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Boaz-Jachim
Sep 20, 2015

CANERE CORAM LEONE


Let's go to In-N-Out.

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Boaz-Jachim
Sep 20, 2015

CANERE CORAM LEONE


I hosed up.

In.

Boaz-Jachim
Sep 20, 2015

CANERE CORAM LEONE


1087 words

A growl rumbled out from the heating vents in the hall.  Since Alex and Jason were the only two around, the silence that came after the noise was even more unsettling.  It was the afternoon of their last day in middle school, and everyone else had left, but they still had to clean out their lockers.


"What was that?" Jason asked.
 

"I dunno, boiler room?" Alex said with a shrug.
 

"Sounded more like the Combine from like, Halo," Jason said.  They shared a little snort.


Jason crossed the hall, carrying a stack of looseleaf detritus from the bottom of his locker, and dumping it into the yellow trash bin.


"Gonna use the bathroom," he said over his shoulder.  Alex nodded as he tried to peel off a skate sticker without ruining it.


Jason elbowed his way into the bathroom.  He took a look out the window, down at where he'd used to line up before school in sixth grade.  That was two years ago and he already felt a hundred times more grown up.  He was going to high school next year.


As he turned to use the urinal, there was a bang loud enough to clack his teeth from behind him.  The heater grille flew across the bathroom floor. Something was on Jason's leg, pulling him backward.  He fell to the ground before he got breath in his lungs.  The world swung around him and then he was dragged down into darkness.

 

The yellowed lights above Jason gave the concrete floor and cinderblock walls the look of a stairwell.  Without much color, the shadows stood out more starkly: huge tanks and nests of pipes weaving up above him.


And then, there was the lion in front of him.  Though his felt fabric made him look like dark silk in the light, Jason knew he would look bright red in proper lighting.  This lion was the school's mascot, and he had his permanently giddy grin stretched across his too-big head.


"Hey, Jason!  How's it been?" the mascot asked.


Jason squinted up at the lion in a football jersey.  He propped himself against the wall and slowly lifted himself to his feet.


"What the heck, man?  I thought the principal fired you or something," Jason said.  They'd done a whole mascot redesign the beginning of last year, making it more like a logo and less of a felt animal suit.


"Nope!  Cause I'm not a person they couldn't really fire me, but they felt bad about throwing me out."


Jason nodded.   He thought he saw a way up from the boiler room floor.  If he could find the door, he'd make it out of here.  He ran for it.


Three paces in, a mascot suit slammed into him, tackling him sidelong. He didn't fall hard, though--the fabric cushioned his fall.  He should have remembered that mascots were inherently good at sports.


"Hey, why you gotta run off?  I wanted to catch up with you, see how you're doing!  Bet eighth grade was a great year."


The mascot got back up to his feet and helped Jason stand.  Behind him were shelves of tools, on either side were hot water tanks.  In front of him, the smiling lion. 


"Yeah, great," Jason said.  He shuffled his feet and inched backward, away from the mascot.


"Awesome!   Gonna take that Newburgh Lions pride to your high school?" His perenially-cheery voice, part coach and part enthusiastic kid, wobbled in the lion's throat.


"Oh, uh, yeah.  They're just the Raiders and the mascot is like, a knight," Jason said.  His hands found the shelf behind him and he held onto it for support.


"Hey, that sounds really cool!  Listen, I know you're going on to doing great things in high school," the lion said, putting a hand on Jason's shoulder. "But just remember me!  I remember you were super stoked to play two-hand-touch football back in fifth grade cause you thought being a Lion was awesome!"


Jason didn't want to smile, but he did.  He looked into the mascot's eyes, which were plastic and boring into his own.  There was nothing he wanted more right now than to be done with middle school, and now it was clinging to him in the worst way.  The past four years had been the most awkward he'd ever felt in his life, and he was ready to put that behind him in high school.


"So while you're being the best Raider you could be, just remember, you'll always be a Lion too,"  the mascot said, bumping Jason gently in the chest.


Everyone Jason had said goodbye to was either a classmate who'd be in high school with him, or a teacher who was sort of a little glad to see the class hassle go.  Saying goodbye,  a serious, actual goodbye, to someone who sincerely didn't want him to go, was hard.


Jason's hands had found a wrench on the shelf.  He gripped it, ready to beat a path to freedom.  It felt easier than actually saying goodbye, even if he didn't like the lion that much.  In his mind, that mascot represented all the smells of pencil-shavings and damp cafeteria food and the feeling of sitting through art class with his weird teacher who made them watch Spirited Away for a month of class and playing The Lion Sleeps Tonight for the twentieth time in music.  He wanted to just leave it all, and here it was, everything he hated, asking him for a goodbye.


"Yeah," Jason said.  There was a lump in his throat he didn't understand. "I'll remember that."


"Good!  I wouldn't be a good mascot if I didn't want to see people grow.  Now get out there and give it your best shot!" the lion said.  He patted Jason on the head.


Jason let go of the wrench and walked toward the stairs.


"Bye," he said.  He gave the mascot another glance.  Smiling, as always. The door to the boiler room swung shut behind Jason.


 

Jason came up from the stairs instead of out of the bathroom.  Alex gave him a weird look.


"Where were you?" Alex asked.


"Boiler room.  That's where they put the mascot, I guess," Jason said, shrugging.


"Really?  Thought they just tossed him.  He was so stupid," Alex said.


The lump in Jason's throat sparked.


"He's not stupid.  Your mom's stupid," Jason said.


"Halo's stupid," Alex said.  That was a step too far.


"Whatever.  He's not stupid," Jason said.  He grabbed his bag and shut his locker for good.

Boaz-Jachim
Sep 20, 2015

CANERE CORAM LEONE


In.

Boaz-Jachim
Sep 20, 2015

CANERE CORAM LEONE


Two of cups, seven of cups

Out of Egypt, into the great laugh of mankind, and I shake the snow from my feet as I run.

1348 words


Blue-white fingers scrape my cheeks and orange jaws snap at my flanks.  The snow flies behind me as the shimmering spirits chase me.  With one last push, I'm under the awning.  She opens the door and reaches down and unbuckles my harness.  I knock her over and lick her face and wag my tail.  I'm glad to come inside, away from the visions until tomorrow.

She opens a can of rations and sets it in my bowl.  My body still hums from the run.  The heat inside is stifling.  I'm panting too hard to eat. I lie down instead, in the blankets that smell half of me and half of dust and stale air.

She sits next to me with her own can.  Her jumpsuit says 'salvage' on the breast.  I only know that because she told me.  As many times as she's set books in front of me, I can't make sense of the words.

It was her mother's jumpsuit, she told me, from when there were more humans.  My mother was a test tube, she told me; I have humans to thank for my intelligence and strength and eyesight.  I try my hardest to repay them.

As I lie in bed, she tells me about California, where the sun shone all day and you couldn't see your breath outside.  Her words jumble together and before long, she's asleep on my stomach.

In the morning, she hums while she packs notebooks and scrap metal and a single letter into my sled.  She closes the box and stretches the tarp back over it.  Her hands shake as she buckles me in.  Despite the cold, she smells of sweat.  She leans against the wall as she walks back inside.

I spring into the snow and the visions dance above the trees.  At first, they don't know I'm there, so they glide and swirl in the sky, but then they catch my scent.  Ribbons of light ripple down in front of my eyes, and I must trust my feet and nose to keep the trail.

The spirits form shapes, muzzles, glowing eyes.  They hiss at me, calling me the slave of a dying breed, calling me broken by the humans, the ones who are too weak to survive.  They say I'm not an animal but a tool, invented by the humans, separate from nature.  They say I am alone, alone.  I don't listen, and this infuriates them.

Now the pack is after me.  My heart drums and drowns out their cries.  The straps of the sled pull at my sides as if the visions are trying to pull me down.  I try to run faster, smoother, but the sled bumps and tips and the straps tangle around me.  I tumble into the snow and the visions are in my face, at my snout.  I dig my claws down and pull the weight back up, one step at a time, until the runners touch snow again.

I run through the visions, my head down, sprinting.   I pound the snow with every bit of strength I have, but the spirits dance ahead of me, taunting my effort.  Look at him, exhausted by a little run, only good for being a mail dog.

I run until their shapes bleed into ripples again, and their voices die out, and I can no longer feel their fangs.  All I see is the shape of the path running ahead of me, all I hear is my own panting, and all I feel is fatigue.  I can smell the savory, grimy scent of cooking in the air.  There is wood, not snow beneath my feet, and then I fall.

I open my eyes and lap at the meager dry food they spared for me.  There is a doctor here, and a hunter, and a scaffolding tower to send messages from.

I wake up when they come to pack the box.  A small orange bottle, less food than usual, a blanket, and a letter.   "It's the best we can do for her," the doctor says.  He puts a wrinkled hand on my head but doesn't look me in the eyes.  "And for him," he adds.

I'm back in the harness and all I can think about is getting home.   The spirits surge down from the sky after me as I take off running.   They curl their claws down my spine and his in my ears.  Salvage means junk, they say, and that's why she's had me for as long as I can remember.  They say I'm an odd bit of human garbage, and one she's gone, there's nothing for me.  Alone, alone.

I run faster.  I try to find the space where running becomes the world, but with her on my mind, I can't.  Trees and snow and visions whip by as I race home.

Shimmering green jaws snap around my neck and I howl in pain.  A pair of howls not far off echo back to me.  The visions bare their fangs and wag their tails and back away, as If circling me.  Spirits are not the only wolves in the woods.

I move fast, but quiet now, ears raised.  The visions make no noise, and the silence feels like snow stuffed down my ears, tight and painful.

Dark faces with white jaws swerve out from behind the trees.  One of them has blood on its mouth.  I stare down the wolves, fur raised and ears pulled back.

The bare-mouthed wolf springs forward.  With a complicated step, I haul one side of the sled toward him.  It rocks off its runners and swings into the wolf, knocking him back against a tree.  I expect the other wolf to spring at me, but instead, she darts to the side of her mate.  The spirits surge around me as I leave the wolves.

I will never have that, they say.

At last, I'm home. Under the awning, I ring the bell with my nose.  She doesn't come.  I ring again.  I turn my head and dig my teeth against the buckles, working them free the same way she unbuckles them.  I paw the door open and squeeze myself through.

She almost looks like a corpse.  She has her head on my bed and wakes when I lap at her face.  She pets me, and as she slowly becomes more lucid, I help her stand.  She wobbles in her boots as she unpacks the sled.  She pushes two pills from the bottle down her throat, drapes the blanket over her shoulders, and opens the letter.

"This is the end for me," she says, sliding two cans' worth of rations into my bowl.

It's just what I thought.  I can't eat now.  How can I possibly eat now?

"I wanted to do this for you before I go," she says, shaking the letter.  She opens it and lays it on the floor.  Inside is a map.

"I found another sled dog like you.  A female.  Had to send all kinds of letters, but…here," she says.  She points to a red circle on the map, about eight days away.

She leaves the map for me to study while she lies down next to me with a book.  She picks out her favorite parts to read to me.  I lick her shoulder instead of her face so she can keep reading.

"Go forth and multiply.  That's a good one for you, huh?"  She smiles.

I rest my head in the crook of her armpit and stare at the badge on her jumpsuit.

"Goodbye," she says, stroking my neck.  Her hand slides off, and seconds later, she's asleep.

Salvage means saving, and that's what I decide I'll have to do with all the things she's read to me.  Save it, tell it to my children.  I will have children, what a thought.

I say my goodbyes as best I can.  With nothing on my back, I leave.  The visions dance above me, confused, furious.  I look skyward and laugh at the swirling lights as I run.  My breed will live on, spirits be damned.

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Boaz-Jachim
Sep 20, 2015

CANERE CORAM LEONE


You're so limp dicked you could gently caress the cap of a toothpaste tube if you actually thought my stories were decent. I thought this place was tough.

gently caress you all, I'm in for this week whatever it is.

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