Because at some point in time you have to just be bad, in order to get back in the saddle...
was all Kilen knew how to spell, and so it was all he got to eat. It
had been three days since the new fridge had been delivered. “It’s a
sign of the times!” mom’d said. “singularity will happen before I die.”
dad said shaking his head like he still didn’t quite believe it.
“Can it really make
anything?” his older sister asked skeptically? Just for kicks and
giggles she’d rearranged the letter magnets to say “horse poop”. At
least that’s what she told Kilen later. At the time she used less
letters, which made mom fuss at her while dad tried to hide a grin.
Dad stopped smirking though, when he had to disinfect his brand new
fridge. But Kilen had marveled. The point was... it had worked.
Whatever you spelled, you got.
The fridge looked kid
friendly. It had the same brightly colored alphabet magnets that his
grandmother used to talk about. He wasn’t sure if his parents had
gotten this particular fridge because they thought they thought their
children would find it user friendly, or if it was because it was
vintage and eclectic. His mom considered herself an urban stylist, who
created “clean vintage fusion”. Kilen was pretty sure that translated
into English it meant “deceptively untouchable”. In the case of the
new fridge, it meant “hungry”. His mom stopped cooking meals, his dad
stopped writing grocery lists that included edible foods like “peanut
butter” and “oatmeal”. In fact, nobody wrote any grocery lists at all.
After all, why would you? When you could just arrange the letters to
say “Pasta Bolognese”, open the door, and your steaming plateful of
noodles would be waiting for you?
That was all fine and dandy if you could read and write.
tried mentioning a few times he was hungry. His mom gave her usual
answer of “just one minute dear.” She was a busy designer though, and
there were lots of minutes in a single minute. He asked his dad for a
banana, but his dad was big into self actualization, so all Kilen got
was a book on phonics and a bunch of vocabulary flash cards. He would
have asked his sister...he liked how she looked in his direction when
she talked to him. She never patted him on the head. He was sure she
would have gotten him food, and it wouldn’t have been horse poop, but
she was never home.
had said on TV that boys don’t like to read, but Kilen figured they’d
probably have more success if they locked up all the food in the world
behind letters. At least it had worked on him. Which gave him a
happy thought, maybe his parents had done this on purpose to make him
learn how to read. Maybe he was invisible on purpose. Maybe the only
way to become un-invisible was to learn to read.
“hotdog” he learned how to spell “s-n-a-c-k” which was a big
improvement because at least that way you got something new every time
you arranged the letters and opened the fridge door. Kilen got so good
at spelling stuff, the biggest problem he had was not enough vocabulary
cards to copy and memorize. He started copying everything around the
house, but “toilet paper” had gotten him some sort of weird mush, and it
had taken him two weeks to figure out that “shaving cream” was tastier
when you left off the first word.
best word he found was the sticker off a banana his dad had peeled and
thrown away. Surely if he showed his dad he could read “banana” then
he wouldn’t be invisible anymore.
the only one who appeared to remember his birthday was his older
sister. She came home for once, and seeing the array of chips ahoy
spread around his room, she’d marched into her mom’s office. After
that his parents did remember
his birthday. They quickly rushed into the kitchen and arranged the
word “cake” on the fridge. It came out red and green with a christmas
tree, but that didn’t matter. It had two whole candles on it, and
Kilen could proudly read now. “Happy 2nd Birthday Kilen!”
It was 2am, and nobody was leaving.
That was the nature of Merrirose’s parties. Not because everyone was tipsy and crazy though, of course it wouldn’t be for the normal reasons, Sorrel thought. There was Merrirose herself, trying to out-Shakespeare a reedy man who was currently playing Hamlet at the local community theatre. And across the room, three mermaid-haired girls were taking turns composing lines to a sonnet. A card game on the floor in one corner, a small crowd knotted around the piano in the other. Sure, there was alcohol involved, if you counted the dusty absinthe bottles and the fruit-infused liqueurs home-brewed by the reedy man and his mermaid-haired girlfriend.
When the dark haired man playing the piano winked at Sorrel, she realized she had been staring. It really wasn’t her fault. He did have an enormous curly mustache, after all, the sort that looks like it is about to jump up and run off growling on its own. Hastily looking away, Sorrel grabbed a pad of sudoku off of the coffee table and began arranging numbers. Whew. That was much better.
All this arts and crafts stuff was Merrirose’s. Concrete stuff? That was Sorrel’s. It was hard to not divide things up like that just to keep sane.
“You complement each other,” their mom said, but moms always say that kind of thing.
Mom also said that it was nice that they still wanted to share an apartment when they moved out. How dumb was I to take Merrirose’s offer to live on her couch? thought Sorrel. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? Beggars also aren’t known for getting the best nights’ rest, and Sorrel’s “bed” was currently being sat upon by a bunch of scruffy dudes who looked like they probably bathed about as often as beggars.
This sudoku was way too easy. Sorrel glanced back around the room as she filled in all the 8s. Merrirose ran to the kitchen to get sugar cubes and the slotted spoon. Reedy man infiltrated the sonnet club. The Mustachioed Flirt laughed loudly at a comment thrown to him by one of the card players, a tiny woman with a halo of curly white blonde hair.
If this were Peter Pan, she would be Tink, Sorrel thought. Mssr. Moustachio would be Hook, of course, albeit a bit too dashing, and reedy man would be a starving Smee. Merrirose would be Wendy, and all the scruffy dudes would be the lost boys. The mermaids were an easy guess. Peter would be the babyfaced card shark rakishly tossing the deck at Tink.
But who am I? Sorrel wondered.
Merrirose, or rather Wendy, reappeared with refreshment. Sorrel watched the tableaux change, this time with amusement rather than impatience. A whole house full of amateur players not realizing that they were putting on a play.
The sound of the old family grandfather clock striking 3am brought her back to this world and her lack of a bed.
But she only frowned for a moment. Who am I in this silly farce? The answer made her snicker, catching puzzled glances from the lost boys.
I’m the Crocodile. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Your time is up, you crazies.