Breadcrumb #398


On the first morning in Budapest, I awoke on the top bunk in an empty hostel room. The ceiling was inches from my face. To my left, an open window where the hard rain pecked the glass like rice. At a long wooden communal table I was drinking tea. It was probably early, though the ever-present clouds made it feel timeless.

    Across from me was a man. The man was named Bill. An American, an old hippy, long faded blonde hair gathered into a ponytail. Wore a shirt from a California restaurant with a slice of pizza and the words, “Pizza My Heart”. He was thin and tall, spoke slow but energetically. We talked about a few things before we got down to what he called “the great tragedy of his life.”

    As a boy, in the summer, his family would go to a house by the lake. Somewhere West Coast. Sometime in the 60’s. From the long wooden dock he watched his brother drown, a twisted body in the open water. No boats. Nobody else around. He called for help and help didn’t come.

From the long wooden dock he watched his brother drown, a twisted body in the open water.

     I felt this loss personally, although I couldn’t tell you why. I had never met this boy. And if he had lived, he would be an old man now and I still would have never met the boy.

    Back then I was still too young to have a tragedy like that to share with Bill. But I did have something to offer. I told him the story of myself in all its brevity. Then, I got up to get ready for the day. Even in the rain, I thought I’d cross the bridge to the old city, climb the castle in the damp and mist and moss to the aerial view of the parliament building.

    When I was on my out Bill was still at the table, unmoved since I left him, as far as I could tell. He said that if I were a real writer, I would write my story down. Some days I think I might actually do it.

• • •

Breadcrumb #387


Shall I build you a castle by the lake? Pack stone-filled mud into bright coloured plastic to shape its foundation. Should I splash through the cold water and pick pretty pink stones to decorate its walls? Do everything like the first time. I will call you Queen and address you as your Majesty or your Grace. I will bow. I will kiss your hand and we will laugh. We will laugh and hear the high-pitched echoes of our youth. I will feel the ghost of nerves and excitement wondering if I should kiss you. If you would like that. Would you still like that? The wind picks up and your hair moves with it. It whips from right to left. You push it from your face. Small lines near your eyes are the only visible changes from then to now. It is the face I wake up to. The first thing I see every morning when I open my eyes, but here it all feels new again. I want to ask you if you feel that too, but the way you are staring out at the water stops the words. I don’t want to break your concentration.

Small lines near your eyes are the only visible changes from then to now.

    Shall I search the rocky shore for flat stones? Brush the dirt from their sides and pile them high so that we can spend the afternoon defying gravity skimming the water. I tried to impress you that day, but my first three tries landed with a heavy splash as if I had just opened my hand and let them fall. I could see the laughter pushing against your lips longing to be let loose, but you held them closed. Probably to protect my ego, but then you stepped forward and skipped your first stone three almost four times. I had hoped to step behind you and guide you like all the teenage boys in our year imagined doing. But there you were standing behind me, trying not to laugh as you showed me how to flick my wrist just right. There was so much laughter that day. I don’t know when we lost that. It would be easy to say that it died with him. Harder to admit it flickered out long before he existed. I want to ask you if you are thinking about him, but the tears in your eyes answer for me.

    Shall I strip down and run quickly into the rippling water shivering until my body warms against the cold? The sudden exposure of flesh would send giggles past your lips. I would try not to shiver too noticeably so that you would come and join me. You would scream and laugh all the way in. You would wrap your arms around me and we would be happy again. We would let go of everything that has happened. We could do that you know? Here in the place where we started, we could start again. We could end our suffering and become new from our tragedy. After months of silence we could scream. Scream into the wind. Scream until our throats taste bloody. Let loose the pain, the anger, and the quiet that has settled between us. We could come together in this expulsion. Or will this be the end? Is this stop the setting of our conclusion? Will we build our castle by the lake? Or will we say goodbye in the place our little prince never got to see? Well – What will it be?  

• • •

Breadcrumb #383


He has built me
a castle near
a shining lake,
but I have climbed

a ladder into
the orchard trees.
My ladies in-waiting
and I take

to the branches
like the Italian barons
of old. Graceful
and fleet of foot

we watch the frost
lift, burnt off
by the morning sun.
When he comes
He will find

the tower abandoned
bits of skirt
flying like pennants
in the trees.

• • •


Breadcrumb #328


Shall I build you a castle by the lake?
Call my old seneschal out of retirement
to order your household?
Down from the mountains-
from the village of his fathers
he'll come, and come smiling

Each of my barons shall send
a daughter to attend thee-
Only the prettiest, most graceful, or clever
I'll tell them.

Then some fine spring morning
when the last frost has lifted,
across the dark moorland
dividing our kingdoms,
myself, I'll come riding

Your bare-pated servant!
I'll step the garden path ginger-
with a basket of garlands-
to ask you out walking

• • •

Breadcrumb #247


Wanda June’s journey from the castle down to the planet was an emotionally calamitous one, to say the least. The air, though breathable, felt heavy around her and filled her lungs so quickly that it became much harder to regulate her heartbeat. Especially now, as she plummeted toward the surface, a place that had never seemed more than a flimsy concept to her.  

    During her many decades ruling over Windfall City, Wanda June had done little outside of her home. She was a complete and utter shut in, save for her yearly visit to the lavish amphitheater at the top of the East Tower. The poor East Tower. It was always Wanda June’s favorite, and despite the fact that it was the only one she’d ever step foot on, she felt justified in her opinion. And why shouldn’t she? The people of this city had once worshiped her as both their Queen and their God. She wasn’t used to being told that she was anything but right. 

    That is until they showed up and ruined everything. Those other ones, with their vast warships, had reduced the East Tower to rubble, and for what? Just so that they could take control of her city and force its still-living inhabitants to rebuild once again? It was all so unfair. And the nasty things her people called her after it they’d shown up as if she was somehow responsible it all?  Despicable.

    She fell much slower than she had anticipated, though she assumed that was due in part to her environmental suit. In the instructional videos she’d watched exhaustively as a child, a descent was a much quicker affair. People like her would don one of these outfits, fly out from a hovering space ship, and collide with the surface of a planet at such a violent, exciting pace. Connecting with the ground from a great height had looked exhilarating, and she had forever longed to do so herself. But Tin-Man had warned that her fate outside the castle in the clouds remained uncertain. Had urged her to take solace in the locals’ reverence of her and remain within their shared, yes sometimes cramped quarters. A bubble in the shape of a floating fortress.

    But, no, that fervent imagined pace she had dreamed of wasn’t what happened now. Now she fought her way through the thick neon clouds, surrounded by shards of what had been best stained-glass window. Wanda June reached out and tried to grab one of those shards, yelping as it broke her gloved skin. She brought her finger to her mouth, sucking on the cut, tasting the warm copper of her blood, and fumed even more about the unfairness of it all.

    Tin-Man, her faithful robot caretaker, had taken to those others quickly. Much too quickly for her tastes. It was as if he’d been forever loyal to them, and not her as she’d been lead to believe. She wouldn’t forget the kindness he had shown her during their years together, but she’d never forgive his betrayal. His subservience to those others, the ones that looked like her with their blotchy pink skin and thread-like hair. Not only had they taken away that feeling of awe the locals had when they stood before her, but they’d stolen Tin-Man: her one true friend.

She wouldn’t forget the kindness he had shown her during their years together, but she’d never forgive his betrayal.

    The loneliness was so unbearable that, gathering up all of her courage, she donned the suit, a fragment of her long-dead mother’s days of space exploration.  She wasn’t quite sure what she’d do when she finally got that impact she so desired. But she couldn’t go to sleep at night knowing that her people detested her so. She needed to go to them. To show them that they were still in her favor, despite the heavy boots they now found upon their necks. To put things back to the way that they were before those others had ever shown up.

    A week ago, Wanda June had overheard Captain Root of her once powerful Wolfpac, speaking to Tin-Man and Corporal Timms from those others about a resistance forming on the surface. Root was confident that he could get it under control if they’d only allow him to do it alone, but Timms, that bitch, said she’d be happy to exterminate the rebels at the press of a button. To eviscerate their home, if only their home weren’t the very sewer and tunnel system built on the foundation of Windfall’s three remaining towers. The conversation was heated and ended with a standstill, but the impending conflict was inevitable.

    She must go to them, she told herself then and was still telling herself now as the uncertain pit in her stomach continued to grow. Ten stories from the ground, she remembered what the old equipment instructional videos had taught her. Built into her environmental suit were not only the anti-gravity emitters that slowed her descent but also magnetic boots that should cushion her landing. She only needed to find a way to fold herself and reach the buttons on the bottoms of her feet. She’d practiced this in her quarters, late at night for the past four, but hadn’t thought to factor in the difficulty of pulling it off midair. She depressed them seconds before it would have been too late, but it didn’t prevent her thunderous collision with the East Tower’s rubble. 

    Wanda, who’s breath was squarely outside herself now, took off the suit’s helmet and let her gray hair tumble out onto her shoulders. Her whole body heaved with sweat and she gasped for air but took a certain amount of solace in the fact that she’d survived the fall.

    As if from nowhere, she was surrounded by a horde of rebels wielding an assortment of guns like she’d never seen before. Silently, she reached down to her pocket as the one closest cocked a rifle in her face, halting her movement.

    “Not so fast, your highness,” spat the heavily tattooed young woman before her. She was wearing civilian’s clothes, but draped over her back was a makeshift cape made from the repurposed yellow of a Wolfpac guard’s robe.

    “If you’d kindly just let me grab something,” whispered Wanda June, gesturing toward her pocket, “you’ll see that I’m here on a show of good faith.”

    “String her up! Burn her like they’re burning the rest of us!” shouted someone outside the Queen’s sightline. She cringed at this obvious display of hatred but remained still.

    “I may well yet,” promised the woman before her, bringing the muzzle of her rifle even closer to the Queen’s face.

    “You know I’d shoot her in the head myself, Kendall, if I could, but we must think rationally here. We can’t kill her,” said their leader, a woman in her thirties with the violet skin of someone from the Western Reaches and tentacles that reached down past her shoulders.

    “And why the hell not?” asked the ex-Wolf. Wanda June remembered her now, after hearing her name. The new recruit who’d only a month ago gutted the surface’s criminal syndicate from the inside out was now a hair-trigger away from murdering her.

    “Think of the Queen as a bargaining chip,” said the one in the lead, “We’ll need her alive if we hope to have the upper hand.”

    Kendall groaned as she shouldered her weapon, but not until she jabbed it into the Queen’s abdomen. Wanda June screamed out, seeing red. She’d never felt true pain in her life, before the second she landed, and here it was repeating itself all over again, only moments later.

    “I promise, I’m not here for them,” whimpered Wanda June, as she pulled a white kerchief from her pocket, “I surrender, I relent, I’ll go with you willingly. I only ask for one thing...”

    “And what is that, your highness?” asked Kendall sarcastically, staring death into the Queen’s eyes.

    “Let me help you stop them,” she whined, spitting a little blood up onto her collar, “Let me help you make things right.”

• • •