The next morning my Dad is back at his camp to start his great hunt again. The heat keeps him awake. He rarely sleeps. Cicadas buzz like little machines in the trees. He has no bullets, but he wields his knife. He eats cicadas when he gets hungry, or kills a lizard. Sometimes I ride my kangaroo to bring him pork chops and apple sauce. The part of the woods that Ronald Reagan burned down are all grown back.
At school, I tell my teacher I’ve been inventing so many stories I don’t think I can stop. I tell her they keep me up at night and when they sun comes up I’m still writing, even though my hands are like claws from holding the pencil so tightly and scribbling as fast as I can to keep up with the adventures of my characters. She nods and reminds me it’s time to work, but says she’d like to read what I wrote later on. My friends see me talking to her and make kissy faces. I throw stuff at them when my teacher’s not looking.
That afternoon at home, me and my kangaroo flop down on the cool cement floor of the garage. I fall asleep. It feels like the seasons come and go like hours. Years go by. I’m grown-up, asleep in a nice cool house with with a ton of friends in a city so far away from all these fights and hot weather and people who pity me that it seems impossible. My sisters come and wake up me and my kangaroo. The older one looks at me all serious and says, “You have to promise you won’t blab to Mom and Dad.” So I promise. She says, “We think Mom set the fire in the woods because she was mad about Dad hunting all the time.” I say no way. Reagan did it. He went nuts when I hit him in the face with the lizard. But they shake their heads and just say no, it was Mom. I say I don’t want to hear anymore crazy ideas, that crazy ideas are ruining our family, they’re ruining my friends, no girls will ever like me, and all these crazy ideas can go to hell. My sisters look at me with pity and tell me not to use swears around girls.
My Mom comes in the garage and tells us to stop yelling. “What are all these stories I found in your backpack?” she says to me. I look at the papers in her hand. It’s the stories I read in front of my class. My sisters look at them, too. I try to snatch back the papers. “That’s just a bunch of stuff I made up.” My Mom says other people don’t need to know about all this family business. She goes back inside and I know she might tell my Dad. My sisters glare at me. “Why’d you write about all our secrets?” I tell them I don’t know. I can’t believe my Mom went through my stuff. My sisters walk out glaring so mean I almost cry.
Me and my kangaroo hide out in the woods all night feeling miserable. We listen to the chattering cicada noise as it winds up and down. The echoes of their noise layer over each other and create new words and songs. The moon comes out. I hear yelling that sounds like the wild Jesus chasing Reagan. I think about how Jesus disappears whenever he needs to. Reagan gets to keep running around the woods burning stuff. They get bored or for no reason they just go somewhere. The Berlin Wall sinks into the ground whenever it wants, or flies up like a snake to hide behind the moon until it feels like coming back. Or maybe it turns invisible.
I’m thinking about everything and getting angry when my kangaroo snorts. Jesus is standing right by us. Before I can move he goes over to my kangaroo. She’s paralyzed or something. Jesus reaches into her pouch and pulls out something small and shiny. It’s a bullet for my Dad’s rifle, like the one he used when he shot Jesus. It must have fallen out of my pocket the day I rode my kangaroo to go throw the bullets over the Berlin Wall. Jesus blows on the bullet to get some fur off. He hands it to me. “Why?” I say to Jesus. He looks at me and I remember what I said to him that day at the Berlin Wall right before I stole and threw away all my Dad’s bullets. He shrugs, blows his nose, and runs away.
I’m standing there looking at the bullet when I hear my family calling me. Then I hear Reagan calling. Their voices are close. I can’t go home this time. I hurry through the cornfield until my hands hit the Berlin Wall. My kangaroo gives me a boost so I can climb up. I stand on top of the Wall and look as the moon shines down on the land where I threw my Dad’s bullets so many years ago.
I hear people running up through the corn field behind me. “You can’t go!” my family yells. Reagan is there, too. I look back. I toss my Dad the bullet Jesus gave me. Then I turn and jump for it.
This story was first published in 2013 by Heavy Feather Review. Many thanks to Jason Teal for his guidance and support.