* — August 30, 2016
Kaydbe, 2009
The turtle swims in circles, but there are other choices in the plastic pool. There is across or zigzags or even half circles. But he chooses what he chooses and that’s his choice. I just can’t watch it anymore. I can’t watch it like I can’t watch my brother lying in the middle of the kitchen floor screaming, begging for a prize, to give him his prize. He hasn’t won shit—not that I’m aware of—so I don’t know what he’s talking about. He spins around and around on his back with his eyes squeezed shut and his socks loose on his feet, barely clutching his ankles. He bangs his fists and demands an award and he’s specified gold a few times. I can’t watch that.

So I go to my room. My room is my room though it hasn’t been my room for years. Everything looks smaller but I’m not physically larger. My shoe size has actually gone down. The wicker dresser is ridiculous. If not for the shape I could pick it up with one hand. And the bed is demented. The mattress is a piece of bread. The sheets are purple and have a sheen. They have a look like someone wished for them, but it wasn’t me. If they were gold I’d put them in that kid’s pocket; that is how small they are. If I sit down on anything it will break, including the floor.
The carpet is white. White for a child’s room. It is scratchy and not nice. It will crumble if I take a seat. I tiptoe instead. I’m careful with everything because my feet and my hands are like hammers and my body is like a crusher and an eater of things, like an unsafe piece of machinery that has to be turned on with a key that only one member of the crew is allowed to have. And when it’s on it is like, step back. It is like, you know that I am going to destroy completely anything that I touch, that I’m going to invalidate your entire existence? It is like, you know that right? And the whole crew just stands back nodding like definitely, that’s why we built you. And I am thinking that I can’t choose who I am but I move around carefully just in case.
I’m starting to think that my butter-colored door is offensive and so precious. I move toward it and put my cheek on it and it’s cold like the other side of the pillow. I push harder into it because it seems so weak, so small and darling. It holds tight though. It holds me tight in the limp little room. With my face to the door I can hear my brother’s screams; they are hideous. He wants a trophy about what? I can barely hear. He wants a trophy about what? I close my eyes to let my ears work better, but they don’t. He wants a trophy about what? I feel the door starting to give, starting to let me through, so I pull back a little. Don’t worry, I say, to the door and my brother and the turtle. I forgive your weakness and your gold and your circles. I’m bigger, you see.
Originally published in No Tokens Issue No. 4. View full issue & more.

Meredith Alling is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her story collection, SING THE SONG, will be out November 2016 from Future Tense Books. Her website is meredithalling.com.