Friday, December 20, 2013

Zoo Keeper by Brian Miller (short stories)

Hey, remember how a while back I announced that I would be paying for stories to publish here and in eventual compilations? Well, submissions have been coming in and I have begun selecting the stories that will make the grade, and I am pleased as punch (what the... where did THAT come from?!?) to announce the first story by someone other than me to appear on the site.

This is actually the first of two stories by this author; the next one will be here soon.

Zoo Keeper
by Brian Miller

James was a paper boy---which doesn't mean he rode his bike in the mornings tossing news on the doorsteps. We never saw him outside the second story window of his family home, across the expanse of our back yard.

We would not have met at all had my cousin not been such a bad punter & losing by a touchdown tried to kick the football as hard as he could, sending it sailing nearly sideways, between the next row of houses.

"There is a boy over there," my brother said, returning with the ball.

And there was. A pale blur of a boy, all white and undefined beyond the dark hollow of eyes peering through glass clouded as if you breathed warm breath on its cold surface.

"Hey, do you want to play?"

Not responding, he just looked at us in the curious way a pup does after the first shock in the neck from an underground fence.

"Hey, we are talking to you," one of the boys yelled.

As with most kids, we were intolerant to being ignored and walking back into the yard the others cast him new names, questioning his mental capabilities. Over my shoulder, he had not turned  away--- but became once more a small white spot in the dark eye of the  house, content to observe us, a ghost in the frame.

I don't remember who won the game that day---the thing with neighborhood games was that tomorrow always came with another shot at winning or losing, football gave way to baseball in Spring. We used flattened coffee cans as bases & on good days kept stats in black marker on their silver lids.

It was during one of these games I found the seahorse, tail curled, in the outfield. I held it in the palm of my glove, the blue paper it was made of shining bright against the leather. Soft, delicate---
I traced the folds with my finger---without a sound, it unraveled, unveiling just the edge of a dark letter.

Unfolding it flat, it read HI in small script.

I knew it who had written it and looking up, saw the expressionless face. I waved, expecting and getting nothing back. It was a red crab that carried his real name to me, tucked in its shell, a week later. A crane, manta ray, frog, alligator---somehow, he got them out and knew where to place them so I would be the one to find them.

I tried once to put them back together, but I couldn't---still I kept the collection in the box under my bed where treasures and lost things were placed. I don't know why I never visited---maybe the mystery of a boy that didn't go to school, or a fear of what I might find---or that the parade of animals would stop.

Then they did.

His window sat empty for a week before I was brave enough to go all the way to the house. The black drive was empty and the knocks of my small fist on the door echoed back. In the mailbox though was a starfish on pink paper---I carried it quiet in my pocket to the desk in my room, and after a bit of thought under the light of the lamp, decided to leave it intact, never looking inside.


Brian Miller lives on the east coast of the United States with his wife and two boys. He has published poetry in several compilations and performs spoken word poetry at various venues.

Want to contribute something? Read the WE PAY FOR STORIES page at the top.  Because you can get paid for stories! Or other stuff, too.


Rusty Carl said...

Great story. I remember those huge neighborhood ball games. Never had an origami expert nearby - but otherwise that could have been me. Good job.

Tina said...

Oh, I'm glad you chose this one! I see some of the subtle changes you made, and wow, it packs a punch. I finished next to the last edits last night on my story. Scared shitless to send it in though. Don't want to have to face you in battle...armed with nerf or not ;-)
Tina @ Life is Good

Andrew Leon said...

I like it.

Briane P said...

I'm sure Mr Miller appreciates the comments.

Andrew, I figured you would; it seemed like the kind of story you both write and enjoy.

Tina: had you seen this before?


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