All posts tagged prose

the secret heart

All writing on this page is copyrighted by the author, and may not be used in part or whole without permission of the author.

This work is from the collection of short stories called “The Secret Heart”, ©1995, published by HMS Press.


Once upon a time there was a little girl who wasn’t born a boy. She did not know why She wasn’t born a boy, because this seemed like what everyone wanted Her to be. So She tried to be a boy, but She was a girl. So She tried to be a girl, but she didn’t know what a girl was. So She grew up and became an artist.

She decided to be an artist because nobody listened to Her when She spoke the truth. But She found that when She took the truth and built around it so it looked like a lie, people looked at it alot, and paid her money for it. She got so good at this that it became much easier for Her to talk in pictures, so She forgot how to do this in words.

She had a Special Friend when She was small, one who would do anything for Her, and gave Her everything She needed. She loved him more than anything, and gave him Her Secret Heart, the one that all the lies were built around, because he could see through them to the real Heart. Then one day he bit someone, and was killed by someone She trusted. She tried to discover what She had done wrong.

She lived in a beautiful house by a river. One day there was a big storm and it swept Her away to a place She could not recognize. She found Her way back to Her house, but it was so wrecked by lightning it wasn’t recognizable either. So She went to look for Her home. She never found it.

She went back to the unrecognizable place, and worked on building Her lies so more people would buy them. She made alot of Her lies transparent so that She hoped someone would see through them. She knew that once someone saw the Secret Heart, they were Her Special Friend come back to Her. But no one saw it.

Then one day She met a girl. At first, when She met her, the girl didn’t look like anyone She’d want to know. But they started to get along, and they became friends. But She was still looking for Her Special Friend, and when the girl told Her that she loved Her, and the she was Her best friend, She thought the girl had seen her Secret Heart, and that this was Her friend. Her Special Friend. Then the girl left for awhile.

She was upset, and went and found new friends. But She always thought the girl was Her Special Friend, so She never forgot her. Then She met another one who She thought was her Special Friend, and She was confused. Then one day this friend was taken from her and killed. She tried to figure out what She had done wrong. And Her lies became a little less transparent, as She decided She didn’t want anyone to see Her Secret Heart but Her Special friend. Because it had started to hurt.

She went to the Big City where the girl lived, and they became friends again. The girl gave Her lots of pretty things to wear, and She wore them, because She thought that if She did, Her friend would love Her and it would make Her more like Her friend. She was also very poor, and Her friend was rich. She thought Her friend was amazing, because she was always discovering new things. She thought the girl could find her Secret Heart. So She made Her lies transparent again. Then She met a boy.

This boy thought he loved Her, and She fell in love with him, even though he couldn’t see Her Secret Heart. They loved each other so much, She wanted to share this with the girl. The girl thought this was wonderful, but was jealous, because She was wearing his clothes instead of hers. Now the girl had discovered a crystal ball, and she showed it to Her. She discovered that She could make this crystal ball work, so She started to play with it. This also made the girl jealous, as She was better at making the ball work than the girl was. So one day the girl used the crystal ball to cast a spell over the boy to make him love her, and he ran away from Her thinking he loved Her friend. She was heartbroken, but decided the She loved them both so much She would forgive them if they came back. And they did, and everything was fine.

She married the boy, and they moved away, but She was still in love with Her friend, and missed her very much. So when the girl met different boy, She was angry. Her friend had always told Her that if She was a boy, the girl would have married Her. But the girl was lying.

So one day, She went to the girl and She gave her Her Secret Heart. But the girl was not Her Special Friend, and could not see the Secret Heart, and she gave it back. The girl was laughing, but she pitied Her, because she had a boy who loved her now, so the girl didn’t need Her anymore. She learned She was replaceable. But She had never figured out how to replace friends that way. So She cut out Her Secret Heart and She buried it under a tree in a black forest.
The tree grew leaves, and had a nest in the top branches where a bird came and laid three eggs. But the eggs would never hatch because they were made of stone. She would never know this, because only Her Special Friend could show Her how to make stone grow, and She still hasn’t found him yet.



living in the house of night

All writing on this page is copyrighted by the author, and may not be used in part or whole without permission of the author.

This work is from the collection of short stories called “The Secret Heart”, ©1995, published by HMS Press.


I really can honestly say I did not know what I was getting into. I just didn’t feel like sitting there and listening to the others drink, and get drunk, so I asked him to join me in a coffee shop, anywhere, anywhere but there. I said, “Want to go for a coffee?”. And five minutes later, we were gone.

I guess it was the right place, for it didn’t take me long to forget there were other people around. I found that I could just look and look at him, and never get bored. That’s one thing I like, for all the things I’ve heard about him, he never bores me. Or rather, around him, I am never bored. It’s a distinction, but it’s one he would think was important.
His face reminds me of someplace. I knew that when I first met him, but the place, it loomed behind his features like smoke. I could never seem to place the place behind his face. At least, not until we saw each other in the window. We sat at the table, facing the street, and looked into each other’s reflections. I have often felt the need to be silent, but never that it was something understood. But in that moment, I knew, I just knew. And so I told him.
I said, “I have something I want to show you,”. And we left our coffee and moved out into the night. The words that passed between us on the way there were so small, I don’t really remember them, they were like small sounds in the wind, like the way the stairs creak at night, like the neighbours’ voices in the apartment next door, through the wall. The hot dog stand was the last marker, a gate to a place I could only remember, that I hadn’t seen until I looked behind his eyes. We reached the gravel that marked it, and I suddenly noticed I was ten years too young for this, and a thousand years too old.

I walked to the back of the alley, his footsteps falling behind me, and I turned and leaned up against the wall there. Our shadows were flat against the brick, a little larger than ourselves, and I gathered my breath inside me before I closed my eyes and spoke.

The words fell out of me like stones, small black stones, heavy, yet at the same time, so light I could toss them on the gravel four feet beyond me and not hear them land. I cannot say that I remember their shape, or the way they felt moving from my mouth to my palm to the ground. I don’t remember their names, or the names I gave them, or the texture of their surfaces against my skin. All I can say was that they felt like mercy, and that when I had tossed them so easily from me, to lie among the other stones, my words were absolutely indistinguishable amongst their companions in the dark.

When I could find no more stones, we stood and watched the building that stood across from us, waiting. I didn’t know, couldn’t feel what he was waiting for, but I thought that maybe if I waited long enough, I would see a sign, a movement beyond my vision that would tell me which way to go. Waiting, I felt, was something I could do, something I had done so well in the apartment that sat above our heads, against our backs, looking out at the building that sat before us. There I had waited and waited, in the silence that enveloped me even now, waiting for a sign that would tell me which way to go. Waiting for the place that I only now recognized behind his eyes. Waiting, as I only knew in the instant I realized that I was ten years too young for this, and a thousand years too old, for a silence that would not mean desolation. Waiting for him.

The light went off on the second floor. And then I knew it was time to go home.

like the sound of a butterfly falling

All writing on this page is copyrighted by the author, and may not be used in part or whole without permission of the author.

This work is from the collection of short stories called “The Secret Heart”, ©1995, published by HMS Press.


It was a weekend of rain. If I had known about the weather, I probably would have brought something warmer, but I dressed for the reunion with a nakedness reflecting my hope. I was preparing for a night of dreams. Agonizingly, over my yearnings, I laced my skirt as tightly as I dared, hoping the years of frustration wouldn’t show beneath the fabric. I disliked bulges of any kind, and I kept trying to smooth my temper to suit my clothes. After all, ten years can rearrange the landscape, and I was hoping to bury my roots once more.

Soft, soft, spread below the rain. Diffuse beneath the leaves, let me soak into the ground. Mother, wash away the ache. I’m crying in the river. Look, my knees, the current will take them away. Oh mother, wash away the black, wash away my eyes. The water hurts so much, I cannot bear to look…

Ten years ago, I decided that if I had a leather jacket, I could withstand absolutely anything. A thick leather skin was the answer, a cowl to cover what I had lost a birth, and felt lost without ever since. I would cover it in jewels and silver, a steel-studded dignity, a golden dagger beneath my pillow. It was ten years before I could save the money to buy one, and I remember it clearly. I decided upon the heavy-duty model, a little large, but roomy in the shoulders, zippered and epauletted, black as a licorice gumball. It was the epitome of protection, a portable bomb shelter, and I swore I would never take it off. It only took me half an hour to realize it was the heaviest thing I had ever worn.

Look mother. There – out on the water – see them? Birds. White birds. They look like dandelions. Mother, why aren’t I a bird? I want to be a bird I want to float in the sky like a bird can I go swimming now? Can I swim in the lake I promise I won’t go out too far please I promise I’ll do anything but let me fly let me go swimming oh mother mother why aren’t I a bird?

I didn’t have a chance to prepare myself, as we were running late, and I would have to hurry to make it to the dinner on time. So I replaced five minutes of deep thought with a large tumbler of red wine, hoping prayer would be a worthy substitute for nicotine.
As we pulled up to the front doors I felt the first trickles of sweat running down in between my knees. I told myself it was the humidity, or eagerness to see an auditorium of people whose faces were blurry or memorially absent with time. I gathered my skirts and bravado around me and sashayed through the doors like I’d never left. As I stood on the tiles of the foyer, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe this was the wrong place, as I could have sworn I’d never been there before. For a twenty-dollar dinner, I left my heart outside the door and delivered myself to the mercy of strangers.

Dad, when are you coming home? I mean really coming home. Yeah, I know it’s just a little while. But dad, don’t you realize- I graduated while you were gone.I grew up; I’m a big girl now. I wish you had been there dad. I wish you were proud of me dad I wish I wish I wish oh daddy when are you coming home?

Of course, I probably should have known they’d be there. After all, I wasn’t the only one who had gone to that school in 1982. But the lack of reaction puzzled me. Hadn’t I been rather notorious in my short time on the stage? I had felt the role of pariah quite keenly back then, now my transparency made me wonder if they thought me a hallucination. But I was far past the age when standing on the table and shouting at them was a possibility. Instead, I took refuge in the Crayolas placed on every table and began drawing my confusion on the white paper tablecloth, covering my space within minutes and moving over to occupy the places where no one else sat. Since my husband and I were two at an empty table for eight, I figured I would draw for the other ghosts who sat like me, pale and weak before hundreds of staring eyes and buzzing, smiling faces. The ghosts sat and cried as the colour flowed across the table; they reached for the crayons, but could not hold them in their thin fingers, so I drew a cup for their tears at each place. I would have drawn one for my own, but I felt ashamed at caring, and I would have set fire to this table covered with my wax veneer of confidence, but the gesture would have been too huge to be understood. So I just drew, and drew, and waited for them to breathe the words of forgiveness I knew I would never hear.

I’m sorry dad, I didn’t mean to freak you out, but I had to, don’t you see? I had to go. I mean it’s not like you really care about what I do anyway. You’re never here, so it’s obvious you don’t give a shit. All you care about is your goddamn job and your goddamn car and nothing else ever matters to you. So why the hell should I stay here and sit in this house and watch my life disappear when there are people out there who are actually happy to see me? I have a life too you know, and I’m tired of spending it waiting for you. So go ahead and hit me – lock me up and throw away the key if you like. But one day I’ll get out, and my dust will settle around your sorry ears before you even know I’m gone.

I left as if I’d never ever been there, and in some ways, I felt as if I hadn’t. The only proof they had was a tablecloth and a dirty plate, and anything can be faked these days, even a signature. Best to leave the ghosts their own; I could never have helped them anyway. But the way home was dark, the moon having hidden rather than watch me make a fool of myself. I felt blessed by her mercy and wished myself worthy of her eyes. But the pull that brought me back to this place was like the tide, and, fool that I was, I had never been able to resist the sight of light upon the water. Sometimes, I thought, it’s better to leave a trail of blood than to sink without a sound beneath the waves.

It’s so quiet here. I wonder if they’ll find me. If they don’t find me I can’t play anymore. Please find me. Please please please please please I want to play too. I can’t hear them anymore, I wonder if they went away. The game can’t be over yet, they haven’t found me. Maybe if I just stand up a little bit and put my head over the fence maybe they’ll see me or I’ll see them. But then I’d be it and I can never find anybody if I’m it, so maybe I’ll keep hiding and just hope they’ll find me. It’s really quiet though, but if I knock this can over they’ll hear me and somebody will find me and then I can play too. I just want to play too. Please let me play please find me please find me please find please I just want to play too…

So I left, and the rain poured down in a way my words never could, and I grabbed handfuls of thunder and threw it at the school I could never go back to, at the reunion I could never have. I wrapped my pain in the bandage of cynicism, and it hurt like hell. And the sound – the sound of my wails reverberated though my body, and it had no sound like any I had ever heard before. Like a tiny sigh of God, like a grey day, like a cloud passing over a winter sun.

Like the sound of a butterfly falling.