It’s my birthday, but the clouds are offended again because of something I’ve said or thought. Their bellies are full of dark-sick, gauzy vomit, pushing away the sky which doesn’t remember I’m nine today.
People are talking about the moon, how there are men on it for the first time, but people have told me lots of other things that weren’t true, like what a miracle it is to be a kid and have your whole life ahead of you.
The imaginary clown I had for a friend disappeared or was kidnapped or killed so now the moon is my surrogate best friend, but those bushy gray clouds are pissed off and won’t let me see Luna, let alone talk to her to find out if there really are spacemen pouncing around on her chest and forehead, so I toss rocks in the air, one after the other, thinking about gravity and the things I’ve already learned that can hurt me.
It’s my birthday, which feels both boring and burdensome, as if I have a massive boil on my back the way lonely Quasimodo did. I need a bad habit or some crime to commit so the guilt I wear will have a purpose. One thing I know already is how guilt is like fire smoke—you don’t have to be the one to start the fire, but if you get near it, its smoke claims you just the same, weaving into your skin for all time.
At school, there are lots of happy noses and shiny tongues that answer the teacher’s questions perfectly. Every weekday it’s the same cheerful chorus of precision. I sit at my desk, which is the size of a combine, wooden like Pinocchio, me feeling wee wee wee tiny tiny tiny. I pretend I’m mute because it’s easier that way, the same as it is at home. Only a loon would talk to a stuffed animal, especially one with no plush.
But last week my brothers ditched me at the carnival, and that was fine, that was all right. I had enough coins with me to have the turbanned Madame read my palm. She peered in, watchmaker close, and kept asking me if I was tricking her. “Where’s your life line?” she kept asking, her voice picking up pitch each time until I scampered off while she screamed, “WHERE’S YOUR LIFE LINE?!!!”
My grandmother had seventy-nine birthdays, but not eighty. A train hit her going too fast while Gran was sitting in her stalled car going nowhere. Before that, I used to visit some. She was German and looked it, would wear floral bonnets and tent sack dresses that could create their own breeze if she swung around quick, like the time she thought I was lying about what had happened at home. That was the day I learned how to lie or just play deaf, dumb and blind, three monkeys all rolled into one boy.
Gran kept trying to feed me, even when my bones were already full. “You’re too skinny. You’re a rung,” she’d say. I thought she was saying I’m a wrong, because her accent was thick and scratchy, and sometimes she butchered words the way Mom did chickens and other things.
So, it’s my birthday, and I’m a wrong. I can’t see the moon, but she can’t see me back either. Nobody can, if I don’t want them to. At least that’s what I’m going to believe. Maybe when I’m ten, things will be different.