• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 01

We Must Fly

We must fly, Ma, I remind her in the hush of the morning. I stop when she glances behind me. Turn to watch the man called Pa pad in, like a looming bear woken from sleep.

They don’t ask questions, but I answer them.

I dreamt it last night, I say, flying beside ships dripping water, joyriders leaning over to watch us paddle in air, and blimps as big as this house. I ignore Pa, who has carried in the usual soggy bran with milk that must last us till night.

Ma’s green eyes once used to set her hair alight. Now they’re all a neutral gray: her hair, her skin, her clothes, her smile. A smile flits across her lips. Terrified, I dive back into my lie of a dream.

People attached to great canvas fairy wings, carrying purses and briefcases, off to work, I croon to her. Potbellied policemen direct traffic, lifted by flappy butterfly wings that struggle with their weight. Focusing on her as she sways, I describe the official parachuting down in a hat and coat, reading his morning paper the while. All of them flying, Ma, us among them. Unable to add exclamation marks to my words, I add them to my voice.

Are we flying over land or water—I want her to argue. To see me, me alone. Preserve the morning quiet but for my unquavering voice describing the ships booming like the last hoots from a far train. Her gaze wavers. She wants to stand up but I hold her hand— keeping her on the wooden bench we share, its knots and grains harsh beneath my fingertips. On its underside, I carve out my dreams using plastic forks and spoons.


We Must Fly

From the corner of my eye, I watch him leave, and exhale. We’ve avoided his paws for now. We’ll be allowed to stare at the skylight in peace, that window made liquid with light, where we occasionally spot a puff of cloud, a sprinkling of stars, a frown of smoke in that cobalt square, as if painted-on, and not glass letting the morning into this room.

I’m afraid of the paw that falls like a casual guillotine, but it doesn’t scare me as much as Ma who seems already to have left.

His steps make no sound on the carpeted stairs. The lock is silent, but I sense its weight. I imagine him padding out, walking on grass or pavement, going about whatever a day is like on the outside. Leaving him there, I return to Ma.

Nonsense, I want her to whisper in response to my dreams—we never speak above a whisper unless he is around—I go on about flags on airships, the wind, the salt in my hair, my lips. I’ll make bags of my bladder, my lungs, I tell her, blow them up to break through the skylight, and hold on as they expand into enormous, hot red balloons that rise, rise up in the air.