Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Actually, Beginning isn't the title (although it might work). I don't know the title. It's weird because usually I can think of okay ones pretty quickly, but not for this one. But, anyway, this is the start of a story I've been working on for a while. I'm not entirely sure where I'm going to go with it after this, but I have a few ideas. Any suggestions (and any other comments) would be fantastic.


Alice woke up to packing. Her mother was bent over, sorting out clothes. She had big half moon shadows under her eyes, like the dark golden ones that the closed window shades cast throughout the room. She gave tight, quick smiles and pushed her bronzy sand colored hair out of her face. The hair fell back, anyway.

She folded some of the clothes, neatly smoothing out cotton cloth to leave no room for wrinkles, and carefully put them inside the borrowed suitcase. Others she put into the big, black trash bag by her feet and sighed. She picked up a small faded pink sleeper, Alice’s old one from when she was a baby. “I couldn’t get the smoke smell out of it,” she whispered to her husband sitting on the old wooden chair, cramming things (a razor, some shampoo, a blue and yellow Old Navy bag a quarter filled with silverware) into a black bag that was too small. “I must have washed it ten, twelve times, but it just won’t leave.”

Dan Kendall looked over from his packing.

She held on tightly to the outfit. “I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s just, I mean, it’s the only thing left for me to remember how everything used to be.”

“That’s not ridiculous, Julie,” Dan murmured. He fumbled with a zipper. “I think my mom has some photos, though. Yours, too.”

She laughed, slightly, but didn’t loosen her grasp on the sleeper. “I’m gonna get one of those big Ziplocs,” she said. “Maybe, at least, the smell won’t get to the rest of the clothes.”

Dan nodded, and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. Alice’s hair was the same color. She reached out her own tiny hand, and fingered a strand. Her father looked over to her and quickly smiled. “Hey, sweetie. Glad you’re up. Are you hungry?”

Alice’s eyes wandered towards the bags. “We’re leaving pretty soon. Today, at least-- hopefully before tonight.” Dan said. “We’ve got a house, now. It’s not that big, but you’ll like it. There are some other kids nearby. Remember how you always used to say there were never any kids near our old house?”

Alice pushed the starched white sheets past her chin, watching him with solemn brown eyes. 

“You sure you’re not hungry? I could fire you up some awesome French toast with extra cinnamon, and maybe even some cool whip.”

A tiny smiled tugged on Alice’s lips. She gave one of her thin shoulders a shrug.

“Right. Awesome. So do you want your Totally Amazing French Toast here or in the kitchen?”

Alice shrugged again. Julia walked in, holding the plastic bag by the opening band on top. Her eyes flickered to those of her child. “Oh, hey, honey,” she said.
 She offered Alice a small smile.

“I was just going to make Alice some French toast. You want any?”

“I’m okay. I had something earlier,” she said. “I think I’m going to work on the packing,” she added, as if it were a question.

Dan regarded her for a moment. He looked back at the little girl. “C’mon, Liss, why don’t you help me with the cooking?” He lifted her up by the armpits and swung her to his hip. She was small for her five years. Alice twisted her head as he father headed out of the room, watching her mother. Julia smiled at her, and sat on the bed, playing with the ends of the Ziploc.


Alice sat on the granite countertop. The grey and white polished stone speckled into shapes, and she traced them with a finger: a giraffe, a boat, a face. The counter, she thought, was almost like a cloud in that way; it was just harder. Clouds are supposed to feel like pillows, except they’re really even softer because they float in the air instead of lying on some hard mattress. She squinted at the counter, so that the varying shades of greys blurred into each other and it looked like she had ten fingers on each hand.

Outside, through the window behind her, it began to snow. They were big, wet flakes that flew in every direction like moths fluttering around a light. They almost looked like moving, weightless speckles of granite. Alice twisted around, turning her legs underneath herself, to get a better look out as the air began to smell richly of butter and sweet spices. She twisted her head to look at the stove. It was the kind with the big and little orange spirals instead of the spiking, flying blue fire.

Dan smiled at her, a single dark eye brow rising. In the silver no-stick pan, cinnamon swirl bread (no raisons) soaked in bubbling gold liquid. He turned back to the stove to add sugar. The crystallized powder fell and became little more than nothing in the butter.

“I’ve got most of the clothes packed,” Julia said. She stood in the doorway, a hand fluttering anxiously from the top of her hip to back by her side. “We should probably write a note to Mark and Anna to thank them for letting us use their house and everything.”


It was past midnight before the car was packed. Julia kept needing to go back to the house for some forgotten tooth brush or photograph. The moon was full and extraordinarily bright. It illuminated everything, from the purply white Milky Way above, to Julia’s pretending face.

The snow had stopped, but the ground was slushy. Alice stomped in one of the snowy puddles, watching the slowed diamond ripples blow around mini frosted icebergs. She wanted to reach down and grasp a handful of the snow sticking out, to feel the melting cold in her palm. At that moment, though, her mother took her hand and led her to the car.

“We’ll have to add rain boots to the list,” Julia said. She lifted the little girl into the back seat and handed her the little pink backpack in the shape of a pig’s head. Alice hugged it to herself.


The car was dark. Heavy with shadows. Alice wasn’t used to being in the car at night. It was different. She couldn’t tell if she liked it or not. The air was fake, over bearing, snugly warm, but the window was somehow still frosty with that thin condensation belonging to winter. She pressed her hand against the window. She let her fingers warm the glass and form her small imprint, complete with lines and creases, the storybook of her palm. When she removed it, her hand was cold and wet. She flexed it gently, letting the car’s forced air warm it back up.

Alice leaned in closer and rubbed the snowflake frost with the sleeve of her pink hoodie. She peered out the window, studying the blurred nighttime scenery. In her cleared circle, the trees were bare and unmoving, husks of what they had been before the leaves disappeared to the ground and were covered with white snow that first time. She thought she saw foot prints. People on their way to Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house in the forest, like in her book.


In her dream, everything was on fire. She was in her bedroom (the old one) and it was on fire. It was hot. Everything was orange, grey, and black. Her fairy pink comforter was charcoal with floury ash, but she sat on it anyway because it was the only thing that wasn’t burning up. She huddled with her back to the wall where all her favorite pictures used to be and watched. Dead ash got into her nose and all she could smell was the acidic, choking burning. It got into her eyes but she couldn’t shut them. She watched the fire climb up her wall, crackling, eating away at the wood and melting her rainbow mural. She watched it twist her castle mirror into evil swirling, deforming patterns. When she looked in it, she didn’t see herself.


She woke up with crescent marks pressed into her palm. Everything was too hot, but she wanted her blanket. She hugged herself, bringing her knees up to rest by her stomach. She looked towards the front seat to make sure her parents were still there. They were. Dan was driving, his fingers tapping lightly on the shadowy steering wheel. Julia was asleep, her face tilted to the side. Her dark sand hair was in her face again, and her pink lips were just slightly apart, like she was trying to say something with her eyes closed.

Dan’s eyes looked at hers through the curved rectangle of the rearview mirror. “You okay?” he asked. She blinked and turned back to the window. She pressed her thumb to her cheek. The window was covered with wet droplets as if it had been raining inside the car and only just let up. There were lights, though. Tiny yellow and white lights racing past in wobbly, glittering, falling dots. Alice bit her lip. She couldn’t tell if they were the good kind of lights, or the bad kind. Maybe she was still in the dream.

“We’re in Boston,” Dan’s face said with the help of the mirror. “We’ll be at the new house in a couple hours. Hopefully, it’ll be almost light, then.” Then, he added, “You’ll like it. I promise.”

“You know, you’ve been in Boston before. You were just really little. We went to the big green in the middle of everything and had a picnic. There were pigeons everywhere, so mommy decided to show you how to feed them. You were more interested in trying to chase them, though,” he said, smiling at the road in front of him. “You were only just learning how to walk, so you kept falling. The pigeons only had to move a few inches every time you got up to keep out of your reach.”

Julia stirred from the front seat. “Oh my God,” she murmured, almost a whisper. “How long have I been out?”

Dan shrugged. “Since about one,” he said, his tone changing. Alice leaned over to see the glowing red numbers. It was 4:30.

Julia yawned, and struggled to sit upright in the passenger’s seat. She brushed past her hair with her fingers. “Hey,” she said, softly, “stop at the next Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ll take over for you.”


Somehow, theirs wasn’t the only car in the parking lot. There were others, maybe eight, mostly white and black, though one looked like it might be red. The sky was still pitch black; the cobalt of early dawn wouldn’t appear for a few hours yet. Julia helped Alice out of the car. The little girl looked around. There wasn’t any snow, except for a few scattered about banks the color of dirt. It was warmer out, too. Not so warm that she didn’t need a coat, but it was definite.


The hot sugar air eagerly flew out of her brown paper bag as she peeled it open. Alice liked donuts. They were a treat, the kind of thing you might get on your birthday for breakfast. She sat on the hood of the car, on an old ragged blanket that needed to be washed, anyway. She held her chocolate glazed treat in one hand, the other tearing off tiny sugary pieces to pop in her mouth. He parents stood around, slowly sipping their coffee. It was hot. It would take a while for the outdoors, even, to cool it down.

Dan leaned against the car and pointed at the sky. “Do you see that?” he asked Alice. “It’s the big dipper. It’s supposed to be shaped like a spoon.” He grinned. “It’s one of the only things I can make out in the sky, but there’s others. I think there’s a bear somewhere, too.”

Alice looked up. There were a lot less stars, and she couldn’t see the Milky Way. The lights were all on the ground, instead. The lights were the lamp posts, and the yellow insides of the buildings around her. From the top of the car, even Dunkin’ Donuts’ windows looked yellowy. Other cars drove past, their lights on, too. On the ground, there was almost more yellow than there was black. Even the sky, the sky with its too few stars, was almost just grey.

It started to rain, slowly at first. A cold droplet fell on Alice’s face, right below her eye, as she stared up.


It rained harder once they were all in the car. The windshield wipers were a poor defense against the rain’s onslaught. The rain pounded, demanding its imprint against the glass. Puddles formed out of nothing, and when the car rolled over them, they became the ocean. The puddles roared and tried to smash themselves against bumpers. Julia sighed and said, “This would happen now.” She turned up the speed on the windshield wipers and gripped the steering wheel tightly.

“We can switch again, if you want,” Dan said lightly, almost amused.

“Funny,” Julia said, her eyes straight ahead at the road and the rain.


At the new house, everything was white and grey, except for the ground. The street was navy blue, like streets are, and the grass was mostly green, as if it forgot to turn brown for winter. But the house was white, with chipped black shutters on only some of the windows. It looked old. The sky was the darkest white she’d ever seen. It was oppressive, heavy. Alice wondered if that was what the sky looked like in Chicken Little, when it was about to fall down. She wondered if that was why it was supposed to fall, too-- if the sky just got too heavy to stay on top of everything.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shadow People

So, I have a new poem! I actually wrote this really quickly, but I'm kind of proud of it. Anyway, though, what do you guys think? Do the stanzas work? Is the repitition okay? Thanks <3


we’re the shadow people
when you
and everyone else
aren’t watching.

we run through parking lots
and play tag with cars
trying to back up.

nothing can see us.

we lie on dirty sidewalks
and watch feet pass through
the foggy grey of our skin.

no one can hurt us.

in winter we jump
naked into crystallized ponds,
swim in the deep black frost.

nothing can make us.

nothing can know us.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How to Ride a Bus in Burlington

We celebrated Meg's birthday yesterday. And by yesterday, I mean last night; we didn't start until 9:00-10:00. Until then, we were way too busy rushing around. Ryan and I had some adventures, though, like--

Okay, so our biggest stop was Price Chopper, but first we had to go to Bank North to get some money out. So we ran downtown and did that, grabbing some lollipops since neither of us had eaten yet and obviously lollipops are fantastic breakfast/lunch/it's-almost-supper-but-I'm-hungry-now-things. We were pretty quick, I think, but we had pretty bad timing. We had to wait legit an hour for the Shelbourne bus to get there. In the cold. And the wind. It was fun. Actually, it wasn't that bad. Just cold.

Coming back, though, we didn't really know the bus schedule. We asked a couple workers at Price Chopper, but they didn't know, either. We decided just to go, then, and wait another hour if we had to. As we were getting closer, though, we saw the bus at the bus stop. Which was on the other side of the street and still pretty far away, really. So, we started running. I was holding eggs and something else (can't say yet :) ) kinda fragile, so I was sort of just clinging on to them and hoping they didn't all break. We darted in front of traffic (it's a busy street) and somehow managed not to get hit (I contribute this to my awesome ninja powers, which obviously I have). And managed to make the bus. Without breaking a single egg, which I was pretty sure I had. It was a proud moment. My story isn't over yet, though. No. After almost missing the bus/dying, we got off about eight stops early.

It was dark out. In the dark, houses often look the same, so Ryan thought we were closer to the dorm than we actually were. And I, well I'm not usually (or ever) much of a help in such things since I have no sense of direction. Legit. So, we got off and started walking. Slowly, we started realizing that, hey, we're not actually near Champlain. Shit. So, we just kind of wandered around. We luckily had the lake so we knew the general direction of the dorm but, yeah, we were more than kinda lost. Wings drivers, though, are amazing. Because we ran into one, and he was like, "yeah, I know where all the dorms are in Vermont," and he gave us directions. And we got home. And we didn't die. In my experience, not dying is always good.

Monday, March 1, 2010


So, in one of my writing classes, we have work on a story we finished a while ago and post it. This one, I wrote a year ago, or maybe a little bit more. I spent a good two, three hours on it today and yesterday, though, trying to get it to be better. If anyone has any advice on it, though, that would be wicked amazing. Especially about the ending and the dialog. I mean, I like it, but I'm not sure how well it works. Thanks, guys!
Oh, and, seriously, anyone can comment. Even if I don't know you. I heart comments.


Fiona Alister could breathe underwater. She hadn’t always been able to. Actually, for the first fourteen years of her life, she couldn’t. Then one day late that summer, she drowned. She was swimming in the bay, like she’d done a thousand times before, and she got caught in slimy, stringy green seaweed. Fiona was hidden from view behind the big rocks at the end of the jetty, so no one saw her as she fought against the seaweed and the sudden waves that were attacking her-- as she faltered and grabbed at the jetty, the barnacles, the seaweed, and even, in one last effort, the salt water. Not that there were many people at the beach, anyway. It was a foggy, drizzly day, unusually windy, and the few people that were there were all busy with their separate children and worries.

When Fiona, after a minute or so of struggling frantically, was pulled under, she wasn’t surprised. It was as if the ocean wanted her, and even though she didn’t want to go, it wasn’t a force that she could really fight. So, it took her. She felt the cold engulf her, the frigid waves pushing her head down, and she opened her eyes. The water was that zero-visibility August water, dense with plankton and storm. Rock crabs--she wasn’t sure how she could see them, but she could--scuttled across the sandy bottom, and a striper swam past her. She remembered how, when she was all of six, she saw one leisurely swimming by not a foot away from her, thought it was a shark, and ran screaming to her parents. She remembered a lot of things, certain that she was going to die. Her lungs were getting too heavy, and she finally couldn’t help it. She gasped in the ocean, her arms reaching towards the sky and air. And then there was nothing.


When she woke up, everything was dark. She was sitting in the tall white life guard chair closest to the jetty. It was peaceful out-- a perfect clear black night, but no one else was there. She was alone. She shakily stood up. She was hungry and unsteady, but other than that, she didn’t feel like she had just drowned, or just almost drowned. Fiona wasn’t sure which one had really happened. Rationally, she knew she couldn’t have drowned. If she had drowned, she would be dead, and she was 99 percent positive that she was alive. But she couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that told her that it did happen, that she really did drown and really did die, if only for a few hours.

Fiona leaned against the railing on the side of the chair, the salty sand of her limbs rubbing against the wood uncomfortably. But she didn’t dare let go. If she did, she felt sure that she would fall that eight or so feet. It was odd; usually when she climbed up on to life guard chairs, she would gleefully jump off. Usually, jumping off was the point. She’d been doing that since she was tiny, the same as every other kid she knew. But this time she didn’t feel ready. When she climbed down, she did it slowly and carefully, clinging to the chipped white wood with tense knuckles.

Back on the ground, Fiona took her first step. She fell into the cold white sand before she could finish it. She scrambled up awkwardly and leaned against the chair’s ladder. She stood there, the tiny blond hairs of her arms standing up in the still air. She took a deep breath and looked over to the black water. It was calm, with only the slightest hint of surf. The seagulls were relaxed, lazing on the water that barely even moved them. It all looked so different. It looked so peaceful, like glass. Fiona shuddered. It didn’t seem right-- couldn’t be right.

The last time Fiona had gone to the beach at night, she hated it. She went with her dad, some snorkels, and an underwater flashlight. They swam near the jetty, peering into the sea, but all she saw was shadows. She kept telling herself that the shadows were just rocks, just sea weed, but the little voice inside of her kept whispering that she didn’t know that for sure. Nothing happened hat time, but Fiona never went swimming past sunset again. And now she was back at night, and this time alone.

She blinked, turned away from the water’s edge, and began heading to the boardwalk leading to the street. She went slowly, her arms reaching out in the night air for balance. Every soft footstep of sand she had to walk over was an obstacle. Every footstep was a tiny, avalanching mountain.

Her house was only five or so miles away, but it took her nearly three hours to get there. Although her energy did pick up as she walked barefoot on the pavement, she still felt weak and couldn’t move quickly enough. And so she took her time, walking past the house where one her friends lived in, past the ugly house that had taken three years for the workmen to finish, past all of six cars (the drivers of five of which were probably drunk), past three stray cats she just had to stop to pet.

And then she was home. Somehow all of the lights were off, except for the front light, but that one was always left on. Her dad was (pathetically, she always thought) paranoid of being robbed. As if they owned anything valuable. She went to the front door and twisted the knob. It was, for what was likely the first time in her life, unlocked. That was lucky-- Fiona had thought she’d have to climb in through her window or actually knock. Fiona tiptoed inside. Everyone seemed to be asleep, somehow, and she didn’t want to wake them. Careful to be quiet, she walked to the kitchen. The clock on the stove read 3:03. She went to the fridge, and snagged the last of her birthday cake. Sugar, Fiona believed, was always preferable to anything actually healthy.

Fiona devoured the cake, and then looked for more food. There was leftover pasta and garlic bread, and she ate that cold, with salad dressing on top. After that, she had to eat a box of Cheezits, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, half a brick of extra sharp cheese, and 21 Oreos in that order before she was finally satisfied. When she finished gorging herself, she, feeling kind of like a glutton, went downstairs to take a shower. They had a nicer one upstairs, but that one was right across from her parent’s bedroom, and she preferred that the spray of the shower didn’t wake them up. Her bedroom was downstairs, too, anyway.

Fiona showered, watching the sand and seaweed that had dried tangled in her hair swirl down the drain, and for the first time since she’d woken up shaken in the lifeguard chair, really thought about everything that had happened. It was so weird, so strange. Fiona was a good swimmer, and was right by the jetty, which she at least ought to have been able to cling on to. But drowning was always possible, technically. What confused Fiona more than anything else was the fact that she had woken up on the bench of a lifeguard chair. That was impossible, unless a person found her and put her there. But no one would do that and then just leave her there. No one would do that.


Fiona didn’t realize that she could breathe underwater for another year. A part of her was afraid of what might happen if she went swimming again, so she avoided going to the beach as much as she could. When her dad tried to cajole her into coming with him, she would pretend to not feel well. When her friends wanted her to go, she would come, but she’d stay out of the water, climbing on the rocks and lying on the sand instead. And then, in no time, school started up again and it was too cold to swim. But the world doesn’t stop happening because you want it to.

Nine months later, it was summer again and everyone was back at the beach. Fiona didn’t want to spend the whole summer avoiding the water. She couldn’t. So, she decided pretty early that she would go. She’d just be careful. But really, she thought, the idea that the ocean was somehow trying to get her was totally ridiculous. If anyone else had told her that the sea was trying to get them, Fiona would have laughed and secretly thought that they were crazy or lying. Maybe, she told herself, she was crazy. Maybe nothing had actually happened, and it was all in her head. And if that were true, then, after all, there could be no reason for her to keep away.


On the last day of school, she and her friends decided to go, to celebrate the start of vacation. They brought frisbees, fun noodles, inner tubes, and money to raid the ice cream truck with, if it came, and squeezed into the car, fitting eight in the five-seater. Will, her best friend Katie’s brother, was driving, being seventeen and the only one of them with a license.

“So, which beach should we do?” he asked, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Coast Guard!” Sam, a fifteen year old with sandy brown hair and a love for anything witty, said.

The other Sam, a girl, shook her head and rolled her eyes. “No! That one’s way too far away, and it’s windy.” She never really liked the other Sam, possibly for ‘stealing’ her name. As she liked to point out, she was born a whole month before him. If questioned, though, she would always say that she never held grudges—she wasn’t capable of disliking anyone.

It was the boy Sam’s turn to roll his eyes. “Oh my God, like, you’re so right! After all, we can’t have your poor hair getting ruined!” He turned back to Will. “Seriously, the waves are going to be wicked over there.”

“I don’t have an Eastham beach sticker,” Will pointed out, “If we go there, we have to pay.”

Sam the girl, pointedly ignoring the other Sam, smiled. “Cold Storage, then?” she asked.

The others shrugged. Cold Storage Beach was their usual, with its long jetty and, on the other side, lengthy bit of beach that was residents only and free of all life guards. Cold Storage was also the beach where Fiona was pulled under. She said nothing.


The sand was warm. Fiona dug her toes into it, just far enough that her feet were covered in a layer of gentle, flighty heat. She shut her blue grey eyes and tilted her face to the sun. She took a deep breath. The sand was so soft, like silk running down your hand. The air cradled her. It encased her body in each small, golden breeze. It felt so safe.

“Come on, Fee. The water’s calling,” Katie joked. Katie sat next to her in her favorite royal blue bikini. It still early enough in the season for her to wear a blue bathing suit without being the favorite meal of greenheads, so she wore it at every opportunity.

Fiona made a face. “Yeah,” she said, “ in a bit.” She dug her feet further into the sand.

Her friend ginned. “Nope,” she said. “Now.”

The water was freezing. Fiona had expected that. June water always was. It was as clear as a swimming pool and even more beautiful, but at the same time, it was treacherously cold. Each step made the two girls gasp and giggle. Each step meant that their legs were submerged just that much more in biting, numbing water.

“Oh, God,” Fiona squealed, unable to keep herself from pained, silly laughter. The icy water lapped at her stomach. She stood on her tiptoes, her arms spread like folded wings. She looked over to Katie. She was doing nearly the same.

“You have to just go for it!” Katie shouted. “Just, like, go under!”

“You first!”

“Umm,” Katie said, her mouth quirking up. She started to go down, maybe by an inch. “Oh, fuck!” she shouted, and jumped back up. Fiona giggled.

“Maybe we should go a little further out, then,” she said.

A cloud shifted over the sun, blocking out the warming rays. It was, Fiona thought, like standing in a shadow. “Fuck,” Katie whispered. She hugged her body to herself. Fiona looked up at the sky, most of it still blue. “Go away, cloud,” she whispered, as if that would make it move any faster.

“Okay,” Katie said, rubbing at the goose bumps on her arms. “As soon as the cloud passes by, we are going to go underwater. Legit.”


The water held whispers. At first, Fiona thought they were just Katie, squealing still about the cold. But then, she noticed it; Katie was standing up again. The second she'd gotten her hair wet, she’d jumped back up. That wasn’t the only thing. Fiona was breathing, too, somehow. And the whispers were still there, too many to comprehend and half muted by the ocean’s roar. Slowly, she rose. Once her head was out of the water, the whispers stopped, as if they only existed, as if they only could exist, in the ocean. She looked at her friend, wide eyed. She barely even felt the cold anymore; her mind was too busy. She had no idea what anything meant.