It’s time to end another week! We’re celebrating Friday with our 53-Word Story prompt creator and judge, Meg Pokrass, with a piece from her flash collection, Damn Sure Right. “What They Were Not” appears below. Press 53 will be back with more literary greatness next week!
What They Were Not
I met up with an older boy I had never seen on the road past the bus stop a few times and we got to joking around. Soon it became every day and he would walk me to school. He would point out how certain parts of nature looked like what they were not. I liked the way my brain bent to meet the things he noticed. He did not need a “formal learning institution,” was how he explained it. It sounded right, he was smart as hell. He would stand near the edge of the parking lot like one of the crossing guards and watch me walk into the building.
He was an unusual kind of person, a vegetarian with inner smarts, who certain people hated on sight. I had never known a boy with hair like his—puffy and still as a rain cloud. There was a snowbank near my school that looked like a tower of tofu. I remember laughing my head off until he pretended to pee on it. That day I ran ahead.
I imagined him spending nights and mornings at the Shooting Star Hotel, or the Astor, or the Golden Tree lobby areas—reading whatever he could get his hands on, sitting there with his mushroom head. The younger ladies probably liked him, and I wondered what he thought about them. The idea of his toothbrush in a ziplock baggie made me sad and the roots of my hair would crinkle.
He said he wanted to leave things in better shape than he found them. The day he disappeared I was looking at the way trees were like shaved carrots. I was better than he had found me perhaps, but I did not forgive him. Every day I saw things more like what they were not. Soon it felt too big—houses were caves in soft sand, dogs were children with hungry smiles.
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