by Howie Good
Adulthood commences at 16 in Texas, when you’re deemed old enough to get the electric chair if you kill someone. I keep throwing nervous glances over my shoulder. “Is that vehicle following me?” I wonder. “Are those cameras on that turret trained on me?” I feel in the wrong for just being there. In Jewish tradition a righteous man is buried with 144 prayer books atop his coffin. When my Uncle Lou was buried, they put the books in cardboard boxes labeled Kitchen Utensils.
Today has already made a considerable mess of tomorrow. The cards, if you could just read them, would bear witness. The six of diamonds means a long journey; the ten of hearts, unrequited love; the king of spades, death. People are fleeing from the nearby buildings, never realizing in their haste they can’t actually escape being entangled in the complexity of systems. Did you know the same gene that gives us the ability to speak gives birds the ability to sing? And so it’s kind of beautiful in a way, the latest addition to the growing list of banned words.
I should’ve known the wind would ruffle the spider webs. I should’ve known children would be forced to sleep in cages and drink the water from toilets. I should’ve known the guards would smile and joke while swinging truncheons at their heads. When I was a little kid, my father would wake me up during the night just to hit me, sometimes using a belt, sometimes his hands. Afterwards, as I lay whimpering in my bed in the dark, the wind howled and howled and hungry people stood in line with empty bowls.
Howie Good is the author most recently of What It Is and How to Use It from Grey Book Press. He co-edits the journals Unbroken and UnLost.