"Double Americano." The first words out of my mouth morning after morning.

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1 BathtubConspiracy,byTobeyBurbidge "DoubleAmericano."Thefirstwordsoutofmymouthmorningaftermorning. "Aren'tyoualittleyoung,sweetie?"Hemustbenew.Good,Ineedthepractice. "Aren'tyoualittleovereducated?"Iclunkmymoneyonthecounter. "You'llstuntyourgrowth."Wow,hismouthjustkeepsgoing. "That'smygoal,sweetie.Gogetthedamncoffee."AndIgazeatthelemonloavesandblueberry,poppy seedstickybuns.you'dthinkpeopleinthecoffeeindustryhadfacedprepubescentangstbefore. Pickupthepencil,writeonthepaper,listentoallthetinylittlechurningbrainswrappingthemselves aroundthenew,thrillingconceptoflongdivision.theconfusionandlackofinterestisthickand breathable.mrs.watsondoesn'tevencarewhenileanmyhotforeheadagainsttheshadowdappled windowandgazeattheequallyboredworldoutside. Everydayisdraggingtimeandpsyche damagingsocialinteraction.alltheseperfectlittlegirlsintheir scarreddesks:wastesofflesh,concealerandckone. PoorMrs.Watsonwithhermisshapeneyessearchingthewastelandofher6thgradeclasstryingtofind somehintofintelligenceorenthusiasm.poormrs.watsonfinallyturningtouncleanmewithmyhuge

2 brainandscruffedpennyloafers.withouteventurningawayfromtheshiveringoakoutside:"41.75,"i mumbleasloudasmyboredomwillallow. PoorMrs.Watson,amixtureofthankfulreliefanddecadeslongregret,turnsherfrustratedteacher bodybacktotheboard.youcanalmosthearthelong ago Mrs.Watsoninsideshriekingtobereleased pleaseletmewritethataward winningnovel,pleaseletmesiptequilaonabeachinmexico,pleaselet mebepretty,pleaseletmebeanythingbutagradeschoolteachertothesedead insidegirlsmadeof kickyshortskirtsandmoney. Lunchtime.Myperfectopportunitytogetsnickeredat,havemybrastrapsnappedandsitunderabush withabookhopingidon'tgetinthewayofanyone'sgoodtime. "IreallywantedtogotoHawaiithisweekendagain,butmyparentsINSISTEDonBanff.IsupposeIcan findsomecuteboysthere." "We'regoingtoNewYorkthisweekend.Again.Whereareyougoing,Kirsten?"KnowingfullwellIgo nowhereever.soiflipthemthebird.hydrochloricacid'sgotnothingontheirstaresofdisgust. Thosegirlswiththeircornsilkchemicallystraightenedperfectglimmeringhairhatemeforareallygood reason,honestly.i'dhatemeifihada$300perweekallowancetoo.imean,theyhadtoworktheir pretty,heart shapedlittleassesofftogettheirparentstopay$4000persemesterforthemtopoptheir non existentpimplesinthegirl'swashroomandwearouttheirmanicureswritingequationsatthe speedofketchup.myfatheractuallyhasthegalltobepoor.thenerve.

3 Myfather.It'sfunny,Ihardlyknowtheman.Iguessit'shabitcallinghim"dad",callingusa"family".He kindatookhimselfoutoftheequationwhenmumoffedherself.totellthetruth,ikindaremoved myselffromthatequationtoo.sothere'stheoldharoldfamilyunitsittingthereinsomenicethree bedroomhomelaughingatthestupidpeopleonwhowantstobeamillionaireandlovingeachother, withoutanybodyactuallybeingthere.theghostfamilyonwillowst. "Kirsten."Astatement,acommand.Itmakesmewanttojustkeepgoing,butit'sPoorMrs.Watsonand pitystopsme."sitdown,girl."istand. Shesighsandstaresatmewithherwobblyeyesandhertootighthairandhermileslongfingers.Icould havebeenawoman,shesayswhenshelooksatyou. "Howareyou?"herlava lampeyesfocusonme,concerned,kindredspirit,heartfeltanddesperate. "Howareyou?"Iaskherbecausethisiswhatshereallywants sheshudderswiththejoyofbeing asked.poormrs.watson. Andshesmilesgratefully,hergooddeeddonefortoday.Showingconcernforastudentisagooddeed. Nowshecangohomeandfeedhercatandfeelsatisfiedthatshe'sdoingtherightthingwithherlife whilehermanuscriptandherwomanhoodcontinuetocollectdust. Everyoneontheirwaysomewhere,plansalreadyscribedintheirdatebooksweeksinadvance,allwith

4 livesfilledwithstuff...andthings.thatwomanneedstocookaroastbeef.thatmanhastopickupdry cleaning.everythingplanned,nofreemomentstowonderwhattheirlivesmightbefilledwithifthey didn'thavecowstocookorwoolenstopress.afraidofthatemptinessofhavingnothingtodoand NOONETOBERESPONSIBLEFOR.AndsoIbusymyselfwithmyBigPlanofnotkillingmyselfagain tonight. Icouldgonextdoorandseducepoor,slimySimonagain.Italwaysamusesmewatchinghisbrightpink pimplesgoevenbrighterpurplewhenitalkdirtytohim."lickme,simon.spankme,simon,"andwatch theprettycolours!butheactuallytriedtotouchmelasttime ittookeveryshredofwillpowernotto scruboffmyskinwithsandpaperafterwards.ew. Ialreadycutupalltherestofmystuffedanimals.Ievenhaveabigboxofstuffedanimalinnards moulderinginmycloset:fluff,fuzzandsadbuttoneyesallaccusingmeoftheirsaddemise.anew thought:theysurewouldmakeaninterestingfire.iwonderwhattheywouldsmelllike?burninghair? Burningplastic?Burningdeadanimals?Okay,nowIhaveaplanjustlikeeveryoneelse.NowIhavea purposetorushrushhometoemptinessanddrippykitchensinks. Myfirstthoughtisthatitsmellslikedeadinsects:sweet,bitteranddusty. Mysecondthoughtisthatit'sgoddamncoldinhere. Mythirdthoughtis,whatever,wherearemymatches? SometimesIhopetoseeevidenceofmyfatherwhenIcomehome.Ilookforabriefcase,acoat,shoes, acoffeemug.mosttimesiknowitwon'tbethere,andidon'tcare.

5 MatchesareinthedrawerbesidethatGODDAMNEDdrippykitchensink,alongwiththepartyhatsand fortunecookiefortunes."youshallberecognizedinyourcommunityasanasset.""youshallsoongoto aresort.""youareakindandgenerousperson."youshallsoongetstabbedinthethroatwitha chopstick. DearGodmyroomiscold.AndthenI'monthealert;mywindowisopen.Therecouldbearapist,a murderer,apolitician,lurkinghere,readytopounce.howexciting!icurlasmile,myfirstfortoday?, towardstheominouslyclosedclosetdoor. Nono!Ican'tlook.You'renotallowedtoseeyourdemiseapproach.Youcan'twatchdeathhappento you.there'snothrillinthat.soiturnmybackandexaminemybedsheetsclosely theyneedwashing, itwouldappear.there'sabirdoutside,yellingatsomeoneorsomething.there'ssomeonewitha grocerycartfilledwithcans.kidsarelaughing,somewhere.atleastjoyhappenstootherpeople. Damn,whyisthismurderertakingsolong?Can'thetellI'mripeforpicking?Readyforhisknife,gun, formaldehydesoakedunderweargag. Okay,noone'shere.I'llhavetodealmyowndeathanothertime(byaccident,ofcourse). Andthenthewhisperclickofmyclosetdoor.Slow,slow,slow,click.Ibreathebugsanddeathanddust allatonce.thebirdhasgone,thecarthasgone,thechildrenhavebeenstrangled. Iwanttosee,Idon'twanttosee,Iwanttosee,Idon'twanttosee.SoIlook.

6 Heliesamongstteddybearguts,hisoilyeyesfixedonme,histatteredclawofahandclingingtothe closetdoor.icanseemyselfintheclosetmirrorandidon'trecognizeme,soscarediam. Hisfaceiscracked,ashy,white,oozing.Hishairclumpedinburnthaystacksoverhisbleachedscalp.His bodyevenlooksshriveled.buthiseyes,burningblackglass,theystareandblink,insectile. Atongue,bloodysponge,slapsonhispowderedcheek,formingwordswiththehissingbreathfrom deepunderground,"girl.youwilldie." Suchashiver,suchasurgeofelectricbliss,slamsmyblood alive!itakeastepclosertomycertain death. "Iwillconsumeyou,"wet,sloppyandhissing,theoilslickeyesbubbling."Tortuousdeath." Acurlgrininthemirror,eagerlyapproaching.Ilooktoodesperate. "Iwillgnawonyourthroatandsuckyoudry."Hischeekscrackandflaketothefloor. Ileanovertobreathehisair. "Sweetyoungblood,youhave.Iwilltasteyouandsavouryou."Hiscrackedclawhandonmyfoot,a deadbranch.shiversspiderupmyspine,ticklemyneck delicious.andhe'slikepimplysimon,drawing tome,seducedbytheyoungfleshiparadeforhim,thewetbreathonmylegs,thetwigfingersonmy

7 knee,scribblytwitchinganticipation. Andheslumpsback,acrackedandtiredweightofnon flesh,obsidianeyesstaringatmeinpain. Liar.Hehasnostrength,nowill,nopower.Hecan'tdestroyme.Whatadisappointment. "You'renothing,"Itellhimderisively,hatinghispromisesandwhatcouldhavebeen. "Iamvampire,"hewhisperslikelocusts. "You'renothing,"Irepeat,gettingbored.What'sonTV? "Iamvampire.IamGaron,"heinsists."Youwillbemineindeath." "I'mmakingsandwiches.Tuna?"Irise,mybackturnedtohispretendvileness. TheclosetwhisperclicksclosedandIonlyseemyself,abitterlittlegirlinherschooluniform,angryat theworld. GaronthevampirecontinueshealinginmyclosetasIwatchhilarityandhijinkspranceacrosstheliving roomtelevisionsetinpure,glowing,cheerfulcolour.garonthevampire,hissoggytonguelollingonhis wastelandskin,loungesamongstmadeinchinafirehazardousfurgatheringstrengthtokillme.ieat TinroofSundaeice creamandwatchacommercialfortampons.buti'mbidingmytime.

8 Finally,it'slateenoughtogotobed.Idisplaymypinkyoungfleshtothecrackintheclosetdoorbefore hoppingwithalanguidsighintobed.moonlightisacolourinmyroom. Whisperclick. "Ihungerforyou,"theslappingredtonguetellsme.Theshiver!It'sbackandIrelishthefear,atasteso sweet. "Doitagain,"Iwhisperwithlust. "Yourbloodwillbemine.Iwillembraceyou,"hepromiseswithhisblack,blackeyes. "When?"Itrynottosounddesperate. "Yoursoulwillwitherandburninme."Icanseehisskinhealing,hearthecracksmending,feelthebody expanding."youngflesh." "Emptypromises,"Itaunthim. Garonissilent,ponderingandwatchingandhealing."Youwishtodie?" Caught.Iblush,even.

9 "Why,youngflesh?Youhavelife,"hetellsme. "Ihavenothingsoglamorous.Ihaveexistence,"Iwhispertohim. "AsdoI,"headmitsandissilent. Isignedacontractayearago.Isignedmynameunderthetearrunningwords"Ishallnotkillmyself" whilemyfatherhelditouttometrembling.hisgreywateryeyesunhinged,disconnected,unseeing,he shookwithperpetuallycontainedsobs.yesterday,mymotherloungedbehindhimdownthehallway, throughthedoor,inthebathroom,inthebathtub,bloodandbloodandbloodeverywhere.icouldstill smellitasisignedmyname.hemademesignit.eventhoughi'djustboughtaboxofmyownpersonal razorbladesjustthatafternoon.myownpersonalreleasetofollowmymother,thegreedybitch.she getstohavedeath;igettohaveexistence. Sleepcomesinwaves.Garon'sface,abrokensoggymoonaboveme,thoseeyesdrippingonme,then pinpointsoflightstaringfromtheinnocuouscomfortofmycloset,sofaraway.ihearthescritchscritch shiftingweightofamillionspidersandthereheisobservingmefromthefloor,apantherallstrength powerandkilling Ifeelchillseveninhalf sleep.ifeelice,dryandangry,asfingerscurlmyankle,and therearehiseyesattheedge,hungry.hishairflowsinrichblackwavesnow,hisskinmarbleandsilk. Heisnolongerdeadinsectsbutishorriblywrithing,aliveandcrawling.AndIsleep.

10 Iremembermymother.Bakingbread;theflourinourhairandeyelashes,powerbehindherfurious, satisfiedkneading.cuttingherbs,fresh,greenandhappyfromourbalconygarden,spaghettiscented windsnappingourskirtsaroundus.shoppingforshoes,dotheysliponyourankles?dotheyhurtyour toes?dotheymakeyoufeellikerunning?dotheymakeyoufeelspecial,kirsten?herkirsten,herlittle girl,i'mdressedinwhitesheetsfeelingsaturdaysunlightwhilebouncingonmileswidebed,allofus giggles.iremembermymother,suchjoy alittlebrother?alittlesister?babybassinet,babycarriage, babybathtub,babysoap theworldsmelledofbabiesyettherewerenone.ever.fathermopedin disappointmentandfear,skulkingofftoanyofthreebone drainingjobs.hespreaddistressandterror everywhere.sheworethemwhenshecutherselfopenandgaveprematurebirthtomylittlebrother? sister?inherprivateworldofthebathtub.floatingandred,mysiblinghadnolife,noexistence.father hadwilledthebabyintonon existence,andmymothersimplyfollowed. Myclosetisempty.TeddybeareyesstareatmefromthefloorwhereGarononcethreatenedand promised.theyhavenohate,onlystupidfluffyanimalloveforme. Disappointmentandlossfeelburstinginmychest,throwingmetomywobblyscuffedknees.Idon't needtoseebutiknowmyfatherliesdrainedandicewhiteinhislittlebittybed.myfathergetstohave death.mygoodchristianfathergetstosingwithangels,chitchatwithsaints,worshipforalltherestof eternity.hediedclean,forgivenofallsins,abeautifulsoulofgod.mymotherburnsinhellfortaking herownlife.myparents,doomedtoeternalseparation. Weepingfinally,Ifeelreleasefromhatred,releasefromanger,releasefromjudgementandthebiting gnawinghating.myeyesareburning,mythroatisburning,mystomachisburningwhilemyfaceis

11 buriedinleopardprintteddybeartummy.i'msinkingintothefloor;theburninginsidemefeelslikea blackhole.icryuntilistop. Ihavetostandupandfindmyfathereventually. Ihavetopickupthephoneandtelltheoperatormyfatherisdead. Ihavetogotoschool,seeprincessesnumber1through24andsmileattheirwhispers,feeldutifulpity frompoormrs.watson'swobblyeyes. AndonedayI'llhavetowritemyreasonsforlivinginalittlebookandcallthem"ThingstoDo":drycleaning,kidsatsoccer,dentist,perm.Never:bounceonbed,smileatstranger,holdmother'shand, appreciatechildren,lovelife. Ihavetokeepgoing,continueandbe. It sjustnotfair! I'matinyweepingchild,alittlegirlwhodroppedherice cream,mourningdirtystickyvanilla.thisishow IamtoGaron,tohispoweranddeathanddarkbeauty. "Youweresupposedtotakeme,"Iwailatthefloor,hollow. "Iwantedtobesaved,"Ispitatthefloor,fivefloorsofwood,waterandcrappyfurniturebeneathme.

12 "Ineededtodie,"Itellthefloor,woodenanduncaring. "Don'tleavemealone,"Ipleadthe20 year oldcarpet. EverythingisemptynowandIquiverinthefur,tryingnottofindmyfather.Butsoon,I'llhaveto.Soon, therestofmyexistencewillhavetostart. "Iwouldnotleaveyoualone,"hissingdeathbehindme,icebreath. "Youaremylivingprincess,sunlightthatdoesnotburn,"emptygravesandwormsbehindme. "Bewithme,givemeblood,Iwilltakeyouaway,"promises,promises. LiftingmyheadIhavetoshieldmyselffromthehorriblebeautyofmydeathasitcomes.Iwatchitasit comes,iseeitflowfromme,myeyesdetachandistillwatchmysweetkiller. Andreally,mydeathisfarmoreinterestingtowatchthanIcouldeverhaveimagined.