My dad had the paper. Shook that paper. Shake, shake. Like let’s get some music from this paper. Show me what this paper can do.
I prayed before I had my cereal. Prayed hard. Each top eyelid crushing each bottom eyelid. Please make me a mutant. I want to be able to infuse objects with kinetic energy so they explode. And have heightened agility. Please, Lord. Even if it’s just agility.
There was a honk outside because my younger sister went with another family to visit the old folk’s home on whatever the day was. She didn’t want to go. The birds in the maples that jerked in the sharp blue sky didn’t care that she didn’t want to go.
“You’re fine. Don’t go downstairs,” my dad said. Yeah, don’t go downstairs. That’s for sure. “You can stay upstairs this time. You don’t have to go downstairs.”
My sister’s mutant ability was old people thought she was a boy.
“Go to Hopewell today,” my dad said to my sister. He stood up. Hopewell was what they called the place people went to settle in to being dead. There they dipped a toe into the Styx, tried it out. My dad put the paper down and went to the door, opened it. Put a hand on my sister’s shoulder and scooted her out the door. “Tomorrow we’re going to the fair.”
I prayed something desperate would happen at the fair and the stress would reveal my abilities.
Last time my sister went to Hopewell, she went downstairs. Downstairs the lights didn’t work. They flickered. It’s where they tossed the people who had walked so far down dementia road that they’d gotten to the place where the pavement becomes chunks becomes gravel becomes spaces between gravel becomes just white space trying on white space. It smelled like urine that far down the road, down the stairs.
“What a nice little boy,” said a woman who wore a dental bib because she couldn’t stop drooling. Kshzzk. Kshzzzzzk. The lights flickering. “I want a hug from the nice little boy,” the woman said.
The CNA with my sister said, “She’ll give you a hug.” She scooted my sister toward the woman, hand on my sister’s shoulder. The drooling woman grabbed my sister and pulled her in. She opened her mouth and bit my sister’s arm. She had no teeth, so as bites go, this wasn’t one. But she clamped, and my sister cried out, pulled away, pushed the woman’s head away with her free hand, and the drooling woman laughed. It was surprising for someone to intend to bite you, and try to, and then laugh about it. What a surprise for my sister.
My sister going to Hopewell again, I crunched my cereal between my teeth. I looked down at my shorts. They were long, sort of billowy, gray with darker gray splotches, a drawstring. Not bad, I thought. Good for free movement. The shorts themselves heightened my agility.
My dad shook that paper. The corn husk pages slapped against each other, dry and crisp.
“Let’s see what the carnies are up to,” he said. The crime blotter got good with the fair in town.
I prayed for a more stressful breakfast, one that would help me express hidden abilities. The chirping birds outside failed me. When I poured them, the cornflakes sounded like dehydrated coins in the bowl. Did they smell like urine? Maybe. Something tangy in the smell of cornflakes. I’ve tried to figure that out. I still don’t know.
My dad’s mutant ability was to never have to lick his finger to turn the page.