The retainer where she was put
Was made of concrete. My father told me they had
Dug the grave first, then poured the concrete in, waited for
It to dry and harden, then hammered in six
Circular spikes in the four corners, two on either side
Of the middle. They lifted the concrete cast out with a crane.
My dad was going to be charged 300 dollars a day for the rental,
But because of the circumstances, Home Depot let us have it for free.
Where was she?
Where had she gone?
Would I see her face again?
Would she want me to
Meet her on the other side of the river?
I answered my cell phone.
"Make sure to bring flower's."
She had been crying. Her voice wavered the way sun light
Does on moving water.
"Make sure to bring flowers," she repeated, "And
That you wear what your father and I bought you."
I nodded my head with the receiver pressed up against my ear.
We both let out a sigh. My mom hung up. I put my phone in my back pocket.
Lately, I had been seeing a shrink about repetition. He liked to use the word cycle.
"Everything is repeated," I would tell him.
"Life is a cycle," he'd disagree so to get me talking.
"Can cycles be identical?"
"Technically not. Some cycles are extremely similar, but no two cycles are
Completely the same. Are two people's lives ever exactly the same?"
"I wouldn't know. I don't know that many people. Maybe."
"You know lots of people, Camden. You have told me about many of your friends."
"Are we talking about the seasons?" I asked, changing the subject, "Like fall, winter, spring, summer? We are born, we live, we die, and we are born again?"
"That's a very natural way of looking at it."
"I know it is." I inhaled deeply, swallowing air and wondered what time it was.
"If you are so sure, why look for validation from me?" He liked this one, I could
tell. I imagined him shopping for clothes and then exploding in aisle 16 because of a sale on jeans.
"The word cycle is used by people too afraid to use the word repetition. Everything is
Repeated for the next generation, the next group, the next of the next of the next. We shift things
Around, give things to one another to shift life to make it look different, but, things remain the same. Everything contains the primal function we were all doing and living from the very beginning, only now, there is more of a separation. Music is still music, words are still words, paintings are still paintings, love is still love, death is still death, only done differently and more intensely."
"We are talking about man furthering technology because we, as people and creatures, are
Statistically more prone to flee than fight?"
"Why do you think it has caught on so quick?" I touched both
Corners of my lips with my tongue and suddenly realized I hadn't eaten breakfast.
"It is a theory," the psych nodded, "A theory with, I am sure, many
Palpable facts you could make a very nice report with to prove...something." He
Was at a lost for words and I felt guilty that my mom was paying him $75 an hour.
"We are very split. There are too many of us. Too many hands spinning the china."
"Who is we Harry?" The psych hadn't looked up from his pen and pad of paper, until now. I could
Tell he was annoyed with me either because he was making no progress or because the session
Had just begun and I was already digging into him.
"Culture. The government. You, me, my dad, my mom, the taco bell cashier, the geniuses at Apple computers, a paper weight, my dead sister. We're all apart of these shifts, all putting in a certain amount of energy and lies to keep the protection of the projection going. The question I keep asking myself is: do I want to use my strengths to be apart of this cycle or not?"
His eyes flared open for a moment like he'd swallowed a firefly, not at the question I had posed for myself, but from what I would soon see was from the mention of my sister. He had something.
"I was notified by your mother that you may not want to talk about your recently deceased sister. Is It O.K. if I ask you some questions about her?"
I was leaning forward on the couch with my hands clasped in between my legs. The psych had looked up at me now. He was sweating at the top of his thin hairline. Observing that I was staring at his building perspiration, he, trying to be nonchalant, took out a thin, white napkin from his grey shirt pocket and dabbed the top of his head. The napkin looked like cheap toilet paper. I'd have offered him some water, but I had no water to give and I didn't know where the sink and cups were to give him any. I figured he did - it was his office - so I asked him for some. He pointed me in the direction of the bathroom. I got up and found a stack of paper cups. I poured myself a cup and went back to the couch, but instead of leaning forward, I sat back, relaxed, and let the expensive leather couch take the weight I had been carrying away.
"So," the psych maintained cooly, "Would it be alright if we were able to discuss your sister?"
I lifted the paper cup over my head and the psych's eyes, after I poured the water over my hair, my face, and clothes, was a mixture of what my mom's eyes looked at the funeral, defeated, confused, and with a loss of faith and hope. My father's eyes had only held hate, anger and the need to lash out at someone, but the only someone that would have fit the bill would have been God.
"Sure," I answered, "Let's talk about my sister."
I finished drying myself in the car. The psych had let me keep the towel.
I leaned out the window to look at myself in the side mirror. I looked fine.
Presentable. Accountable. Like I had been through something where I had
Faced my soul. Like I had used and abused my emotions. There was comb in my glove compartment, so I took it out and rushed it through my damp hair. Slicked back. The sun
Was out, no clouds, burning up the inside of my car. That taste that comes after
Finishing something that's supposed to do you good didn't come. I was left with an unsure hand.
Putting my keys in the ignition, I turned them, and felt the engine rumble in front of my legs.
The sun sat in the sky like a lazy hand and I had nowhere else to go but home.
"Let's go to the river today," my dad said over coffee and two over easy eggs on top
Of burnt wheat toast. "I'll drive and you and your sister can sit in the back and sing."
I looked over at Ally. She was gazing into her fruit bowl she had prepared for
herself because dad didn't understand the concept or how to make it. The lamp light above us
reflected in the smooth apricot yogurt and the flecks of granola scattered on top
looked like beige, jagged rocks. My dad's offer hung in the air and neither
of us bit the lure. I had just woken up and was unable to speak clearly, a decent
excuse. Ally was simply choosing to ignore him.
"What you think there Ally?" I asked her. I sipped my coffee. It needed more cream. I got
U, got it and brought the carton to the table.
"We can take the truck down there and load the back with the fishing poles and tackle
And inner tubes. We haven't...done that...in a long time," he said, chewing his food as he spoke.
Ally poked her fruit bowl with her spoon, silent.
"What you think, Cam?" My dad was desperate. He knew I'd say yes.
"Sure. I've got no plans this weekend."
"It can wait till Sunday. Only math and some reading."
"Ally, what do you think?" my dad asked, leaning over to her. I could see he was
Trying to be as courteous and gentle with her as he knew how to. I felt bad for him.
"Sure," she muttered, "That sounds like fun." I could barely hear her, but somehow,
I could tell she sounded happy.
"Perfect," my dad smiled, "We'll pack the car up Friday,
Drive up Saturday morning early, camp one night, then get back Sunday afternoon." He
Took a long sip of his coffee and swished it around in his mouth, then dug
His fork into the dry toast and ran his small steak knife over the eggs. A silent pop came from
The egg and the light orange yolk spilled out. "Perfect," he repeated, "Just great."
Ally poked a grape from her fruit bowl and dipped it into the yogurt.
I took another sip of my coffee and looked up into the fan, spinning above us.
We were going to the river.
"Your sister turns five today," my mom told me, "And that means
I want you to be on your best behavior."
I nodded, unsure what the point of a birthday was. I had had one before, or at
least I thought I did, and all I remembered was that I got presents and the colorful balloons
and the cake we all ate with fire kind of floating and burning above it. Somewhere
in that moment I remember thinking that the cake was going to catch on fire, then they, everyone,
some that I knew and some people I had never seen before, yelled and shouted to
blow the fire out, so I quickly did, but not because it was for a wish, which I later found out it was supposed to be for, but because I truly thought the cake was going to catch fire and they wanted me to take care of it. At that point, I was unsure what it meant to be alive or why to celebrate it all.
"This is her day, Camden," my father told me, "So I want you to be happy for your sister."
"I am," I said. I was wearing my favorite white and blue striped t-shirt and
New shoes that my mom had bought me for the party.
"Sometimes you have to think of other people," my mother continued, "And today is one
of those days. I don't want any crying because you didn't get any presents or that none of your
friends are at the party. There are going to be a lot of Ally's friends there, but not many
of your's...do you understand?"
"Do you understand, Cam?" My father repeated. His skin was the color of a burnt
pancake and he smelt like stale sugar and sun tan lotion. He was in front of me and was
holding a thin magazine with a man in a boat holding up a fish on a line on the cover.
"Yes, Dad," I said again. I was hungry. I wanted mac n' cheese, my favorite food.
I had been on the floor, laying on my stomach watching Ren and Stimpy. They were standing in front of the television and I remember trying to wish them out of the way. Behind them were two, large bay windows where three palm trees stood in a row like tropical soldiers. I could see there was no wind because the three of them stood still, as if posing for someone. Their leaves were bright green, a mixture of the neon green Jello I used to love to eat and the orange Jolly Rancher my dad would always have in a tiny tray in the middle of the dining table. My mother hated having them there because it always tempted Ally and I, but he never moved it until he moved out.
"Do you like your show?" my mom asked, turning to see what I was watching.
I nodded, absently. Ren was licking Stimpy's eye because he was complaining about having
an eyelash in there. Stimpy was completely still and smiling like he does - dumb and content.
"Interesting..." my mother trailed off. She walked to the kitchen behind the couch and
Opened up the pantry for something. "You hungry, Camden?"
"I'm starving," my dad said, "Let me go check on Ally in the bedroom. She should be up
from her nap."
I got up from my stomach and sat back on my legs, "Do we have mac n' cheese?" I asked.
"Let me check."
She reached up for the cabinet over the stove where I could never reach and
Opened it. I rose slightly up from where I was sitting to see if I could see the glorious dark blue and orange package, but wasn't able to see over couch. I hovered there, still like a humming bird.
"You're in luck," I heard her say, "We've got one box left."
"Yay!" I screamed and got up, running into the kitchen.
"But," she smiled, stopping me, "You'll have to share it with your sister."
"No! I don't want to! I always have to share."
"What did we just talk about Camden?" she said, lightly stamping her foot.
I tried to remember, but couldn't. I shrugged.
"You need to learn to share, Camden. You also need to listen better when your father and I are talking to you. You and your sister are going to know each other a very long time and I want you to learn how to share now, so you two can be happy in the future."
"The future," I asked, "What's that?"
She paused, then said, "It's a time," she paused again, "Ahead of us."
"Do we know where it is?"
"Not exactly," she sighed.
"What's it look like?"
"No one really knows. People can only imagine it."
"Is it very far away?"
She opened the top of the blue and orange mac n' cheese box and poured the dry macaroni into a large silver pot, lifted the faucet, and let it run inside for five or seven seconds. She placed the pot on an unlit burner and turned to look at me. Her eyes looked far away and right there with me.
"Closer then you think," she said and turned the burner on.
I turned into the taco bell parking lot. There was something I was trying to remember that was in my trunk, but I couldn't recall the picture. A haze blew over the windshield that was a mix of heat and wind; I wished to be somewhere else, someone else, someplace else, but, there I was, sitting there underneath the sun, like everyone else. If I was able, I would have unlocked the door to my car and opened the door and walked out - but - there was something else lingering underneath my fingernails, something I couldn't name.
"Two tacos," I said into my hand, "And a water."
"Pull to the window," the voice buzzed over the muffled speaker.
"Yes," I said through my split fingers.
In front of me, over a patch of clean cut green grass and a yellow, red, and orange Taco Bell signature sign, was a fresh gas station with a willow tree bum near the front entrance. He had a sign that hung around his neck that read Juice Please - Very Thirsty. How I knew this was because I had seen it every time I had been asked to fill up my dad's car every other Sunday. I had never given the tree a dollar, yet, I felt that I owed him something. I tried to pull up to the window, but my clutch was grinding and a cloud slunk overhead. I was tired and only wanted to eat.
"That'll be a two twenty-five," the voice said through the thick, clear glass.
"Yes," I said to myself, digging into my wallet for three dollars.
I thrust the three onto the thick plastic platform. A quick sweeping plastic brush pushed the bills toward the asker, and the bills were gone. I had no food. I had nothing. My money was gone and all I had was a gurgling car in front of me and an empty front seat beside me. A pair of clouds waded by my front shield window. A shadow drew itself out in front of me like a nude model. A beep. Sudden and behind me. There was sound. I looked over my shoulder and a black 2013 Cadillac was sitting there, windshield tinted grey, the driver a shadow. I was unsure what to do...so I pulled forward six inches, hoping the offer would be enough. I wasn't in the best neighborhood.
The window to the left of me slid open. An arm erupted forward with a plastic bag,
"75 cents is your change."
The hand dropped three quarters next to the plastic bag. I grabbed the bag with the two tacos and three quarters and quickly wound up my window. The face in front of me was a dangerous blur: smiling, frowning, not caring either way what happened to me next. The hands had gobbled up the three dollars and I was happy to see it go. Who needed money? I tossed the plastic bag onto the passenger seat and sped off two blocks for my grandma's house. Salvation. The holy land. A place with free hot sauce and two dog's that were stolen without paper's. Eden.
"What are you learning right now?" I asked Ally.
She hesitated, then said, "Something to do with science." She paused," Lot's to do with rock's."
"Rocks?" I stammered, not remembering a time when I learned about rocks in school, "What kind of rocks?"
"I don't know," she grinned, looking up at me, "All kinds."
I laughed and kicked a stone into the river. The sun was out and reflected on the water like an unpolished diamond. We had grown up a quarter mile away, but still, it felt foreign to us.
"I like it. There's some things you could see that you would never think to read about it in books."
I had read plenty off books. Most, I took little from, but Ally, I could see, had taken plenty.
"What are you doing in school?" Ally asked me.
"What do you mean?" I