Michelle Eikrem: “Flight”

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Melvin Butters was hit by a tree in the third grade just walking home from school. He lived right down the block from our new house on top of the hill. He broke his skinny little grey arm pretty bad. Or the tree did.

He was kind of a jerk anyway. Melvin, I mean. And that name though. There wasn’t even a major reaction. You would think one would move. Dart. Shuffle. Tuck and roll. Scream. That tree just kinda fell and crushed him in slow motion. Vicious. I heard it took him a good fifteen minutes to get up. No one helped I don’t think. It seems everyone stared. The grown ups in the neighborhood just kinda shrugged.

”You couldn’t see that sorta thing coming,” they said.

“Most everything breaks eventually,” one of them said.

It was almost like it was his own fault that tree found him that day. I wrote xoxo on his cast in purple marker even though I didn’t mean it. It was almost summer and I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to swim. My older sister drew a very good impression of Mickey Mouse waving goodbye. Or hi. Maybe it was Snoopy. Depends on which way you looked at it.

If we stay here too long we will fail, we have to move on. – Marilyn Monroe


I give my kids a hug before I send them on their way. Sometimes I say, “Trees are dangerous.” It’s our little stupid joke. Sometimes they shrug. Sometimes they give a fake little tolerant smile. Sometimes they laugh as they bolt away. What are the chances anyway, when you add it up, of a tree taking you out? Random acts of wood and leaves. Alistair still hugs his favorite tree, Billy, on the way to school. His eyes roll up to me searching for proof this tree is like us. This tree can be trusted. I make a shaky little strained smile. I hold his hand hard. “No one is to be trusted,” I say for the first time out loud. It feels strange that I can still breathe.

I say to Alistair, I say, “If a tree tries to hurt you, scream!!!” I say it jokingly, I say, ”Go to Tavern on the Green!”

Sometimes my children look terrified.

There is something in the air. There are freckles everywhere. It smells like eucalyptus.

It smells soft, Like it could be night.

I gotta get home tonight. – Bugs Bunny

We grew up on crockpots and campfire and potatoes and peanut butter. We were catholic-like and childlike and we were always always nice. We rode our bikes alone at night, yellow submarine station wagon by day. My brother climbed right up on top of it one night. He was only five, but there were four of us. We used to be enough. He was too high up. We all knew it. He had something to prove. My little sister started shaking.

Her eyes filled up with so much blue, they spilled over. Her freckles started changing places. Eric was above the branches. The stars were in his eyes. It smelled like it smells right when you know it is past bedtime. He smiled at me with the corner of his mouth. He took flight. He looked like sky. He looked like sand. He looked like the ocean. He looked so fucking beautiful.

The ambulance seemed to arrive before we called. It always seemed to be waiting to pick up one of us. I guess our parents were inside. Long story short, my baby brother bit an entire inch long hole straight through his tongue. The doctor said with authority, “There is nothing we can do. Some things just have to heal on their own.” Eric wouldn’t stop bleeding or screaming. He kept changing the order.

The doctor threw his hands up. “Kids get hurt sometimes,” the doctor said, blood everywhere. My dad shook the doctor’s hand. My mom shook her head. She looked away and then she cried. I had never seen that before.

Das leben ist immer ein adventur. – Pippi Longstocking

I ran fast out of our house to the farm up the street, knowing even then that there was little chance it was actually a farm. I collected eggs in the dark. I thought I could somehow make everyone breakfast. I wanted to help them forget. I am not sure the eggs were real either. Or why no one came after me. I could still hear Eric scream as I searched for eggs in the dark. I regret not holding my brother tight. I could have stopped it. The gauze. The blood. The terrified look in his eyes.

I am the Easter Bunny. I am Saint Valentine. I am the Tooth Fairy. I am always sneaking around in the night. I could have stopped everything if I did one thing right.

There is something in the air. There were freckles everywhere. It smelled like eucalyptus. It smelled soft. It was almost night.

I gotta get home. – John Lennon

I can’t even do one thing right.

I can’t even write something different right.

I was delivered one night, one town away, to my best friend’s house. It was the third of July. My sister braided my hair tight. I remember I hated mayonnaise. I remember my mom pointed at my nose and said you got a new freckle. I remember saying it’s a sun kiss momma. That was our joke, just to be stupid. My mom said, she said, the sun must really love you. The sun she said, she said, kisses you all over. My mom looked away from me and she smiled bright. I had never seen that before.

I remember looking my dad right in the eyes. We were both covered in chlorine from the new pool at the top of the hill full of dangerous trees. He really did it. He got away with it all. This new beautiful place. But I begged to go back. One last time. For all the old times and their sakes.

Stupid girl. – Garbage

We squinted and smiled. He had already said no. But he couldn’t resist me. He let me go. I think my dad thought other dads were like mine. My dad wasn’t right this one time.

There is something in the air. Their freckles spilled everywhere. It smells like dangerous trees. It smells hard like it could be night forever.

When can I go home? – James Dean

I had never woken up early. Not once in my entire life. And I was about to turn nine. That’s a long time, but no one sees this sort of thing coming. We almost got away from it. We almost got away. But I had to beg for it. I had to go back to it. I brought an actual toothbrush.

The swamp cooler clicked on and stopped with a thud. I popped up at the sound. The room fell down into shadows, scrambling from the light. The moon snuck in from the windows. He kissed my forehead. It felt warm and nice. He said everything was going to be alright. His fingers were inside me. I still believed him. His son was on the couch across from me, closing his eyes tight. He could still see everything. I wondered if this happened every night or if it was just for girls. It was late. His mom was asleep one wall away. He looked so small, his fists curled up tight. I wanted to kiss his cheek. I remember I knew in slow motion what to do if anyone ever tried to hurt me. I was supposed to scream. I was supposed to fight. I was quiet that night. It’s ok. No one really did what they were supposed to do that night. He turned me over. It crashed hard and slow. Everything broke.

There is something in the air. There are fuckers everywhere. It smells like methanol and gasoline. It smells soft like fire. Like it could be a dream. Have had been a dream.

I gotta get home. – Nelson Mandela


My son is in the bath. He asks me to sit again with him tonight. He says he likes to relax.

I get his robe ready to cover him up. I light a candle and sit on the toilet lid and watch him splash around naked in the clear water. I accidentally smile. He has more freckles tonight than he used to. They scatter differently on his nose than mine. It could just be the light.

Before bedtime he had some chocolate chocolate ice cream. He made a drawing of some red character he likes and out of nowhere, he jumped up and kinda spun around and said, “Momma I feel so great tonight!”

“I am so happy.”

See. This is real.

There are tiny spaces where you can hide, where you start to think you can get away with this. Nothing will fall on them. You believe that they may not be harmed. He is naked and fine.

I do see it coming though, every night when I try to sleep, out of the side of my eye. It fills up all the space where there was once light. Things can fall at any time. But these things, these things are mine.


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