Made It Way Up
part 5: Kelly
by Ian Donnell Arbuckle
Parts 3 and 4 appeared in issue 90.
You don’t get very hungry. I get hungry all the time. That’s why we’ve got so much peanut butter and so many dirty spoons. And there’s a bunch of stains on the window that I can’t get off with water and daddy’s old socks. One smudge makes a little frown over Essa’s front door and sometimes I trap her under it. I whisper at the top of my lungs so she’ll hear me screaming for her to move and then I move my head to squish her. Just for fun in the mornings.
She was wearing something over her bathrobe this morning. She was showing her back to me so all I saw was that it was something dark blue and probably cold, then Lane came out the door without his head on. I moved and gave it to him. He walked in front and she came behind him, tapping her fingers on the air. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even look over my way. I went out the front door to ask her if I had to do anything but I only got to say, Ess-- before Laddy’s doors slammed at the same time. Slamming’s the only way to get them to stay on.
I made some more smudges and waited for daddy to tell me to get my pants on. He was out in the barn. I could tell even though I couldn’t hear him yelling or making the sound like a jet flying over real low. My arms went to sleep while I was staring at the trees around the stream and trying to have a super power too. I watched TV but I didn’t learn anything. Then I heard Laddy bouncing over the lip in the driveway that we share but don’t use. I went out on the front porch in my bare feet, jumping over the splinters, because Essa should have been back to take me around on school. It was Lane. He gave me a wave with both hands, twisting his wrists like the people in black and white trying to scare away a tiger. He looks all the time like something off of TV. I think it’s the mustache, even though he fidgets with it and it doesn’t hang straight. I don’t even know if they have a TV. I’ve only been to her house once. Really to it. I know the outside of it because the outside is part of mine, but the insides are probably all weird.
They made us dinner the first Christmas we were here. Daddy thought it was a good idea and he still thinks so. So we ate mushrooms and they drank wine and dad gave me a taste. He told me it was sweet.
Essa laughed a lot while I was trying to go to sleep. That’s when she said she was a school teacher and I saw Lane scowl at her. They thought I had gone to sleep but I was watching them. Their house smelled too different for me to go all the way to sleep. So I had my eyes most of the way closed and I remember wondering why my eyelashes look black to me but brown to everyone else.
I followed Lane out to the barn, making his tracks in the dust look like three or four people before the wind came up and I had to plug my nose to keep the dirt from getting all inside. Lane slid aside the big doors. He asked me to help push. I did with my finger tips. I had to but I had to watch out for splinters.
“Hey, Barnyard,” he said. I stood in the corner, out of the way.
“Hey, Lane,” dad said back. “Is it New Year’s or something?” Lane was reaching up on a shelf for something to hit with.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re home early.”
“Yeah. Don’t tell Essa. I got let go.” Dad didn’t say anything, so I guess Lane thought it was safe to say, “God. It’s a beautiful day out there.”
Daddy made a mousey sound of metal scratching something else metal. He held up one of the small ones in both hands and grinned. “Want to poke at it?”
“Let’s do.” They carried it together, dad at the front and Lane at the back. It was really bright when the sun got to it. In that one line straight across the top like a zipper. That one bit that’s too hot to touch, even reflected, like Essa said the moon is. Too hot to touch sounds stupid.
“Watch out,” I said. Dad was stepping in all the fried eggs splotching on the ring of dirt in the middle of the green field. I sat down far enough away that I was in the grass. I could feel tiny spiders crawling on the blades, dipping and twisting them against my legs.
Daddy and Lane sometimes slap each other and sometimes hug each other with one arm. They were kinda doing both, doing things in between where they would butt heads and laugh or punch each other in the chest with the same idea as tugging on dad’s shirt cuffs. I could smell them over here, both like Essa in the morning, the smell of their house. They stuck wires to the metal and Lane spent a while getting angry because his fingers were so thick. Then they backed up. Lane pulled a scrap of paper from his back pocket and scribbled something down on it. Dad took my arms and spun me up into the air, the thing like the TV remote pressing into my armpit.
“Oof. Gotta take a few giant steps back, kid,” he said. This is the part that Essa made okay. I don’t think they trust her very much to keep them safe. I hung around daddy’s neck and tried to move my thumbs so I wouldn’t choke him. Lane started counting down and getting slower between each number. Finally, halfway through “one,” daddy hit the button on the remote and I thought about cartoons suddenly turning into real people who talk quickly over the music.
The little one pushed itself off with smoke and headed straight for the sun. The moon was out, too. On a summer day it couldn’t help it. I told daddy not to worry. He was laughing. So was Lane. I watched the smoke fall apart. Why doesn’t it fall out of the sky.
I kicked away from daddy and ran back to the house, looking for Essa. The TV was on with “Calamitous Cat” so I got a jar of peanut butter. A caterpillar crawled out onto my knees. He must have hidden in me from the grass. I fed him to Nine.
So now you shouldn’t be hungry for a while.