The road spanned convexly, and if I dared to pedal along its edge, dandelions and grasshoppers would greet my fall. The hill below, slanted and harsh, took the clumsy to a charming enclave. Dispelling the occasional cowrie shell, the Pacific Ocean killed. I remembered the newspaper headlines – “Two Young Marines Swept out to Sea Watching Typhoon Bart.”

Early March with cloudy weather. Not a bit too sweltering. Like any other Saturday, I slipped into my favorite tights from kindergarten, snapped on a helmet approved to protect the precocious musings of fourth graders. I turned ten years old three months ago, but only outgrew training wheels days before that. Normalcy and friendships formed like calluses. A death grip on my handlebars. I securely attached to only a few special people.

Spinning my legs like the spokes of wheels made me forget about math tests, and speeding was an unpunished crime to commit before turning sixteen. I squeezed my brakes in excess force, but the jolt in itself electrified.

I biked on the inside of that road, defying oncoming traffic. In that part of the world, the right lane’s left, and vice versa. Five minutes into the ride, and I rolled across a thick pile of rope, perhaps a deflated tire.

But tires are not sold in shades of yellow green. And ropes do not hiss, their ends not triangular. Neither possesses the capacity for pain. Neither makes a sound. And neither leaves you dead, or with legs unable to spin.

This was how I escaped a snakebite. But I couldn’t escape my father’s sour discontent.

“The judge from Germany just goddamn said, ‘Men can still pee standing up.'”

He lost his patience, shooing the pink slip wilting in my hand as I tried not to snag frayed sandals on the faded Turkish rug. I knew, before Mom got home, that I’d have to dip an old toothbrush in another cup of Sam’s Club soda. Wholesale was never wholesome, and neither was virtue in tongue. The elusive volleyball my hands couldn’t hurt. The soccer ball bruising my face, unaware of the snickers and whispers and their bitter intentions.

Girls who wear oversized hoodies are inarguably gay. Both states of being will call for scrutiny.

“Where’d you get that?”

“It’s my dad’s.”

“And you’re wearing a dude’s hoodie because?”

“Because I’m cold.”

“Because you like purple triangles.”

The cheerleaders laughed. I laughed. But Rachel could not. She asked me the whys behind my absence of thought.

But to feign complacency exhausts, so much that after six P.E. classes of lazy Tae Bo and acidic imitations of my flailing high kicks, I asked, “What did I do?”

Abby cackled, extended her finger, rotated it near her pierced left ear. I didn’t laugh, though Lauren did, and the others looked around as if they didn’t know better, but were proud they mastered the art of not pushing too far. I didn’t look around, and I told them to “Fuck off.”

I certainly knew better, nodding that yes, I use the F-word, and my middle finger.

“Not exactly ladylike.” Our vice principal spoke in an insincere murmur. Tradition’s gravitation.


Kristine Brown shuffles between poetry, prose, data entry, and wishing she could properly fly a kite. She photographs strangers’ cats and writes poems for them. You can find these poems on her blog, Crumpled Paper Cranes ( Her first collection of poems and flash stories, Scraped Knees, was released by Ugly Sapling in early 2017. Her writing appears in Hobart, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Philosophical Idiot, Burningword Literary Journal, among others.