17 tagged with #iowa

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night noise

the other night, a sound came from above. it was an immediate thump, and then a sequence of smaller bumps, accelerating from one part of the ceiling towards the window. after a gap, a bass thud rang a finality.

on the flat roof under the bedroom window, i plucked a small, heavy clod; it could be dirt, it could be a chunk of the chimney, it could be a rotten seed pod.

'owl pellet, maybe?'

in second grade, my teacher didn't know how to handle my boredom, so she passed me off to an upper level science teacher on breaks to entertain me. i was given owl pellets, tweezers, and elmer's glue; i pulled the dried hairs apart and extracted tiny bones, reconstructing mice in the hour before lunch. i'd start with jawbones; often, there would be three or four lower jaws, but not enough skulls to fill the blanks, and too few femurs or rib cages.

'maybe the owl doesn't eat the whole mice,' i'd report to the teacher. i haven't disassembled an owl pellet since.

25 April 2018 22:40

an egg

(note: this entry mentions animal death.)

when i was a kid, my mother extracted a robin's egg from its nest and handed it to me, telling me to show my father. i ran to him and opened my hand, but only found crumpled shell pieces and an incomplete bird stuck to my palm.

01 April 2018 00:37

the foster girl

i remember the foster girl in our class because she was two heads taller than the rest of us. i didn't know what was wrong with her, other than watching all the other kids avoid her, and watching them watch me with suspicion because i didn't know to avoid her. but slowly, i learned, too; she wanted friends, but she'd hit and push more than she should. once, she knocked me off the ice block made from snow plowed off the kickball field, then slipped down after me and landed on my head with her back.

i laid on the ice for a long time; the teachers eventually brought us both inside, and, strangely, made me ice my head, even though i was cold and complained.

one day, her grandmother came to class with her, and played hand-clapping games with us. that was the only day she seemed happy and calm.

i only remember her being in our class for a short period.

27 March 2018 22:56

team player

i think about the decades of my life that went by before i realized that i didn't recognize people by faces. the internet was a godsend to me in my pre-teen years; for once, i could converse with people and make lasting friendships and tie memories together to the proper identity, and i didn't know why, and didn't care to consider what was missing. but seeing people face to face was exhausting, confusing; i knew the names of all my classmates, but once we shuffled out of our desks and went outside for recess, i could no longer keep anyone straight.

i played goalie for soccer and street hockey games, because it removed the hardest hurdle of any team sport: deciding whether or not i should attack the player with control of a ball. it frustrated my teammates when i was cycled into more mobile positions; in casual games, with no uniforms, all someone had to do to get a ball from me was to ask for a pass, and i'd gladly give it up. when i realized this was working against me, i stopped passing the ball at all, and then got declared a ball hog.

in third grade, frequent fights about team balance forced our teachers to determine rosters themselves, rather than let us play the awful team-picking game every recess. the teams were rotated once a week, with the lists posted next to the soccer ball checkout station. i'd commit the lists to memory every day, but they were still useless to me on the field; zach looked like jake, who looked like gary.

i gave up and played goalie, and refused to be rotated out.

later in life, i joined the town's basketball league, and we were issued colored uniforms. i never made a bad pass again.

10 March 2018 18:07


one day in the first grade, we were asked to tell stories, and then write them down. i knew what stories were; my parents had told me stories, about my grandfather who was picked up by a tornado and placed on a mountainside cliff, about the monkey king who needed to beat the troll in a footrace so he vomited in the troll's breakfast bowl to make him sick, about the wolves in the steppes that would sneak up behind you and tap you on the shoulder so they could tear out your throat when you turned around.

i listened to the stories told by my classmates, and they were equally likely-sounding to me. one told about a fat man who came down the chimney and brought gifts, one told about a baby bunny with a broken leg who kept losing its cast, one told of a new puppy they got. i thought about these stories, and wrote my own.

after i turned my story in, my teacher pulled me aside, her hand gripping my thin arm tightly as she took me out of earshot of the other students. 'i am very angry with you,' she whispered. 'you stole someone else's story. your story was a lie. you're a liar.'

i didn't understand why my story was wrong; i, too, wanted a puppy, so i described a new puppy we would have gotten if the world had bent to my will. it was a border collie, the same as my friend's, and knew the same tricks. this was a world i imagined, and i wanted to share a story about it.

no one told me that the stories had to be real. i didn't believe my classmate's story of a fat man coming down the chimney with a bag of toys; why wasn't his story wrong?

03 March 2018 22:54

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