this is quiet land.

June 27, 2017

Walden Pond | a short story



He watches oak trees, with molten bark and rippling leaves rise from the apartment’s crummy linoleum. Stones and pebbles emerge, birds float down from the opened roof, now displaying a blue sky and wispy clouds. Moss appears under his white socked feet. Ladybugs flitter by, followed by butterflies and skippers. With each deep breath of fresh forest air, he begins to relax. With a blink, there is a wide open field covered in wildflowers and blueberry bushes, hemmed with pine trees, a single mountain peak rising on the horizon. One of his favorite scenes from his childhood. A woman in a cardigan makes her way across it, followed by a black bear cub, whose fuzzy back is barely visible above the tall grasses. He would walk to them but---

‘So that’s why I’m leaving.’ Sicily finishes, gasping for air, re-adjusting her grip on her suitcase, and shifting her backpack to the opposite shoulder.
A dog barks downstairs in the apartment complex courtyard.
Walden leans against the doorjamb and mauve wallpaper, and studies his older stepsister’s face. He has never noticed before, but it is comparable to a dog’s. Eyes wide set, mats of curly hazel hair she never bothers to tie back, and of course, her well known bane of existence: a ruby red birthmark that shadows her jaw and neck. Her hands are like a dog’s too: long nails and knobby knuckles gripping her iPhone tightly. She stares at their parents, brows and mouth bent ferociously, jaw set in defiance, shoulders hunched, waiting for them to yell in protest, an expression of sadness or anger. A scream to ‘calm down’, ‘we're not going through this again’. When the oven bings, they are all startled. His mother turns and leaves. Howie, Walden’s stepdad, stands in the doorway a moment before following her. This is Sicily’s fourth attempt to leave since she turned eighteen. Every time she returns the next day, disgruntled. Walden makes her Swiss Miss, and they watch The Office till she makes him go to bed for school the next day. He never sleeps though, too caught up in his own---

There are running dogs, the kind trained to hunt. Scottish deerhounds, mostly flossy greys, but with a few auburn and blondes. Flowing like water from the open front door. They race past Sicily, she stumbles, they race past Walden, pulling at his cargo pants, howling long and low. Filling the apartment, every room, running, dashing dogs-
‘Walden.’ She gives him a few seconds to adjust. He blinks, getting his eyes to refocus, tugging at the hem of his old sweatshirt.
‘...You are leaving then?’
She nods in reply.
‘With Rita?’
‘Yeah. Her friend has us jobs as housemaids in North Brookfield.’
‘Text me when you get there.’
‘Alright.’
‘See ya.’ He considers what episode of The Office she will want to watch tomorrow night.
Without a moment of hesitation, Sicily walks out the door, closing it softly behind her. His thoughts move into worries. At the fact that she is not afraid of leaving high school, of never going to college- not that it was a likely prospect anyway. Not afraid to become homeless, another crazy woman on a street corner. Anxiety sets at the bottom of his stomach as he too turns away. Daring not disturb the apartment’s dead silence, Walden shuffles down the hall to his room. Plugging headphones into his record player, he sets Tommy Dorsey spinning.


There is no news of Sicily for three weeks. Walden’s parents rarely mention her in front of him, but discuss the situation every night, yelling and whispering respectively. They haven’t called the police yet, so they must not be too worried. Walden isn't particularly concerned. At least, that’s what he tells himself.
Life moves on in its usual ruts. Every morning before school, Walden visits Walden Pond, a half hour walk, while the sky is still dark and there is dew on every bare surface. He listens to the birds, periodically using his binoculars to get a better look. He records which ones he identifies in his notebook, sketching the appearance of those he isn't familiar with. Sitting by the water on his backpack, he sees mermaids, naiads. The loch ness monster makes a special visit one morning during the first week. Runners loop the lake, old ladies walk their dogs. Some mornings a kayaker will be out, which draw away his aquatic friends. When this occurs, Walden draws the scenery. Sometimes adding his father swimming just under the surface, sometimes sitting in the highest branch of a tree, grinning in his old Rhode Island State sweatshirt. On the way to school Walden eats a strawberry pop tart, he arrives late, and falls asleep at his desk which is just as well. He never understands anything anyway. At lunch he sits alone amid whispers of ‘schizophrenic’ and ‘pot head’ from the second rank popular table near by. Gabriel, and his buddy Patrick, both mediocre football players, might toss bits of trash at his head. Raina, Gabriel’s girlfriend, sitting by cackling when they succeed in hitting him.  On the way home he stops to examine the drains, streetlamps, telephone wires, and peeks in every shop. Back at the apartment, he checks their mailbox in the complex lobby. After glancing over his homework, he lays in bed listening to the same three playlists on repeat. Every once in awhile, Howie comes in to try and help him, but is bound to become annoyed when Walden can't seem to focus. Maybe Howie feels like a failure because of Sicily. Maybe Walden’s mom is getting him to do it. Walden tells himself he doesn’t care either way, keeping his mind clear by staring out the window. Weekends are drudgery. Strawberry poptarts, and watching his mom lay on the couch, sleeping with the news on. It’s not that he can’t leave the house, so much as he is afraid to. Afraid of what she might do if he is not there to keep her company in the heavy quiet.


One afternoon Walden receives a letter from Sicily. He opens it in the dreary elevator, the envelope is thin and wrinkled. He sees her sitting on a foldout bed in a water stained motel room. Rita, who he has only met once at Sicily’s 18th birthday party, lies on the bed, watching staticy novelas.

Walden,
Sorry i never texted you, had to cancel my phone plan. Got to North Brookfield, jobs fell through. Rita is working at the motel, i am applying for a job as a caretaker at an old person’s home. The lady at the desk seems to like me, so hopefully it will work out.
Don’t worry too much.
-Sicily

Her signature is shaky. He sees her crying, cloud of hair quivering. The view opens to show cameras and a director, assistants with clipboards, racks of costumes. Exposed wires, and rows of spot lights line the ceiling. Walden’s parents walk on set, wearing expensive suits, Howie carrying a briefcase. They sit down on the bed and hug Sicily tight. They give her new nice clothes, invite her back home, which is a country house by Walden Pond. The set change is quick- Walden and Sicily playing rummy at a kitchen table in front of a set of bay windows, drinking tea and---
‘Ahem.’ Mrs. Pratchett, the landlady, stands in front of him on the open elevator, tapping her black stilettos. She is much prettier than she is kind, definitely not the kind of person you would suspect to own such a dump. Walden has ridden the elevator up to the top floor, and all the way back down. He steps off, decides to take the stairs.

Moving mechanically, he climbs to the roof, footsteps echoing pleasantly on the concrete walls. Ignoring the duct taped warning on the door, he steps outside. He’s seen his neighbors go up here multiple times to smoke, so surely it will be okay just this once. Only a few other buildings are visible amidst the lush foliage. With his binoculars, Walden watches a fleet of charcoal grey dragons approach, outlined clearly from the setting sun. They land on his rooftop, noses billowing smoke, coughing up sparks, filling the air with brimstone. Kids his age in billowing black capes step off, carrying heavy swords and axes. ‘Walden, we-’

A rough shove pushes him off balance, he catches himself just before he smashes his face on the concrete. Wrists burning, he turns over to see Patrick, Gabriel, and Raina, chuckling cruelly. Walden knew they would be here, he sees them walk up every evening after football practice, backpacks dumped on the stairs, six pack in hand. Gabriel throws his cigarette at him, misses by a longshot, retaliates by takes a gulp of his stolen beer. Walden can't seem to process what is occurring, there is a buzzing in his ears, his heart pounds, his hands shake, he-
‘Walden? More like Where’s Waldo, always dreaming off like a dope.’ Patrick appears pleased with this moronic insult, and the group laughs like there has never been anything funnier in the entire world. Raina totters in her high heels, giggling as she struggles to pull down her cheerleader uniform crop top. Gabriel steadies her, laughing as Patrick spills his beer, splattering Walden’s jeans and sneakers.
‘What a stupid dope!’ Raina echos, and they all crack up again. With unsteady hands, Gabriel lights another cigarette, hands it to her. After a long drag she throws it at Walden and also misses.
Laying on his back, Walden closes his eyes. Imagines Walden Pond’s deep calm waters, gold, red, and orange leafed trees, honeysuckle bushes. His father tying a worm onto a hook, handing the fishing pole to him. He watches the worm squirm, still very much alive, before tossing the whole pole into the pond. His father chuckles, makes it into a joke, dives in after it. When he resurfaces, he claims to have seen a mermaid, who was kind enough to return the pole. There is a strand of seaweed over his shoulder-
The gang’s footsteps fade away after a few more minutes of faltering insults, followed by their cloud of cigarette smoke and the slam of the roof access door. Walden breathes a long sigh of relief. The door squeaks opens again-
‘Walden? Are you okay?!’ Sicily sprints over to him. She’s wearing a new sweater, pink and fuzzy, that heightens her canine appearance. ‘Did they hurt you? Are you alright? What happened?’ She takes his hand, pulling him up. ‘Come on, brush yourself off.’ She curses, whacking at the dust and stains on his sweatshirt. ‘When is the last time you washed this thing? Geez.’

He swats her away, bends to pick up her crumpled letter. ‘‘I just got your letter, I-’ Per usual, Sicily interrupts.
‘Oh that old thing? I sent it the first week I left. Must have gotten lost in the mail. Yeah Rita went back home, but I got the job at the old person’s home! It’s actually not too bad, if you can get over the smell of eminent death. I bought this new sweater, and found a roommate, she works for the humane society, but is an artist on the side, she’s a bit weird, but still cool. She’s actually downstairs, I’m just back here to pick up my stuff, you should come meet her, she’s going to help me move out, things will be a lot nicer when I actually have a bed to sleep on...’ Walden laughs at the appropriate times as she continues her life monolog and they walk downstairs to his parent’s apartment. With every step his heart grows heavier. She’s not coming back. He’s going to be alone in their quiet home forever.
The apartment door is open, Sicily’s roommate, a girl with pink hair in a tight Beatles t-shirt is sitting up against the couch, messing with the knobs of Howie’s ancient boombox radio. Sicily waves to her and introduces Walden. She gives him a lazy salute.
‘Hey, come help me take apart my bed, we only have two hours till dad and Martha come back--’ Blinking stars shine in the edge of his vision, planets spin, comets fly with twisting tails.
‘WILL YOU BE ABLE TO VISIT.’ He yells, the heavenly spheres fall to the floor and crack, glimmering then losing light. Sicily pauses on the way to her bedroom.
‘Of course. You didn't think I was going to leave you high and dry did’ja? No you’ll come to Brookfield on weekends, maybe, and we can study together, I want to start night classes next semester, and--’
Her speech is drowned out by Sicily’s roommate turning the volume up on the radio. What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong is playing. She and Sicily suddenly start to hop around the living room, head banging off beat to the classic jazz, laughing hysterically as they twirl till they're dizzy.

Maybe Sicily will introduce Walden to her friends at the old person home. Maybe they won't make fun of him, and they can play board games. Her roommate can teach him how to draw better, or paint even. Maybe things will get better. Maybe he won't have to eat strawberry poptarts on weekends.


(the end)

June 24, 2017

wait a second it's summer

note: the feet in both pictures belong to my friend reagan

weather: its been in the 90s this past week in CO; yesterday it dropped to the 40s. go figure.
projects: i put together a sort of guide to my playlists. also, i'm working on a zine. we'll see how that works out.
life: my summer classes (algebra 2, AP english) are going well enough. and i got a job! its tough work, but my coworkers are nice.
reading: life after life, by kate atkinson
fave songs atm: sister, 1# dads \ dukes up, modest mouse \ take a walk, passion pit \ poison root, (sandy) alex g

ps. thank you so much to all my friends that comment such lovely supportive compliments on my posts. i am sorry i dont always reply to them, but they always brighten my day. love you guys. <3