Jungle Boy crouched behind the palm tree in the zoo. He listened, as the two chimps snarled awake on the other side of the cage, watching as they approached the door where the man in the blue uniform jingled open the lock and pushed food inside. The chimps ate first. For his first feeding, Jungle Boy ran to the door when he heard the squeak of the lock. Tthen the man in blue shoved him back with his foot and whispered “savage” and proceeded to feed the chimps, while Jungle boy clung to his toes and rolled himself up like an armadillo. Jungle Boy learned to sit and wait.
The field reaches beyond the gate, inviting, beckoning him forward. He closes the gate at his back and begins to walk, following a rough path between stubble fields. The sky opens before him, swallowing the sun. He tramps along—boots crunching half-frozen mud and broken stubble.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Say July 21, 1969, the day we waited to see if men could walk on the moon and come back? Joe had said in his recent letter that he wished he could be home to watch it on TV. The Russians had sent a dog, not to the moon, but out into space, poor thing, but it survived. I saw a photo, I think. Maybe they sent men too, but didn’t tell us, like children hiding a report card from a parent. We waited to see if men could set our flag, leave their footprints, pick up rocks, return alive. Had we fulfilled the wish of our commander in chief, to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade? Could we fulfill his hopes, the hopes he had before his head was exploded in Dallas?
We dug a grave for her Uncle Page near the Apalachicola River. Me and Wallis, with two shovels taken from her uncle’s shed.
The river was nearly dried up after the summer droughts. It’s must’ve been 95 degrees out there. It’d been in the 90s all week. The type of heat that makes you feel like you’re moving through an actual substance—heavier than air. About four feet down in the earth we started hitting nothing but roots and stones.
She was a little kooky. To give an example, we’d go into a convenience store and lickety-split she’d walk out of there having nimbly swiped a raspberry yogurt. Once outside the white plastic cup was cold in her hand, and I’d ache for her. Then, loitering by the bicycle stand, a cloud of reason would descend upon me, swirling about my head like a nimbus, and I’d see ash-blonde wisps of hair and long eyelashes sentinel her mysterious orbs—blue when I was in this state, otherwise green. “Are you crazy?” I’d ask. But people who are crazy rarely answer in the affirmative to this line of questioning.”No!” she’d say.
The whole thing seemed soulless to him.
Kroll strode along the cold sidewalk, peeking into forlorn storefronts: a slapdash cheapo vape shop, a slick well-capitalized yogurt place, an organic juice bar and an antiquarian bookstore that blurred like a wall of gilded paper. All closed, all dead on this New Year’s Eve as midnight neared.
When you first see your husband in handcuffs at the station house, tears build back so far in your eyes, it seems they are filling your sinus cavities. You blink, but it does not break the dam. Instead, your body is consumed by trembles. Your hands grab the tails of your navy blouse, and you wind the soft cotton around your fingers like a glove.
You see the blood pouring out of a cut above his right eye. You can’t see the eye, because it is swollen shut, but you have been married for five years and gazed into that eye for six years before that, so you know that under the lid, under the bruise, under the blood, it is brown. The blood leaves bright red streaks on his pale skin, as it races toward his black t-shirt, where it disappears into the darkness. You want to kiss him, tell him it will be OK, but a policeman is leading him toward an ambulance.
Ms. Hu was the first one I noticed at the Warrene Academy. They talked about her beautiful slanted eyes, the boys did. During office hours, the male students waited outside her door, forming a line that went around two walls. One by one, they were invited to the other side of the windowless, white door, and for a whole minute, sometimes two, the lucky boy had Ms. Hu all to himself.
The boys came out the office with a drunken look, unable to walk a straight line. A saccharine fragrance permeated the air each time a boy walked out and another entered—like strawberries, but also like decayed roses. A dim yellow light from the office slipped through the door crack, but I was never able to see anything else; the thick perfume half-blinded me, I suspect. “Come in, my dear,” Ms. Hu’s tinkling voice called.
Megan took a long gulp from her Miller Lite, ending with an “ahhh” as she leaned back onto the edge of the trampoline. We hadn’t quite made it to the crispness of wee hours where the breeze sweeps away the heaviness of the previous day, but instead, the air was still and lingering with the stench of late-Texas spring. The purple bandana wrapped around her head looked almost as dark as her long, black hair in this lighting. I hoisted myself onto the trampoline next to her, my feet dangling towards the dirt.
The sloppy clouds above were a light gray—lighter than the sky, at least—and they were starting to break apart in the same way algae breaks up on a pond’s surface when you poke it with a stick. Behind the clouds, stars peeked curiously down on us.
The refrigerator was still covered in debris. I spied the magnet Jake had made when he was in Boy Scouts back in 1989. It was his faded fishing picture. He was wearing his navy uniform with yellow bandana tie, and the date had been scratched in pen underneath the photo on a popsicle stick. The rest of the popsicle sticks that outlined the magnet as a frame were coming undone, and a few were missing. The fraying edges threatened a nasty sliver. The same grey grime from countless sticky fingers that covered the handle to the fridge and freezer coated the popsicle sticks as well.