Literary Orphans

finn by Michael Chang

 

The curious book appeared out of nowhere.

I flipped it open – –

The book held the power of sending someone back to a specified time (Option #1); or have them relive a specified time (Option #2).

It held the power of controlling someone for 24 hours before either option would take effect.

It came to life when the owner (that’s me) wrote the target’s name and visualized their face.

In other words, if I wrote the name of some sad fuck who peaked in high school; visualized their bloated, once-handsome face; and specified a date, I could send their ass back to whatever (whenever?) shithole they came from.

I could also have them relive some (ideally terrible) day of their lives.  Indefinite detention.

//

I have always wondered what it would be like to have superpowers.

I suppose everyone has had that fantasy.

Wait, don’t people say “never meet your heroes”?

Why?  I’m not Jason Momoa.

Buyer’s remorse like November 9, 2016.  Jokes.

I am just a kid.

What would my origin story be?

Repentance or retribution?

//

He walked over with a swagger and Big Dick Energy, inviting me to his place.

He ax if I noticed how he had brown hair but blue eyes.  I stared.

His girlfriend was Burn Victim Sofia Vergara.

He had a sizable bulge going.

Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs, so bright and white.

The sensation of his chiseled body pressed up against mine.

His warm breath on my neck.

His trained tongue at work.

The pain, stoking, bliss point.

I played along, said it like she does . . . papi.

He ruffled my hair, gave me little kisses.

Is that lipstick on your shirt, I ax.

//

What makes a hero?

What if I just want to create chaos?

To destroy the village in order to save it.

I read that somewhere.

An insistent, tenacious hero lashing out against fate with stubborn resolve.

I have feelings and life force.  Lust, hunger, humor, eagerness, brilliance.

I keep things bottled up.

When I feel small, I am incapable of releasing that tension into action.  I coil it deeper inside.

Self-preservation is my guiding light.

I saw on TV that, when we went to Mars, our probe was scrubbed to avoid carrying any Earth microbes there.

I know how it feels to be a carrier of cultural cooties.

//

I feel blessed, don’t hate my life.

I can be smug and self-satisfied.

In my head I am smart, analytical, fearless.

I possess the ability to feel anger, fear, love, whatever.

My teachers say I am enterprising and optimistic.

They say I am good at things if I apply myself, put my mind to them, etc.

Teachers are wrong about all kinds of shit.

My dad owns the grocery store in our small town.  It does ok, I suppose.

One summer I worked at Dad’s store.

I whacked off and went right back to stocking the frozen foods.

I read about this guy who killed his wife.

A total piece of shit, don’t get me wrong.

I couldn’t help but think she’d still be alive if her name wasn’t so annoying.

Megan or Meghan or something.

I delivered his comeuppance anyway.

//

One time Boy took me to the diner.

Formica, cheap coffee, sassy waitress cute 30 years ago.

I noticed a Mexican girl staring at me.

I gave her a smirk.

She should have gawked at me longer.

But she turned her gaze to Boy, started looking at my man.

She had one of those backpacks with her name on it.

I sent her to a North Korean reeducation camp in the dead of winter.

Frostbite’s a bitch.

Why are you being quiet, Boy ax.

//

This doughy, 6’5”, hazel-eyed, brown-haired linebacker motherfucker was in a trance.

I got hard thinking about how impressionable and malleable he was.

He was the size of a mammoth, but he had such a beautiful face.

I could mould this fuck into anything, turn this Goliath into a pissant.

He follows me home.

He tells me this sob story about being molested.

I make him show me like SVU, those dolls.

I am the doll.

He starts crying, talking mad incoherent.

He is an ugly crier.

I make him get me a soda.

I’m getting the hang of this hero thing.

//

One day Boy disappears.

Leaving a frat party, killed in a hit-and-run.

He never saw the van coming.

I find out on the campus bulletin.

He was a good person, didn’t deserve death.

//

I pierce together eyewitness statements, reports from the press.

I talk to the neighbors, hound people for clues.

I find the white van.

Campus food services.

The fucking people who feed us slop.

I see a Jap unloading shit from the van, whistling, without a care in the world.

I want to strangle him.

I follow him through the loading docks.

Row of battered metal lockers, gray and cold like the slab Boy is probably on.

There is only one Oriental name.

I take a photo to make sure I get the spelling right.

I pull my ballcap lower so the cameras don’t pick up my face.

//

Out of breath, I scribble furiously.

I send this Jap back to 1942.

I make sure he is on the West Coast.

FDR will get him.

I find out that I got the wrong guy.

Some kid had taken the van out for a joyride.

Oh well.

//

I think about it for ages.

Toss, turn.  Rinse, repeat.

I decide to write my name in the Book.

If I can’t undo it, unwrite it, unlive it . . . I want to relive it.

Trapped in memory like a fly in amber.

My life is invention and performance.

I am a watchman.

I wake up.

My insides feel twisted.

Gingerly, I get out of bed.

Boy is sleeping soundly.

I touch his hair to make sure he’s real.

So soft.

There is no Book.

We’ll be together forever.

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MICHAEL CHANG (they/them) is the proud recipient of a Brooklyn Poets fellowship.  They were invited to attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop at Kenyon College as well as the Omnidawn Poetry Writing Conference at Saint Mary’s College of California.

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–Art by J. F. Chow — Artist Profile