Thursday, June 18, 2015


Lubna:  My mother.  What can I say about my mother.  Her name, Willow Green.  Her hair, red flames licking the sides of a funky hat like a fedora with a peacock feather or a floppy, pink straw one.  She is short and round and has a smile that lights up my world.

When she smiles.  If she smiles.

For all her flowery caftans and floppy hats, bright red hair and hippie name, my mother is not happy.  I'm afraid it's my fault.  She doesn't say it but if it weren't my fault, why wouldn't she say that, why wouldn't she say, "Lubna, you are the light of my life, I love you and I'm proud of you and you make me want to live."

Why wouldn't she want to live?

The scars criss-cross her arms and even her legs.  Once she tried to cut off her own belly fat, or so it seemed she was trying to do.  I saw her in the bathroom, tears streaming over her cheeks as she drew a circle on her stomach and then went at it with a razor until I screamed.

Scars, red, white, brown with scabs.  She says she's not really suicidal, that the cutting is just a release.

She has never said that it's not my fault.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Leilana (thanks to visual prompt by illustrator @WillowRaven):

Leilana stopped short of the towers, awed by their beauty, their power.
Yes, they still held sway over her, even twelve long years after she'd gone.  Now, as she hovered over the dunes on a stolen helioboard, less than a parcel from the towers, she wondered if she even had a place there anymore.  Would they even let her in?  Did they dare?

Leilana licked her chapped lips to no avail.  Her mouth was too parched, gritty with sand.  Her guide had abandoned her many parcels ago, taking her provisions with him.  Ethan's threats had gotten to the poor bastard, probably.  And the copter in the distance?  No doubt it, too, belonged to Ethan and he was looking for her.  Ethan had promised—threatened—never to let her go without a fight.  Fucker. 

As she saw it, Leilana had but two choices:  turn and rush over the sands as fast as the helioboard would carry her, away from the towers, away from Ethan, away, away…  perhaps to burn up in the desert heat or to be eaten by the wandering Heglans or to perish from a thousand other dangers.

Or onward.  To the gate. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

            I was waiting for the bus when I saw the dead bird.  Telling my little brother to stand back, I moved closer to check it out.
            "Why can't I see?  You never let me do anything!"  Chris said.
            "Shhh!  Just a minute!"  I had to make sure it was suitable for eight-year old eyes.
            The bird was crusted with blood, its insides hanging out, eyeballs eaten, totally gross.  But what struck me were the wings, stretched out and untouched by insects or animals, just there, as if the bird might flap its wings and still fly.  It was dead, sure, but something about those outstretched wings gave me an odd feeling of hope inside.  I think because the dead bird reminded me of my family.  We were dying, being eaten from the inside out, but my wings were still outstretched and I believed I could fly.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


"You—after all I—how dare—why won’t—you—YOU!”
            I heard my father in pieces, punctuated by grunts or the crash of something falling and maybe breaking.
            “I—I--- I---“ was all my brother Sam could get out.
            He was loud, but not very eloquent, as usual.  He’s got all these problems – like trouble putting his feelings into words -- related to his being “on the autism spectrum”, whatever that means exactly.  For some reason it pisses my father off but mostly I just find it annoying. 
            “I love cats!” Sam yelled suddenly, which was followed by the loud thump of a body hitting the wall upstairs, and I could picture Sam head-butting my father.
            Loving cats and head-butting were two of Sam’s “things”.
            My mother, who prefers to be called “Judy” ever since she quit drinking and decided her real name, which was Brandy, was a trigger for her – turned up the volume on the TV in the family room.  She pulled me close into a snuggle and we continued to watch Project Runway as if my brother and my father duking it out upstairs were perfectly normal, which it was.   
            There’s this book I read that said a bucket of water is a bucket of water to me, a vast ocean to an ant, a cool drink to an elephant, and to a fish it’s home – it all depends on your point of view.  So when I say “normal,” well, that was like my bucket of water, only in this case the bucket of water was Sam and my father rolling around on Sam’s floor upstairs and Judy and I watching TV downstairs with the volume up.
            As I said, to us, this was normal.  To the social worker who visited last week, the same scene would be dysfunctional and maybe detrimental to the welfare of the children, i.e., Sam and me.  To someone reading this, maybe in my memoirs someday or in a piece of fiction loosely based on us, maybe the scene was tense or sad or even funny.  On the other hand, to our neighbors we were just noisy.         
Like the fish in the bucket, to me, it was home.

Sigh.  Such was my life.  Thirteen and so jaded.  Tsk, Tsk, my grandmother would say.  Laney needs to find her joy, to make her own happiness, to get out of herself, she would say.  She has said, actually. 
“All that time in her room and how does she find anything in that scrap heap?  Anyway, do you know she is on that I-thing until one in the morning when she needs her sleep if she’s going to grow,” she said once to Judy, as if I weren’t there.

“Oooh, I like that one,” said Judy, pointing at the TV as a billowy white dress came down the runway.
“Eh, it’s all right,” I said.  “Kinda eighties prom dress.”
“Mm, maybe,” said Judy, shrugging and sipping her Diet Coke.

“That’s it!” bellowed my father as he crashed down the stairs like a bull in a china shop – not to be all cliché, but he was six foot three and four feet wide and our house was an old colonial full of tiny room and tinier stairways, so that’s what him moving around was really like.
“I can’t take this ANYMORE!  I’m DONE!” he said, roaring past the couch where my mother and I sat.
“Daaaaa….” said Sam, right behind my father.
I looked up as my father left, slamming the back door behind him, and Sam sank to the floor in a ball, pounding on his shins with his fists.  Sighing, I looked back at the TV and stifled the urge to tell Sam to melt-down quietly please, or else take his problems elsewhere.
So you see, to Sam, what I thought was “normal” was actually devastating. 
To my father it was the last straw. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013



Liz’s brother Matt was racing up the mountainside like a goat.   Rolling her eyes, Liz waited a moment before mumbling a frustrated “I swear,” and climbing up after him.
Ten minutes ago, just ten little minutes, Liz, her father, and Matt had headed up the side of the mountain to gather firewood.   And now, Matt was running away -- again.   Not that he was the victim of some great parental injustice or anything like that.  From what Liz could gather, he’d had a fight with their father, big whoop.  She didn’t know what the fight was about, but her brother always did annoying things like making farting noises for no reason, and then not stopping until you wanted to throw him off a mountain, so it was probably something stupid like that.  
            Here’s what she did know: 
First, her father had half-stomped, half-slid back down the mountain towards the campsite, muttering under his breath as he passed by. 
Second, it was already drizzling and the sun had vanished behind forbidding clouds, which meant dark was coming sooner than expected, and Matt was afraid of the dark. 
Third, Liz was already cold in her cut-off denim shorts, even though she was wearing a windbreaker, and she did not want to have to chase Matt down right now.  Heck, she never wanted to do that. 
Fourth, she had to go after her brother no matter how cold she was or what she wanted to do, because no one else would—
--and fifth, she was really, really mad about that, but she was not going to cry. 

“I.  Swear!” she yelled in frustration at the whole situation.
Oh yeah, did she forget to mention that she hated camping?  And camping in the rain was even worse than camping in the sunshine.  And camping with your family – in the rain -- when you were ten going on eleven was the worst of all.  The worst!
This was turning out to be a great summer.  Just great.

            Although she and Matt had faithfully dug a trench around their pup tent when they arrived at the campsite yesterday, if it poured rain tonight, they would get soaked.  First, the rain would bead up on the sides of the tent, and they’d have to move their sleeping bags away from the edges.  It was bad enough, sharing a tiny tent, but completely awful when they had to huddle together in the center of the tent. 
            She would try to read, but Matt would kick and squirm and maybe even reach over and pinch her if she didn’t pay him enough attention. 
            He would say, “I love cats,” at least fifty times.
            She would say, “No repeating, that’s the rule.”
            The third or fourth time she said it, she’d use “the tone”, and her parents would yell at her from their tent, “Lizzy!  Enough!”
            She would say, “But he—“
            And her mom would say, “I don’t care,” and her dad would say, “Just stop.  You can’t use that tone with your brother,” and her mother would say, “You’re hurting his feelings,” and Liz would try to dive deep into her sleeping bag to get away from them all, but because of the rain, it would be soggy and wet and cold and horrible.

            “I swear,” she said, digging her toe into a foothold in the side of the mountain, still scrambling after her brother despite his extreme annoying-ness.
            He couldn’t control his temper, everyone said, so he was running away, as usual, and it was going to rain, and Liz had left her book, A Wrinkle in Time out on the stupid picnic table back at their stupid campsite, and now her book, her only solace, was going to get ruined by the rain… and no one was going to go after Matthew but her, because they would want to call in the rangers or the professionals of some sort or anotherbut Liz knew it was her responsibility to keep her little brother safe, and that’s why she was climbing as fast as she could up the side of the mountain that tilted steeply upward from their campsite.
Sometimes she felt like she was the only one who really cared.  Sometimes she felt like she was the only one who didn’t.