Welcome to #FutureLitDarlings, a series dedicated to authors I (in my personal opinion) are really writing amazing, unique stuff. How it works: I call out a handful of authors, ones that might not get as much attention in and around various lit circles as they should, be it because they are new or simply underrepresented; the authors named are given a week to send me some writing to feature in subsequent posts here, on ENCLAVE. Simple and encouraging–as is my hope. The end result, ideally, is for this to be a continual showcase championing the depth and vibrancy of our community.
The first callout consisted of Matthew Bookin, Lauren Hilger, Frankie Zelnick, Elle Nash, Len Kuntz, Jordaan Mason, and Nadia de Vries.
First to reply was Len Kuntz, and therefore, this post is dedicated to Kuntz and his unique brand of fiction. Have a look, you’ll see that he’s onto something exciting. We’re coping. –Michael J Seidlinger
The Other Kids
People stare at us. They always do.
When I lurch at a gawking granny near Ivar’s, she shrieks, then calls Ruby and me animals.
It’s raining big, fat-assed drops the size of coins. Just started pouring. I didn’t bring a hat for Ruby, so I take my jacket and stuff it around her crooked neck and head. She flaps an arm at me, maybe protesting, but I say, “I’m fine. I’m part-fish, part-salmon.”
Business is worse when it rains, but if you only go out on nice days, you’d starve.
Ruby’s wheelchair has a wobble to it. Last week something got busted when we had to take a curb.
I pull the sign out, the Folgers Coffee can and set them at Ruby’s feet. It rains harder. Might be a short day.
Our spot is off the pier by The Ferris Wheel. A better place would be uptown, around Nordstrom, but it’s a bitch—nearly impossible—wheeling Ruby up and down those hills.
The accident that killed our parents and damaged Ruby happened a long time ago. Afterward, I was sent to a Foster Home and Ruby to a place that cares for the brain-dead. When I got old enough, I fled, found Ruby and got her the hell away. Even though things are hard, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Here comes Isaac a few blocks away. I can tell from the way he walks–with a side-to-side sash shay—that he’s packing.
Ruby and I beg, but we soon learned we needed something to sell, so now it’s drugs, mostly pills and pot that Isaac brings us. I never ask where he gets the stuff and he never says.
Isaac’s coiled hair is rust-colored but brighter, the shade of Doritos. “Where’s your jacket?”
I point to Ruby. She’s crumpled in her chair, neck invisible, her head a contorted skull wearing skin.
I remember when my twin was young, how she liked to put Mom’s makeup on dolls, set up parties where the dolls traded secrets.
“Man, you’re a piece of work,” Isaac says. He always tells me this, like I’m a fuck-up or a genius, I can never tell which.
He takes off the enormous puffy jacket he’s wearing–there’s a smaller one underneath–and gives it to me.
“Yeah. Pockets are full.”
When I put it on, I feel the baggies in each pocket—one stuffed with pills, the other a wad of dope.
“You really gonna hang out here,” Isaac asks, “getting pissed on all day?”
“A man’s gotta make a living.”
He looks at Ruby, just for a split second, then back at me. There’s something in his face that I can’t get a hold on. He won’t stop staring, so I look away. “A piece of work,” he says, “that’s what you are.”
I watch Isaac disappear down the street, swallowed up by a swath of fog coming off Elliot Bay and burying Cutters.
“Hey, Rube,” I say, squatting down beside my sis, “know what today is?”
Her eyes slide and roll, but that could be anything.
“It’s our birthday. We’re seventeen.” I finally get a cigarette lit and the burn is the best feeling. If Ruby were right, she’d never let me smoke. She’d be the boss. We’d both be in school, but she’d be the one getting the good grades.
“I thought we’d celebrate tonight. You know, get dinner at someplace nice.”
In my mind I hear her say, “But not too expensive. We have to start saving for college.” In my mind, Ruby’s five foot eight, an athlete, a gymnast maybe.
I hear Ruby say, “Maybe we should stop selling drugs, get a real job.”
“How’s that going to work?”