We are the gray
Dedications page because one line is just not enough to explain who inspired me in life.
This book is dedicated to lost souls, lovers gone astray, siblings lost, and a generation that brought me to be.
It is dedicated to all my past lovers – ex’s – haters- friends- family ( in terms of loyalty – blood means nothing to me) and my loving cat.
Most of all it is dedicated to Kay who is somewhere up there in the world looking down on me with her smile.
I can always kick the grave
A songbird’s cry
Its wings eclipsed by puffs of cloud,
Disaster abound as feeling washes away the soul like soap cleanses the body,
Knives are quick, sharp, and fast
as sorrow delves deep slowly,
it seeps under our skin, paralyzing us into shoe boxes,
The fight of lions has no merit to prove what is right or just here,
Just as sorrow has no wish to prove a battle against happiness.
We are the lost here.
We are the lost here. The crumbling few who ran our feet dry running away from a boring life. Scraping black top cement with our bare toes in sweltering spring heat. Deploring our quench for mundane needs like fish swimming in the sea.
I write words sitting here on a creaky old bed smelling of must. “Follow your heart, and You’re heart will guide you right.”
Words I suggest you become a cheetah and escape into the seven seas of hell before you follow. Unless you want to end up like me inside a room with no heat, sitting lonely, and hearing the sound of a ticking clock to drive you mad.
A nightmare for anyone feels like a punch to the ribs. It makes us shiver as we try to shed off the memory before rolling over and trying to shut off our eyes, except we can’t. The image stained on mine is drawn in permanent marker.
A stench of wet sludge, slippery leaves, critters, and scurrying worms rotted into my nostrils. Bringing with it a whiff of garbage from a passing eighteen wheeler truck. Aaron’s knuckles clenched around a rusted ratchet with twinkling emerald eyes from flickers of frosted light. Trickles of sweat doused his face as he gritted his teeth like a snarling cat.
It wasn’t supposed to be a tumble down a hill like Jack and Jill. Fumbling along with momentum till you’re too dizzy, and can’t uncurl your body due to agonizing pain. But you have to move, and the movement is like walking through a thick marsh. Every step feeling like forever.
Trees swayed teasing a dazzling sapphire above with their long branches casting shadows. Creatures flurried about making a lively scene if you were a nocturnal owl.
A shovel bent against a thick brown oak tree. I tried wiping away crystalline drops as sharp as a lone ice berg in the middle of the ocean. Daniel’s a good kid, a great friend, and a person I invested everything I couldn’t give Aaron into. He’s a child who got spoiled for simple achievements, treated like a king, and could pick up girls like Danny Zuko from Grease.
"I don't know about these chicks-they're only good for one thing."
The ratchet slipped from Aaron’s hands clanging as it hit a rock. He hesitated before reaching for the shovel and starting to dig till the sky changed a multitude of colors, and the sun burned our eyes as dawn approached.
‘Cold-cold Water’ - Justin Beiber
“Every step we clamber up is a moment either faced in desire, fear, or defeat. You can’t let your feet slide away in defeat like letting the patient’s heart stop during mid surgery.”
Neighborhoods are clusters of people trying to call themselves a community. Mine is a place straight out of a picture perfect movie. Huge houses with diamond picket fences, expensive cars, trashy pools, and greens beyond your imagination. If you were to pick pocket you would need to be thrifty in not getting caught.
Its not out of place for a poor home to hide itself like one of the rich ones with diamond fences around here. Actually, its become necessary to use blending tactics to prevent your neighbors from judging the groceries you bring into your home. Gossip is a weapon here. A weapon that buries secrets six feet underground.
Mom’s luck is an empty pot of gold. When Dad was around we couldn’t afford the luxurious life of white picket fences built out of diamonds, and sinks made of gold. Snakes of neighbors devoted time into judging her like she’s constantly walking down the red carpet.
I found it strange. She moved here to get a good drunk conversation on the phone kind of distance from her family. Her claim is that the move into this gate of hell neighborhood is for father’s job. But I don’t believe someone would just fold up their entire family for a pipe dream.
My mother made me doubt she was being loyal to my jerk of a father. At age five, I was watching daddy sucking up snow in his nose like a deer lapping up lake water. I wasn’t sure what the snow was till later in my years. But Mom continued to act as it life was normal. Everybody’s parents did it in these parts…
My brother ten at the time muttered under his breath every time Dad snuffed up more flakes of snow betraying the law enforcers he worked with. Dad shrugged it away. Nothing else mattered to him. Right Metallica?
Our Mother tried hiding the snowflake poison pretending to guard our perfect image of family from the neighbors. By pretending it didn’t exist it couldn’t be a problem right? No one considers a police office would delve so low as to fall into the same addiction as the criminals he catches.
Days wept by with me playing outside learning how to hopscotch, or play hide and seek with the golden haired kids next door. My brother kept to himself working on homework or listening to music. Mom kept her hands over her eyes.
One day I was wistfully wandering the streets of Kingston as if they held stories my soul desired as a child. People bent down pleading with me on where my parents were, or asked if I was lost. Being a child all alone on these streets is like being candy for kidnappers one person told me. Every one of them got my silence as cold as an ice storm. I was looking for one person.
My tiny sky blue flip flops helped me kick a can at a crooked fence. If you asked me at the moment I would say that the only worry on my mind was if Dad’s fists would find their way to my face or back. Not much you can do against someone ten times your size.
Fingers interlaced with my thin frame as I kicked the can into oblivion once again. “Amanda!”
“Alana let’s go climb the statue in the middle of town again.” She suggested the words as a strand of sun-kissed hair fell between pools of the deep sea. Her home is in downtown Kingston with a few broken windows, and a possible roach or two crawling on the floor. We met in class becoming friends on the monkey bars – you know the ones that schools took away because people kept getting hurt.
Our school is out of style. The swings made a rattling noise, broke, and sometimes caused a traumatic incidence or two. We wondered why the school never replaced the playground. Turns out parents cared more about the shoes on the kids feet than what the kids did with recces.
Friendships are strange. Amanda and I are stranger. We lacked social skills making us bond as two unlike creatures would. Awkwardly with a tad humorous touch pretending to be Sailor Scouts from the new television series of girls who turn into Galactic heroines. We thrusted our fingers up into the air to chant “Moon prisim make up power.”
This labeled us as weirdos on the plays-cape of second graders. But the other kids pretended to chase make believe Pokemon and catch them. It was hard to determine who was weirder. Them or us. What else could we do but pretend to be the people we are not.
In class we would become two artistically troubled kids. I drew cats as circles with points and two dotted eyes, and she made stick figures. Music class nearly divided us. I could sing good. Good enough where my teacher pleaded with my mom for me to be the lead singer. But Amanda’s feelings would be cut. I will not lose the only the friend I have.
Computer programming class is a repetitive spelling course. Type as many letters, play a game, and try to sell lemonade out of a stand. One day looking out the window I caught blaring sirens flying up to the school. They picked up a boy who busted half his lip outside on the swings. He teased everyone. A playscape bully. Amanda’s enemy.
He got slips for misbehavior bragging about it all day. Suspensions were only for weaklings. Amanda’s disdain for him as clear as an all blue sky on her face. The two quarreled like birds over territory.
The years passed and in fourth grade our numbers multiplied by two.
‘Hey Rachel’-As it is
“One second makes a memory, two seconds shatters a friendship, and five seconds realizing your in love.”
Fourth grade began with he fire of hope. My teacher Mrs. Gillsby a prudent young woman with dirt hair and teal eyes had a rumor for dishing out hard work but treating kids well. Amanda and I separated this year because the school found our social attachment unhealthy like how schools are taking out ice cream from lunch menus due to health issues.
My first year without Amanda is a lot like the year without Santa Claus. The desire to learn flooded away within two days. Mrs. Gillsby caught the whiff of defeat on me quicker than a dog can sniff up its treats. She called me after class to tell me that I wasn’t alone and lunch or recces would be more than enough time to be with my best friend. Her hands shoved over to me a bright pink diary and I made a promise to track my feelings in it. If only that habit stuck with me -
Mrs. Gillsby assigned the classroom with the first group project of the year. Form the solar system in a creative way. Among the many groups naturally uniting there was a group of two who needed a third person. Braving the awkward air I gave the pair walked up to me in desperation for a better grade.
“My name is Rachel.” Her leafy eyes held a curiosity equivalent to a cat’s upon seeing first snowfall. “I just started here due to my move over the summer.”
“Where did you move from?” Folks around here only move to Kingston for military, hospital, or executive position jobs. The shy boy next to her held his creamy hands behind his back as if he was roped into coming over.
“A tiny state. It kind of looks like a square with a little squiggly line.” Laughter chimed from the boy’s lips as he ran his hands nervously through thick dirt hair. I guess not knowing what sate has a squiggly line is amusing.
“A squiggly line. Got it.” We forged a triangle in the corner of the room nearest the window that looked out on a wood chipped, and black pavement playground. Behind my desk a line of brown cupboards holding used storage for class hugged the wall. We are the nobodys. The group scrounged together as other kids colored, plotted out ideas, and began their work on the blank page. Other kids had friends. All I have are these annoying newbies to town.
“This here is Daniel.” Her switch of topic quick like a cat’s pounce on its prey. “He transferred elementary schools.”
“What are we going to create?” Daniel butt in his tone reminiscent of a southern Chinese farm boy. “I mean we can’t outright draw the solar system.”
“The animal kingdom. Pick an animal for each planet, and mark the stars as the animals home.” Rachel fessed up using a light blue colored pencil to sketch out her sudden plan.
“We could use the color of the planet to help determine the animal.”
“Perfect. Detail the creatures, homes, and colors of planets to form it. Anyone got a name?”
“Animal solar system?” Rachel chimed in but the name fell short compared to the names of other students projects being whispered about.
How about the ABC’S of the Solar system?” Daniel’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. Agreement unanimously seen by our nods of agreement. To think this project would later define our friendships like a ring of of promise. The tide of school life is changing..
The black paper’s length of three desks became the background for our project. Rachel detailed out each planet’s animal, color, and survival needs on plane white paper like a journalist outlining the hottest news for the day.
We finished. Rachel ran the project up to Mrs. Gillsby’s desk cluttered with all the other completed ones. Everyone else had already fled off to recess. We slipped our hands together passing tarnished pools of teal green walls till we escaped to the stairs that are as blue as a clear summer sky.
Amanda’s thin arms folded in front of us as if she had chosen to waste twenty minutes waiting for my arrival. “Alana,” Her tone like an ice berg collision.
“Wanna play tag using a stick outside.” Danial broke the tension. A lone hero.
“Sure,” Amanda’s answer sounds like a no but with no other friends to fall back on she grabbed Rachel’s hands giving a meager introduction to her.
From this day forward we would remain tight like family holding each other, catering to one another, and causing trouble. This same day defined my future like an Earth rattling quake defines a Tsunami.
I rode the bus home with Danial who mumbled about how traveling is like throwing him out to the fields to beg for rain. I guess he’s a country bumpkin like all our classmates said. He pointed out the window towards my street as the bus headed towards it like a snail. Dancing Christmas lights, and loud sirens met my ears. Thunder beat as reality broke through our childhood window pane.
The side of the road littered with cop cars, and walk-i-talkies could be heard blaring through the window. Our big lemon bus had to veer around the corner to drop me off making the route for the rest of the kids longer.
Huffing as I walked towards blaring noise and ignoring my guts desire to run my mother sat on the front lawn with her hands to her face. A common scene these days. Its like watching a bad crime drama except you see no silver lining at the end. Just a lot of darkness, and Christmas lights.
Her curly crow hair looked smeared to her neck. I could see blotches of wet on her jean jacket. ( Yea, mom’s a bit of a seventies disaster still.) What drew me in to the idea of a serious problem is my brother who was nowhere to be seen like a ghost. Fleeing the scene like Sergeant Cooper.
I inched forward like a cat preparing to pounce. Words hardly making sense to me. My mother kept her head down as a sheet laid over the emergency bed body coming out of our house. I stood there like a deer in headlights as all the commotion around me bickered on, and on to a sweet hum of poison. The officers tried to cover my eyes. But my hands batted theirs away. Nothing adults could see needed to be hid around me.
Minutes passed. My mother talked up a storm in a rasp to a man dressed in black. He reminded me of the Grim reaper as it takes souls away. My backpack clunked to the ground as if lifting a weight off my shoulders. Chuckles soon turned into giggles, and then into straight out laughter. I could feel the stares of outrage at me from everyone else, but I knew the true man couldn’t hold mom down anymore.
My hands swung around with drops of happiness flowing down my cheek. I wasn’t sure what happened. But by the looks of it Daddy could no longer make law in the house. Mom’s a mess still as vehicles fled the scene, but I was dancing as if rain pounded against the pavement.
Word traveled to the school about as fast it took over the news for the town. Cops lost another brother. But not on duty. The best kind of gossip. Its all over the news. Chitter chatter along lone streets. Mom kept us home for a week. She needed time adjusting to losing income, and figuring out what in gods name we would do next.
Flowers, letters, family gifts, and other items got sent to our door step. Mom only left her room when it meant going to the bathroom. My brother stuck to being a boy taking the litter of crap that everyone gave us and throwing most of it into the trash as fast as it was delivered.
A black dress with little pink flowers that blossomed upwards from the tail adorned me at the memorial service. My brother wore a plain black suit trying to keep himself in the background. Mom didn’t want the world to remember him for being addicted to snow. She wanted him to be a memory for his lack of service as an officer.
The memorial held inside Kingston’s funeral home. A common one used by rich folk even though we were anything but. Outside the home had two wide pillars with Gargoyles on them donated by a family in the past to guard over the dead. The grass freshly cut, and the door made of Old Oak where you smell the dust radiating from it like plumes of smoke.
Words like rain poured by me. Sorry spread around like a disease and the adults treated me as little more than a hugging stone. Bending down to hug me only to whisper words that would later be forgotten. I stood next to the open casket. My face dry, and plastered in a frown. Its hard pretending like I was sad around people.
Officers chatted about Dad, family gave fake hugs, and by the end of the day they would all walk out strangers again. A man known for being the best priest in town stepped outside in front of me. His robe like static from a television box with a white flannel under it. Did he even count as a priest?
The casket kept open halfway leaving my father’s thinned out face, and cherry lips for the world to see. I couldn’t help but yearn to slam the casket shut. Out of the corner of my eyes a little girl in a frilly black dress with curly strands of thin charcoal hair. Rachel. A man held her hands with sandy flecks of hair popping out of his Navy baseball cap. Others arched eyebrows whispering about the strangers.
The man sat in his seat as he watched the priest set down a book on a metallic stand like a leader of an orchestra. He cleared his mouth trying to shush out the hums in the room as he began to read the Eulogy in his hand written by my God Forsaken uncle that pretended to care about us.
“If I should go before the rest of you, Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone, Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice, But be the usual selves that I have known. Weep if you must, Parting is hell, But life goes on, So sing well.” Words spoken brought tears to my eyes as I imagined father bending down to read me poems before bed. Few of my memories of him could Jar me into tears like this one as most had moments of severe dislike for him in them.
Tiny hands wrapped around me smelling like sweet bubble gum. Someone’s bad ability to follow protocol. I latched my fingers with Amanda’s as she dragged her mother half-way across the city just to check up on me. Her fingers wiping away tears off my face relentlessly.
Time edged by as if it was dangling from a ledge. I just wanted everyone to fade away. Words zipped around me as the two hours slugged by, and people began to disperse in tears. Both Rachel, and Amanda remained as the crowd shriveled before me. Mom sat beside the casket asking why...why he succumbed to the snow.
Year in passing
My suitcase flew into the back of our green Volkswagen trying not to think about leaving home. Goodbye diamond picket fences, fake interests, and sad words trying to life me up. Hello to downtown’s innermost hood, and welcome to gang world.
Our Volkswagen filled to the brim with only appliances, pictures, bed supplies, and toys that made us leaving a perfectly flawed place to somewhere less safe. The smooth black top road switched to a crusty, bumpy one that made my light coral colored Game-Boy advance nearly slip out of my fingers. Plumes of factory air flew through our windows making my asthmatic brother hack out a lung while taking a sip of Pepsi.
Sprays of soda fell onto my device as I tried to move my came away. “Can you not hack all over my game?”
“Oh, come on, you know you love this scent of destruction from out window.” He covered his mouth with his sleeve as a show of kindness towards the screen.
“I don’t smell anything aside from your rotten breath.” Mom began to chuckle as if I made a hit joke. Pulling over to the side of the road along a neighborhood filled with metal fences, boarded up houses, glass on the ground, and garbage littering the sidewalk- I found it nothing like the diamond life. I already like it.
The building made of old rose bricks had wedges of grass stuck between them with crooked stairs that looked wobbly. Inside, our floors were clean wood with sea-like tiles for the bathroom, and a magnificent marble floor for the kitchen. Not quite perfect. But perfect with its imperfections. The stairs creaked a little as I climbed up them.
“Hey Alana, I think I found something for you.” My brother tossed a snake plushie around my neck as he sped past me with a box.
“Keep your snake, or I’ll just leave it on the stairs to collect dust.” I hefted my box up a little continuing my journey to my room.
The apartment like an old smokers domain had walls discolored into a faint beige for the kitchen. Our floor made of a floral tile pattern that collected dust in-between the cracks. Next to it the living room’s rug greeted me with a fuming maroon color with dark splotches everywhere. The static television wide-screen fitting against the pale beige walls of the living room. From here it split off into an open hallway with a bathroom tainted by baby pink, and a sink made of rust. Houston, I think I left Kansas for the Ghettos.
I chuckled finding my room slightly smaller than back in our castle of glass. My room with a stick on sky ceiling meant for a one year old. Along the walls a history of crayon families, drawing of younger children lined every corner. A small charcoal television that you slap in order to get the static to go away rested in the left corner. Underneath the table a console similar in color called a Nintendo Sixty four sat. The cushions on my bed pressed up against the window.
Throwing down the box in my hands I yearned to travel back to the car for the bookshelf. I needed my books that I divulged into before bed like Belle from Beauty and the Beast to keep me sane at night. Packing is a full on process. Amanda lived a block away...guess my mom knew a bit or two about keeping friends within reach.
A curse if you ever ask me. Day of the damned be made.
Please remember to comment and spread around the love of my first novel as I write.
Yes yes yes! Hello, fellow-enemy-of-the-'said'! Definitely will need to read you! Our styles are similar!
Grammatically, one thing stood out – you’re. It should be ‘your’ as ‘you’re’ is the contracted form of ‘you are.’ If you’re after the pronoun, which you are, use ‘your.’
The description of Aaron’s eyes – you’re mixing metaphors. I think taking away the reference to ‘tiger like’ would fix that up easily.
Hope that helps – I will continue reading as soon as I can.
Sorry about the stack of comments - it seems to only like short ones.
There are small things in here that you could work on. In the opening paragraphs, there are some long sentences that you could break into shorter ones for impact. For instance, the opening. The part ‘that day is a vibrant nightmare in my head’ – see how you feel putting this at the end of that first paragraph. Opening with the image of your narrator sitting on a bed alone in a musty, dusty space really packs a punch, and shifting that first half of the opening sentence to the end drives something about her situation in a little deeper.
The opening sentence of paragraph three is quite long – see if you can break it up a touch, for emphasis, or simply reorder the character’s thoughts a little. A well-placed comma might be enough.
Okay first thoughts – I am totally intrigued and really wish to know more, so well done on catching me straight up (I am a very cynical reader). I love the voice and tone of your narrator – as the reader, I feel like she is speaking directly to me, which I am guessing is your intention. I’ve always found it difficult to do the little ‘asides’ to the reader, but you have managed it really well.
You have some nice figurative language in here, and some nice description. A good balance of adjectives and nouns, which is great, because I don’t feel I am drowning in description.
I'm really enjoying this - have a long comment for you but it won't let me post it.