If I follow the path of memory back to its start, I begin life looking out my upstairs bedroom window. It's here I have my best daydreams and where I can make up stories I like to think about. In my mind's first flash of light, I am here, on the inside looking out of the Picketts' two-story house on a street at the edge of Glenville, the second house from the corner, a block from 105. This is a snowcovered morning when the other kids, already school age, are gone and I'm alone, staring out into the blinding whiteness, thinking it's no fun being left behind, no one to play with.
There is something about being at this window that makes me feel safe. Depends on the smell, though. Young as I am, I have already learned to tell what kind of day it's going to be by the scent of the air in the morning. I can smell rain coming. Not just rain and weather and snow, like now, but other clues. Pancakes on the stove, I know it's going to be a good day. The smell of eggs and grits or water steaming off the driveway after Mizz Pickett hoses it down, either one means I better be on the lookout all day.
I squint my eyes real hard and try to use my special heat-ray vision to melt all the snow. Nothing happens. My powers must need more practice, I decide. Maybe I should try the looking-through-walls trick. That way, I can catch everybody in their alien monster faces.
Yep, everybody in this house, except me - aliens. Mizz Pickett, the alien leader, Reverend Pickett (her trusty sidekick), and their older kids, whose last names are Pickett. Even Dwight and Flo, who have different last names, like me. Children aliens. They just have to pretend to be scared, so I think they're human like me.
The thing about aliens is that when I'm not in the room they don't have on their human faces. And they have kind of goat bodies with hooves and horns and Devil bugging-out eyeballs and long black sideburns. But just before I come into a room, they slip into disguise so I can't catch 'em. One day, I tell myself, I'm gonna be reeeeaaIll quiet and tiptoe down the stairs from the bedroom and sneak soooo carefully into the kitchen and catch Mizz Pickett standing over the stove in her alien body and face - before she uses her powers to see me first. Cooking raccoons always weakens her powers.
But instead of trying to catch her this day, I keep standing at the window, practicing my snow-melting skills. Right now, I know, if I really go out there, the snow will freeze me, so I better just stay in here and daydream some more.
It seems the time came for the visits to child welfare whenever I was doing something I didn't want to be interrupted from, like daydreaming. That's the first thing. Next, I got to be on the watch that she's gonna try to be nice to me. But it don't never last, and that's why I rather she stay her regular way - mean.
I'm at my spot, looking out the window, and I feel her there, standing behind me, all in her monster face and stuff, just waiting for me to turn around so she can practice putting on her human face. That's how monsters play. But I don't fall for that 'cause I know she's not nice. Besides, she's too old to play with kids. So I keep staring out the window, pretending I don't know she's there at the door.
Dwight is in the closet. He's mad at everybody 'cause he's gotta go with me on the visit to the social services office. That's where all the white people are. Except the one they call my caseworker, who's colored like me. There's another one I saw there, too. She was late I heard them say. Another time they said she was coming but she didn't. But I don't care. I only like to see the toys they got in the toy box and play with them for a little while.
Finding Fish. Copyright (c) 2001 by Antwone Quenton Fisher Reprinted with permission from William Morrow Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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