We are draped over the bottom of a small 14’’ fishing boat turned upside down in the driveway and the boat’s insides are empty of seats where we would normally sit and there are open and abandoned nests of insects that we cannot identify, and others that we can identify, like the wooly white cocoons of feed of spider or birth of butterfly, the webs all look identical in the right light.
The sun is on our chests, it’s on our bellies and we have our shirts open and up and cocooned around our necks and we barrel our faces into them like pillows. We want our chests to be touched. We want to be directed to take our clothes off. We want to be naked in the sunlight draped across the back of the boat. We want to be told what to do. We take our shirts off. We feel hands all over us; we want hands that slap, that slap us red like the sun. We will open our pants, too, if you want us to.
Boys have been taught, from a young age, that you start at the chest when you want to get sexy, you say, this is how you get all riled up. You put your hands on our chests.
We boys, have been taught, to let the woman always want it more. Let her put her hands on our chest first, let her guide everything along.
Mother finds us draped across the boat, hands on each other’s chests, going down each other’s pants. Mother finds us all balancing on the edge of the boat, our bodies barely touching, our fingertips holding each other’s flesh for dear life, here is how we teeter and totter. Mother sees spiders in our hair, swats at our heads, misses our left eye but clocks our temple good. She shakes us and yells at all of the boys and all of the girls to leave at once. Immediately. NOW.
And everyone leaves and we put our shirts on and we look at the ground and kick the weeds, the dandelions’ pistils blow every direction but towards us. We forget to make a wish, as proper on dandelions’ pistils, the seeds in every direction tell us nothing of the future.
We rock the boat until we see insects. We sit on the ground where there is a large insect is desperately trying to escape an anthill it blindly flopped itself down on top of. There are too many ants to fight off. The insect just wiggles and wiggles, unable to escape from being eaten alive.
Mother says “C’mon, we’re leaving.” And she grabs our arms and tries to pull us to the car. We do not get up to walk. We lay in the dirt letting her pull our dead weight.
This is what is like to pull a dead body, we think. Pull our dead body. We are a corpse. We are pulled through the weeds, through the dandelion seed, through the hard grass and the ant hills where the unlucky insects are sectioned off and sent down the tunnel for a future winter’s meal. We are pulled by our arms to the car, dirt smeared into the sides of our clothes, gravel in our mouths, down the long driveway. When Mother begins to try to pick us up to be put into the car, we stiffen our bodies, a layering of one stiff body on top of another horizontally in the backseat.
We ride in the backseat like a trifle dessert, in a glassed cage for all to see. We are forgetting where we are going. We are sunburned on our chests and it hurts against the plastic of the seats in the car. When the car finally stops and the doors open from either side, we peel our chest from the seats and it makes a long suction sound like a fart and Mother does not think it is funny. We are forced to walk upright and not slide along at our Mother’s side by the arms and we walk slowly and with great care. Mother is telling us to move along, that she won’t have anymore of it, that we are old enough to know better, that she is disappointed in us.
We are forced to walk to all of the other boys and girls houses and talk to their parents and tell their parents what had happened on the back of the upside down fishing boat that afternoon. We were forced to confess and apologize. Repent and forgive. All wewant is your forgiveness, we are sorry we did what we did, we are so very sorry.
The next day, we are rubbing aloe on our chests to make the sunburn cool and soothe, which it does but only in moments. We are not sorry and we do not believe we have done anything wrong. We are boys trying to be men, we are women trying to be girls. The phone rings and Mother says aloud, without answering: “Please pray for my children so they do not become sex fiends.”
The Reign of Evil Will Be Seven Years
We are shuffled to Andi’s house for the third time in two weeks and her parents are never home so we are alone and we are tired. Brother has gone off to make a sacrificial alter in the barn in back of Andi’s house because Andi’s house is a converted barn in one or way or another and Andi has a barn in the back of her house with silos and stalls for animals and vast amounts of chickens that she has to single-handedly move from the coops every single time a storm blows through, like last night. We help her move the chickens back into the coops, the last four structures slightly damaged by fallen limbs from the trees surrounding the house. We take those chickens back inside.
Brother is making an alter in which to sacrifice us on, he says and he shows his fangs, bright white plastic Made-in-China from the Dollar Tree down the road. His white plastic fangs do not fit correctly, not made for such a wide mouth, and you can see the upper half of his yellow teeth peeking through. He hisses at us.
He says he knows a spell already. He says that he and his friends stole a book from the library in the city about spells and alters and magic. He says they know what they are doing, that he understands the dark overlords and their powers.
Everything gets sacrificed somehow, Andi says to him when we are holding up two ends of a board that she is nailing into the coop to cover a hole. Everything is a sacrifice.
The False Belief of Good in People
In the night Joanna was taken. Joanna was taken by Our Other Friend’s father. Our Other
Friend’s father had tried to touch her at a sleepover last year but no one told because
Our Other Friend’s father had given us cigarettes or, at the very least, turned a blind eye to us taking the cigarettes and smoking them way out in the woods in the sailboat graveyard that connected Joanna’s house and our own. Our Other Friend’s house was on the other side of the woods, acres and acres away, but in the middle the sailboat graveyard was where we would meet and spend all day, sometimes.
But Our Other Friend’s father, he never liked to leave the house much and would always get nervous if Our Other Friend was gone too long. He didn’t like anyone being at the house except Joanna and I and when we were there getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom he would look just a little too long at our shorts or our collar bones or the way our throats went up and down when we drank. He would lean into Our Other Friend close and whisper things that made her blush. He whispered like a lover into Our Other Friend’s ear. Joanna and I would always end up leaving quietly and quickly, with not so much as a good-bye or thank you. We would see Our Other Friend in the sailboat graveyard soon enough.
No one else hung out in the graveyard but us, even though everyone knew that was where the fisherman from the shore of the lake would abandon their boats and oars and anchors and things once they were of no use anymore, rotten and dead. There were boats that looked as if they metastasized and morphed, boats that looked as if they had given birth to other deformed versions of itself. There were boats the size of our bikes and boats the size of our houses. There were boats half in function, broken down and forgotten. There were boats like tumors.
One time Joanna and I saw Our Other Friend’s father in the sailboat graveyard but we hid before he could figure out it was not an animal. He waited a long while before heading back to the direction our house. We wondered why he was out there, so quiet and so crouched. When we asked Our Other Friend about it, she just shrugged, her face turning red.
“He must’ve been looking for me,” she said, “but I dunno why, I was at home.”
Joanna was taken in the morning while she was getting ready for school, getting ready for the bus as the bus picks her up last before moving across the bridge. Her curling iron was still plugged in and on, melting the plastic toothbrush holder next to it so far into itself that it pushed all the bottoms of the toothbrushes together and made one giant plastic mess when the police came to look over the house. She wasn’t on the bus, didn’t make it to school, no forced entry, no sign of any wrongdoing. She had simply vanished. She was simply gone.
Everyone’s father are suspects, too many children gone missing these past years, too many sick people in this town the newspaper will say. Our father will be interviewed and released on the same day. Our Other Friend’s father will be the last to be interviewed. He will be charged and convicted. He will hymn-and-haw about knowing the whereabouts of the body or what exactly happened that afternoon. He will never tell the truth.
You Make Such Better Decisions Than Me
Matthew is arrested and re-arrested and subpoenaed and arrested and detained by the referee and brought in to see another judge and released on bond and arrested again and again and again.
Andi speaks in whispers and low tones over the phone to anyone that will listen. She wants the world to understand that Matthew will never change. Here is her stomach distended, this pure beating heart, she hears it every single time they go to the clinic and Matthew is disinterested, moody and unreliable.
I heard Matthew had a gun on him when they re-arrested him the second time but I don’t know. They served him the warrant and arrested him the same day. I don’t understand what goes on in that boy’s head, we have a baby on the way for christssake.
Andi understands, in as much as she can, that this will be her life forever. She understands that, no matter what that life will not be easy. Matthew will always be this way, he will always struggle to live. She does not want to have to struggle to live. She hadn’t dropped out of high school yet but every day was a struggle to get there and Matthew takes her car and leaves her stranded in the trailer park.
Matthew took my car and they found it because I had to call the police and report it stolen and I hate doing that but what the hell else am I supposed to do? I can’t get out of here without my car and I have to go to school, its my only priority right now, I have to graduate, I have to.
Leave, Andi. Andi knows she can’t stay here her whole life like this. Leave, Andi. She knows that what has happened is a huge mistake but she can’t undo it now it’s too late. Leave, Andi. It’s never too late, my mom keeps telling me, it’s never too late but I’m like yes it is it is too late I have to we have to Matthew and I have to raise this baby and Matthew needs to get his head out of his asshole and realize this because I can’t live here for the rest of my life, I just can’t, it’s just too much, nothing will ever change for us here.
Andi hears a knock and hangs up the telephone without saying good-bye. She runs to the side door next to the bedroom because there are two doors on the side of the house, both equally as front, so there is no front door but two side-doors to get into the narrow trailer. She hears the knock and asks, “Who is it?” even though she knows perfectly well who it is.