Life Without Anything

Hello once again, today we’ll be taking a step back just for a short moment, although I am working on something right now and plan to upload later, but for now, a little something else. This is a short story written in such a way that I would never have imagined myself writing. It’s very crude, I guess, but it fits the character, who I depict as both the narrator and the person in question. This is more of a very quick memoir type thing recounting this character’s life. It’s something I don’t normally do, but here it is anyway, “Life Without Anything”.

 

If, for one day, you could be anyone else, would you take it? If let’s say you lived in poverty, let’s say you were caught in civil war. Let’s say, “bad” people came and “claimed” your land.  Let’s say you were stuck in a concentrated prison. Would you exchange your life for another? To live in peace, and to live in luxury? I wouldn’t.

I lived in the sticks. You know, back water poor town. Every day was a struggle. Ya get up, hope to god you’re still alive, and hope to a greater god that your family’s still alive. Then you check the windows, if they’re still intact. You make sure your locks are working. But maybe that’s not enough, so you check your cabinets, your fridge, your closet. Now that it’s over, you wake your family. One father, one mother, two young un’s, a dead beat uncle, and a homeless pregnant lady. Ya make sure everybody has food. Give little Timmy extra bread, little Tommy more milk, Beatrice gets the most, and your father gets the peas. Ya save just enough for a handful of stale bread. That’s yours. It ain’t no breakfast. Ya take that for dinner. Pack it up in a little zippy, make sure Timmy ain’t gettin’ to it. Then, your off.

Your father going to some washed up delivery job, your mother holding down the fort, Timmy et Tommy going to school. Beatrice caring for tiny Sam and Lenny’s gambling. Lenny ain’t making squat. Leaving with five, coming back with one. Your father’s breaking his back, and Beatrice can’t help it. So, what’d ya gotta do? Ya go out there and do what you can. Mother telling ya to hit the books, you nod and look away.  Father tellin’ ya to stop skipping classes, you nod and look away. Lenny…. ya just don’t listen to the guy. But Beatrice, she tellin’ ya to go and do what you can. You listen to her. You know your family ain’t no American dream. It’s an African nightmare.

So, what’d ya gonna do? Ya gonna stick your head into: quadratics, Ideal Gas Laws, Projectile Motion, Pythagoras? No, ya do what you can. Ya stick to first period English. Gotta get articulate, gotta get literate, gotta get your mind into the zone cuz’ you know a healthy body only comin’ if ya got a healthy mind. You bring that to your grave.

First period is over, you reciting iambic pentameter, “to be or not to be”, “I dare do all that may become a man”, “tempt not a desperate man”. You speaking from the heart, not from the books. Ain’t no one got anything on Shakespeare. Bell stops ringing, you the only man in the halls, then you bolt. Ya see the big double doors, you know the cameras be on your grill but ya go. You don’t look back, forward is all you know. Losing your footing? Don’t worry, press on, It’s only one thing ya gotta throw. Catchin’ everything in your way: opportunities, money, knowledge, that’s your game. But ya ain’t in it for the fame, cuz all you gotta do is wait till everything’s back the same. Ya do what you gotta do, making money is all you can do.

So you in the streets, don’t look to anybody. Man brushes your shoulder, you apologize. Man asks for a dollar, ya give him two. Ain’t nobody on your case, you just tryna make it. They call you “normal”, cuz you ain’t in no scraps, you ain’t trappin’ , but you getting dough for your family. You walk to the butcher, he ain’t no scan’t. He’s got a big scruffy beard, but a heart to match. He’s a good guy, not gonna snitch. The bloods lay off, cuz he’s covered in more. He offered you a job off the streets. Ya do what you gotta do.

Sometimes ya comin’ home like you a vampire. Other times, your hand so sore ya can’t even move it. But ya got change in your pockets. That’s all that matters. Lenny’s in on it too, after he done losin’ to dice, ya hand him your days change. Tell him it’s for the family, it ain’t much, but he can’t lose it. Tell him to say he found it, he ain’t no mugger, but your old folks will believe his luck is strewn. But your day ain’t over. It’s almost three, ya hit up Dumped Alley. They call it that cuz bodies always caught and dope’s always mo’in. It be a trap house o’er there. But ya know a guy. Name’s Old Larry. He knows what’s up. Picks up garbage, cleans corpses, he makin’ a living from scavenging. That’s the only thing he’s got. Ya do what you gotta do.

Old Larry ain’t no stranger. He be givin’ as much as he’s takin’. But ya got manners, you only visit to see how he’s doin’. He gave ya food and clothes before but now ya workin’. Some day ya gonna see Old Larry dead on the ground, bullet wound and e’rything. Not today, he’s still up and kicking. He ain’t going out without a fight. He’s got family too.

Day’s over, ya comin’ home. Larry’s already chilling, he gives you the eye. That means the money’s home. You see Beatrice, she’s sleepin’ sound. You don’t wake her. Timmy and Tommy gonna be home soon, your mother tryn’a fix something up. You tell her you had a good day, don’t make eye contact. You open your room, then ya knockout till dinner.

Come dinner, ya take out your zippy. Timmy got nothing on your bread. You take the slices adn stuff them in your face, say you already ate. Beatrice gets the most, little Timmy gets more potato, Tommy ain’t runnin’ from carrots, your father gets the peas and Lenny has whatever. Day comes short, and nights even shorter. E’ryone be finished, and it’s time to hit the hay. Your mother come get ya, “Good night.”

“Night,” ya reply, then she outta there. Ya wait five minutes then ya check the locks. You know your mother too tired, your father asleep, Lenny ain’t on that and Beatrice ain’t obligated.  The only one is you. So you check the front door, all clear, and that means it time to knock. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s how your day goes. It’s only a humble life. Ya work, ya provide, and ya survive. So, what’s so special?

You see, come morning ya do the same thing. You pray ta’ god, you save your dinner, but you ain’t tired. You full of energy. You leave your home, but on the street you see Old Lady Benneht. But she ain’t a geezer. In fact, she lookin’ like ex-military, wearing camo pants, camo shirt, her arm could take me out in one hit. Nobody gon’ be scrapin’ with Benneth. So she come up ta’ ya’, and asks ya, “Got a bill?” But she ain’t muggin’ ya. Na, she provides. She be the first person ta’ help ya’. You owe her your life. A bill for her ain’t nuthin’. You see, she be runnin’ the old orphanage. She a white lady but she got black kids.

“Got a new one today. Out to get her welcome gift.” You nod, and send her a five. You know secretly she be a shooter, how else she gon be providing for the kids? Last time you hit up her place, ya saw ten rascals. She ain’t foolin’ anybody. Won’t admit it, but the entire streets be knowin’ bout her. New body turn up and she the first ta’ mention it.

“Little one says she wants a Barbie. I’d say give her a gun. Least then she can fight. Catch my drift?” Ya nod.

“Next time you come around, come in. They’ll be thrilled to see you. You helpin’ them as much as I helped you. They appreciate it. So do I.” Ya nod again. And come next time, when you visit her orphanage, those little punks be giving you the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen. Ya ain’t seen nothin’ like that. These ain’t the sticks, this is reality. I be livin without anything, but if I can still make these kids smile with all their heart, then I would’ trade it for the world.

Peace.

 

 

Finding Mary

Hello once again, today with another one of my more recent stories that I have saved up. This one’s quite long in length compared to the ones I’ve been editing so far, but I think this one ties in nicely with what my style really is. In my opinion, there are two ways to interpret this story, one will be much more obvious than the other, but it’s this kind of vagueness that I like, even as a writer, who you would usually think would favor transparency and clear stories, I always felt that stories were more fun if there was two sides. There never is only one way to tell a story and the many interpretations of each person is my favorite part of this medium. Even if a story is clear cut as day, I’ll always love making random theories and think about the complexities behind those exteriors. Here you go, “Finding Mary”.

Cold winds blew across the dead field of trees as I ran across the fallen branches and hidden stones. A small bunny raced across, jumping and turning, avoiding me as much as possible. I didn’t want to kill it, I just wanted to pet it. I panted and ran until my legs and lungs gave in. The mist of my breath appeared and dissipated as quickly as the bunny. However, it was more within my grasp than the bunny, despite being untouchable.

I laid my back on the trunk of a tree, watching the foot prints of my venture be replaced by new falling flakes. I didn’t have much worries. It was winter break, and I was heading to college soon, but I had no worries. It must have been the first time in a long while that I had felt like this. The air around me was swirling, and for a moment, everything seemed to stop. I closed my eyes to try and attune myself with everything around me. It felt cold, but I tried anyway, and soon enough, I was warm. My breathing steadied, and everything seemed alright. Everything was becoming a haze, and I tried my best not to fall asleep. I was so relaxed, that it felt like I wasn’t alive anymore.

I reached out and forced myself up. The cold of the day was nice on my face, but I wasn’t planning to get sick. I used the body of the tree to retain balance, and once I had my bearings, I began heading back. Only this time, there was a strange sound. I turned my head into the dead trees, and listened. It was crunching, something was crunching, but I couldn`t tell what. I walked closer to the sound, pushing away the branches that stuck out at me from the dead trees and watched my step. Before I knew it, my legs gave in, the tire of the run, and the tire of the day washing over me. I should have sat longer.

“Hello?” A voice said to me. I looked around in front of me, but couldn’t discern a face to a voice, but I was certain that I heard a voice. Suddenly, “Over here.” I turned my head towards the voice. Now that I’ve had a second chance in listening, I could tell that it was the voice of a girl. She was…. probably around my age, I think. I turned, and looked at the girl, well, I looked down at the girl. She was quite short, barely reaching up towards my shoulder. She looked up at me, with curious eyes, curious blue eyes. Her blond hair was tied down behind her, and she wore a heavy jacket with a purple scarf. Her cheeks were flush red from the cold, but she didn’t seem to mind at all.

“Hey?” I awkwardly replied, almost stumbling on my words. I wasn’t sure whether it was because I was surprised, or whether I thought that the girl in front of me was cute that I almost faltered. Perhaps it was a mix of two. I won’t lie, she was quite cute. A short quiet girl, or so she seemed.

“I saw you over there,” she said as she pointed towards my footsteps, back to the spot where I was chasing the bunny. I laughed and then said, “Yeah. And I heard you, I think.” She nodded her head, “Why are you out here?” I’m glad that there wasn’t any awkward silence, that’s usually how these conversations go.

“I was chasing a bunny.”

“A bunny?” Her eyes seemed to light up at the prospect. But it was not for long, “Yeah, it got away.”

“Oh.”

“How about you?”

“I was just watching the snow fall.” She looked down, at the snow at her feet, and stepped on the spot.

“Do you live near here?” She looked up at me, then looked up to the right, towards the sky. She thought about the question, which to me, seemed quite suspicious.

“What’s your name?” Instead of answering my question, she asked another. It was an awkward change of subject, and I’m sure she felt so as well, but I obliged. She had no reason to tell me anything about her, and neither did I. But even so, I still told her my name.

“My name is Mary,” the girl said.

“Oh, like the lamb.”

“The lamb?” Mary replied as she turned her head in confusion.

“Mary had a little lamb.” Mary looked at me with a disappointed expression.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s not….Cool,” she meekly replied as she looked up at me with glistening eyes, “I thought! That you were going to say something cool….” Mary looked down, and then sprang back up, “Like!”

“Like?”

“I don’t know, nothing to do with lambs though.” Mary pouted at me, like a little girl, like a little sister. I was intrigued, but I knew that if I asked her age, it would come off as more than creepy. But I was glad that she was friendly, and that she was in such high spirits, even to a stranger. It was strange, her blonde hair, that glistened with the snow behind her, seemed almost fragile. I had a strange urge to brush my hands across it, but I didn’t.

“Like, maybe….Mary, the fairy?” I let out a laugh, almost too loud, that Mary gave me an even bigger pout and began playfully hitting me.

“Alright, alright!” I said in a playful tone as I stopped laughing. She continued her pout and crossed her arms at me. She really was like a kid, small and precious. Almost…. Too precious from what I could tell. If anything, I would suspect she was in middle school, but, I couldn’t cast judgments. I was a fairly short guy myself.

“Why a fairy?” I asked.

“Because, they’re so pretty. They are small, they can fly, and they can use magic!” I refrained myself from saying something that could come off as creepy and simply listened instead.

“They’re not real, but if they were, I would want to be just like one!” As Mary said that, her eyes dropped into the snow. Her emotions ran dry for some reason, and her expression was filled with a sadness that was beyond me. Without realizing it, the bunny that I had been chasing before appeared right behind Mary.

“Look!” I said, and pointed at the bunny. I could tell that her entire being lit up at the sight of it. We both looked at each other and placed one finger on our lips, while slowly approaching.

“Alright bunny, don’t run away now,” I whispered to myself as we came within reach of it. Mary was the first to lean down, and slowly placed her hand over its back. The bunny flinched, and then jumped away, pushing Mary back onto the snow. Mary got up before I even realized it and chased after the bunny.

“Hey wait!” I yelled, but it was no good. I chased after them in spite of everything.

“Mary!” I yelled as I ran. I tried my best to catch up to them, but I couldn’t quite hold a steady speed as they zipped by trees and ducked under over lying branches. Mary was smaller in stature, and so was the bunny.

“Get back here!” Mary yelled as she ran. It was a sweet dissipated voice, somehow not affected by her running at all.

“There!” Mary suddenly dived, springing up snow in front of her, and finally allowing me to catch up. As the snow cleared, I saw that she was lying face first into the snow, with her hands close to her chest. She turned, and then brought her arms up along with the bunny. She smiled as she saw me, panting as she did, and I smiled back.

“Nice catch, Mary.”

“Isn’t it cute?” Mary said as she hoisted herself up and brought the bunny towards her. Her smile, and her eyes, and her small hands were all so fragile. For some reason, that was the only thing I could think of when I saw her like that, sitting on the snow, and playing with the bunny. She was like a little kid, like a little sister, but she was so fragile. She laughed and she smiled, and she seemed to have a certain wistfulness in her eyes. She had a longing that neither I nor the bunny could understand. She was apart from us, yet she was still here, in this moment, smiling and having fun. I couldn’t help but smile as well.

“Yeah, it is.” I replied. I crouched down, and placed my hand over the bunny as well. The white fur felt prickly on my cold hands, and as I glanced over to Mary, I saw that her eyes were mournful. They were happy, yet, there was a ting of sadness that I couldn’t overlook. She looked at me, and smiled a sad smile. She dropped the bunny, and then watched as it ran off, and so did I. She got up, brushed the snow off of her, and looked towards the opposite direction. She then looked up into the grey sky.

“Do you need to go?” I asked. She didn’t answer. For some reason, it seemed like her hair, and her coat, and her scarf were all lighter now. They were more subtle. She took in a deep breath, and then watched as it escaped into a mist, reaching her hand out in the process, trying to grab what wasn’t there. I did the same.

“I have to go,” she said.

“Okay.” She walked into the forest, into the dead trees, I headed back home as well. That night, I felt something strange. It was a feeling of yearning, and a feeling of longing. But it was not mine. It didn’t feel like it was mine. It was just there, almost as if telling me to do something, to do anything to quell it.

The next day, after doing my morning routine, and after eating breakfast, I headed back out into the forest. I was hoping to see Mary again, but I didn’t know why. I ran to the forest, and saw a white bunny there. It looked like the same one as yesterday, and so I chased it. I ran, avoiding dead tree branches, hidden rocks, and making sure that my step was leveled. My lungs and my breath soon died out, and I had to rest on a tree trunk. I watched as my breath appeared and disappeared in front of me, and brought my hand up to reach for it. It seemed more attainable  than the bunny, although neither was true at this point. I got up, despite not wanting to, and began following the prints it left on the snow. Except, I heard a sound. It was the sound of crunching, and so I turned, and walked towards it. I hoped it to be Mary, although I did not know why.

“Hello?” It was Mary. I looked around, unable to see her, and then turned to my side, where she was standing just a few feet away from me.

“Hey, Mary,” I replied back with a smile. But, she didn’t. She looked at me with fearful eyes, and moved back, her hands to her chest, and her legs shaking, “How do you know my name?” Her blue eyes widened.

“What do you mean? We met yesterday,” I replied. I really hoped that she was just pulling some kind of prank on me. But as she kept moving back, and as her breathing increased, she ran.

“Wait!” I chased her. I ran and followed her foot prints, making sure to dodge obscurities along the way. I didn’t know what was going on, but I still ran, and I still chased after her. For some reason, I felt a feeling of longing, and yearning. I didn’t know what I yearned for, but I ran for it anyway. Soon enough, Mary fell, tripping over a branch, and landing face first. I stopped a few feet away, and called out to her.

“Hold on! I’m not someone bad. We met yesterday, remember?” She turned and got up.

“Don’t you remember?” I asked, desperate in my tone. She didn’t believe me, and ran off. I wanted to give chase, but something within me told me not to. I came home that day, and checked the calendar. Except, when I looked at the page, the numbers seemed to jump out at me. I couldn’t tell what the date was, and I didn’t have a phone either. I asked my parents, but they didn’t tell me either. They didn’t really  ignore me, I think, rather, they just seemed not to have heard the question at all. I went to sleep that day, feeling bitter. And in the night, I felt a sense of yearning. It was the same feeling as before, but I did not know why I felt it. I hated it.

I woke up, and did my morning routine. After eating, I headed back out into the forest. I tried to check for the date, but the numbers came flying at me, and my parents were no help either. I didn’t know what was going on, but as I looked into the forest, I felt longing. The bunny was there too, but instead of chasing it, I turned back. For some reason, I turned back, but as I tried to walk away, I felt a pull towards the forest. Someone was there, calling to me. I felt it. I was sure it was Mary, but I didn’t know why, nor did I understand why. I turned back, and saw that the bunny was there, staring at me. I entered the forest after it, and followed it’s foot prints.

Eventually, I strayed away from the bunny’s path, and decided to find Mary myself. She was out here. I knew it, I could feel it. There was a pull asking for her. A feeling of yearning towards her ate at me. I did not know why. The only thingf I did know, were that these were not my feelings of longing and yearning. These were someone else’s. They had felt maternal.

“Hello?” Mary called out to me. I already knew where to look. She didn’t look frightened this time. She didn’t even know me.

“Hey,” I replied, “Are you from around here?” She didn’t know me, nor did I know her. That was the role I had to play. For some reason, that made me sad.

“What’s your name?” She avoided me again. I answered, and so did she, “I’m Mary!”

“Do you like bunnies?” I asked.

“Yeah! They’re all so white and small. They’re just so cute!” Mary’s eyes glittered at the thought of it. She seemed so innocent at the time, yet, at the same time, she was still fragile. Her blond hair, her blue eyes, her small hands, they were all so fragile.

“Do you like fairies?” I asked.

“Yeah! I do! They–”

“Are small, can fly, and can use magic, right?”

“Yeah, how did you know?” I looked away, into the trees and smiled, “Lucky guess.” Her  cheeks were flushed red from the cold, and her breath appeared and disappeared like mines.

“Say, Mary.”

“Yeah?”

“What day is it?”

“You mean, today?” I nodded.

“The twenty-seventh.” I counted the days in my head. Today was the day I first met her, three days ago. Yet, it’s still the same day, for all three days. She has forgotten me for all three days, and today, she knows me, like the first. What a strange kid, was what I thought, but for some reason, something within me thought otherwise.

“Why?” Mary asked.

“No reason.”

“Hey!” Mary said as a bunny jumped into view. She chased after it, and without wanting to, and without knowing, I chased after them as well. Mary was laughing and having fun all the way, and that made me happy as well. She was like a little sister, but something in me thought otherwise. It wasn’t my feelings being projected. They were maternal. Why is it that when I see her back, and when I see her hair flowing behind her as we ran that I felt sorry? Then, she stopped.

“You’ve noticed it too, right?” Mary turned as she said this, her eyes barely looking at me, and her hands in front of her, one over the other, grabbing it like it was in pain.  She looked at me before I could answer, and then smiled a weak smile, with her eyes, and her mouth. Her breath loosely escaped her as she breathed, and then she said, “I’m sorry.” She walked towards me, her feet lightly touching the snow’s surface, and as she came within arm’s reach, she leaned forward, wrapping her arms around my waist, “I’m sorry, mother,” she said with tears in her eyes and pain in her voice. Her hair was lighter now, almost shining with the snow behind her, and her blue eyes were growing lighter as well. Her entire being was so bright, almost like the snow behind her, and before I could even begin to understand why she had called me her mother, my eyes suddenly began closing, “It’s all right now, okay?” Mary said with a sweet tinge in her voice and tears in her eyes as she looked up at me. The feeling of longing within me had vanished, and the feeling of yearning had disappeared as well, but my vision had blacked out.

I woke up leaning on a tree’s trunk. My head was spinning, and everything around me was a blur as my eyes adjusted. I tried to recall what had happened, and why I was there, but I couldn’t remember why or what. I looked around me, to try and find some kind of bearing, but it was no good. I ended up wandering aimlessly, trying to find my way out. I didn’t, not now at least, instead, I found a wooden stake at the base of a dead tree.  I walked over to it, and washed my hand over the wood. It was quite old. I looked beneath me, and began pushing away the snow, revealing cold dirt. It seemed that the mound of dirt that I was on was more elevated than the rest of the ground here. It was a small mound, that wasn’t that noticeable. I looked at the wooden stake again, and noticed that it had scratch marks on it. It was like an engraving. There was a single name on it. Mary.