Robot Birdies and Shapeshifting Buzzards

September 1979

My little birdies cheep so soft that no one else can hear them. They live in a box under my dresser, and when I get them out sometimes there are four but today there are five. I am holding them so carefully so nothing can hurt them while I am checking on them. Rusty comes in and sees me sitting on the carpet by my dresser so he knows what I am doing and he grabs my hands and claps them together  hard and says “ you smooshed them!” But I said “Those are the ROBOT birdies you squooshed, not the real ones!” and we laugh.

 

May 1980

I was bouncing on Darren’s bed because it is cooler down there in his room and he isn’t home much since he got old enough to drive. But then he comes in and yells at me!  But he isn’t really mad I don’t think and then Russ comes in and I scream “SHARK!” I am so excited because it WORKS ! Keith gets on the boat with me and rows the boat and PROTECTS me while Rusty swims on the carpet and makes “JAWS” sounds and I scream and I am so happy because I am scared but it is the all-fake kind of scared. Rusty don’t wanna be the shark but somebody’s gotta be him.

 

June 1980

I picked blueberries for mama to put in the pancakes. I only ate three. The small bushes down by the playhouse had a handful of ripe ones and a bunch of purply ones.  They are beautiful and tiny. You have to check them every day so the birds don’t get them. The one behind the prickly cedar had only a few ripe ones, but my favorite big bush up by the road had a bunch. I like the woods so much better than helping mama in the garden, even if she lets me play with the hosepipe.  The okra and tomato plants itch me and the sun cooks me redder than dirt. The blueberry bushes like the shade and so do I.

 

August 1981

Daddy took me fishing today. I was good at keeping quiet so the the fish wouldn’t hear us. I poked the hook through the worm’s guts all by myself. We ate Vienna Sausages out of the can and saltine crackers and drank Grapico. We fished all day and I never wanted to leave. I caught a golden perch and  I was sad about how little it was but daddy told me how rare golden perches are. When we were speeding back I stuck my hand out of the boat and the water felt like a sharp edge. The wind was so fast it pulled my eyelids back and the water felt like hail and I had to curl up and put my head on daddy’s knee and  I was safe then.

 

June 1982

My brother can make anything.  I got to stand in his room and watch Russ finish the tiny skeleton model, surrounded by little square bottles of shiny paint.  He used that one-haired brush to paint eyes on the green snake coming out of that skeleton’s eye socket. I know I get to stay longer if I don’t say anything so I just smelled the paint and glue and  listened to his Thomas Dolby tape and I love Europa and the Pirate Twins and I was so happy I felt like crying.The song is sad though and Thomas Dolby keeps saying “we’ll be the Pirate Twins again” over and over but they never are and the song ends that way.

 

August 1982

I want a cat. Most of the books I make are about cats. I found an old one where I drew the cat marrying a DOG. Can you imagine?? In the next one the girlcat marries boycat and has a bunch of kittens. Last week I went to my friend’s house and laid down  on the ground next to the kittens drinking from their mama, and she looked bored but patient and kind of sleepy, even when they pricked her soft parts with their little teeth and claws. When they were done eating, the mama cat let me touch them. They crawled all over me, and I felt their tiny claws prick my skin just enough to itch. I  put my nose in their fuzzy fur and breathed their smell. I let them tangle in my hair even. It made me feel warm and sleepy like the mama cat. I want a cat but no one else in my family likes them.

 

September 1982.

There was a  wild kitten on the playground but we didn’t see it until it was time to come in. Mrs. Wilkinson said I could stay out longer so I could rescue  the kitten. But she let this kid Billy stay out too. We chased the kitten and got closer and then Billy got too close with his big shoe and all then all I could see was the soft, shiny pink of its skull-skin, its fur was torn off and smeared into the ground. After I  threw up I couldn’t feel it anymore but I could still see it.

 

October 1984

The deer was already hanging up by its back feet when me and mama  got back from church. Daddy was about to skin it. Its eyes were cloudy,  its fur kinda crumpled, its nose dried out. I thought about how different it would look once the skin was on the smooth fiberglass form, the glass eyes perfectly in place, mascara on its eyelashes, the fur combed, the nose painted a shiny black. It would be beautiful.

 

October 1984

I wanted to write a story about what I saw but I am still shaky so I will just write in my journal so no one will see it. I was walking in the woods like usual but I went too far. I wasn’t lost exactly. There were weird soft noises, and when I looked up there were all these big dark shapes in the branches hanging like some weird fruit and they were monkeys. So many, dozens or hundreds, and they smelled like dead things. I felt really crazy because I know there are no monkeys in Georgia. I got dizzy. Monkeys??? I moved closer to them and they suddenly  turned into big black buzzards with naked heads. Then I saw the pile of deer bones and flies. This is where daddy brings taxidermy leftovers. I felt a little better. But I was still smooshing down the fear that things would change into other things. This is when I first learned that you can’t trust what you see.cats

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