Friday, March 20, 2020

Miss “Ignorant” America



Autumn Sandoval

     I could hear the brakes squeal as the car came to a halt. I took one last sip from my juice box and crushed it in my hand like the way buff guys do in the movies after chugging their canned beers. My hand was too delicate and doll-like to do some real damage but in my head I thought I was the toughest chick in the 3rd grade. I could see the fog on the windshield. The rosary dangled from the rear view mirror along with a wooden cross key chain I made last year in art class. The low-rider oldies played softly in the background. My belly was full and I felt confident about killing my math test later. I grabbed my Hello Kitty backpack and scooted to reach for the cold metal door handle.

“Okay mija, have a good day! Love you,” my Cita said as she looked back at me. 

She still had her apron on that filled the car with the aroma of bacon and eggs. Her cheeks were rosy from the cooking, cleaning and traffic she had conquered all within a matter of 20 minutes. Her time management skills were impeccable. Now that I think about it, that’s probably why she got her eyebrows tattooed, so she can save time in the morning to do other activities like drown the house in Fabuloso at 5am or mow the lawn way before the sun could even wake up. I idolized that lady for the super powers and wisdom she had. Cita always taught me to be brave and speak up for myself. “Listen to your gut and do what you feel is right” were her famous words. Little did I know, my shoulder devil and angel were plotting to make an appearance to put me to the ultimate test that day.  
    
Tap! Tap! It was the unpleasant sound of keys drumming on the window from the outside. I gasped. Nerves filled my body as me and this person played seconds of tug of war with the door handle. Cita tends to forget to unlock the door sometimes. Whoops. 

I’m forced to take a deep breath of thick smog and gas fumes as the door swung right open. Countless numbers of cars and buses drive through that same spot every day to drop off hundreds of kids at school. Oh the joys of living in a well populated and polluted city.

All white Reeboks greeted me as I stepped out. Ah yes, it was Ms. Rapstein. I always admired her for maintaining her makeup and fresh floral scent throughout the day. I mean, have you ever met a P.E teacher who manages to spend her time in a smelly gym all day in the Texas heat with zero air conditioning and still look like they were just crowned Miss America in 1986? I doubt it! But yeah, that was Ms. Rapstein. The amount of Aquanet she used every morning to tame her teased blonde hair is probably why global warming is at an all-time high now. She had that poster Colgate smile you see on billboards that dentists love to advertise. She was the type of female that refused to leave the house without eyeliner and red lips painted on her face, even just to check mail. She reminded me of one of the backups from a Jane Fonda workout tape the way her body was perfectly proportioned and sculpted. 

However, on this particular day, I wasn’t fortunate enough to receive a heartfelt greeting nor a pageant smile from her as I had hoped. I exited the car as she proceeded to slam the door behind me. That was Cita’s cue to take off. I took a glance at Ms. Rapstein and thought I saw Aileen Wuornos for a moment. Something felt off though. Is it because it was Monday? My spidey senses tingled as I could feel some sort of negativity in the air. Whatever. I was probably just over thinking like I always do. Kids my age have a habit of forgetting to brush their teeth in the morning while I have the tendency to over jumble my head with thoughts and wanting to please people all the time. It's annoying.

“Is that your grandmother who just dropped you off?” Ms. Rapstein asked, her country accent peering out a bit.

“Yes ma’am it is.” I answered.

“She must be ignorant huh?” she insinuated with ease as she smacked her gum. “Don’t answer that. I know an ignorant person when I see one.”

My heart immediately dropped to my gut. I could feel the apple juice begging to come up as I tried to fight the enormous boulder in my throat. I stood there at attention and stared at her the same way I watched the two Twin Towers crumble on 9/11 through my TV screen. I could choke any moment now. Eyes gleaming, I suffered to keep in the waterworks from bursting out of my eye sockets. Did I hear that correctly? Did she just call my grandmother ignorant like that? Out of nowhere? Who the hell does she think she is?

“Go on now. Get to class.” 

I turned around and all I could see were blurry doors with kids running inside of them. Everything appeared to me as if I were underwater. I replayed her comment in my head over and over again like if I had to memorize it for a test. I haven’t felt this uncomfortable in a long time. Maybe I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was. I just let this bully get away with insulting my Cita’s intelligence.

Oh no. Suddenly I started to think about what Cita would do if she found out what Ms. Rapstein said about her. Wait, how would I tell her? I began to panic. What is she going to think when I tell her I just stood there like an idiot and didn’t defend her? Ugh why didn’t I say something right then and there when I had the chance? Is it too late to go back and cuss up a storm? No Autumn. Don’t be stupid. Keep it classy. Nah F that. She’s not going to disrespect my family like that! Just wait until I get home.

A barrage of scenarios crowded my brain as I slowly crept to class. I was enraged and my blood was boiling ferociously that I could possibly get away with having a severe fever if I wanted to. OMG yes that’s perfect! I’ll go to the nurse so I can be sent home and not have to deal with the devil during P.E today! But damn that means I’ll ruin my perfect attendance streak that I worked hard all year for. AND I’ll miss so much during labs today that I’ll fall far behind and severely struggle that will most likely cause me to get a B in Mr. Sanders’ class! Heck I refuse to get A-B honor roll!! Although, even if I were to stay, I still wouldn’t be able to concentrate because I can’t stop over thinking to save my life! Why do I have to make these stupid sacrifices? Why do kids have to be put in the middle of grown up problems all the time!! All of this could’ve been avoided if adults actually practiced what they preached with the famous “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” speech. 

Now I have to face my fears of telling my Cita who will without a doubt come to the school and burn this place down until she gets an apology. I can already picture her cussing and making threats in Spanish to anyone who looked her way. One fun fact about my grandma is that she was raised in the most ghetto streets of San Antonio. You mess with her and within seconds she’ll have her 8 cholo brothers knocking on your front door demanding you to come outside to “talk.” She doesn’t play. Just ask our pesky neighbor who decided it was okay to steal from her yard. Do you think he even glances at her green grass anymore? Nope.

I bent over to take a sip at the drinking fountain. Cold water touched my lips that sent a quiver down my spine. I had a brief glimpse of reality strike me. Goosebumps elevated from my arms. Is this what it’s going to feel like when I feel Cita’s wrath come out to play?
           

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Follow Your Target



ReAnna Pierce


(glass shatters on the hardwood floor)

“Hello?!”

(Silence)

“Is someone there?!”

(Shifting squeak of wooden boards)

Anna quickly darts for her bed, dives to the floor, and lifts the bed skirt. She reaches into the abys of darkness under the bed. The cool metal brushes her fingertips, she tightly grasps the item and removes it from its resting place.

Anna charges the weapon, (chick chick)
 
Confidence floods her body, her training begins to tighten her muscles, she readies her stance against the wall that braces the doorway. From this angle she can view movements down the narrow hallway. She decides to give a final warning.

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!”

The deafening silence resonates from the darkness of the hallway. 

***

“Daddy, please can we go home now? I’m cold.” Little Anna pleads.

“I know baby, but this is important. You must focus, don’t let the cold distract you. Now…Aim.”

Anna shivers as she leans over the log, the sleeves of her puffy white coat indent the fresh powder of the snow that blankets their cover. Her nose runs parallel to the barrel of the rifle and she stares down the shaft through the tiny iron circle, prepared to line the tiny post with the breast of the buck.

Patients…breath… the faint plumes of breath expel from her lips.

“Here we go Anna…”

A strong broad rack appears from the tree line, followed by a black nose and sandy brown fur. Cautiously he scans the clearing; Anna quietly holds her position; his stride is confident as he slowly brings himself out from behind the brush. His hooves leaving impressions in the fresh powdery snow, with every pulse of his chest the small smoke-like clouds leave his nostrils.

“Follow your target.”

Anna carefully guides the site, keeping focus on his chest; soft brown fur, lightly dusted by the fallen snow. She takes in a single breath as he approaches full exposure. 

(Click) 

The bullet passes through the suppressor (chew), the bullet pierces his body and is startled. He darts back into the brush in attempt to flee.

“Very good.” Her father says with pride. “Now let’s go make sure he isn’t suffering.”

 Anna’s father instructs her to leave her weapon and only takes a large knife. The steel glistens in the sun as he loosens it from the sheath and returns it to his belt side. The set out in the direction of the buck’s tracks, well impressed in the fresh snow. Miscellaneous sized droplets of crimson leave their indentation along the track. It isn’t long before they reach the deer. His body had slowly weakened till he collapsed too the frozen earth. His breathing was exasperated, and his eyes were full of terror upon our arrival. Anna and her father moved cautiously towards their kill; they did their best not to torment the injured animal. Anna’s father knelt along the animal’s spine, and motioned Anna to join him.
Anna’s immediate instinct was to reach out; his pelt was rugged but soft to the touch, her hand rose up and down with is breathing, heartbeat was fast and labored.

“We need to help him Anna.” Her father states.

He removes the large blade from its holster and holds it to Anna’s hands. Her pulse begins to quicken with the rhythm of the deer’s. Lifting her hand from the deer’s body she takes hold of the rubberized handle. 

“Where do I…” she asks.

“Here baby, I’ll show you.”

Her father notices her struggling and aids her by cupping his hands around her grip and thrusts the glistening metal into the deer. The breathing stops, and the eyes lose their fear; Anna and her father remove the knife and set it beside them in the snow. 

“You did a great job Anna. I am so very proud of you.”

Anna smiles at her father, joy filled tears begin to pool at the base of her eyes. She embraces her father as they set along side her first kill. The winter wind stings their faces and the snow begins to melt beneath them; but they do not stir, just a few more moments in this beautiful memory between a father and a daughter. 

***

Anna’s eyes remain transfixed on the dark hallow of the hall, waiting for the slightest shift in the darkness. Her stomach begins to ache with wonder and fear of the unknown and decides to investigate the lower level of the home. Perhaps the intruder headed her demand. Cautiously she begins down the hallway, scanning and clearing her path. As she rounds the banister of the staircase, she notices the reflection of moonlight on the hardwood floor. Warning her that her front door is in fact open to the elements. The brisk winter air brushes her feet as she descends the carpeted steps. Her senses are enflamed, fear almost gets the better of her. She prepares to round the corner and take the final step, trigger finger at the ready.

Her naked feet hit the cold hard wood and she swings the barrel in the direction of the living room. The sudden scurry of small shadow darts around the couch, Anna’s finger is pressed down at the ready, but hesitates. What in the world? She wonders. Curiosity slowly drowns the fear, her heart still fueled by adrenaline. Slowly she kneels to the floor and sets her weapon beside her, not certain that she should need it.

What could this be? It moved to quickly to make out; it was small, perhaps an animal… but what type of animal? Now down on her hands and knees she slowly transitions onto the floral area carpet. Moving slowly so she doesn’t spook the creature and activate its defense. Anna peers around to the back of the couch and is relieved to see soft brown fur and with white dots all huddled into a tight shivering bundle. Rabbit like ears pinned to the neck and head buried into the underbelly. 

Adrenaline levels decrease and Anna is overwhelmed with relief. All that fuss was over this little critter; a fawn.

Winter Beauty

ReAnna Pierce


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Run Away


Liz Metcalfe

Walking down the highway in nothing more than a pair of fluffy bunny slippers and the previous night’s pajamas, I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins. The sun seemed to nip at my heels as I shuffled along, adjusting the broken backpack on my shoulder every few steps. One strap had torn away from the bag itself, rendering it useless. Every few minutes a car or truck would pass, close enough to ruffle the tangled mess of hair that sat on my shoulders.
           
I must have cried myself to the point of dehydration. My tongue felt like sandpaper and every desperate attempt to swallow was like rubbing two pieces of scratchy velcro together. Not even an hour ago I was eating breakfast with my sister. Now I’m walking the two and a half miles to town with a parched throat no clue of what I was going to do or where to go.

I had gotten about halfway to town when another car began to approach from behind. I’d kind of become desensitized to the rush of air that smacked me as vehicles went by. It wasn’t until I could hear the wheels crunching on cement beside me that I realized the vehicle had slowed. Upon further inspection, the car revealed itself to be a cop car. The driver was a well-known cop in Gothenburg by the name of Jill. I’d heard plenty of stories from peers about her busting parties or pulling them over for “nothing”, but never really found any use for the information. She didn’t seem to be a bad guy from her appearance. Her hair was a soft brownish blonde, cut short enough to see her ears and the back of her neck. A few wrinkles along her cheeks and beneath her eyes revealed her older age.

Instead of stopping like any sensible person would, I allowed my emotions to control my feet. She followed along with her lights on, saying nothing. It was odd, and to be honest, annoying. Any cars that passed by would see me and my pathetic state being followed by a cop. I probably looked like an escaped psych ward patient. Who could blame them? I probably did belong in a mental institution. It didn’t sound like a bad offer at the time. Locked away from other people and the world itself. Just me and my thoughts.

“I don’t know where you’re going, but I bet you could get there a whole lot faster in a car.” she finally said, breaking the silence between us.

Of course her statement annoyed me. She only heard the half of the story that my grandparents/abusers told her. From my point of view, it was me vs. everyone else. My heart was filled with hate. The world seemed dull and cruel. I didn’t know how to see the beauty of life. My whole life was spent blindfolded by a suffocating mask of loss and anger.
           
“Leave me alone.” I growled, not even bothering to look at her. Immediately after I said it, I regretted it. Did I really just say that to a cop? Maybe I am just as bad as my grandparents seem to think.

Jill however, seemed unfazed. “C’mon now. Let’s go get something to eat and talk about what’s going on at home.”

It wasn’t the mention of food that swayed me, but the idea of someone listening to what I had to say. I turned to look at her briefly, again adjusting the bag full of clothes before nodding. I didn’t really know what to say. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to keep up my tough guy act or break down. My indecisiveness led to silence.

It was nice to be off the road and out of the heat. The breeze from the AC was soothing. I hadn’t realized my jaw was clenched the whole time I’d been walking. After my body had relaxed I could feel the ache. Most of the car ride was silent, except for the occasional scratchy voice through the thing on her chest. Once she spoke back, but that was it. It wasn’t until we had gotten to McDonald’s when the silence between us was broken again.

“Do you want to go in or drive thru?” she asked as the car found its way into the parking lot. There was no way I was going into a public place where a few of my peers worked looking the way I did. Blotchy skin, red puffy eyes, pajamas covered in stickers, and a mess of hair that put even a bird’s nest to shame.

“Drive thru.”

So through the drive through we went. I ordered the cheapest meal I could find, a 4 piece chicken nugget with a small sprite. She got herself a Big Mac and a Dr. Pepper, and off we went. She didn’t seem to have a set destination, which wasn’t an issue with me. I’d only managed to get through one chicken nugget when she began to question me.

“So why’d your parents have to call the cops on you?” she said nonchalantly. She was driving with one hand, her body relaxed into the seat and her eyes simply scanning the sidewalks as we passed.

I had to think for a moment on what to say. Did I want to tell the truth, or tell her what she wanted to hear?

“Because I ran away.” I responded, looking out the passenger window.

“Why’d you run away?” she continued, seemingly unfazed by my attempt to beat around the bush. Rather than answering, I simply remained silent. Telling the truth would make things more complicated than they needed to be.

“I don’t know.” I mumbled, this time leaning against the window and trying to scoot as close to the door as possible. Surely she took notice, but paid no mind.

“I think you do.” she said with a raise of her eyebrow. She even went so far as to shoot me a quick glance before returning her gaze to the road. How dare she call me out for something I was obviously doing?

“Why does it matter? Nothing ever changes.” I said, a hint of annoyance creeping through my voice once more. Things would have gone a lot smoother if I would have chosen not to follow the road.

She didn’t say anything for a moment. She seemed to be chewing on what I said. Digesting it and taking in all that its worth.

“Why hide the truth? What are you trying to protect?” she finally said, still watching the road and driving in her nonchalant way. In the corner of her mouth was a splash of ketchup. I hated ketchup, causing a shiver down my spine. Her question was a valid one however. What was I trying to protect? My pathetic excuse of a family?

“I don’t know. I’m just tired of feeling like I’m crazy.”

The honesty in my statement was enough to surprise even myself. I did feel crazy. Anytime I reached out to my dad for help he seemed disgusted by my feelings, and me in general. I was tired of begging him to understand how much it hurt me not only physically but mentally when he put his fist to my face.

“Everyone is crazy to some degree.” she said with a chuckle. “Hell, I’m crazy too!” she paused for a moment, a sudden seriousness taking over. “I can’t force you to tell me what happened, and I don’t plan on it either. I want you to reach out on your own. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Ever heard that saying before?”

Rather than responding I simply nodded.

“Think of the truth as your water. You can either take it in and feel good, or go without and feel empty.” she said, the car rolling to a stop. I hadn’t been paying attention for the last half of the conversation. I’d been more focused on trying to rip off a pesky hangnail. Once I had realized where we were, I couldn’t help the feeling of dread that brewed in my gut.

“Let’s go get this figured out.” she said, removing the key from the ignition and sliding out of the driver’s seat. It was like I had lost control over my limbs. Before I could really process what I was doing I was out of the car, back in the heat, and at the front door of the house I had just so desperately fled.

There was only a brief wait before my parents let me in. We all sat at the kitchen table and talked. I said what I thought they wanted to hear, Jill left, and I went to my room. Our conversation helped me realize that I am my own salvation. When I am ready to be saved, I will save myself.

Editor’s note: The writer wishes to dedicate this story to Officer Jill Larson (McCandless) who was killed by her husband on June 7, 2019.