The Caged Bird Never Sings on Milwaukee

March 23, 2008
By
sry im late be thur 2 min <3k.dra
Coleg tossed his phone on the unmade bed and grabbed a studded belt from the floor. A mass of blonde hair appeared, a stark contrast to the dark and cluttered walls,.
“Get away, Lily.”
“But I can’t find my pink headband! Did you take it? ”
Coleg stared at his six year old sister with disgust. What would he want with a pink headband?
“Lily, I said get the hell out of here.”
“But Coleg!”
“LILY! OUT!”
He threw his battered converse at her. Missed. The shoe marred his pure white door with an oblong streak of mud. Lily screamed for her mother. Fantastic.
“Coleg Sheenan!”
He fastened the belt, slipped into the shoes, and started for the stairs. At the bottom stood Mrs. Barbara Sheenan, immaculate as always in a crisp white blouse. Seriously? Does she think she’s June Cleaver?
After a storm of angry words, Coleg heard loud and fast music erupt from the driveway. Finally. Red Bull in hand, he slammed the front door with angst, brushed sweeping black bangs out of his eyes, and trampled through the baby gardenias to Kendra’s car.
“What was the fight about today?”
“Nothing.”
“Again?”

8am. Biology. Coleg glares out the window, watching cars speed past Maine Township High School. A group of girls in tight pants sulks on the drugstore steps, ditching gym, smoking cigs, and blowing kisses at the cashier.
Out this window Coleg looks. And out this window, Coleg sees past the burnouts and the drugstore; he sees a pink headband, a mass of blonde hair. It’s absurd. It’s ridiculous. It can’t be… but it is. A little girl sits on the curb of Milwaukee Avenue, teasing the murderous clutch of burning rubber. What is she doing here? Why isn’t she in school?
And then it hits him. April 3. Today is April 3. Lily is on spring break. Mother’s book club is meeting at the coffee shop. The Milwaukee Ave Coffee Shop. Oh God.
The mechanics of the heart forgotten, a flood of dread washes Coleg clean, leaves him with nothing. He fumbles for his phone.
“Mr. Severson, can I go to the bathroom? ”
“No. Read your book.”
“It’s an emergency.”
“I don’t care. Read your book.”
Shit. What now? Lily is playing in traffic while he sits in Biology and his mother discusses I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings over scones and tea.
There is no escape. He is static. Nowhere to go, no one to tell, for who would believe his sister played in traffic while he learnt of heart ventricles and his mother drank tea? Who else would see the conniving minivans, racing, raging, stampeding, trampling her little pink headband and messy blonde hair? Her blue gray sky eyes and her bunny rabbit nose. Her yellow jumper with the oversized bow, which floats in the wind as she plays in traffic and he learns of ventricles and his mother drinks tea.
Tears splash his Bio book, each little drop scalding the black and white text of Chapter 34: The Heart. And Coleg is lost in his own despair, head turning, world dissolving, the ventricles, the caged bird, the tea, all obscure, irrelevant. All that is real and all that matters is his six year old sister, teetering on the edge of the sidewalk as an electric blue convertible shakes her tiny frame.
He can change, he can change. Someone save Lily and he will change. He prays to the God that doesn’t exist, to the Jesus who never was.
It’ll be different. I’ll be a good brother. I’ll go to church, stop smoking, babysit the brat. Whatever you want. I’ll do it. I can change.
And then it’s over. A woman in ragged jeans and a flannel shirt dashes onto the lawn. The mother scoops up her daughter and together they disappear into a nearby house. No crisp white blouse, no coffee shop, just a flannel shirt and green shutters and a bike in the front yard.

“Hey! Coleg!”
He blinks back his tears and looks up. Sara Tully. She bats her mascara clad lashes and twirls her strawberry bottle blonde hair, leaning into him with a fury of lilac and lipgloss.
“Yeah?”
“Can I borrow a writing utensil?”
Back to Bio, all images of six-year olds and SUVs chased from his mind. Coleg fishes a pen from his messenger bag and places it in Sara’s perfectly manicured fingers.

After Biology, Coleg will go to Spanish, and then to English. At lunch, he will light a joint on the roof as he does every day. He will steal CDs from the drugstore and mock his sister and ignore his mother and neglect to mention, or to remember, anything from first period Biology.





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