Mentee: Maxine Armstrong
Mentor: Hanna Pylvaïnen
“Fishing” will hopefully one day be part of Maxine’s linked story collection about a circle of youth living in Brooklyn. This story takes place in a dystopic future.
Sunset and Sunrise are the same thing in Brooklyn. Here, it’s a sign you made it, a sign that everything you were fighting for — you’d have another chance to fight. Sunset and Sunrise in Brooklyn led the way for wise men at sea and ruthless women who had wisdom in their tongues and strength in their grips. Brooklyn’s sunrises woke those asleep from nightmares of society’s whip and assured them that here — you’d be free. Brooklyn’s sunsets met iron boats that held lives and created shadows of those who were unprotected. When Brooklyn’s sunrise and sunset met they spoke in soft tongues through the waves of the East River and those words became law to those who lived in Brooklyn. For those who lived in Brooklyn sunrise and sunset meant the same thing. Though sunset and sunrise hardly saw what those below them did.
Wastelands and wonderlands are the same thing here in Brooklyn. Here, it’s a sign hardships aren’t stop signs but bright green lights with arrows towards the destination. Trash may have plagued the streets and the stench of the rioting sea may have freckled the Brooklyn sky, though this trash was treasure to people who had never known gold or silver. Cuts and bruises may have stained even the smallest of hands though laughter filled the lungs of the oldest. Wonder here in Brooklyn was survival, Wonder was the sea, Wonder was the fishermen who had won at the end of every voyage. Wonderland was no blue skied-land with diamond towers, but a canvas of sky with a steel warehouse that held the most noble of people. Wonderland was not perfection, and in the end Alice left.
This morning doesn’t come like the others. It bleeds red and spits rose at its corners and center. Windows freckle our house in the strangest place and create light in the darkest hour. I know that they are gone before my boots crush the honey wooden floor. The absence of them is haunting and leave nothing but the laughter of women who aren’t painfully fragile, the women whose laughs don’t echo a man.
“Athena, you’re late.”
My name sounds foreign in her lips of perfection. Juliet smiles smugly beneath the layer of makeup, her thin pink lips curving into a smile. Juliet is as far from the kitchen as she ever will be, close to the back door and far from the stove. A bowl of eggs in a worn wooden bowl clings to her hip and I find the open air from the windows before I find her eyes. With my hands shoved in my jeans and my eyes piercing hers, I say more than I need too without opening my lips.
“Athena, can you hear me?”
My reflection in the window near the back door shows that I smile, a smile that I got from my mother, a face from my father. My hands shake as I place them in my pockets, the smile doesn’t feel fake but hurts when it leaves. The iron doorknob attached to a worn light blue door that does not match with the house, along with many other things lets in fresh air – though not the air I want.
The air is thin with the scent of bread and coffee that almost comes from every direction. Our house is guarded by a mixture of wood and iron, though we never had a gate — my father was never the gate type of person, he stood by the belief that everyone in Brooklyn shared blood and shared a story. An unset table sits in the center of our land where the stables lay on the end of the fence. I walk slow, like I’m sure Rich knows I should. Another smile returns and this time when I don’t force it to end, it doesn’t hurt. I am only halfway on the land when I begin to miss the days when your nickname became your true name and the only place of truth was on a steel boat in the middle of here and then. A pawn shop and small homes squeeze themselves between us. Though Brooklyn is hardly never crowded, it’s only people and what grew after the damage. Those brave stayed in Brooklyn and those cowardly swam across the east river to Manhattan.
Fall’s air nips at my skin and goosebumps rise on my arms though these kinds of goosebumps are the kind that remind that you’re alive, remind you that you’re luckier than most. I was always one of kids to stare at simple things like goosebumps on a fisherman’s arms and still know even though they were there he was still warm inside. The stable door takes two doors the open and the odor of wood and wax invades the open space. Hay sprinkles the dirt floor and I fumble around in the darkness.