Life

Life was no longer a costless vending machine that dispensed gifts without paying, the giddy expectation of youth having long been wiped out through years of toil. Yet he had also learned to overcome the cynicism that came with disappointment, so that now he saw life as a rich farmland, teeming with life and able to offer an abundance of riches — but also require care and maintenance, which if not attended to would lead the land to ruin.

Kassandra’s Dream, Part 1

Near the top of the bleachers, in the sophomore section, a slim girl with straight black hair rolled her eyes and sighed as the principal made his announcement. Feet propped on the row in front of her and resting her brow against the bony pillow of her arms folded across her knees, she closed her eyes.

She doze fitfully during the principal’s introduction of the fencing team, during the team’s walk to the microphone, during Coach Dan’s speech, the subdued noise of the polite obligatory applause a welcome relief from the brassy cacophony of the school band.

Her mind drifted in a sleepless thoughtdream, familiar images rhyming each other in ways that would have given her joy had she been conscious, her jacket expanding and unfolding into a kite lifting her above the assembly, now slicing last night’s tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen first with knives, then with her fingernails growing into blades slicing tomatoes as her mother tossed them laughingly at her here’s one, now two (ha ha), a third.

Steam

Rex was notorious for sweating profousely even during casual practices. His body would exert so much heat that his glases would be immediately enveloped in gray fog as soon as he put them on. He would have trouble walking at times until his glasses cleared.

Anxiety

He knew that anxiety for him was like an addiction, he feared its destructive power, and comforted himself with the belief that conquering his anxieties would require a courage which he believed to lack.

Annie and Bernie

I could tell Bernie’s been interested in me for a while. It’s usually pretty easy to read Bernie; he’s so open, unassuming. That’s what makes him so refreshing compared to Double-J, who’s always got to be Mr. Tough Guy. One night last week I invited Bernie to stop at the gym after school. He got there when I was on the balance beam. After I was done he asked me about the foam pit, so I jumped in and invited him to join me. He stood there with a shy look for a moment, and I’m thinking, do I need to hit this guy over the head with a two-by-four? But then he jumped in, and I tackled him, started to tickle him — and then, boom, he kisses me! I was completely surprised, but thrilled.

Annie and Double-J

I don’t know what Double-J says about us, but all we ever did was go out to a couple movies. That’s it. The last time we went out, when he drove me home he leaned over and grabbed my neck. “Come here,” he said. I was kind of expecting it so I didn’t draw back from him, but as soon as I felt his tongue on my lips I broke it off. He looked at me like he was really confused a moment, then laughed. He didn’t call me after that, and I can’t say I was disappointed.