"Happy, Happy, Happy"
from Smokelong Quarterly, Issue 65, September 2019
It’s not what Jane should be doing, but it’s what she is doing. Standing on the periphery of the children’s subsection of the cemetery. Emoji mylars on plastic sticks and stuffed bears made sad by weather. Jane is there with a man who built a sitar for her husband (a fucking sitar!). The man’s jeans are around his ankles, as are hers, and she sees the “Hope is the thing with feathers” tattoo on his thigh, which makes her hate herself for having chosen him.
Hope was never a thing with feathers. Guilt is the thing with feathers. It flaps around and eats your grass seed. She would say that out loud to the man if she thought he would get it, but no one gets the things that she says. It’s not that they are complex or funny or even interesting. It’s just that she has always been the person at weddings who cannot or maybe just will not dance when “Dancing Queen” comes on and everyone else is dancing….
"Only a Little Bit Less Than I Hate Myself"
From Longleaf Review, August 2019
I’m six months out from my divorce, and my son Franklin and his boyfriend Alonso are waiting with me in an Outer Sunset restaurant kitchen with a sound guy, a cameraman, and a chef. I do a morning show (“Mornings On 2!”), which is not something I ever thought I’d do, but who can predict the future? Anyway, my producer thought it would be cute to have my high school son and his boyfriend cook something for a Mother’s Day piece, and then at the last minute, literally, I’m standing there with two uncracked eggs in my hand next to a chef in a chef’s hat, which is way too on the nose but whatever, and my producer calls and says, “Oh, by the way, you know that author, the blabby memoir dude, Karl Knaus-whatever the fuck his name is, something Scandinavian, he’s going to make the egg shit with you. Sorry. He’s on a book tour. I couldn’t get out of it. It’ll be great!”
Yes, I knew who he was. For the two years prior to our separation, my ex-husband read every word of Knausgård’s endless volumes, and our conversations went like this: “What woman would be granted this ridiculous amount of page space to spew minutia?” (No woman.) “You barely speak. Why would you be drawn to someone who can’t censor his banal thoughts?” (Can’t explain it.) I saw Knausgård’s bookback face more than I saw my husband’s, which at that point was fine, I guess. It had been eighteen years. We were sick of each other and past being sad about it….
"Dead? Yes, Dead"
from Okay Donkey, August 2019
Ellen grew up in a Colorado town where her mother cleaned people’s vacation homes, where Ellen and her brother spent off-season afternoons breaking in and drinking the beer of strangers, while snow piled up on decks and driveways. She didn’t do much better as a college student at a weird little high plains school. She sang in a band, but was bad at it. She regretted all her tattoos. She almost never talked to her mother. She dropped out and moved in with a man in Boulder who built lutes (productive), but also did meth (not). Her brother took a job in Bangkok. When he called it was noisy and disjointed, and she hung up feeling worse and looking out at the mountain that pushed up to the sky. Was she depressed? Sure, usually. Did that make her special? No, not at all.
So in the summer of 2018, Ellen left her life completely. She was 23, unbeholden to anyone, tired of the people she knew, the servers, the skaters, the punks, the trust funders, the post-grad-schoolers, the drum circle assholes, all of them, and maybe herself most of all. Her hair was a faded Manic Panic turquoise, and she shaved it in a gas station bathroom halfway between home and somewhere else. In the rippled mirror, she looked altogether new.
"Corvids and Their Allies"
from Triquarterly, Summer/Fall 2019
Sasha Morningstar legally changed his name to Michael on his eighteenth birthday in the Mendocino County Courthouse while holding the hand of his younger sister, Moonbeam Lark, who though thirteen and not old enough to change her name, now went exclusively by Hannah.
They had not been raised in the standard way of parents raising children. Rather, when he was nearly five, Sasha, now Michael, was taken by his mother from the apartment they shared with his father at 25 Sutton Place in New York, overlooking the East River, and loaded into the back of a van and driven by strangers straight across the country. He remembered that journey in pieces, like a flipbook: sleeping with his leg against his mother’s and his head against the van’s metal back door, and looking out the small submarine window at the sky and the tops of tall things in some eastern city; his mother racing out of a gas station in Kansas with an armload of boxes of Saltines, her hair a pack of snakes behind her head; stopping at the house of someone they maybe knew or maybe didn’t know in the middle of Nevada where they swam in a kidney-shaped pool until they heard coyotes and the sun was completely down…..
from Pidgeonholes, June 10, 2019
This was in grad school when my apartment was the first floor of a house next to a man who became newly convinced every night around 3 AM that someone was setting him on fire. He screamed the same guttural scream over and over, and the fire truck rolled up because he called them, so they had to. The man’s apartment occupied the back of a pink stucco house, which, though entirely in decay, was somehow also a little hopeful and wistful because of the pink. I liked looking at it from the bay window in my apartment’s living room, though less so at 3 AM when the firefighters landed their boots in my rectangle of vegetable garden and the man who thought he was being set on fire was flat on the grass and his screams subsided and then the firefighters guided him to his screen door with its scroll-work iron S that likely once meant something to someone. …
"The Great Plains"
from The Southampton Review - Online, March 20, 2019
It’s two a.m., Liam is the only one home per usual, and he’s watching YouTube videos of people breaking into dead malls. The man in this one says that abandoned shopping malls are often encircled by locked chain-link fences. Sometimes there are cameras and guards. Gulls swoop in packs behind the man, and then he takes off into a run, scales a fence, and disappears into a dark mass of abandoned stucco rectangles.
The fence won’t be a deterrent for Liam; even with his skateboard, he’s a climber, and he’s not one to fear consequence or retribution. He has grown up in a trailer with his dad and his sister, the trailer park a tiny communal netherworld separated from the Kansas college town’s outer ring of student housing by a block of untapped woods that will soon be purchased and plowed and built on. For now, big fighting dogs roam unchallenged. At night the man who lives next door wears a black ski mask and black clothing and practices with his throwing knives and stars until the old woman on the other side of him calls the cops, which she does nearly every time, and the cops, all obligation but little interest, say, “Craig, enough with the Karate Kid shit. You’re too old for this,” and then Craig pulls off his black mask and gives the finger to the old woman, Karen, who looks out the cracked window above her kitchen sink where she’s affixed a line of bird decals, as if birds walk single file instead of fly: American Robin, Cardinal, Jay, Sparrow, Goldfinch…..
"Soft at the Edges, Going Bad"
from Monkeybicycle, May 4, 2019
It happens on the 42 bus, right after I email the woman I work for, Ellen, practically the thousandth email of the day because she requires that level of attention, and her auto-reply tells me she’ll be “traveling internationally with family for two weeks and so may be delayed in responding.” I fucking know, I almost say out loud. I’m sitting there with the woman’s parrot, Ellen’s parrot, Constantine, in a cage on my lap because Ellen is persuasive and needy, and Constantine’s cage is covered in muslin because, per Ellen, relocating disorients him.
The thing is: I like Ellen. And my daughter, Salem, is eleven, loves animals, and is never around them because our building is officially no pets. But would I have preferred not to carry a parrot and his supplies on several buses? I would have preferred not to. …
"All My Pretty Ones"
It is easy enough to purchase a plane ticket from Boston to Kansas City over the phone in 1987 using the memorized numbers of your grandmother’s American Express. It is easy enough to do a shot of your roommate Kim’s vodka, pack a backpack, and hail a taxi on Comm Ave. It’s snowing, and the flakes make lace of the sidewalks. Homeless men immobilized by blankets sigh and shudder when the T shakes by. The taxi driver maneuvers the taxi as if in a video game where nearly hitting every moving thing will get him the high score.
Your grandmother is dying slowly in an assisted living center in a Kansas City suburb, a one-story building shoe-horned between a chain deli and a dollar theater. Everyone at eighteen has a dying grandparent, it seems. Still, you feel as if it might actually take your forearm or your foot, like it might be that consequential. When the cab driver asks where you are heading, you tell him, and he turns the wipers to high, shrugs and says, “Ah, the dying grandparent. It happens. But, sure, condolences.”
The cab bumps up against the curb at the passenger drop-off in front of Logan, and you catch sight of what you swear is a bloody-pawed gibbon just to the right of your head. Close your eyes and practice the meditative breathing you learned in Montessori kindergarten. Count. Breathe. Repeat.
In August, you started seeing things in your peripheral vision. At first, it was just a sensation of something, a shadow, a scurrying. But on that first night alone in Boston when you walked past men smoking in a huddle against the brick wall of Store 24, you saw a rat the size of your foot, and that could have been believable because it was a city and there were, of course, rats, but this one was gashed open on its rat back with jeweled pomegranate seeds pouring out of the wound. And that had continued: wounded rats, howler cats, bats that came right up to the side of your eye but leaked squid ink into their airspace, your airspace. It was erratic, and sometimes you went days without anything, but then suddenly there it was: as unexpected as a peacock and maybe it even was a peacock but decimated a little and with feathers battened down in blood to its small question mark of a head.
You spent days on the floor of the science library rooting through textbooks about the brain. It was an irritation of the visual association cortices, you became convinced. Or it was the bleak irrefutable shadow of schizophrenia setting up shop….
I'm on the Side of the Wildebeest
From American Short Fiction, December 2018 web feature
Someone in Canada uses my credit card when I’m with my family watching bats circle through the dusk around the upper rim of the Grand Canyon. The bank calls to ask if I’ve purchased twelve hundred seventy-nine dollars of perfume, liquor, and cigarettes in Montreal in the last hour. It seems unexpected, the phone agent says, and I imagine the list of my actual purchases from the last two days: gas, pretzels, candy in cellophane bags, one night at a Best Western in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, where the hot tub was questionable but we all sat in it anyway because after 10 hours of driving, much of it on two-lane highways in western Kansas where the whole world was feed lots and semis driven by opioid addicts who ground pills in truck stop bathrooms, we were willing to take one more risk. ….
from Wigleaf, February 2019
When you turn ten, you move with your mother to a giant house in Sea Cliff owned by a musician. The pale stucco of the house looks built from shells. From every back window, you can see the orange of the bridge when the fog blows sideways. Glass beads in strings hang from doorknobs so that each opening and closing of a door sounds like animal teeth in an open hand.
You've lived so many places with your mother: Echo Park with a painter, Topanga with an actor, Arcata with a dealer. Six months in some man's house and then out and on someone's pull-out couch or sometimes balled up in the car where you wake hungry to ravens making a cackle of the morning. …..
"This Is Not My Beautiful Wife"
from Arts & Letters, Spring 2019
This Is Not My Beautiful Wife
When you come home from work, your wife has made chicken and lined up the individual pieces on a mid-century pottery platter with widespread hands of rainbow chard like sunbeams around it, none of which she ever does. Your children, the boy and the girl, have bagged all the walnuts whose decaying parts and pieces had created an explosive rash all over the yard as if an entire small forest had detonated next to the house. The lawn and leaf bags sit in a row beside the garage, and your son and daughter are playing Uno at the dining room table while bouncing methodically on blue and green Pilates balls and not fighting, none of which they ever do.
The day before, your wife was gone when you got home, likely fucking your neighbor, which she had taken to doing, and about which you’d known for several weeks and about which she knew you knew. How did you feel about that? You didn’t like it. Of course.
"Edward Abbey Walks Into A Bar"
from Joyland, February 2019
1. When someone you’ve been dating off and on for a year calls you from the beer cooler of the liquor store where he works and says he has a gun to his head and is going to kill himself, really, because you don’t care enough, really, you never did, it’s probably best not to embark on a road trip with him the next day, after he’s slept it off and filled a trash bag with the Milwaukee’s Best empties from the back of his 80s Toyota truck, after he’s sold his Sega Genesis and all the games for gas money, and he has a tent from his brother, and anyway he took five hundred from the deposit envelope in the office of the liquor store, and it won’t matter because he’s never coming back, he’s making it to Vancouver where he’ll build a driftwood shack by the water, and he definitely he promises put the gun back in the gun safe under the counter just beneath the tiny bottles of cheap whiskey that homeless men buy when they’ve scraped together enough coins and they want to get drunk enough not to feel the Kansas weather.
2. But I go anyway. I put the vintage costume-wear that is my wardrobe and is inappropriate for camping into a backpack and decide to start smoking Lucky Strikes because why not? During my only two years of college, I stewed about climate change and the swamps of plastics joining forces and riding the surface of the Pacific, but now everything felt in decline. No amount of refraining and recycling was going to knit together the ozone or un-strangle the water fowl. But there had been some small peace in imagining that these efforts mattered, that each recycled newspaper was a direct trade for a patch of rain forest re-sprouting, tree branches reaching out to each other in some dance of commensalism to make us all forget the sky. ….
from Copper Nickel 27, Fall 2018
On the last day of 9th grade, Beatrice found herself at a rooftop party in The Mission. It wasn’t the kind of thing she normally did: friends, groups, music. Someone was playing “Jessie’s Girl” on repeat, and people in gold tennis shoes and embroidered bomber jackets and overalls were dancing and hugging and then dancing again.
It was a moment. Beatrice could appreciate it from a distance: the irony and the glee all wrapped together like a snow globe that someone kept shaking and shaking. After thirty minutes, she went go down the hatch in the roof, down the spiral staircase, and into the apartment owned by the boy having the party. The boy, Frederick, was a junior, and both his dads did something in tech, and it was clear they cared about their apartment. Heath pottery in careful stacks on the raw wood kitchen shelves. A charcoal velvet couch, the requisite art books in their official towers. Hanging plants on delicate wires making a garden out of almost every window.
Her hair had been long then, to her waist almost with the bottom inches of the brown dyed black, and she’d let her grandmother Wendy cut bangs that had immediately developed a mind of their own so that she’d had to shellac them with coconut oil before leaving her house. She assumed they now just looked wet and would elicit a forehead-wide patch of acne.
There was this presumed promiscuity of everyone her age. Her mom Ray’s friends liked to talk about it in the way of, “Bea I’m sure all your friends are hooking up already, so just be careful.” One: she didn’t have friends. Two: no one had so much as kissed her, and she was fine with that. She was a fan of boundaries. She’d seen what it meant to be a girl in 2017, and she had chosen to dismiss it wholeheartedly.
So it was with caution, disbelief, and a little bit of oblivion that she met Frederick’s attention. In the two dads’ bedroom, beneath the noise of the party, she’d hidden out on a corner loveseat, door to the bedroom almost closed, and made a show of flipping through a Vivian Maier book, just to seem occupied should anyone else venture down from the roof. She had practiced staying off her phone on such occasions. She didn’t want to be one of those girls always on her phone. As a point of protest, she did not Snapchat. …..
from Pithead Chapel, February 2019
On Halloween, it takes June and Phil well over an hour to make it from Echo Park, down through Santa Monica, and up the PCH toward Topanga where June’s sister Irene hosts her annual Halloween party. June—nearly nine months pregnant—is dressed as a horse, and Phil is dressed like a shirtless Vladimir Putin. They are both terrible at Halloween, at parties in general, but Irene was insistent.
“After the baby, you’ll never leave the house,” Irene told June, and if the baby-having aftermath of her friends was any indication of her impending reality, June is sure Irene is right. …
Astrology for Everyone
from South Carolina Review, Fall 2018
I pick up Lisa at her apartment complex, once borderline nice and now a place for minimum-wage single mothers and their children to sit around Craig’s List tables and eat WIC purchases. When Lisa and I go to work, Lisa’s mother stays with my son and Lisa’s daughter. She blasts 80s metal with a football game on mute on the big-screen, and my son, Evan, six but still prone to crying fits and a hater of team sports, is usually on the floor in the corner with the cat when I get back. I know that. But it’s free child care, and it’s part of the deal.
It’s a 20-minute drive to the restaurant, usually about five cigarettes for Lisa and a flight-of-thought monologue that jumps from Tinder to the best Zodiac sign for her to sleep with to the death of her childhood kitten who got stuck behind drywall after fitting through a small hole above a heating vent and never finding her way out. While I half-listen and mess with the radio, I run through a line of men in my head: Justin the one who came over after the bars closed. Levi, the one with the gun who threatened to kill himself in the walk-in of the liquor store where he worked. Jordan, the busboy from the restaurant with an apron pocket full of pills who showed up the next day with two ducks he enclosed in a chicken-wire pen in the backyard of my second-story apartment house. When I had to give the ducks to a friend who owned a restaurant that specialized in local meat and poultry, I lied and told Evan they were on a tour of the country with a circus that showcased fowl dressed in tuxedos and dancing. “They’ll train them to do tricks in a stock pond,” I promised Evan, and he started a notebook diary devoted almost exclusively to imagining their wanderings.
The restaurant is a 50s-themed diner in a suburban outdoor mall, a mall complete with spray fountains and life-sized dinosaur sculptures, all of it not particularly close to anything but still a draw since Americans will go anywhere to shop. …..
from Chattahoochee Review, Spring 2019
Instead of high school, Marguerite lives in a tent in the side yard of an apartment building where five people she knows share a studio. She stuffs her pockets with bulk candy from the co-op around the corner and holds tight to it in the early mornings when rats scrape at the nylon tent walls.
Her mother moves to Vancouver with a boyfriend, but her mother has never been reliable, so it is not a surprise. She leaves Marguerite with their two-room apartment of things to sell and a lease that runs out in ten days. Marguerite has a tag sale and makes a few hundred on the 70s pottery, the albums, the weavings, the books about medicinal plants. She hangs onto a backpack of clothes, a tent, her grandmother’s turquoise rings in a silk pouch, an aging Nikon, and a bag full of film.
Instead of selling the camera, Marguerite makes a study of it. She takes the camera out for weeks, unloaded, and pretends. In May, she loads it finally and walks from the Mission to Ocean Beach and then up the hill to Land’s End and shoots the first roll.
"Anarchism Is Not Enough"
from Cheap Pop, January 29, 2019
They let the house get taken. At first it was just a juniper that grew as tall as the eaves and started pushing at one of the gutters. The tree had a clear and insistent path (up and out), and there was a regal, piney “fuck you” to anything in its way.
They stopped hacking at the rhododendrons, which had been thigh-high when they’d first had their daughter, until they made an unforgiving cape around the front porch. Squirrels stopped differentiating between porch (for people) and shrubs (other animals). Ravens stalked circles around the house in the morning. Bluebirds flew right up to the window glass, their orange throats ablaze…..
"Margaret Atwood in Paradise"
from Fiction Southeast, July 2019
In paradise, they are forever putting on makeup and sweating out of it. You can tell time by the number of times they sit before the mirror in one or another thatch and straw room with one or another opened rolling bag ponderous with bikinis while they snake bronzer at a cheekbone or rub some thick gloss across a lip that may or may not be tugged at by the teeth of some man for that moment wanting.
My life at home doesn’t contain tropical birds. It does not have rats that at night steal bits of abandoned mango from festively patterned plates. It does not have the lovely browbeating of a crashing surf. It does not have crabs that explore the toenails of anyone thoughtless enough to fall asleep on the beach. And it does not have Margaret Atwood in a black halter-top Boden one piece with a gauzy red Moroccan sarong tied at her hips.
“It’s fine. I don’t need to see Margaret Atwood’s ass,” Jad says from the palapa as he licks chicken wing grease from his fingers.
“Until yesterday, you didn’t even know who Margaret Atwood was.” Harmony says in a voice better suited to a porn baby. She wears a pink piece of fabric across her small breasts that approximates a bikini but looks as disposable as a tampon wrapper…..
The Strange Fauna of the Suburban Pacific
from Nailed, October 11, 2018
Bre was a plain girl. She did not stand out, and she did not try to stand out. Her black hair hung in a low ponytail every day. She was sixteen, still without breasts, played the clarinet, was fascinated by birds, and walked her younger brother to and from the school parking lot every day refusing to make eye contact with anyone. She could not have been gloriously made over in a romantic comedy version of her life.
Yet a small group of seventeen-year-old boys had made her the focal point of their harassment. The boys were exactly what you’d expect. Man-sized but with little limb control and absent of reason. They smoked weed in the back parking lot. They wore vintage t-shirts and drove their parents’ VW vans. They surfed sometimes but weren’t particularly good at it. Nearly all of them had first names that had been surnames a generation before.
When just after New Year’s they’d started with Instagram comments—Bre’s page was entirely nature photos, and the ringleader’s first comment beside her photo of a dolphin off Zuma had been, “An animal documenting animals. Classic”—Bre had only for one second wondered “why me?” Though her parents were both lapsed Jews and though they declared themselves atheists, Bre had heard the stories of great great uncles who’d emerged from Bergen-Belsen staggering through the end stages of typhus. She knew that one need not be deserving of cruelty to receive it. …..
What Your Sorrow
from West Branch, Fall 2018
The boy’s chin was scarred in two places, and he kept two fingers in the indentations as he looked out the gas station’s plate glass window and out at the Los Alamos outskirts in mid-morning. The boy said things like: Bring me the bottle, I don’t need a glass, and then: I’m done, I’ve had enough, just lean me back into a ditch and shovel some dirt over me, but what he really meant was: drive me back to western Pennsylvania without stopping, drive me back to my mother who makes cotton shirts out of 99 cent a yard K-Mart bolts and small flowered bonnets that scoop semi-circles around my sister’s eyes, her weak, church-girl chin.
Instead, he worked in a gas station across the street from a water park in the middle of the desert. He waited it out. The air conditioner clicked off, and the fan in the ice cream cooler spun slowly to go. The gas station was the old kind, a place with sodas in bottles and rattly bags of peanuts and bathrooms on the outside.
When no one was around, the boy opened and closed the cash register, counted the money, rolled the ones into tight doughnuts wrapped with rubber bands, and then locked the drawer again. The day was almost always hot and orange around him.
In the station’s lot, a cab driver who wore a pink turban sat sideways in the open front seat while gas pumped in. Every morning at the same time, the same cab driver showed up to add the same twenty dollars cash to his tank. The boy never knew where he drove and with whom, but he liked to imagine something involving the transport of people in danger.
If there was a cloud in the morning, it was a rogue, and it flew by the way a plane would.
At 7 a.m., the wave pool was something to behold from a slight distance, just after the power had started to channel manufactured waves through what had been a flat surface all night. Teenagers stood with long-armed poles and plucked plastic wrappers from the water. They pulled snakes in dead tangles from the pool drains.
The boy watched as the cab driver walked toward the station window with a twenty waving in his hand. For a moment, the sun and the glass made a series of bright triangles on the man’s face. In an hour, the parking lot across the street would be nearly full. Fat people in swimming suits would make flip-flop footpaths in the gravel and stand in a hot line waiting to roll through hours of water going progressively more tepid with each new body in the mix.
If the boy had the day to do nothing, he would lie in his bed and pull down the black-out blinds and listen to the sand hitting the window screen when the wind blew. He hated the sun. …..
from Hobart, July 2019
It’s from a distance that I see them, and they look exactly like what they are: late-middle-aged used-to-be-but-still-are musicians disembarking from a small plane in the middle of a Kansas farm field at 10 AM. It’s colder than it should be for the first week in October, but sometimes this happens: 80-something one day and 40-something the next, with a wind that blows the dead corn beyond the airfield sideways, and too bad if you aren’t expecting it.
I’m in a mini-van that I never wanted with four children under six, two of them mine. For the Midwest, I’m the old mom who had kids at 36 and then 39, but look at me, I’m still blasting “Beatnik,” with the heat on high and fuck the environment because we are all cold and some of us are toddlers….
from Hobart’s Jukebox Happy Hour, January 22, 2019
Label: REMember Music
Release Date: August 3, 2018
The world has crash-landed into climate change, and no one should just drive around without destination or purpose because greenhouse gases, ozone, catastrophic end, etc. Obviously. Yet when my son says, “Can we drive around and listen to Mac Miller?” I’m already mostly to the car before he finishes the sentence…..
Wizards of the Coast
from Faultline Journal, 2018
Ari’s ninth birthday party starts at a castle in the Hollywood Hills. Even though he hates crowds and people in general, he loves Hermione Granger, and so his parents requisitioned a set designer to turn a rented 1930s home built in the castle style into Hogwarts. There are actors playing McGonagall and Dumbledore, and his mother’s giant of a friend who used to play professional basketball is dressed as Hagrid and drinking a martini in the corner by the stained-glass picture window.
The party is mostly his mother’s friends because she is the one with friends, and some of them have brought their children. They have fake scars etched into their foreheads by a makeup artist who has a table set up by the front door. They are draped over by invisibility cloaks made of gray tulle, and they are being sorted (Gryffindor by choice for most and Slytherin for the self-professed rule-breakers) by a sorting hat manipulated by a puppeteer who once worked with the Muppets.
Ari is wearing his Hermione glasses and a tie and cardigan under his tulle invisibility cloak and mainly leaning against a wall turning his fingers ragged with hangnails. When his mother’s friend Steve, the set designer everyone calls Twiggy, leans against the wall next to him and tells him there is a secret person-sized dumbwaiter where the caterers are hiding all the candy, Ari follows him not so much for a love of candy but because somewhere else sounds better than where he is.
He watches the backs of Twiggy’s low brown boots as they ascend the stairs. The carpeting is thick and patterned in a way that someone must have thought looked royal but really looks more mid-range hotel. Twiggy pauses at the top, turns around and “shhs” Ari, even though Ari has not made a sound. There is not a child more capable of absolute quiet than he. At least that is what his mom has told him on mornings when they have sat with tea on the terrace watching the birds fling themselves through the mist that floats over the hot tub while downtown LA hovers like a Lego construct on the horizon. “We are here but not of here somehow,” his mother said to him and held tight to whatever special and powerful stone hung from a leather cord around her neck. He always thought he knew what she meant when she said that—that their superhero power was to skate above the top of any scene while still remaining physically there, to blanch from it what was needed while remaining unaffected by anything clawed or pronged or painful. It was a talent, and she had bequeathed it to him, and it meant that when she looked at him they knew, even if his dad did not. They just knew. …..