Good Boy!

“Who’s a good boy?” Coos the voice of Young Master Mary. Every time she wiggles her table scraps above our heads, her pastel-gray hair springs up and down on her shoulders like the long, skinny noodles she often eats for lunch.

“Mary, stop feeding the dogs from the table, they’ll develop bad habits.” Says Master Mom. If there was one thing canines and Humans had in common, it was that the young typically looked rather similar to their parents. Master Mom, too, had springy hair, but it’s a much darker shade of gray, and always tied up on top of her head. She’d be a poodle in another life.

Whilst her bright silver eyes were distracted, my co-dog, Dude, leaps up and snatches that which my short, stubby little legs can’t muster a bounce strong enough to reach. I whine, widen my eyes, and then scoot up to the heel of Young Master Mary.

“Sorry, that was the only thing left on the plate. Gonna’ have to wait for dinner.” She apologizes, then contrastingly kicks me away with the bridge of her foot. This was a universal sign to all co-dogs that it was time to leave the food-room. Sometimes the Masters indulge me in a treat from the fridge if I dragged my wet nose across the tiled floor in my departure. They said it made me look sad, like I have ‘real Human emotions’. If Master Dad was at the gathering place for food, however, the chances of getting anything were close to zero. ‘He’s a dog, he’s food oriented.’ Master Dad usually says.

“Dude, you know that I’m Good Boy, why did you take my food?” I yap, staring up at the shaggy, ebon-gray son-of-a-bitch that was my co-dog. Dude looks like one of those bushes I typically pee on with my friends, and the cat, and the cat’s friends. If I focused on that imagery enough, I could distract myself from our clear size difference.

“I’m Good Boy now.” Dude says: his tone, gurgling and menacing: sounding like the machine our Masters use in which food goes in, but drink comes out after the loud growling finishes. In a fit of rage, I defy the preposterous words of the big pee-bush by leaping upon the leather couches in excitement. They were all pushed together, so my stubby little legs easily met each new surface. The light of the living room, dim as it is, caused me to stumble where vision lacked, but I continued my demonstration.

“You cannot be Good Boy! That is my name! That is my name only! They told me! I heard them! You cannot deny it is my name! Look at me! Look at me! I am Good Boy!” My yelling went on and on, crazed. Dude laid under the coffee table, crunching on the ends of his toenails with indifference. Each time my little paws hit the top of his shelter, he’d express displeasure through agitating muttering.

“Shut up in there!” Booms the voice of Master Dad, causing me to lose my balance a final time and knock over a cup of drink.

“Uh oh…” Dude says, scooting out from under the coffee table to watch from the hallway instead. I couldn’t move, the living room wasn’t a living room anymore; it was a crime scene, and I was the culprit! Getting yelled at by the Masters is the worst fate any co-dog can ever experience. Even though I wanted to run away, I knew Master Dad would find me anyway. There I sat, beside the puddle of drink I spilled. My beady, black eyes dart toward Dude; he watched me like a funeral attendee, or a vulture observing the corpse of a fellow vulture: conflicted in what to do.

“Bad boy!” Yells Master Dad. “You are a bad boy!”

Constriction with a Conscience

“Oh come on now, don’t do this to me.” No matter how many times or how many ways I sit down in grandpa’s old pickup truck, the damned seat-belt never wants to cooperate with me. I pull it slow, I pull it fast, it doesn’t matter. Heck, it doesn’t even matter -which- seat I sit in. The things are stubborn. Like tired old asses, the belts won’t progress a step forward or backward, they just want me to stay exactly where I am. They worsened over time, but in intervals.

The first time it came to my attention was when I dropped a nice, thick wad of hubba-bubba bubble gum straight into the buckle. I must have been about eight. Mum let me go on holiday with Grandpa for a week at Disney, but now it was time to go home. He spent two hours trying to get all the melted goop out of the button. It was a hot day and my sunburned skin stuck to the leather seats like syrup on a pancake. If it wasn’t for Grandpa putting on all those funny voices he used to do, I would have been totally miserable.

The second interval was my first day at High School (which I almost missed). Throughout the whole car-ride, I blabbered on about all the boyfriends I am bound to have over the next four years of my life. Grandpa kept shaking his head and telling me to put my studies before all that jazz. Once at the drop-off point, try as I might, I couldn’t get the belt to budge. “Oh for…” almost heard Grandpa swear that day, but I didn’t. The seat-belt confined me to my seat, wrinkling the brand-new clothes I bought two weeks ago for this day only. Eventually, I was released. Without even a fraction of a glance backward, I fled the scene in embarrassment, hoping nobody saw the struggle.

University-bound, was I, when the third hassle came. Mum’s busy working, and Grandpa’s truck is big enough to carry my futon in the back of it. I’m closer to him than anyone else in my family anyway, so I didn’t feel any misery from the lack of parent. “Think you’ll be coming back for Spring Break?” Grandpa asked. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “I just want to party!” Even if he laughed it off then, I wish I’d gone back for Spring Break after all. When we rolled up to my new dorms, I tried to unclip my seat-belt: it simply wouldn’t give out. The nerve and attitude of this damn contraption could put an angst-ridden pre-teen to shame. “You’ll have to take your classes in the car, I’m afraid.” Grandpa said after a good thirty minutes of trying to unjam the mechanics in the ill-mannered belt. Frustrated, I huffed without amusement.

Here I am now, at the fourth dilemma. No Grandpa this time, just me and the truck. Shortly after Spring Break his heart seized, then poof, out like a wick on a windy evening with a wide-open window. I stopped showing up to class; I stopped talking to mum; I stopped giving a damn. All I have left of Grandpa is a few pictures and this shabby pick-up. My intentions this evening -was- to drive out to the pier and drink to forget him, but the damn seat-belt won’t let me go. I tug and I pull, but it only tightens its embrace around me. As I scream out in grief and curse the way I never heard Grandpa curse, the belt pulls me in closer to the leather seats, where his smell still lingers.

Once calm, I decide against my evening of irresponsible intoxication and drive to my mum’s house. As I reached for the seat-belt, it clicked open without even the glimmer of a bother. “Thanks Grandpa.” I weep.

This One Time in Middleschool…

Prose

I once knocked myself out at a basketball match. It was funny, I guess. Funny for the people watching. Funny for the coach, heck, even the mascot found it funny. I wasn’t even on the basketball team; I was just someone in the audience that came down to try and win a free tee-shirt. It was probably just going to end up a sleeping-shirt anyway, I’m not a triple-extra-large, in truth. I found the best way to make it all go so wrong so fast. There was a little trampoline a few meters from the post of the net. The goal was to jump on it and propel the ball toward the large circular goal. I say large, because it was. How hard could this be? Running like a cheetah (an overweight retired one), I leaped upon the trampoline and sprung into the air. Or at least, I would have, if I didn’t land on it funny to begin with. To cut a short story shorter, the trampoline slid backward and I shot to the ground like a faulty missile. The ball flung from my hands, hit the bottom of the basketball hoop and smacked into my face. The laughing of the crowd turned into what could be described as crashing waves at the beach. My dizziness couldn’t quite piece everything together, so I remained there while my half-concerned half-giggling parents attended to me. My adolescent pride was snuffed like a burning wick, attributing to much of my awkwardness in the later years of my life.

The Witcher’s Warning

For soothe! fiendish felon,

draw back your claws and terrible maw.

Return to your dwellings below the floor,

where the earthworms squirm and eat dirt.

Don’t challenge me or you’ll exist to be

the bothersome beast that you are.

Limb for limb, I’ll tear you apart,

until there is naught left of you

but your grin laying on the floor,

impaled by my righteous sword.

Flat-Line

Surrealist

My heart

How it beats like an African drum.

A perpetual thud,

Like hundreds of tiny trotting horses,

Racing to no end.

Like thunder booming from the heavens,

Beating the clouds.

Quell this wild, wild heart before

It

Troubles

Me

So

.

.

.

Passive to Sassive

In this piece, I had to relate my life to a song, so I picked Grace Kelly, by Mika.

Bio

It was bound to happen: the moment I snapped. Like a bull tired of being teased by the matador in a ring surrounded by crowds against it: my vision went from colour to red alone. I remember it so clearly, the day the last straw was added to the camel’s back. When I arrived in America six years ago, I was sure I had the right mindset to make friends and keep them: a feat I’d never been able to sustain before. I joined a choir, believing that people that sang in a choir would be kind and easier to get along with.

Two notes: Filtering is bad, and choir people are mouthy for a reason. “Aww! She sounds so cute!” came a chorus of reactions whenever I asked our instructor to repeat a few notes on the piano (pun intended). That was the first lance in this bull’s hide. “So like, I guess you’re a big Beatles fan?” was the second lance; I only know the songs ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Twist and Shout’. The third and final was when three sopranos asked me to join them for lunch, which simply turned into a show-and-tell. “She says things really weird, it’s so cute.” “Say that thing again.” I humoured them, but after that lunch, they never invited me again.

I became ‘British’ instead of ‘Gabby’. Nobody wanted to know more about me as a person. I hated being asked questions about England, I’ve never even lived there! I grew up in the Middle East and consider myself Arabic more than anything else… something nobody ever learned about me. Forget the Beatles, I like to listen to belly-dancing music, Mosque singing and Arabic instrumentals.

When the third lance was driven into this once, passive beast, I knew then I would never go back. “Do I look like a doll with a damn string to pull at the back?!” I remember telling anyone that asked me to say ‘funny British words’. “No, -YOU- sound funny!” “Pay me first, then I’ll think about being your little side-show act!” Oh, the sass! Oh, the freedom! This bull was on a rampage, sparing nobody in its path!

“I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky, I could be hurtful, I could be purple, I could be anything you like. Gotta’ be green, gotta’ be mean, gotta’ be everything more. Why don’t you like me? Why don’t you like me? Why don’t you walk out the door!” These are lyrics from Grace Kelly, by Mika. It portrays the excessive change someone can go through to make them appeal to others. But when you mold yourself to try and make other people like you, and it still isn’t good enough, that’s when you cast your middle-most fingers to the sky and kiss them goodbye!

-Do You-

-Be Happy-

Gabby the Half-Yank

Nobody I’ve met so far in America has ever guessed that I am actually Half American. My accent is still so strongly British that it’s almost crazy to imagine my father is from North Carolina. In my younger days, I didn’t really know what an American was. To me, my dad just had a really, really funny British accent. Overseas, when we think about the land of freedom and soaring eagles, we think of either Texas or Hollywood (exclusively those two).

Americans were either jolly, plump-bellied, gun-slinging cowboys, or dolled-up Kens and Barbies. Their depictions were solely found on the television screen, so I didn’t realize America actually existed. All the stories that came from the country itself sounded far too magical to ever be true.

“In America, everyone has a pony.” “In America, everyone is really rich.” “In America, everyone is happy and kind to eachother.” I think everyone, back then, was still in the belief that America was the wild west, but that might have just been what the kids were interested in learning about when I was younger. I was awe-struck when I came to realize that this country was real, and believed I would never, ever, get to see such a wonderland (as it had been described to me).

It turns out, not everyone received the same mental-image when it came to America. Most of the popular children were patriotic Brits to the very core. Our History teacher, Mister Bannister, was a babbling buffoon; he once made a side-remark related to American Idiocy and World Wars: I think that’s where the fad started.

I was quickly singled out. My name was changed (by them) from Gabby to ‘Yank’. What’s a Yank? I thought to myself. I had a very thick, Yorkshirian accent and knew nothing about America, but I was still treated like an alien. No longer did people want to sit with me; I lost many people I once thought of as friends… all because of a silly trend.

A few of the most memorable moments of being picked on by the ‘cool kids’ was having hamburgers thrown at me. “Eat Yank, Eat! That’s what Americans like to do!” Similarly, and perhaps alarmingly, my South African biology teacher got involved, “I bet Gabby eats five times more for breakfast than all of us, because she has American blood in her.” He said. Imagine hearing that as a self-conscious eleven-year-old girl?

I had to be taken out of the British School and put into an American School. It wasn’t much different though. “Can you say wah-tur?” “Why do you say tah-co? It’s Toh-co!” “You sound so funny!” I remember my American co-students saying. I couldn’t escape it, no matter where I went.

Being different taught me patience: it taught me how to feel numb to whatever negativity is thrown my way. Someone is -always- going through something; people are always judging, even if silently in their heads. When I look back, I think I should have just embraced who I was and went on my merry way instead of dwelling over it and running from bullies. If I had then, the knowledge that I have now, I would have simply stood my ground.

Because of my experiences, however: I am immune to that sad feeling that people often associate with criticism. I’ve heard it all and I can happily digest any critique (hopefully constructive) that is made upon me or my work; instead of getting upset or putting myself down, I’d sooner take a deep breath and figure out my next steps to improvement. This is a motto I live by for now and forever.

The Ol’ ID Trickerooni

“Will it just be the six pack and the dark chocolate?” The store owner asks, moving the scanner toward the two items.

“Mmhm, movie night for one.” She replies.

“Beats workin’ ‘till 3am.” He refrains the scanner from the six pack, then looks at the woman. She stares back. “ID?”

She laughs, “You trying to get cheeky with me, young man?” Whilst asking, her hands move to sit on her hips.

“You don’t look a day past eighteen.” He responds, yet still refuses to scan her alcohol. Silence falls between them, the woman taps her long nails on the desk.

“You’re joking right?” Her laughing stops. “You can’t see the wrinkles?”

“Wrinkles? What wrinkles?” He says, setting his scanner back down on its holster.

“Heh, alright… Joke’s over. I’ve got lasagna in the oven at home waiting for me.” She waves her hand, dismissive to the façade.

“I can’t sell you this alcohol without an ID, store rules.”

“I understand that you’re trying to flatter me, but for goodness sakes, I was born in the seventies!” With her raised voice, the store owner backs away by a step and reaches for the phone on the wall. “Are you serious!? I’m graying and I’ve got whiskers in places a young lady shouldn’t have whiskers!”

“It is my right to refuse service; your yelling is threatening to me, I am beginning to feel unsafe.” He slowly removes the phone from the wall. “This can all be solved if you show me your ID.”

“I left it at home, can’t you see I’m wearing my comfies? This is absolutely bizarre, I haven’t had to show my ID since I was in my early thirties!” The woman throws the chocolate bar onto the table and turns to exit.

“Well, that didn’t go accordingly to plan.” Murmurs the shop owner.

“You’re not supposed to wait until she gives you the ID, idiot. You have to make her feel young, and then give her the alcohol anyway.” Comes the voice of a janitor in a nearby aisle.

“Oh.”