Dad dropped me off at Grandmother's house then drove away. He left me with my bag of toys, which was cool, but Mom was out of town and he said he needed the house to himself, so he drove me out to Grandma's house over in the next state. He said he'd be back in a couple weeks.

Grandma gave me a nice big hug when I walked inside. She looked kinda sad but she said she wasn't. She said she was really happy to see me. She asked me how I was doing and sat me down at her little table in the kitchen and cooked me a grilled cheese sandwich, my favorite meal.

While the stove crackled I stared out the window in the living room. I half-expected Dad to be back soon. Grandma's apartment was small and it smelled like lotion. The kitchen was barely big enough for me to get past her and get a soda from the fridge and she only had one bedroom, so she said I could either pull out the bed in the couch or sleep in her bed with her. I said I wanted to sleep on the couch like Dad did sometimes back at home. Grandma frowned a bit as I said that, flipping the sandwich over. She had let it blacken a bit too much, I think.

After I ate my sandwich Grandma told me we'd go to the carnival tomorrow. It was the last day it was going to be open and she thought we'd have a good time. I nodded. I'd never been to the carnival before. Dad took me to the park once, but it was windy and he and Mom were busy talking while I rode a swing by myself. They didn't look happy. I felt bad for making them come to the park while it was so windy. I feel bad for having to make Grandma cook me a sandwich and pull out the bed when she could have had the house all to herself like Dad. But maybe going to the carnival tomorrow would make her happier.


When I woke up next morning Grandma was coughing in bed.

“I'm sorry dear, I don't think I'll be well enough to take you to the carnival today.” She looked a little bit pale, I guess, though the lights were off so I didn't really know. I told her it was fine and I went back out to the living room and flopped onto the pullout bed. I pulled out my special edition He-Man figurine with the glow-in-the-dark sword and I had him fight Optimus Prime for the right to save the world.

“Skeletor was a much bigger threat than Megatron!” He-Man said. “Megatron was just a dumb robot!”

“Hey,” Optimus Prime said. “I'm a robot!”

“Yeah, but you're not dumb!” He-Man said.

“Oh, ok, that's cool then.” Then the two of them fought each other. They were pretty much neck-in-neck until I closed the curtains and He-Man's sword started glowing, then he just mopped the carpet with Optimus.

“Oh man you were right, you're a much cooler dude than I am. Go save the world He-Man!”

“Thanks Optimus Prime!” Then I tossed Optimus Prime away and I pulled out the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex stuffed doll that was hiding beneath the bed.

“Roooooooar!” T-Rex shouted out. He charged He-Man but He-Man's sword was still glowing so he beat down T-Rex in one hit. But then I opened the shades and He-Man's sword stopped glowing and the light made T-Rex powerful again. T-Rex smashed up He-Man, but right before he could completely smash him to bits Optimus Prime rushed in and beat up T-Rex for He-Man. He was metal so it didn't hurt as much when T-Rex bit him.

“Thanks for saving me Optimus Prime,” He-Man said.

“Oh don't worry about, I was just in the neighborhood.”

“But you know I had it all handled, you didn't need to save me.”

“Oh of course, I just thought I'd be nice since I owed you from when you saved me that one time.”

“Oh right I forgot about that. Well I guess we're even then.”

And then they rode off into the sunset. There really wasn't much else to do then so I just snuck into the kitchen and grabbed a soda to drink.


The next time the carnival was in town was when my Dad came by to take me to it. My uncle had moved in to the apartment with Grandma, so I had to sleep on the bed with Grandma and he took the couch. I had to do that for two days before Dad stopped by and took me to the carnival. I told him all about all the fun I had with the toys I had. He nodded a lot and smiled. He didn't say much about taking me back home, which I knew he was going to do.

We got to the carnival and there were a bunch of things to do, like ride the merry- go-round or shoot the targets with a water gun. Dad walked me around through the whole carnival and we did all sorts of really neat things. We had a blast, and I even won a few prizes, like a stuffed animal and some candy. Then we sat down for a while and ate because Dad said he was getting kinda winded. The food tasted great. After we ate he said we needed to head back because it would rain soon. He drove me back to Grandma's and we were walking inside. He still hadn't said anything about going home, which he was going to do, right? I started to wonder.

“I can't wait to go back home and see Mom,” I said as we got to the front door of Grandma's apartment. Dad didn't reply. “We're going back today, right?” Still nothing. Dad opened the door and walked us inside.

“Welcome back boys,” Grandma said from the kitchen. She was cooking something. Uncle was in the living room, drinking beer and watching the game. “How was the carnival?” Grandma asked.

“We had a good time,”Dad said.

“I hope you didn't get too hot in your dark suit, dear. It was awfully sunny today.” “Oh, I was fine.”

They talked a bit more but I didn't pay attention to them. I showed Uncle my stuffed animal that I won. He took it and looked at it and gave it back and smiled and went back to watching the game.

“Leave your Uncle be,” Dad said. “He's trying to get important stuff done.”

“Fuck you,” Uncle said. “Get the fuck out of here.”

“Don't talk to me like that in front of my son.”

“Then take your son with you. Don't just abandon him on your mother's doorstep.” “Now, now, boys, settle down,” Grandma called out from the living room. “Shut up, ma,” Uncle shouted. “Leave me the fuck alone, John.”

I felt Grandma's hand on my shoulder as she led me away from the living room. She went with me to one of the rooms in the back of the apartment and she closed the door and played with me and my stuffed animal. They shouted for a while in the living room. A long while.

“Why are they fighting, Grandma?” I asked.

“Oh, that's just what boys do,” Grandma replied.

I heard the door slam right after the shouting ended. Grandma left to check the food and apparently Dad had left. I didn't see him again for several more weeks when he finally took me home. Mom was gone. Apparently she went to Heaven to be with Jesus, though Dad sometimes said New Jersey instead when he was on the phone.



Momma’s taking me to get my hair cut today. I don’t wanna go. It’s warm and dark underneath my bed and I’m playing hide-and-go-seek from Momma in my blankie with my dinosaurs.

“Honey, it’s time for your haircut.”

Momma's in my room. I try not to breath loudly. Momma kneels down and looks underneath the bed and sees me anyways.

"Honey, it's time for us to go," she says kinda softly. “Okay...” I say. I turn away and close my eyes. Momma pulls me out from underneath the bed.

“Come on, dear, we need to go.”

“I don’t wanna...”

Momma sighs. “If we don’t go right now I’ll pour a glass of water on you.”

Momma did that once when I wouldn’t get up to go to Church. I was mad all day. Momma said Daddy and God wouldn’t be happy with me for being mad. That made me madder. Momma paddled me when we got home.

“Fiiiiine,” I say to Momma and throw my blankie. It’s a big blankie so it doesn’t go far. Momma reaches down and takes my hand and leads me outside. I close my eyes and put my face in her skirt. It’s thick and rough and I feel her leg on my face. I follow Momma’s leg until I hear our feet on the stones where the car is and I hear the car door open. Momma lifts me up and sets me down. The seat’s hot.

“I don’t wanna go, Momma,” I say. I think about crying.

“It’ll be fun,” Momma says. She buckles me in. Momma doesn’t put me in a plastic chair like other Mommas. Momma always told me to sit down real low when we were at Church so people didn’t see me without a plastic chair. None of my friends liked their plastic chairs. The seat’s still hot. It’s wrinkled and soft and dark red. Momma closes the door and sits down on the other side of the car and makes the car start.

“Make it vroom, Momma!” I say.

Momma smiles and makes it vroom.

“Vroom vroom Momma!” I get really excited and start kicking my feet. I watch my feet kick for a while. I pretend I’m kicking a bad guy.

“I’m kicking a bad guy, Momma.”

“Cool,” she says. She doesn’t even look at me kicking the bad guy.

“You’re not even looking, Momma,” I say.

She looks over really fast. I kick a bunch for her and smile.

“Awesome!” she says.

I keep smiling.

After a while the car stops moving.

“We’re here,” Momma says. Momma gets out and unbuckles me and takes me inside a building to a lady at a big white thing in the middle.

“I have an appointment to get my son a haircut,” Momma says to the lady. She tells her my name. The lady makes some clicking noises from the top of the white thing.

“Yep,” the lady says, “It’ll just be a moment. If you’ll just have a seat over there...”

Momma takes my hand again and leads me over to some chairs. She sits me down in the chair next to her and picks up a big thin book with people’s faces in it and starts looking through it. She looks at it for, like, forever.

“Momma, I’m bored,” I say.

Momma doesn’t say anything.

“Momma,” I say louder, “I’m bored.”

Momma still doesn’t say anything.

“MOMMA, I’M BORED,” I yell as loud as I could.

Momma puts her book down. “Shush,” she says.

I hold my arms out and Momma picks me up and puts me in her lap. She rubs at my shirt.

“You’ve got drool all over your shirt,” Momma says. She’s smiling a little. She tickles me. “You’ve got drool all over your shirt!” she says again. I laugh and squirm.

“She’s ready for you,” the lady says.

“Time for your haircut,” Momma says to me. She’s still smiling. She stands up and carries me over to a chair. Momma sits me down in it and leans down in front of me and takes my hands and plays with them.

“Look here,” she says. “Look at your hands.” I look at them. She takes my hands between hers and flattens them like airplanes. “Look at them fly all over the world,” she says. I smile wide and kick my feet.

Then I feel a buzzer on my head. It feels weird. Momma tries to stop me from looking at the buzzer. “Look here,” she says. “Look at your hands.” She makes them fly some more. But what if the buzzer cuts my head? I bleeded from my head once. It hurt a lot. I don’t wanna bleed. I start crying.

Momma puts her hand on my face. “Shh-shh-shh-shh-shhhh...it’ll be alright, darling. Everything will be okay.”


The doorbell rang and I rushed over to open it. It was my friend, Will, and he was being dropped off by his mom.

"Hey Will, hey Mrs. M," I said.

"Hi," they both replied.

"Where's your Dad?" Mrs. M asked me.

"Oh, he's downstairs, I'll go get him. Come on Will." Will came inside and we went downstairs. Dad was sitting at his desk. "Mrs. M is upstairs Dad, she wants to talk to you."

"You just left her there?" He asked.

"Yeah, so?" I was halfway down the stairs.

"Nothing," I thought I heard him say as he stood up. Will and I got downstairs, so I fired up the Xbox so we could play his new game that he brought over.

"You excited for the movie?" He asked me.

"Yeah, it's going to be awesome." We were going to see Spider-Man later. We'd been looking forward to it all week.

"I've been looking forward to it all week," Will said.

"I've been looking forward to it all month." I replied.

"Well I've been looking forward to it all year," Will said.

"Well I've been looking forward to it all decade," I said.

"Well I've been looking forward to it since I was born," Will said.

"Well I've been looking forward to it since before I was born," I said.

"Well I've been looking forward to it since before my Dad was born," Will said.

"Well I've been looking forward to it since before..."

"Hey, would you two keep it down?" Dad shouted from upstairs.

"Yeah, ok," I shouted back.

"Man, he's grumpy," Will said.

"Yeah, I know."

"Why's he so grumpy?"

"I don't know. Oh well."

We kept playing the game for a bit. We were halfway through the third level when we heard a knock on the wall behind us.v "Time to go," Dad said.

"Yeah, ok, just one minute," I said.

"No, we need to go now."

I sighed loudly. "Fiiiiiine." Will and I paused the game and rushed upstairs to go to the movie. It was going to be great.


Will and I hunched down into our seats in the movie theater. Mom and Dad were sitting to my left and they were talking about something, I don't know what. Grown-up things, I guess. I pulled up my legs so that my knees were pressed against the back of the seat in front of me and started munching on my candy and Will started munching on the popcorn sitting in his lap. I reached over and grabbed a few kernels. He didn't say anything. Darn. After a few minutes the previews started. There was one for a new Lord of the Rings movie and one for a new X-Men movie.

"Those look cool," Will whispered to me.

"Yeah, way cool."

After that the movie started, and man, Spider-Man rocked.


Will and I were jumping around in the parking lot after the movie ended. It was dark out now and tons of people were leaving.

"Dude, that rocked!" Will said.v "I know!"

"Check me out, I'm Spider-Man." Will ran over to the theater wall and pretended to climb up it like he really was Spider-Man. He sang out loud (really loud) "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can..."

I joined in, belting out the tune while I jumped up the wall with him. Sadly, after a few seconds of it Dad yelled at us.

"Stop that, we need to get going," he said roughly.

"Yeah, yeah."

"Don't 'yeah, yeah' me, mister," Dad said.

"I was just trying to have some fun," I said. "Not that you would know what that is," I said too, but under my breath.

"What did you say?"


"No, you said something. Tell me what it was."

"I didn't say anything."

"Fine, if you're going to lie to me then you're grounded for a week.”


"You heard me."

"No fair!"

"Totally fair."

"Honey," Mom said, "Don't be so rough on him."

"No, he needs to learn."

I got into the truck with Will. It was a long silent ride back home. When we got back Dad shut off the Xbox – totally losing our game - and carted it upstairs. Will and I sat on the couch in the living room and watched war documentaries while we waited for Mrs. M to get there. When she did, Will rushed over to the door.

"Hey sweetie, how was the movie?" Mrs. M asked Will.

"It rocked," Will said.

"That's awesome." She looked over at Dad, who was standing in the hallway behind him. "Thanks for taking him," she said.

"No problem." He smiled. I didn't know he could.

"I'll see you later."

"See you."

They left and Dad sent me upstairs because it was "past my bedtime". Whatever. I lay back in bed and closed my eyes and pretended I was Spider-Man, shooting webs all over the place and catching bad guys. I heard a knock on my door and Dad came inside. I turned away from him.

"Do you want to tell me now what you said?"

I stayed silent.

He waited for a few moments, then said, "Alright, I was going to take away your punishment if you told me, but if you're going to be like that then you're grounded for two weeks."

Whatever. I stayed turned around and a few moments later he flipped the lights off and I heard the door close.


It was night everywhere in the household as everyone slept. I lay huddled in my blanket as the fire crackled, tiny sparks flittering out from the fire's glow and into the room's darkness, shining intensely for a moment before wisping away, disappearing into the indoor night. I didn't sleep. I was thinking about all the nice presents everyone had gotten, of the rocking chair for Aunt Sue and the new tires for Grandpa and the plates for Mother and the shaving kit for Father. I thought of how everyone was so eager to open their presents, and how they all looked so happy to get what they had. I thought of how I had gotten the nicest present of all.

The fire hummed lower. I sat up and grabbed more of the wrapping paper with the poker and stoked the fire with it. It sparked up a little before settling back to a crackle. I let out a cold breath as I huddled back inside my blanket. I rubbed my feet against the low-hanging branches on the Christmas tree. Fuzzy. The teddy bear that little Joanna had gotten, she named him Fuzzy and he was her best friend. She set him in the corner and opened her other presents and he watched her the whole night, supporting her like a good friend, remaining wordless as she cried in joy at every new present, every “best ever present” she had ever gotten. The stitched smile on his face grew wider, it seemed, or maybe he was just looking happy like everyone else. The bestest friend ever would always look happy, wouldn't he?

I heard Aunt Sue snoring upstairs. How late was it? Sooner or later Joanna's muffled footsteps would lead her to Mother and Father's room, where she'd wake them up for a glass of water she wouldn't drink. Fuzzy would be in her hands, maybe. Or maybe it would be Fluffy, or Puffy, or Bear. She never made up her mind. No worries. He'd always look happy for her.

Mother was washing the plates Father had gotten her, telling Aunt Sue how wonderful they were and how the plates had a wonderful sheen and how it'd be so nice to eat off the new plates. Plates this, plates that. Plates were really very nice to get as a Christmas present. Gregory from two doors down got a set of hot plates for Christmas last year. He smiled when he got them. Then he burned part of the carpet. I didn't look nice at all. He didn't smile when they found out.

Aunt Sue had to sew a tear in Fluffy while Grandpa and Father put the new tires on the car. They were nice seventeen-inch rims, croned, though who knows why someone would put a crone on a tire. Like, imagine the wicked witch of the west spinning around and around your tires as you drove down the road. Would the west witch get turned around if you drove east? Would she get confused if you turned north?

But I had the best gift of all. Everyone was so amazed when I opened it; none of them smiled. Even Fuzzy seemed to frown. I held it in my hands; it was so nice. I felt like throwing it into the fire. In a second it would be ashes and no one would know. But I didn't.

I wonder why Mother got Father the shaving kit. He never shaved, ever. I don't think he even owns a razor. Hmm, maybe that was why.

The fire finally started to die. I yawned and went to sleep. I was hidden in the dark.



The first time my dad gave me some Coke I knew I was hooked. I loved that rush I got from it and how bubbly it made me feel. I begged him for some Coke whenever I could. Some times he would give me some, while other times he just got really irritated. It was kinda scary going up to ask him, but kinda exciting too.

Then one day my dad had a heart-attack from his Coke. Mom and I found him lying in the living room, staring blankly at the ceiling, Coke all over his face. I was terrified.

I still wanted Coke.


Dripping Ice Cream

My parents were smiling at me as they held my hand and took me to get ice cream. We stood in line at the vendor, a nice guy in a carnival suit underneath an umbrella over a tin-looking wheeled ice cream carrier machine. It was hot out, and I was sweating.

“What kind would you like?” he asked me.

“Vanilla!”I said.

“We'll take three vanilla,” Dad told the vendor.

“Cones, right?”

“Yeah, cones.”

What else would we order?

Dad handed me my cone and we walked back to the truck.

“Make sure not to spill any on the upholstery, alright?” he told me as we sat inside. I nodded and he started up the truck and pulled out. Him and Mom started talking about boring stuff that I tuned out right away as I licked at my cone and looked outside. I had my window open and it was still hot, even though the A/C was on.

The cone started dripping. I kept licking at it to keep it in place, but the drops slid down my fingers and fell onto the seat, leaving bright white little stains. I rubbed at them and they looked gone, but a few minutes later they dried white and there was nothing I could do.

The truck stopped, and when we got out I was worried Dad would yell at me for staining the seat, but when he opened my door all he said was that I'd left my window open.


Having A Sip

The 'rents were gone so I had some of their beer. It was bitter, but good and I drank a couple until I got hazy and had to sit down next to the cupboard where Dad locked up the booze. Yeah, sure, they'd notice some of the beers were gone, but Dad would never believe I would pick a lock and steal his shit.

I thought I heard them in the driveway so I tossed the bottles in the trash can with the others and went and brushed my teeth and sat in my room doing homework like a good boy. But it was just Steve being dropped off by his mom. Good thing, too, since I forgot to lock the cupboard.

We ended up going too far and getting completely wasted by the time my parents got home. Now I'm grounded, and I think Dad might have moved the booze. Too bad.