They want their screens, these children. So when the book shelf gave way beneath too many hard covers, too long—unused—they saw no need for a replacement.
God spare them.
They don’t know this weight of pages in hand, the reassurance it brings to have something solid. Someone wrote the words so they wouldn’t need to remember them. So they’d never forget. So they’d have an answer somewhere within. Not like these screens that look outward, never narrowing on a solution, ever expanding.
Isn’t the world frightening enough without inviting it to grow before you?
It will grow on its own. They’ll see.
They’ll never be ready for the weight as long as you’re there to bear it, and you’ll never know they’re ready. You’ll have to take it on faith.
But not yet. For you are the father. The one to teach them to read, teach them the old ways, teach them so that they may be good, may be guileless.
While your shoulders tremble, while your lower lip trembles, like the way the girl trembled long ago, so long before she was ready.
You called the stake Mr. Pointy and they laughed at you. Because it seemed obvious. Childish. Unclever.
And what should you call your heart? Mr. Beaty feels a little too on the nose, Mr. Broken like its begging for sympathy.
Maybe the mister is the problem. That implication of a difference in age and place in life. Patriarchy. But you like it. It helps you hold him close, helps you find comfort in him. Personifies him. Makes it a him, this thing overlooked. This thing no one has thought to personify before.
Call the stake what you like and call yourself cookie dough because you’re soft and still moldable, and you’ll know when you’re ready. Isn’t that the most exciting part? That one day, you might be ready. You might blend into the crowd, that you might travel, that you might breathe easily, even smile.
So watch this whole town recede into earth. Know that you live in a new world. A new dawn. And you need not listen to the angel on your shoulder, the devil with the bleached blond hair and leather jacket. For the life you were born into is changing into the one you choose.
High school’s been over for years.
It’s time you graduate.
Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and is a recent alum of Oregon State’s MFA Program. He won Bayou Magazine’s Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, Iron Horse, Front Porch, and Bellevue Literary Review. He works as a contributing editor for Mossand blogs about professional wrestling and a cappella music on the side. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.