Runnin’ (Part 1) – Welcome to Chicago


Illinois Welcom Sign

“My parents are going to love you,” Pat says. He’s pushing on the screen of the basement window, his skinny dreads hanging down like yarn.  “Damn, this thing. They must’ve figured out my trick.  Bastards.”  He smashes his foot against the frame, the steel toe of his combat boot denting the metal.

“Why don’t you just use a key?  Didn’t your parents give you a key?” I crouch down next to the concrete foundation, paranoid the neighbors might call the cops.  Part of me questions if this is really his house.  With Pat, you only seem to get half-truths.  I can’t stop staring at the backyard, a smooth runway of Crayola green, every blade of grass cut the same, so even and sharp I swear it will slice my feet.Flowers line up in stiff, neat rows:  Little soldier blossoms of orange and gold, rusty red petals poking out of the earth on strong, straight stems.  It’s a magazine spread, a centerfold for Better Homes and Gardens.

“A key? Please.  I haven’t had a key since I was ten.  And even then I had to tie it around my wrist like a retard.  Did you know that they still write my name on the tags of my shirt?  No shit.”  His voice shifts into a nasally whine. “REBER, PAT. They wrote it in permanent marker like I was a kindergartener going to summer camp. Afraid some stupid kid would swipe my Oxford.  Such losers.”

“I don’t know.  Maybe we should just go,” I say softly, pulling at my tangled mess of hair. I haven’t had it cut for over six months, the split ends up to my ears, frizzy and clumpy locks of brown that don’t remember what a brush is. Only the memory of dirty fingers tearing through snarls in roadside bathrooms or  fast food restrooms I sneak into when employees are distracted by the lunch rush.

“Go?  Come on.  This place is so stocked.  All the food you want.  Macaroni.  Hostess cakes. Maybe Coke in the cans. Oh, and TV.  Man it will be unreal.  Like a movie.  Shit, we’ve been living like cave people or crazy Africans with bones in our lips.” He puts his hand over his mouth and whoops like an Indian from a cowboy film.

“Mmmmm, Pat. Africans don’t whoop like Indians.  And I don’t know about the bones. But I’ve seen pics on National Geographic where they have these long-ass necks with gold rings around them.  Maybe I should try that.  Think my neck would look sexy if it was long?” I grab my throat and pull on it, but it freaks me out.  It reminds me of four months ago, my stepfather’s grubby fingers around my neck all tight and unforgiving. It reminds me of his boozy breath and bullshit words “You’re stupid and selfish and shut-the-fuck up you talk too much little girl and I can call your momma a dumb bitch if I want.” It reminds me of home.


7 Responses to “Runnin’ (Part 1) – Welcome to Chicago”

  1. Fuck me that’s vivid!!

  2. 4 BehindMyBooks

    This is absolutely fantastic. The transitions between flashback and the present are completely flawless, and I can’t wait to read more!

    • That’s terrific to hear. I haven’t ever workshopped this piece before, so feedback is appreciated. I’m glad it’s working as intended…..

  3. Hey Lennon – it’s the second time I’ve tried to “Follow” but having inexplicable issues, surely on my end. Can you send me an email invite to follow (if it’s simple enough and you know how to do it without it being a hassle?). I’d like to keep up but it’s easier if I get a “push” email when you’ve posted, if that makes sense?

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