by Jessica Wang, Age 14, USA
Artwork by Katie King
The prompt of the month for July was “the hottest day.”
With the stool, you can see just above the stove.
You set to work, filling the pan with oil that looks like gold but softer. You squeeze the hot dogs out of the plastic and cover them with oil, turning them with a broken plastic fork.
Sally cries in the back room, and you scramble down. She is part of the blankets now, white and stiff like paper. You put the basin under her, and she coughs little bits of red. You stroke her hair away, and it’s wet and cold, and soon enough she is dreaming.
The blue of the sky glows behind the window and it makes your eyes tired, and before long, you are gone, too.
You wake up to the smell of burning.
The kitchen is hot, glowing, misted like the hot showers that Daddy takes you to sometimes. You scream when it licks you, because it is hot and it hurts. You keep screaming, because of the pain and the hot dogs, because you are still hungry, and Daddy will be angry. And because you know that the boy next door might hear, and that he might come—
He will come, he will come—
But why should he?
The door is flung open. He hauls you off into the yard and dumps you on the ground, and he’s rolling you, and you see the sky and the yard and him, too, who Daddy said you must stay away from, because he is no good. He helps you up and your head is rotating. Smoke shoots from every window.
“Sally,” you say. You point at the back room, where she lies, white as paper.
The boy disappears into the house, and you see that he is not wearing shoes.
You wake up to sour emptiness and a blankness.
Daddy is sitting nearby. He hugs you, and you hurt all over. Sally is in the bed nearby, joined up to lines and bags and things, but her chest is moving.
“The boy,” you demand. “Where is he?”
Daddy pushes you into bed, but you crawl out from under his hairy arm and trip down the hallways, searching. You open every door, but there is always someone else lying in the bed, someone else breathing, but where is he, where is he?
And you are crying, and the ladies in white are crying too, and Daddy behind you is crying.
And then you get to the lobby, and you sit down, and the ground is cold, and everybody is howling but the boy, because the boy—the boy who is no good, who was not wearing shoes—
The boy is not here.
Jessica says, “I write because I can’t stop.”