When Kurt Cobain died, Susan didn’t leave her bedroom for four days straight. She closed her door on that Saturday morning and stayed put until I went over and saw her on the Tuesday afternoon. She never joined the groups that gathered at our college when the following week broke; the circles of teenagers who grimly shuffled in the canteen and classrooms, who shrugged and sighed and slowly shook their heads. It was, I suppose, our defining moment. Naturally, none of us realised it at the time. As a generation we had no Great War or Woodstock, social media was science fiction and everyone’s parents had jobs. We were fortunate enough to be insulated from existence. It took a dead rock star to communalise our experience, to sharpen our senses, to force us to cower as the world fired its first warning shot. A snatched photograph of an outstretched leg with a limp Converse training shoe was the image that blew our adolescent minds. This was when the penny dropped that shit had finally got real.
The boy’s father considered there to be two primary aspects to parenting – the importance of time spent with the child and the importance of time spent without the child. One took precedence over the other. Once a month, without fail, the father would take the boy to the barber and they would both get their hair cut the exact same way. The father would have a shave and the boy would envy him while he had it. It was because of this ritual that the boy would forever remember the back of his father’s head.
Magnificently justified, she teeters on the parapet of her limestone tower. The herd lows below, and in the autumn air all stands still except for Tom, who has spied her from a distance and now is racing to her rescue. Her foot shifts and slips a bit, sending down a pebble cascade, but her heart is strong, and she refuses to be petrified. She stares straight ahead at the hillside, where leaves fall from their trees, drifting, dropping, like children’s valentines into makeshift paper-bag mailboxes taped to her classroom wall many years before. Cards of teddy bears with hearts, Hello Kitty with hearts, blooming flowers with hearts, circus lions proclaiming, “You’re purr-fect!” Suppressing squeals, children scurry. Others’ bags fill up. In hers, not one. Eyes anchored on the hillside, all she sees is disregard. That and the teacher frowning with pity for poor Samantha San Gabriel, so shy and so odd.
Peter crouched in front of the attic window and gazed down on old man Mueller’s cornfield. The plow, unhitched beyond the stalks, turned north like he meant to continue but got interrupted. Peter looked toward the barn, no sign of Mueller’s horse and buggy. The Amish and Mennonite neighbors, with their peculiar ways kept to themselves. Mueller only talked to his pa when he accused Rufus of killing his chickens, or a year ago, the day his brother’s mind broke when Gabe went screaming from the veranda twisting his ears as he ran into Muller’s cornfield. That day Mueller shot out of the house, the top of his unsnapped overalls flapping as he sprinted after Gabe, Mueller’s wife and five children dashed onto the porch, the boys still in their pajamas.
There was once a girl who worried about everything. Charlotte worried that her mother would die in a car crash on her way to work- she’d heard that things like that could happen. Her mother said that she always drove carefully, and accidents like that didn’t happen very often, but Charlotte didn’t believe her. She’d seen her mother drive far too fast when they were late to get somewhere. She would screw up her eyes in the back seat and pray that they would get there on time, alive, even though she didn’t believe in God.
This work has been deleted at the request of the author.