Something different. Fiction. Promise. Even though I know a guy named Daniel. I was supposed to write about an asshole, but I'm not sure who's the bigger asshole -- him or me for writing, etc. Love me tender love me true. Tell me if the ending feels dumb.
Ball of Dooshie Levitation
I trip when my little sister shows me how to levitate. Like hello pavement. Chew on this: by the time he was nineteen, John Smith had sailed the known world twice. Me, I can't even get my shoes steady. Not that I'm lacking in desire, Mr. Smith. But a sunburn is munching the skin off my neck, and I am happy to report that the sidewalk smells a little like fried sand.
"No, like this," says the little bitch. She goes tiptoe on one foot and tucks up the other, and sure, sure, she's floating, whatever. It only works with pants. She's got my old pants.
"It's so easy," she says, "you don't even know. Like David Blaine. It's Ball of Dooshie levitation."
"It only works if you're fat," I say.
She sucks up her cheeks.
"Floating people are lazy," I say.
"Whatever. You're a nerd."
Grilled cheese is easy. Hello World in QBasic is easy. Levitation in the sunlight -- not so much.
My sister is running a magic stand. Like a lemonade stand, except snazzier? Supposedly this is better for her than watching David Blaine on cable and eating cashews. I don't know. Cashews are tasty little motherfuckers. And I could be fine, sloth-sprawled in my room with EverQuest and the new Metallica. Sure, the drums sound like someone opening the fridge. On a boat. In space. With a cold. But it's fine. I could be fine.
But no. We live three blocks from a filthy public pool. The city condemned a trailer down the street. Farther into the flats, there be Asians. Paper lanterns in the trees and tarp in the windows. Oh, those diabolical Asians. Thus my little sister requires my supervision.
I'm not so into hanging out with her. Last week I drank this milkshake she'd made and left sitting by the toaster. She came into my room and started slapping my ears. I grabbed her and tried to drag her out, but she dug into the doorway. She looked like a bearded loon in a tempest on an island.
Well, no, not really, no.
But I laughed at her, and she got so mad she almost ate her tongue.
My Mom says, "It's not like you have a job, Daniel."
I say, "It's not like she has a soul."
"It will be good for you. For both of you."
"I get sunburned. I lose skin."
"It's Vitamin D. It's good for you."
"But there's bees and heat waves and shit."
"Oh, come on. Look how nice it is. It's fresh."
Right. Fresh. August fresh, like my legs and my leg hair get so wet together that in Alabama they'd need a marriage license. But I can't explain myself. This is the problem with leisure in an age of mechanical reproduction. I can show my parents how my mage just fucked up like seventy rats, and they'll just nod and shy for the door. Of course, in their minds, the feeble construction of sibling love is a better pastime. They just can't dig particle lighting effects. What can I do? How do you prove your time to someone who treats beauty like a Greek clock?
Not that pixels are beautiful.
Not like skin.
Cheerleader skin like a Slurpee headache.
Okay, so even I think my life is flimsy. Thus I agreed to watch my sister. My shoulders went flaccid and the protest stayed under my teeth.
And I can't even levitate.
So, sick at heart, I chill out on the sidewalk. Clean my glasses, inspect the stand setup, sit on it. It consists of our grandparents' old dining room table and a whiteboard sign. A bunch of magic nonsense crowds the tabletop: cards, clinkly link things, a rubber rabbit. My sister's also got this plastic top hat with stickers. For her part, she wears a cape and a heavy worry. She keeps peering around, craning her look through trees and all, like maybe the birds are up for a coin trick. We even did the sign regression. Down from $3 to $1 to $0.25 to CLAPPING to ANY FORM OF THE WORD WOW.
But no takers and my knees sting.
Whoop-dee-doo. Summer got made for people that like country music. Meanwhile my desk drawers fill with Hustlers. Someday soon, when I outgrow my acne and my loneliness escalates into the moors of the tragic, I totally intend to score some Vicodin.
"Here we go!" my sister yelps. Someone's headed up. One of our neighbors, this little kid Ricky with squirrel cheeks. He is wearing a white, adult-sized cowboy hat, and the world is steadily proving my theories about our inferiority to amoebas.
"What the hell is this," he says, "what the fuck-ing hell."
He's in fourth, fifth grade?
"Nice hat," I say, and he does that cowboy nod with the fat lips.
"Do you want to see a card trick?" my sister asks.
"Why don't you do a pony trick," he says and sneers.
"I have a rope too." She does. And the box set everything came from sits under the table, replete with book. Sometimes she gets these spiral bound imprints on her nose from falling asleep under said book.
"Do the quarter and the cat trick," I say. "She makes a cat come out of a quarter."
"You're a dork," my sister says.
"I don't have a cat," Ricky says.
"Oh. I thought you were a real cowboy," I say.
"What the fuck-ing hell?" Ricky says.
"Real cowboys have cats." I say. "They store them under their hat."
"You're fuck-ing retarded," he says. Then he swoops over the table and scatters the playing cards. My sister spent forty minutes toward their arrangement. Magic is deception and takes time. So my sister screams and punches Ricky in the groin. His cowboy hat flies off like a sure white pelican. Ricky goes all purple and looks at me. I shrug.
"I live with the girl," I say.
But Ricky lives where they condemned the trailer, so he gets up and rips off my sister's cape. She hiccups and grabs her throat. It looks like it hurt.
"Stop, stop," I say, like I'm reading an eye chart.
Ricky and my sister go at it right there, on the sidewalk under the sun, hair jumbling and squeals whirling. All things considered, I feel pretty good. I am thinking of how this scene would look on LSD. Also of that Shania Twain song with the word asunder, which is a good word. The words in LSD are lysergic acid diethylamide. My friends and I memorized it and tried to write a song, but we had only a trumpet and a drum machine. One of my friend's families once had a foreign exchange student from Brazil, who they found smoking pot in their attic. He had bought it from those diabolical Asians. My friend said it smelled like catnip, but not really. Kind of a letdown.
"You need some pot," I call out.
"Dan-yulll!" my sister warbles.
By now Ricky has her plastic top hat, so he peels stickers and scrunches them into the sidewalk cracks. My sister's on her knees, finally a little weepy. I do nothing. Here is my reasoning: the minor devil shrinks when exposed to paramount cruelty. Besides, I know what salt tastes like under no wind. I used to swim at the public pool. My parents went through three swim-noodles (stolen) and half a million bottles of suntan lotion (too effective). The kids there beat me up and once they pantsed me underwater. When I get my own van, I intend to run over each and every little pointy-ribbed asshole.
My sister could use some of that. My sister's forehead sports a red smudge. My sister could lose the notion of her own entitlement. My sister cries in fat, wobbly heaves. My sister's magic cards are getting colonized by ants.
My sister could use a shredded balloon for a heart.
I stand up and go to pummel the little Ricky fucker, but right then the roof of my mouth turns tickled. I clamp my teeth shut and hear a bee.
Inside of me. Inside of my mouth. Like toast or longing.
I start going crazy.
The bee sounds scared.
Naturally, I trip again. I fall right next to my sister.
My thoughts in order of escalation: God sucks. God really sucks.
The bee tastes crazy scared.
Ricky is faced with us: a chubby eight year-old girl all saddled with sniffles and wet hair, and a spotty teenager with a huge Adam's apple flailing and jerking and hacking and screaming "mhrm mhrm mhrm." So he swipes his cowboy hat and hides under the table. "You're all so fuck-ing retarded," he yells.
Bees taste like shit.
My sister points at me, says "wait wait" and crawls under the table. She shoves Ricky out and grabs her book from the box. She zooms through the pages, but Ricky bats it away. He starts to say something else but she bites him on the neck and bellmeister ring the bell, they're off for round two.
Bees taste like utter utter shit.
Heat swims off the cars parked around the neighborhood.
The commotion draws out Mrs. Langley, who carries an unwarranted dust pan. She darts back inside.
Two yellow cars saunter past.
Suddenly I feel a fist on my back and I sputter. The bee zips out and away.
I just kneel there for a while. My chin feels greasy and my throat coarse. I shiver in the middle of August.
Then I turn to look up and empirically verify a loaded bikini top. The attached girl is Asian and cappuccino-colored and done up in this sad little smile.
Somewhere on a chart, my luck aligns roughly with that of the dinosaurs.
"Did you get it?" she says.
"It was a bee."
"Wow. That's a bummer."
"It was a mouth bee. It was in my mouth."
"Are they okay?" she says, pointing.
I look at my sister and Ricky, who sit numb and staring at his mangled cowboy hat. She gives the brim another twist. I guess it was pretty cheap. That's what you get for living in a condemned trailer. My sister twists again, which is a habit of hers. Now I even feel a little sorry for that rat bastard. Several seconds glop past. Finally, Ricky snaps his head around, spits on my sister and scampers away.
"They're the best of friends," I tell the girl.
"Liar," my sister says. "I hate his stupid face."
"It's okay," the girl says. "I know how little kids are. They're such little shit balls."
"You're a lifeguard," I say. She laughs.
"No, I'm just watching my cousins. I went to get some ice cream at JD's. Um." She swirls her arms to indicate what interrupted her. If I were a stray leaf, she would be my eagle. I notice her bike lying there, then my shoes, which are all scuffed and dreary. I imagine how the rest of me looks. My glasses pinch my nose.
The world feels like a baby whale with a bellyache. My ears sting and sting and sting.
"I, um," I say. "She has a magic stand."
"He can't levitate," my sister says.
"You can," I say. "Stay here," I say to the girl, who shrugs. "Do it," I say, to everybody.
My sister smirks, but she levitates. The Asian girl watches her. A bunch of big freckles zigzag down the Asian girl's back, which for some reason I find weird and amazing and oh, I feel so rancid about that. My sister pulls her trick off for a second, then she stumbles and gives up. She starts giggling, and the girl gives her a thumbs up.
I announce, "John Smith sailed the world twice before he was nineteen."
The girl grins and touches my arm. "I knew that, silly."
My face feels dirty like a construction worker's. After they finish a day with a high-rise, I guess they just sit there on that last beam. Who knows. I've never seen a tower outside of SimCity. But I figure that they've lost so much skin over the day -- to sweat and sun and mean birds -- they don't really care about falling off. That's floating for real and I've never felt it.
The girl smiles again and my sister shouts, "Daniel looks like a wet pizza!"
Not that I'm lacking in desire.