Breadcrumb #487


Sam thought about spadefoot toads. They were a dream so real he could hold them in his fist. His parents had gone out to see them when they’d first come to the apartment. They’d trekked into the woods and found the crater that filled with water one night a year every April. On that night, they’d stood at the water’s edge, watched the spadefoots climb up from their ground homes, and deposit eggs in the pool. It was a beautiful thing, his mother told him, the promise of life passed from parents to their young.

His parents planned to take him one day to see the spadefoots, but that promise was given before his father left on assignment.

In the meantime, he amused himself as best he could. He squeezed his toes together and pretended they were the shovel-like toad feet and dug up pennies and fluff from beneath the sofa cushions. Often, he croaked. Sam was that type of kid who felt moved to croak --  in his bedroom, at the laundromat, and in his school. Kids called him names and his teachers shook their head at him, but he didn’t care.

His mother didn’t mind the noise.  She built him a forest out leaves that she taped to his bedroom walls.  On winter nights, she strummed woodland melodies on her ukulele. She encouraged Sam to supply the lyrics, and they’d dance around the room.

When Sam was nine, his mother told him that Cheyenne and Troy were moving into the basement apartment. Sam was not impressed by this development. Cheyenne, a nurse his mother worked with at the hospital, phoned his mother at inconvenient times to complain about her ex-husband. Troy, her son, wasn’t any better. He belonged to a crew who called him retard. They were the reason Sam stayed inside at recess and read nature books.

“Help Troy feel welcome here,” his mother said.

“He’s very loud,” Sam said.

“Okay, frog man.”

“It’s toad man,” he corrected. “Get it right.”

His mother clasped a hand over her heart in mock embarrassment. “How could I get that wrong? What is my penance?”

Sam deliberated for a moment. “Five gummy worms.”


Two weeks later, Sam went outside to count fireflies. Troy was whacking tennis balls at rabbits.   

“Wusses,” Troy said.

“They aren’t,” Sam said. “Rabbits are tough.”

Troy shrugged.

“They kill their babies,” Sam said.


“The dads do,” Sam explained. “They get jealous of the babies. The mom rabbits give them too much love.”

“What dicks,” Troy said.

Dicks was a dirty word. It’s what Sam’s uncle called his father.

“My father is a dick,” Troy said.

Sam handed him a stray tennis ball. They were teammates without a coach.

On nights when his mother worked late, Sam filled the indoor forest with a tribe of new friends. Troy, Aunt Cheyenne, and a few kids from the neighborhood ate pizza and watched the weather report. It was April and the first downpour was around the corner. On the night of the first rainstorm, the spadefoot toads emerged. This year, Sam, his mother and the other boys would find them.

On the night of the rain, Sam’s mother had to work late, but told him he could go as long as he stayed with the other boys. They were a band of wellie clad explorers, and the spadefoots were calling them to join them at the enchanted pool.

On the night of the first rainstorm, the spadefoot toads emerged.

As they traveled deeper into the woods, the apartment building vanished from view. The only light came from their flashlights, and the soundtrack was the throaty tune of the spadefoots.  They were close. Sam felt it.

“What are you doing?” Troy asked. “Stop dancing.”

Sam hadn’t realized he had been dancing, but he couldn’t stop. He was happy, and it was okay to dance.  His mother and father danced on the night they’d seen the spadefoots.

“It’s fine,” Sam said. “My father---

“He’s crazy,” Billy Stoner said.

Troy’s lips twitched into a smile. “Just retarded.”   

Sam flushed.  The music inside him died.  It had been months since they’d called him a retard. Retarded was too much homework, deflated soccer balls, when his father failed to call.

Sam grabbed a rock and tossed it at Troy’s chest.

War descended upon the woods.  Troy hurled a rock in his direction, and then they launched themselves at each other. Sam fought for the woods and the spadefoots. He kicked, punched, and scratched his way through the wall of belligerent boys, and when he broke free, he ran after the music.

The woods seemed darker with every step.  The others were ghosts of a past world. The music was his future, a fragile one.  This future was pulling in different directions. The music was everywhere and nowhere.  He strained his ears for the throaty melody, but it eluded him. He turned right, then left.  He was back at the sight of the brawl, but the boys were gone. They were walking back to the house, or they’d never really come. Either way, he’d promised to stay with them, but he couldn’t go back. The spadefoots had been counting on him and they were boys that ruined the night.

Sam sat down on a stump and waited for her to find him.

She arrived after the rain, but face was streaked with black rivers and her smile was missing.

“Troy?” he asked.

“Is fine.”  

Sam nodded. He’d fought with the group and left them.

“I’m sorry,” She said.


She didn’t answer. “Climb on my back.”

He wrapped his arms around her neck and allowed her to carry him through the woods. He imagined he was a robin with a broken wing and she was returning him to their nest.  

“You know,” she said. “Everything’s going to be okay,”

Sam nodded. He could see the square top of their apartment building and beyond it, the moon with craters deep enough to shelter a dozen spadefoot toads.

• • •

Breadcrumb #485


Jack did not like L. L did not like anyone who did not like her. Every Friday at school she made him do skits, ordered the rest to fold into chairs, play metal dead. It burst now and then—Jack, you’re rotting. You’d better see a doctor. You, Jacob, Tanner, watch it. Things always came back. You pick the fence, scale over, you must know there’d be consequences for it.

L couldn’t help it. That was how mouths went wrong, Jack’s ears perked often. He was a psycho. His talent was anger. L didn’t give a shit, it’d be your cause for regret, Jack thought. The town they lived in didn’t help. It was small and everyone knew your address. The sky was cerulean broad and the first thing to greet, by nights it locked everyone down. Stars were no remedy and the world was confined. L was no fool, she did not think there was anything larger in the cities.

They came for you anywhere you lived. First you fitted, then they assigned you clothes. ‘They’ did not exist, they sat around covered. Leaves and skins had not stop growing, they forgot the earth. L wore whatever thrown at her. A decent life was good enough, she calculated nothing, counted the protein bars and milkshakes, cans of root beer at the grocer’s, whose son sat by the cash register. “You doing good?” “Yes, L,” said the boy with the bluest tongue. “Alright, I’ll see you in a bit.” Then she counted her footsteps down the yellow, dusty path, stopped at her mailbox, patted the good stray dog, went into her house and the screen door shut.

Work was a deception, there was nothing much she could do, the higher-ups wanted the Friday school skits. For the kids to show cooperation and boy band valor in the distinction of the school’s marked years, or there’d be no funding. Look at the new generation of sweetness. Every Friday L gathered the students by the stage, an inspector, hands behind his back, royal accent, came to surprise: “I approve.” L shoved her hand into her jeans pocket, the young sang choruses, they must love to sing by the pastures and big machines,

We welcome you all to our variety show. Lots of different things to see before you go…and don’t forget to cheer for the stage and art crew. That’s what God wants us to do.

L liked lonesome holidays. She did not want company. Men at the bar told her it was sad, she was just thirsty and the Corona was lime fresh, she said leave me alone. For saying that she liked lonesome holidays. Once in a while she put on her boots and drove to the shooting range. Some women shot for power, L did it for commemoration.

Her child was dead.

One Friday Jack wanted trouble. He waylaid Katherine with a pair of scissors and cut a chunk of her hair, threatened to stab her pa. “If you laughed anymore at mine, I will.” And he set the shears on her cheek, his left hand holding her locks of dyed hair, and there was an ugly hole in Katherine’s head. Katherine wanted to sue. Yes, they could fold into cogs and wheels and Barbies, they were pink and drowsy, animation that made you float and sink, but you must leave them alone, Jack. Not everything was about you running the show.

Once in a while she put on her boots and drove to the shooting range. Some women shot for power, L did it for commemoration.

“Apologize to Katherine.”

“I’ll have to call your father.”

L put him on stage but that wasn’t his greatest humiliation. The humiliation was that the stage no longer had any effect, the shame of young men had altered in texture and Jack had none, he stood there continuing to glint and mock and taunt Katherine. You scum of pond in cotton fluff. You children of suburbia. Jack might hate boy bands, but he knew the stage was power. L was wrong to put him there, suddenly she saw him as he really was, Jack was slippery and could dissolve himself, fit into any vase or receptacle, fish through the systems by hook or crook, for looks were deceiving and Jack was lucky with his actor face. Move to the city and sit in an office signing away documents and lives, dictating to the secretaries the colors of their stockings and hair dyes. He was right: Boy bands were primitive. Dull for him, who could play Ken doll better than any.

The problem wasn’t his pa. It had gone beyond that. In the teacher’s room talk was the solution before L dialed, Jack said, his voice wintry, what do you know about children, L. And he sat slouched with his legs wide and one hand playing with a ballpoint pen, turning it slowly on the desk. What do you know about children, he said, as though he knew she once had a dead child, that made her eat her own fingers, each time she fired a bullet at the target, at the man who sauntered into the room and took her baby. “Fuck you,” L said. But she did not call his pa. The old man sat around getting shorter and thinner, when he lost his game of backgammon he got up and knotted the strings of his sweatpants, went to Jack and told him it was time he showed him the world. And papa said, “Run,” before he made Jack face the wall and did what he needed from behind. “Are you going to call him now?”

Policemen said, what a common story, neither mystery nor myth. Soon they’d be packing their bags and moving to Australia. They’d not heard his duck screams, saw the red glue stream down his actor face. They heard and went for his pa at the foundry where he worked, frisked him, or took his money. “Give me back my fucking paycheck,” wasn’t uttered. In its place was only lost memory. An escape he invented to cut his tongue for its failure to resist. They showed him what he was made of. A loser in this world where sweet-mouthed men swam in the upper echelons of the foundry, work, you stupid men, work. They really thought we were squids, son. They thought that because they smoked cigars, they could snuff them on my arms. The heat lovely, the burn rich, smoke on charred skin…

After it was done and over and back for more like clockwork and it happened often that papa said, “Run.” One day the cruelty was complete, a grin hung on Jack’s face, unfathomable like the moon. There was a transparent look in his eyes, hard as ivory, a beyond which said, you were finally free. There were no more cares, Jack did whatever he wanted, with hair or strangers or cats, but not the Doberman, but the kid with the bluest tongue. You had to be blunt, be chained. Something sick moved on his face, a cunning, as he said, “Just play the boy band, isn’t that right, L?” His hands grew baits and knowledge, cynicism wrecked his mouth. After drawing sketches of many dads in his notepad with a ballpoint pen, mumbling, why did they want fathers dead, all papas should die, eagle wings on backs and sweet faces which said, “I love you, son, you are the Roman in my eyes,” he burned them in the trashcan. He whispered to L, as he strutted off the stage like a winner and passed her by, “You’d have to forgive me for anything I do. It’s your job.”

L looked at him and understood. She was concerned, she shoved her hand into her pocket. She knew that Jack followed her down the yellow, dusty path to her vanilla prefab a few Fridays later after the cheap skit. It was a spring day, a television kind of color lit, the peace sacred as wind rustled the hickory trees, the sky a broadsheet. Somewhere an Indian song grieved, “This was our land.” Elsewhere a man in overalls listened to a boom box in a junkyard. L walked, not turning back, her faith and feet steady. This was not the first time. To live in America meant things were on a rerun, history never forgave, you killed my father. She wanted to laugh, but she hardly did at anyone. It didn’t matter what the director of the orphanage at Islington did to her. Every night a set of girls were arranged. One by one or like twins they entered his office and peed into a basin, age ten, he didn’t like the girls bloody. If they could not he gave them more water at supper. Occasionally they drank milk, for their pee to catch the cow’s fragrance. Months after she had the child at nineteen, he sauntered into the hospital room and took her away. She never saw Sammie again.

Behind her the wind carried the scent of cherry almond from L’s hair to Jack. He spat. A truck rumbled past and disturbed the dust, L’s hair was strong and russet, strips of copper ran through, her muscles brawny in her plaid shirt and blue jeans. Jack lifted his head and stared at the smear in the American sky. He had no plans. He would get through this. He’d force her down on the floor, feet planted on her head, his soles the scent of earth, down woman, this was the consequence if you wanted to be a man for Katherine. Fear was ruthless and truth and lies candles, perfidy a cake, he’d be safe. The bank accounts, which liked to romanticize our dollars, would not move, L had to eat, she’d not report him. He churned up his wrath to be ready, spat again: What did she take him for. He never wanted to be a Ken. The live plastic horror which knew no genitals or ethics or heart, the fathers of Katherine, cigars in hand. Gold and esteem the only values they craved, any power they had was ripped off the dead, ratting out prisoners and bribing police, talking to tycoons for their private fashion shows. Jack knew these fathers well, through his own’s hot body. Once your father was a slave, you were too. Jack was fifteen, but old as the wind. Height and build invented racism, he was six feet, hair black, toothpick at the edge of his mouth, chin shaved to consider the moon.

L did as always. She counted her footsteps to seven hundred, checked the mailbox, went through the wooden gate and patted the dog, ever so eager, Henry, down boy, soon there’d be milk bones. She went through the screen door and set down her tote bag, at the fridge took a can of root beer, popped the ring and drank. Never thought a follower would make her so thirsty, she finished it in a sec. In the next minute, she’d take a nap. The couch was leathery and inviting, she understood what it meant to be a woman of America, that she must be taught a lesson, kept wrong, forgotten, made to forget, like a man, a nanny in manland. They never stopped trying to convince her she wasn’t sporty, they always used the ancient methods—cut off her contacts, keep her at home. The living room was their world. Domestication was a horror, a horror.

She whistled for Henry. The dog, eighty-eight pounds, sacks of raw rice, half a Doberman, jumped onto her torso. Later, when Henry growled, Jack would be standing there, watching her wake. L hushed the dog, let him out of the house. “Obey,” she said. Jack growled, his actor face pale. L would let him do anything he wanted to her, as long as no clothes were removed. No rifles, no hands, go ahead, Jack. I give you half an hour. I am an American woman. I am the way I am, and if a beating makes you feel alive, like a man, go ahead, come.

• • •

Breadcrumb #480


An Oldsmobile Cutlass and a Mercury Topaz sat in Mom’s driveway, cultivating a world in rot. Their flattened tires spilled down across the concrete, baked to a cragged barren surface. This black desert landscape was full of life -- invasive Jersey Fresh tomato vines crawling up the rubber walls, bay sand embedded in the threads, glass twinkling in the sun. Survivor of Many Offensives, Builder, Black Sheep, First (and Only) of His Name, Father to Three, Husband, Brother, Grandfather (to be) and survived by all, including these, his armada of rust (but they didn't put that in the obituary).

Mom wanted to clear the driveway and revive its adjacent garden since church hadn't exactly inspired the spirit-haunted distraction the old chaplain promised. And anyhow she didn't want the neighbors thinking her a poor old widow that kept a shrine room to her dead husband, like leaving the slippers just so beside the bed as he left them the morning of the attack. So she divided the spoils to the kids: I, the oldest, naturally took the heaviest of those burdens, two unflipped economy vehicles. “Do whatever the hell you want with 'em,” she said. “The Oldsmobile actually runs.”

And I did, whatever the hell, starting with the Cutlass. My brother came along for the ride, driving that once blue hunk of metal back to New York. He congratulated me on the new whip. "You might have inherited the Ding Dong Dealership, but you know I got all the cool shit," including Dad's crucifix-made-weed-stash and a stack of Playboys that Mom pretended to ignore through its 30-year black-plastic-wrapped subscription. (I laughed a little thinking how she might receive the renewal notice in a few weeks and call him a dead prick or something.) We hit a Garden State deficit-sized pothole on the Parkway that sent my brother’s Skittles and Wawa iced tea flying all over the car and he cursed the Governor, the goddamned purpose of tolls, public infrastructure, something about a rat's ass and all things holy including Jesus himself just like Dad. I felt a little moved by it actually and submitted a weepy “fuckin' A, man” for good measure. "Sultan of Swing" was on the radio and I cranked it up through the two speakers that worked. We drove on to New York, bumping along on that shockless frame.

     Goodnight, now it's time to go home
    And he makes it fast with one more thing

Fall came and only one vehicle remained in Mom’s driveway, making room for tomato vines rotting wide open with fruit flies like a gift to the family dog. Meanwhile, the Cutlass sat in an overpriced garage, across the river from our apartment in Chinatown, awkwardly alongside luxury vehicles and vanity plates for three months - three months I hoped to fill with family visits to Storm King, emergency diaper runs at the new Target, weekend getaways to Cape May to visit Mom... I fell into arrears with the garage and waited for the voicemails to become angry before driving it back to Chinatown in hopes of a free street spot. For a week I battled my neighborhood's parking bullies, experts in the waiting game of opposite-side street sweeper rules.

Luckily, I received a callback for my inquiry to donate the Cutlass to Vietnam Veterans in need. "Yes, yes," I said, "the vehicle is still available. It's so cool you called me back. You know my Dad was a survivor of the Tet Offensive!" Silence. The caller said she'd send a representative from the VVA in Philadelphia that afternoon to pick up the Cutlass and leave a tax form for what Mom called “that sweet, sweet write-off.” If I timed it right, the tow truck would arrive just before the street sweeper stormed down the block, kicking up dust and a mad rush of angry Cantonese retirees in minivans. And, sure, I'd feel good about it too, my "commitment to those who served" and all.

For a week I battled my neighborhood’s parking bullies, experts in the waiting game of opposite-side street sweeper rules.

Waiting for the pickup, I turned the radio on and caught the tail-end of an interview in which a woman was saying,

...and we do it this way because we can't in real life. Here, we're all going to the      same place, and it's not a good one

Odd, I thought. As an ex-Catholic, I assumed the "same place" people took a more agnostic view of the afterlife, neither good nor bad given its no-thing-at-all state of, well, literal nothingness. In that moment, suddenly, I found myself dropping in on a big wave of guilt and regret for donating the car and wished I could call Tracy from Philly's VVA back to tell her, “Hey, it’s me - the son of the Tet Offensive survivor. Remember? Yeah, about the car..." But it was too late. Time to make some veteran's day with a beautiful once blue Oldsmobile Cutlass, no shocks, two speakers and a Hoffa-sized trunk.

Jimmy, the VVA's driver, spoke in a thick Philly accent like my Mom. I could picture his EAGLES SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS tattoo under the cliché striped mechanic's long-sleeve, a little name-patch on its breast.  Jimmy. "You might wanna check the car again for any personal effects," he said. In the glove compartment, I flipped up the manual, searching. Beneath it I found an old a cassette of Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill. The album opens with a song called "Do It Again" that Dad used to play at full blast through long rides at night, my child-mind remembering only the scary thunderstorm drives, his joyous singing at odds with the chaos around us. I could hear him through that cassette:

You go back, Jack, do it again, wheels turning 'round n 'round

But I left it, closed the compartment and handed the keys over to Jimmy. "All yours, buddy."

I hoped the next guy to drive it had a falsetto.

• • •

Breadcrumb #473


When I saw her that day by the side of the road, I smelled lemons. It was the color of her hair that hung by her shoulders and held through the citrus freckles over the bridge of her nose. I'd gone walking that morning because of Laurel's baby whose sobs had been waking me before dawn all six weeks since she'd been born. We were crowded now in my mother's house. Mom, Laurel and her baby, mom's fat boyfriend Frank, our little brother Grady, and me and the dog. When you added my mother's awake-time hollering, Frank's night time snoring, and the baby's all-the-time wailing, it just seemed like too much.

That morning, I walked toward her standing there in the distance, all lemons and beautiful. Her name was Callie Anderson and she had been in my seventh period the year before. She was waiting for something. I tried to imagine what it was. It was still early, although the sun was completely out. The air had that rarified summer-morning smell where promises live until they get burned away by afternoon. I liked how long it took me to get to her. It gave me lots of time to wonder her up and down.

She smiled a few feet too soon. It took me off guard. She waved down by her waist with her wrist bent awkwardly. I nodded and she looked back passed me down the empty street. I still wasn't close enough to her to say her name. I glanced over my shoulder to see what was coming while Mal ran ahead to where she stood. I didn't see anything on the horizon except the dead gold of the hills and the pale blue of the sky. When I turned back around Callie was bent over the mutt, patting her over the eyes and making a sucking kissy-face with her lips. I stopped when I reached them.

"Hey Callie," I said.

  "Hi Adair," she answered. It sounded good to hear her call me that. No one ever called me Adair, except my mom or Laurel when they were about to yell at me. Everyone called me Sonny.

      I was quiet then while she finished up with Mal.

      "What's its name?" she asked.

      "Mal-o-mar Jackson," I answered.

       "Seems like too big a name for a not-so-big dog," she said, and I liked it that she said it.

       "We just call her Mal."

      "That's good. She seems like a Mal." Callie crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at the dog sitting, looking up at her.

       I watched her for a minute to see if she was going to say anything else. When she didn't, I cleared my throat.

       Then she shook out her hair like she'd been someplace else and said, "You going somewhere?"

       "Yes and no," I answered.

       She nodded and sort of shrugged.

       "You?" I asked.

       "Nah. Just waiting," she replied.

       "For what?"

       "Nothing," she said vaguely.

       "Want to walk for a bit?" I asked her.

       "Sure," she said. I saw her eyes scan the horizon again before she turned to me sighing and then smiling.

      "Unless you need to wait." I said.

     She shook her head. "Nah."

      We started to walk. We didn't say much. We went down by the docks at the lake and talked a little about fishing. Callie said that someone once caught a fish around here that no one had ever seen before. She said maybe around World War II and that they never caught another one. She said that there was a museum over in Dauberville where they had it mounted and everything. I told her we should go see it sometime and she smiled at me. It was the most whole-faced smile I'd ever seen, the kind that you can't help but smile back to.

      I liked her story about the fish and I told her. It made me look at the lake a little differently.

Callie said that someone once caught a fish around here that no one had ever seen before.

      We didn't say much else. Mostly we just walked and threw sticks and rocks into the water that Mal kept trying to catch.

      "I have to go home," Callie said when we got to the edge of the old Porter property where some kids went to smoke pot and others went to make out. I couldn't tell if she was afraid I was going to try to kiss her. It felt like the wrong time of day for kissing with so much sun everywhere.

      "Okay," I shrugged.

      She looked at me with squinted eyes. "You want to walk me?"

      I shook my head. "I think I'm gonna go for a swim," I told her.

      "Well," she said, "maybe I can come right back. I just have to run home for a minute."

      "Okay," I said.

      I watched her walk away. She took steps that seemed too close together, not very economical. I figured for a second it was because she probably knew I was watching her. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine seeing her without her knowing she was seen. Her body was long with steady legs, swaying her hips around. I'd seen her walking a million times. When I opened my eyes again she was almost to the warehouse where she'd turn out of my line of vision.

      I looked out over the water. The grass everywhere was white-lit and fiery. Mid-summer had already sucked all the green out. I sat down by the edge of the lake and tucked my knees up. I thought about what it would be like to kiss Callie Anderson.

     I'd never spoken much to Callie unless it was something about school. I liked her. She was mostly quiet but when she talked it was always full of ways to look at things I'd never thought about. Teachers often told her she was wrong and you could tell it really rattled her. Mrs. Dunlap even made her cry once when Callie said that the Robert Frost poem seemed more like it was about finding something bigger, even though it seemed like he meant everything was small. Mrs. Dunlap shook her head and said, "No, Callie. Look at it again."

      I always liked what she said. Usually I liked her answers better than the right ones.

      I laid down in the stiff grass and Mal came and licked my face. I half patted her while I pushed her away. She huffed down in a heap beside me and we stayed that way for a while.


It was the part of the day when the air has about sweat itself out and is ready to call it quits. I was standing up to leave when I heard her call, “Hey!”

     "Still feel like swimming?" she asked as she approached.

     "Sure," I said.

     I watched her pull her shirt over her head. She was wearing a red bikini top. I tried not to stare as she took off her pants, so I threw a stick for Mal.

     “Where’d you go?”

     “I had to pick up the kids for my stepmom,” she answered.

     "Oh," I said. "My parents split up too."

     "Let's not talk about that," Callie said flatly.

     "Okay," I agreed.

     She dove in. I followed. Callie splashed and kicked water at me. I chased her but she was slippery and kept getting away. She was laughing really hard and breathing deeply. I almost caught her but she ducked under and came up near shore. She walked out with her long limbs shining and her hair dripping water down her back.

     She turned to face me laughing.

     I wanted to watch her like that all night, dripping with lake water, laughing.

     "I want to dry off while there's still a little sun left," she called.

     I dove under and swam towards shore. I climbed out and laid down in the grass beside her. She was up on one elbow looking down at me.

     "Adair?" she said.


     "I like your name."

     "Why?" I asked.

     "It's strong."

     I raised my eyebrow. People usually said it sounded like a girl's name.

     "I mean I always thought your name was just `Sonny.' But then in fifth grade, Mr. Kinley only ever called you Adair, remember?"

     "That's right," I said. "I think I took a lot of heat for that."

     "Well, I thought it was beautiful, and my stepmom had a baby name book around because she was trying to have a baby, so I looked it up. It means oak tree by a ford. Did you know that?"

     I shook my head.

     "See? It's a really strong name."

     I was staring up at her and she was looking down at me. I raised myself up onto my elbows. Her stomach made a noise and she looked down at the ground. When she looked back up she bent forward and kissed me quickly then she pulled back a little.

     "Is it okay?" she whispered.

     I nodded and swallowed.

     She came in close again and pressed her mouth against mine. I felt her tongue lick the space between my lips. I closed them together then opened them again and felt around a little for her tongue. Her arms wrapped around my shoulders. I dropped back down to the ground pulling her with me. I listened to the quiet sounds of her kissing noises. She kissed all around my mouth and then back on my lips. I rolled her onto her towel and held her head in one hand and touched her face with my fingers. The sunset light was purple and orange and she looked like she was made out of glass.

     She pulled me in so that my head rested just below her chin. I closed my eyes and felt one of her hands tangle itself up in my hair while she rubbed my shoulder with the other.

     She said softly, "I was waiting for my mother this morning."

     I moved my hand to her hip and squeezed her there.

     "She left when I was ten."

     We didn't move and suddenly our position felt awkward. I tried to listen closely to what she was saying and not think about it.

     "We were in her car and she pulled over, right there on that street where you found me." Callie's voice was steady and slow. "She told me to get out. She just said, `Get out.' And I didn't even say 'Why,' I just did."

     I ran my hand down her thigh and let it rest on her knee.

     "We were on our way to the grocery store. I thought she'd be there so I walked all the way to town, but I couldn't find her. So I went back to the place where she'd dropped me off and then went back the next day and everyday that whole summer and waited, like she'd just dropped me off but that she'd come back to get me."

     I turned my head so that my lips could touch the skin by the bone below her neck.

     She said softly, "I heard somewhere once that if you lose something, you should go back to where you last saw it."

     I picked up my head to look at her.

     Callie shook her head. "What else can we talk about?"

     I replied, "My sister's baby cries all the time."

     Callie grinned looking straight into my eyes. "I think it's funny that we all come out crying but it takes us some time to learn how to laugh."

     I leaned down and kissed her softly. I kissed her cheeks and her eyes. She let her head fall back and I kissed her neck. The sun had almost completely set. I picked Callie up in my arms and pulled her onto my lap. She draped her arms around my neck and leaned her head on my shoulder. I breathed the lemons in her hair.

We sat like that until the stars came out.

• • •. • • •

Breadcrumb #471


The woman pushes the door open with one hand, holding her bag in the other, and enters the salon. She walks over to the reception where she's greeted cheerfully by a young girl dressed in a white shirt and black skirt. The girl says with a well-rehearsed smile, ‘How can I help you, ma’am?’

‘I have an appointment at 6:30 pm for a haircut.’ She glances at her watch. The time is 6:27 pm. She's never late for an appointment. The girl at the reception checks her system and asks the woman to wait for two minutes. The woman's usual stylist is on leave today so she has opted for another stylist. She needs the haircut today. It can't wait till tomorrow. Because she has made up her mind. The woman likes the casual and friendly ambience of the salon. The huge glass walls are covered by the trees outside. Her usual stylist has come to know her hair too well. At times, she doesn't even have to say a word and he does what she needs. She hasn't changed her hairstyle in seven years.

Today is different. She wants a change. She needs a change.


She has prepared for this moment all night. She had her coffee in the morning like a silent prayer. After reading for an hour, she watered the plants, made eggs and laid the breakfast on the table with the coffee. They ate breakfast in silence, the woman and her husband, she read her book and he flipped through the news on his tablet.

While leaving for office, he said, ‘I will be late today. How does your day look like?’

‘I have to do some shopping for my trip’.

‘I envy you. I wish I could take a sabbatical too’. He failed to hide the cheerfulness in his tone.

‘I will be done by dinner time though. So let's go out for dinner today. I will see you only after two weeks then’. He planted a kiss on her lips.

It tasted bitter.

‘Hi, ma’am’, the stylist says, ‘Please come this way’.


Seven years ago, the woman’s father tried to kill himself. After he was discharged from the hospital, she left her home. She cut her hair short for the first time in years. So short that she didn’t have any to tuck behind her ears. The world was not so round as she imagined it to be.


‘You have beautiful hair’, the stylist says.

‘Thank you’.

‘So what do you have on your mind?’

‘I want them short’.

He shows her a few pictures on his phone and she picks up one.

‘Let’s go for a wash, ma’am’.

He gently massages her hair. He has soft hands. Unlike her husband’s. Her husband has firm hands with a strong grip. Does the other woman feel the same when he touches her? Does he hold the other woman the way he embraces her? Does he fuck the other woman the way he fucks her? She is surprised at her own thoughts. She chuckles at the word ‘fuck’. She likes this change. Since she found out about the other woman, she hasn’t made love to her husband. She has been fucked by him though. She has watched herself being fucked by him. This word is so detached and dirty - fuck fuck fuck.

‘Please get up, ma’am’, the stylist says.

He wraps a towel around her head and shows her the way.

Snip. The hair begins to slip down from her shoulders to the ground.


She comes home from work and is surprised to see her husband home early. He looks up from his laptop and tells her that he has to go out for dinner. She lays out his clothes while he takes a shower. A message appears on his phone. She walks out of the room and fixes a sandwich for herself. He leaves. She follows. He comes out of the building after 77 minutes. The woman thinks if she should confront him or ram her car into him. But this corner of the world is turning flat.


Her head feels light. Most of her hair is gone. Scattered on the floor around her.

Have they been acting with each other since the beginning or they didn’t realize when they turned into strangers?

Confrontation never helps. They would argue, her husband would feed her stories in the name of the truth, she would believe him because he’s nice. Without her notice, his guilt would seep into her and fill that void of lies.

She is sitting in the middle of a dark cloud. Her thick, luscious dark brown hair surrounding her on all the sides. The stylist grazes the hair on her neck with a razor.


‘Since you are born, we haven’t been happy. You are a curse’, her mother used to say when the woman was a young girl. She could never understand the reason but she felt guilty. She was impregnated with the guilt. She felt guilty for her father losing his job. She felt guilty for her being groped by her music teacher. She felt guilty for her father’s suicide attempt. She felt guilty for the world not being round.

Without her notice, his guilt would seep into her and fill that void of lies.

She remembers the first time she cut her hair. She felt light and liberated. She felt free. The guilt was in her hair she thought.

Her husband wanted her to grow her hair. He loved to pull on her hair during sex. Sometimes he slept with his face buried in her locks.  

Does he pull the other woman’s hair the same way? She is sure he does.


A gush of hot air makes her shut her eyes tight.

She opens her eyes and smiles at her reflection in the mirror.

‘What do you think about it, ma’am?’ the stylist says.



The woman wonders if her husband has come to this restaurant with the other woman. She waits for him at the table he has booked for them.

‘Oh’, her husband says as he pulls the chair and sits. ‘Why did you cut your hair so short?’

‘There were just too many patterns. My head was getting heavier.’

‘I don’t understand. Why didn’t you tell me about it in the morning?’

‘I didn’t feel the need to.’

‘How can you be so reckless?’

‘I am hungry.’

His attention is caught by his buzzing phone. He picks it up and reads the message. The woman sees the glimmer of a smile in his eyes. His world is round.

He keeps the phone aside and places the order. The message has his mood lifted again.

‘Is the hairlessness the part of the preparation for your trip?’

‘Yes. This is where it begins’, the woman says.

Her world is flat.

• • •. • • •