“And you lost at that game?” she asks.
“We’re pretty predictable, huh?”
“Don’t mind me,” she says, laughing. “I’m just jealous of how sweet you and your mama are.”
She picks up my health log from yesterday, quickly reviews my mom’s measurements and adds a new sheet to the clipboard. “These days Rosa can’t even be bothered to give me the time of day.”
Rosa is Carla’s seventeen-year-old daughter. According to Carla they were really close until hormones and boys took over. I can’t imagine that happening to my mom and me.
Carla sits next to me on the couch, and I hold out my hand my for the blood pressure cuff. Her eyes drop to my book.
“Flowers for Algernon again?” she asks. “Doesn’t that book always make you cry?”
“One day it won’t,” I say. “I want to be sure to be reading it on that day.”
She rolls her eyes at me and takes my hand.
It is kind of a flip answer, but then I wonder if it’s true.
Maybe I’m holding out hope that one day, someday, things will change.
Life is Short™
Spoiler Reviews by Madeline
FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by DANIEL KEYES
Spoiler alert: Algernon is a mouse. The mouse dies.
Alien Invasion, Part 2
I’m up to the part where Charlie realizes that the mouse’s fate may be his own when I hear a loud, rumbling noise outside. Immediately my mind goes to outer space. I picture a giant mother ship hovering in the skies above us.
The house trembles and my books vibrate on the shelves. A steady beeping joins the rumbling and I know what it is. A truck. Probably just lost, I tell myself, to stave off disappointment. Probably just made a wrong turn on their way to someplace else.
But then the engine cuts off. Doors open and close. A moment passes, and then another, and then a woman’s voice sings out, “Welcome to our new home, everybody!”
Carla stares at me hard for a few seconds. I know what she’s thinking.
It’s happening again.
The Welcome Committee
“Carla,” I say, “it won’t be like last time.” I’m not eight years old anymore.
“I want you to promise—” she begins, but I’m already at the window, sweeping the curtains aside.
I am not prepared for the bright California sun. I’m not prepared for the sight of it, high and blazing hot and white against the washed out white sky. I am blind. But then the white haze over my vision begins to clear. Everything is haloed.
I see the truck and the silhouette of an older woman twirling—the mother. I see an older man at the back of the truck—the father. I see a girl maybe a little younger than me—the daughter.
Then I see him. He’s tall, lean, and wearing all black: black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He’s white with a pale honey tan and his face is starkly angular. He jumps down from his perch at the back of the truck and glides across the driveway, moving as if gravity affects him differently than it does the rest of us. He stops, c***s his head to one side, and stares up at his new house as if it were a puzzle.
After a few seconds he begins bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet. Suddenly he takes off at a sprint and runs literally six feet up the front wall. He grabs a windowsill and dangles from it for a second or two and then drops back down into a crouch.
“Nice, Olly,” says his mother.
“Didn’t I tell you to quit doing that stuff?” his father growls.
He ignores them both and remains in his crouch.
I press my open palm against the glass, breathless as if I’d done that crazy stunt myself. I look from him to the wall to the windowsill and back to him again. He’s no longer crouched. He’s staring up at me. Our eyes meet. Vaguely I wonder what he sees in my window—strange girl in white with wide staring eyes. He grins at me and his face is no longer stark, no longer severe. I try to smile back, but I’m so flustered that I frown at him instead.
My White Balloon
That night, I dream that the house breathes with me. I exhale and the walls contract like a pinpricked balloon, crushing me as it deflates. I inhale and the walls expand. A single breath more and my life will finally, finally explode.
HIS Mom’s schedule
6:35 AM – Arrives on porch with a steaming cup of something hot. Coffee?
6:36 AM – Stares off into empty lot across the way while sipping her drink. Tea?
7:00 AM – Reenters the house.
7:15 AM – Back on porch. Kisses husband good-bye. Watches as his car drives away.