come here are souls. This is not the afterlife. When you lose a person, their body stays on Earth. If I knew what happened to the soul, it would ease both of our minds.

This island used to be home to the Rememberers. We were charged with remembering all that time forgot. We were immortal spirits who brought back the lost things ourselves. Then a few individuals, discontented with being forgotten by Earth, wrote a spell, a powerful spell. It made that which is lost arrive on the island automatically. It made us totally obsolete. Time had no need for us, and we forgot ourselves.

What happens to things forgotten on the island? They revert back to what they were before, star dust. Then that star dust is used again.

I do not want to be star dust, so I tell our story. I tell it to save myself, the history of my people, and the memories. There are so many good, happy memories around the island. People rarely forget the bad ones.

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Hair Loss

hair loss
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Dark brown clumps of hair paint the shower walls.

They slide down

to clog the drain.

Stress. Stress can do this.

But so can disease and genes.

Stress. I stress too much.

Maybe it’s all in my head, each hair clinging

to my skin, snaking around my arms and legs.

I ignore it.

 

More hair wraps around my fingers as I slip conditioner through the tangles.

This is real.

I swap out my shampoo.

I take up yoga.

 

My friends notice.

They stop telling me that it’s stress.

Scalp peeks through no matter where I flip the part,

no matter how carefully I pull the strands back.

I see the doctor,

receive a diagnosis,

pop pills.

 

Strands keep falling from the follicle;

they break in half.

I count each individual hair,

measure the circumference of my ponytail,

measure my worth.

 

Type “bald” into Google.

Find men or cancer.

Type “beauty” into Google.

Find hair.

November Writing Update 2018

It has been awhile since I gave an update on my writing, so I figured it was time for another post. This past summer I worked as an intern proofreading articles for the Police Chief magazine at the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Alexandria, Virginia. For those of you who don’t know, Alexandria is very close to Washington DC. It was an amazing experience! I learned more about publishing, about criminal justice issues, and about Chicago style. I love the DC area and hope to move back there in a few months.

As far as writing projects, I started working on my senior honors thesis at the beginning of August and have been spending nine hours a week researching, reading, and writing about the Harry Potter series, the wizarding criminal justice system, and Britain’s criminal justice system in the 1980’s-early 2000’s. I might talk more about my thesis another time. I hope to get it published to contribute to the growing scholarship about Harry Potter.

Speaking of publishing, this year I published a flash fiction piece in Z Publishing’s Kentucky’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction. I’m excited to say that it’s my first published fiction piece.

Overall, it has been a busy and exciting year. My writing goal for the last two months of 2018 is to focus on editing my novel, The Matter Bend.

Voluntary Purgatory

grave, purgatory
 

We wait:

staring at laminated infographics plastered around the doctor’s offices;

staring at our phones, holding our breath and hoping to receive a text.

We wait:

rereading the inspirational poster stuck to the ceiling, hoping the dentist’s drilling will end soon;

counting down the days to the next holiday, the next vacation, the next party.

We wait

for that person we like to say something first.

We wait

til the alcohol kicks in before we admit to our feelings.

We wait

until they’re gone to tell them how we feel.

Better to wait for the right time,

wouldn’t want to look stupid.

Rock Bottom

Droplets of water clung to the window screen, suspended in a row like mini planets. The rumbling of thunder from the retreating storm was faint, more of an echo. Outside, yellow police tape marked off the edge of the trees. I couldn’t see her body from my bedroom, but less than a yard away were the tread marks from the gurney. The police found her too late. Hell, maybe the Amber Alert was too late.

Cause of death: Suicide. Not self-induced asphyxiation. Too personal. Don’t want to give other teenagers ideas. But I saw the police carry the rope to the car. It was yellow, the kind you’d use to hang a kid’s swing. It looked ordinary.

We’d graduated high school together only a month ago, survived teenage torment. I hadn’t lived it yet, but somehow real life seemed worse. No safety nets, only rock bottom. We were baby birds jumping out of the nest praying to God we wouldn’t fall. Not hard to imagine how someone would crack under the pressure. If we all die, why endure the struggle?

***

I asked my parents for black-out blinds. I stopped looking out the window, avoided all windows actually. Each day I passed the police tape. The investigation closed quickly. The tape had been abandoned, forgotten. Maybe they left it up as a deterrent, so kids wouldn’t go in the woods. Maybe no one wanted to remove it.

Three Places

St. Louis, places, location

Bustle of the District

where people rush around in suits.

So much to do, work hard, play hard, focus and accomplish a lot.

 

Calm Kentucky

with rolling hills

and space to hear yourself think.

Where the focus is family

and marriage

and hospitality.

 

St. Louis, the island, the small town city mutation.

Comfortable, but not safe downtown.

Diverse, but not progressive.

 

The distance is difficult.

Far from family and friends.

An adjustment.

But it’s freedom.

Freedom from memories that hold like quicksand.

Freedom from that box of other peoples’ expectations.

A new perspective, a chance to find me outside of them.

Like Sisters

Image via cherylholt from Pixabay

The dust settled on the pitcher’s mound as the boys cleared the field. The drone of “Good game, good game, good game,” drifted back behind the metal bleachers where two girls squatted over a tube of lipstick. Dirt stuck to the black, marbled exterior of the tube. The older girl popped the lid off, revealing an outrageously red stub. She raised it to the younger girl’s lips.

“What do you have?” The mother’s harsh voice cut through the chatter of boys reuniting with their families.

The older girl held the tube out to her mom. “We want to wear it.”

The mom capped the lipstick and tossed it into the trashcan on the end of the bleachers. “That’s yucky.”

“But why?”

“You could get a disease. You can’t share make-up.”

The girls didn’t have make-up yet, only soda and candy flavored chapstick. “Are they in trouble?” The older girl’s brother snickered.

“Mind your own business.” The younger girl pouted.

The brother’s eyebrows scrunched. “Butt out, Anna.”

“Hey! Be nice.” The mom snapped. “No, they’re not in trouble.”

The older girl stuck her tongue out when the mom wasn’t looking. The brother shoved her and Anna. “Don’t be a baby, Anna.”

Anna’s puppy brown eyes grew wide. “I’m not a baby. You’re only a year older than me.”

“So?”

The older girl pinched her brother’s boney arm. “Leave her alone.”

“You’re not mom.” The brother sneered.

She pinched harder. “No, I’m worse.”

The brother rolled his eyes, but he apologized and rejoined the other boys. Anna hugged the older girl, surprising her. “Thank you,” Anna said. The older girl patted Anna’s head; maybe they would be close friends. Like sisters.

Losing Reality

Staring at the mirror and knowing

that she could

so easily

slip.

She likes the letting go

and the bravery

and the party.

She likes people wanting her

(who doesn’t)

but she likes the jolt before

the touching hands

and the way the girls

just grab hers,

rest their heads like it’s nothing.

Flirt like it’s nothing.

Kiss like it’s nothing.

And maybe it is.

Can’t it just be playing?

 

She feels the pull,

the dangerous addiction to excitement and numbness and nothing.

To Survive

Ella Andrews burned it because she had to. She snuck out after most of the girls in her boarding home were asleep. The books felt smooth and thick in her ungloved hands. Though it was the dead of winter, she wanted to touch them as she let them go.

Several blocks down the street stood the grove. The smells of dew and mud mingled with the pages. Knowing the sticks would be too wet to light, Ella had brought her own logs. She only used magic to dry the ground, a circle for the fire. This had to be a human act. It was humans who were driving her to burn the grimoires.

It took time to start the flames. Her hands being numb from cold didn’t help. She wanted to quit, to lock her books away. But that wouldn’t be good enough. If they were hidden, they would eventually be found.

The pages crinkled, folding in on themselves and burning brown to black. Ella couldn’t look away. Spells from her ancestors became lost to memory. She was the only one who knew all of them, the last in her line. And in that moment, she knew they would die with her. It was too dangerous to teach magic to anyone unrelated. Plenty of witches had turned in exchange for amnesty. You couldn’t be too careful.

Ella watched until the fire burned itself out. Then she ground the ashes into the mud and planted flowers on top of them, a few irises. Using an invisibility spell, she made sure no one traced her movements. In bed that night, she could feel the weight of her ancestors’ sorrow pressing on her. But she ignored them. She had done the right thing.

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