204 Skyline

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I am buried vertically underneath 204 Skyline Ave. In my bones, there are seeds, so, as time passes I’ll grow into a tree. There is a new family in 204 Skyline—one with children. I do like children. The girl, Calli, can smell me under the house; I’m not entirely sure why: I stopped rotting several years ago and am mostly reduced to dust and brittle bones. She must smell something else. I hear her murmuring through the floorboards, feeling me below them, growing. She loves me.
***
Calli’s twin brother, Dwayne, hates me. Although he is the same age and should be as precious, his hands are rough searching the wood—I can feel the floorboards trembling, struggling not to splinter under his scruffy fingernails. I beg them not to break.
He must know.
He cannot exist without knowing what she knows: he’s not the blind one. He must protect her.
It’s what daddy said on the morning he left on his trip. He left on the day after Dwayne and Calli’s sixth birthday; a week after Calli went blind, and six weeks after she first became ill. He told Dwayne it was a “surprise trip”, (because mommy never knew when he left). He said he couldn’t kiss her goodbye like he used to. Grown up stuff. Dwayne was used to grown up stuff by then, and had grown accustomed to figuring out the grown up stuff himself, since they wouldn’t tell him. He figured his father and his mother lost the ability to speak to one another, just like Calli lost the ability to see. His mother always made Dwayne tell his father things, and this habit began around the time Calli became sick as well. He wondered if he was the only one who could see, who could speak.
He must protect Calli.
He must know what I am.
It’s what daddy said when he rumpled his hair, pulling shut a haphazardly packed suitcase that smelled like cologne: a smell that used to comfort Dwayne. When daddy left the room, it did not anymore.
Dwayne hates me.
***
I am laughing. I am so happy, so, so happy.
I’m growing. I’m growing strong too.
It’s been so long, that I can’t remember if I was murdered, or if I died of the Spanish Flu.
I was very close to seeing him again: the war had just ended. I died a day before the troops came home. He wrote to me, reminding me that we were to move to Montana and live, what he called, “a wholesome and tranquil life” in the country when the war was over. This is where my mind runs blank: I can only remember reading over the letter for a seventeenth time the day I died. The seeds came afterwards, my purpose came afterwards, and my resolve came afterwards. I was never a strong person when I was alive. Now, I feel the seeds there; they’re sprawling out and unraveling onto the bone.
***
Calli decided that I smell like black oak. She told me that her old house was in the country, and at the edge of the forest (I’m the only one she’s told) was a black oak tree—a big dark monster that quelled the angry birds. She always found her way home by the scent of the acorns it left on the ground, whenever she went walking
She came with her doll, Frida, and played with her above me so I could hear her. It was a beautifully crafted Victorian doll with a china face and bright red lips: Calli proudly told me that she had never dropped Frida. I whispered a story to her about my own doll that I had as a child. Lizzie, I called her.
-Was she made of porcelain like mine?
-No, she was made of glass.
-How did you play with her then?
-I didn’t, she was up on the shelf, I was told never to touch her.
-But she was your doll! You have to play with your doll!
-Well, when my father went to work and my mother read the paper after breakfast, -I used to take her down from the shelf and set her up with Hubert to get married.
-Who’s Hubert?
-My rag doll. With a blue dress.
-Were they happy together?
-Yes. Very happy. They loved each other very much.
She set Frida on her back and brushed the silk hair from her cold cheeks,


-I wish mom and dad loved each other.


-What do you mean?


-Dwayne and I aren’t the same as him.


-How do you know?
-Blindness doesn’t scare me
***
Blindness doesn’t scare me either—blindness takes the form of physical constraint for me. I don’t “see” as well as I “feel”. The seeds, now sprouts, are telegraph wires that connect me with the earth and everything that moves within it. They are beginning to connect with the coffin walls, breaking the brittle wood. I can smell the soil outside; it is hot, rich, and patient, waiting for me to touch the outside.
***
There have been tears in 204 Skyline. Tears hiding in the bathtub, breaking the spackling between the bits of the house that hold it together. When I eave the earth to become sky-bound, I wonder if I will cry when I break into their basement, if Calli and Dwayne will cry when I eat up their house, if their mother will get scared and run away like their father—we’d be alone. They could play on my branches, (I’d never drop Frida), they could sleep on my trunk. If I am an oak tree and my bark is black like Calli thinks, then they can use me for Halloween as well as Christmas. There will be no more tears in the house: I will sweep them away as I grow. There will be no more possession, there will be no more leaving, no more loss of feeling.
***
Dwayne cannot hear me as well as Calli, but he feels me faintly through the floorboards as well—
Dwayne hates me.
He doesn’t know what I am.
He loves Calli more than anything, except maybe for Daddy, because he’s his Daddy, and of course he has to look up to him. He is still fond of painting even though Daddy is gone; his father was a sumie artist, and Dwayne painted with him, but using watercolors. They ate Goldfish with lemon juice squeezed on top. Mommy doesn’t let him have Goldfish anymore. There are still lemons in the house, but not Goldfish. He likes the Goldfish more; the combination softened them.
-Mommy, why can’t we buy them next time we go to the store?
-Because they’re bad for you. They’re not healthy.
-But we have Power Bars and Chex Mix—why not?
-I just don’t like them, sweetie.
-I’ll eat them! Even if you don’t like them I do, and I’ll eat them!
***
My tendrils are dangerously close to the surface, almost brushing the foundation of the house. I don’t know what black oak smells like, but maybe I don’t smell like black oak to Dwayne. Maybe I smell like cologne. He wanders around the basement when Calli isn’t there; the floorboards underneath are beginning to crack. Partially it can’t stand his hostility, and partially it can’t stand the slow pressure of my growth. We will meet soon. I hope they like me.





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