Kites

by Angela Kempe

Some loves are lost,

 Like kites in the wind.

You see colors fading,

And know it will end.

 

You pull the string tighter,

 But still it unwinds.

You try to hold on,

But the wind is unkind.

 

The kite bends,

And tail streamers swirl.

It circles around,

In a perilous twirl.

 

You hold the line tight,

Yet it comes to its end,

The kite becomes heavy,

And starts to descend.

 

So you let it loose.

Letting go felt so natural.

It was what the wind wanted.

The idea seemed admirable.

 

The kite tumbles downhill,

Slamming against dirt and grass,

Cracking at the spine.

You run to it,

Your hair trailing behind.

 

Is it still beautiful?

Will it fly?

Can it ever be what once was?

 

When you find it,

The kite is mangled.

Love is lost,

 Broken,

Pieces that fit poorly in the trash.

 

So you call it a friendship,

And refrain from all that was.

Passion, color, beauty, love.

All the things that come with that simple memory

of flight.

The Band

by Angela Kempe

Melissa stood on the lawn of the city garden as the bluesy sound of the rock band welled up through the park in a lazy summer haze. People were lounging in short folding lawn chairs, sipping cheap $7 beer out of plastic cups as the hot sun burned the delicate skin of their pale cheeks. Melissa wanted to stay and listen, but her kids were tugging at her arms. The heat had gotten to them and their patience for the fair had already run out.

“Do you want to play on the playground?” she asked.

Her daughter looked interested, but sweat was beading up on her hairline and she looked more like she needed a nap. Melissa wasn’t ready to admit it yet. Her eight-year-old son, Jerry, would do it for her.

“Let’s go!” he said, tugging at his mother’s arm. “It’s too hot!”

It was decided between the children. Her kids began pulling at her arms incessantly, leaning into their weight with all forty-some pounds of their little bodies.

Melissa stood looking longingly at the band. She remembered her dream of being a musician that had faded long ago. She felt the fat of motherhood gathering sticky sweat between her legs, reminding her that she’d never be a superstar. Melissa pressed her feet into the ground, turned away from her children, and leaned on her own weight to counter their effects.

At that moment, their small hands melted into heavy shackles and the heat formed a rippling wall between herself and her beloved. She turned towards the stage again, and suddenly she was standing in front of a mic with thousands of eager faces looking back at her.  She could still feel her children pulling, straining to bring her back from this new dimension she was lost in.

She could hear the band wailing. The drummer smiled at her and nodded for her to make her entrance. His sticks played a crisp four-four. The bass was repeating that soulful melody just for her. Melissa searched for some memory of the lyrics. She took a breath. Maybe something would come to her. Maybe she could still find the song deep inside. Then, she remembered.

“Summertime…” she sang.

The mic echoed over the crowd. Her children jerked at her and her body crossed briefly back into reality. She tried to stretch her neck forward. She could still see the crowd.

“…And the living is easy.”

Her children’s sweaty hands locked themselves on her wrists. They pulled her back. She stared at them defeated. The stage was gone. All was gone, but she was beyond crying.

“Good voice,” called out someone from the crowd.

Melissa looked over at a man sitting on a lawn chair. He took another sip of beer. His face had turned red from sitting for hours in the sun. He looked at her through his sunglasses.

“Wrong song though,” he criticized and he finished off his beer.

The Challenger Deep

by Angela Kempe

The day James lost Suzy to cancer was the day he gave up on life. But he hadn’t given up on his dreams of exploration. He vowed to go back to The Challenger Deep before he died and solve the great mystery of the abyss. It was the deepest part of the ocean; seven miles deep. More than the height of Mt. Everest turned upside down with an equivalent of three SUVs of pressure squeezing every square inch of his submarine. James’ final adventure would be to go back to that dark place and find what every explorer dreamed of: New life.

James plunged his green submarine down into the abyss and waited hour after hour for the first sign of the ocean floor. At three thousand feet there was no light left from the sun. He sat in his black cap and shirt, balled up in a sphere that was his only safety from the extreme pressures of the sea.

“Suzy,” he whispered as he brushed his fingers over the wrinkled portrait of his beloved.

Before, he had reason to fight for his life in the deep, but now everything on the surface seemed trivial. Kids were grown and had seemingly forgotten about him. The ex-wives hated his guts. No, today he would push his submarine to its limit.

As he descended to five thousand feet, he saw a school of amphipods swim passed the lights of his camera. Their bodies glowed neon pink as they passed the submarine. He observed the occasional deep sea fish whose bioluminescent bodies glowed in the dark distance. But as he fell deeper, so did every sign of life vanish one by one until he was finally truly alone.

Suddenly, the controls began to flash. It was nothing new to him. He examined the alarms. An oil leak brought him up early before. The oil looked good this time, but he could hear the creaking of the sub walls as they began to crush like an aluminum can. He started tapping his fingers in his lap nervously, reminding himself to breathe. Breathe. Just breathe.

Then the submarine grazed the bottom of the sea floor. He brought it down ever so gently, knowing that if he landed too hard, it would surely kick up a storm of loose sediment that would fog up the sea around him like thick milk.

“I’ve reached the bottom,” he said over the radio.

“Roger that.”

He looked earnestly at the camera, the repetitive sound of alarms pinging in his ears.

“I don’t see much of anything yet. Just the same things as last time.”

He scanned the sea floor for life, but the bottom of The Challenger Deep was as desolate as the surface of the moon. The light of the submarine gave off a hazy blue glow. He missed Suzy’s voice on the radio. He could have used it right about now.

Hours passed and still nothing. Then, that same cloud of oil came up from the side of the sub. This was the end. He hadn’t any time left.

“I’ve detected an oil leak. I’m going to have to ascend soon.”

“Roger that.”

The voice of the marine was monotone and casual. Just a soldier doing his job, not Suzy, who would have been excited or worried for him.

“I’m going to bring her around one more time before I go.”

James brought his sub around and pointed the camera into the dark behind him. That same underwater desert he knew so well stretched before him. He took some last soil samples and pressed a few buttons to begin his ascent.

Then, he noticed a glimmer of light in the distance. James perked up in his sphere. He tried to move his legs that had gone numb hours ago and were aching horribly, but he couldn’t move them enough to ease the pain. Didn’t help that he was seventy-years-old.

“What was that?”

A few minutes later he saw another flash of light. He read the sonar anxiously. He couldn’t believe it. What he thought was a large rock formation was something hiding against the steep wall of the trench, and as it came towards him it flashed a yellow light in the water.

James didn’t have time to think. He stuttered at the radio in horror. If his instruments were right, that creature was five times larger than his submarine. He tried to gather himself as the creature swam towards him.

“I see something. It’s big…” he gasped.

Sweat began to drip from his hat down into the white of his trimmed beard. His hands were clammy with fear. The creature came into the light of the camera. Its body became a wall of flesh in front of him.

“Dear Lord,” he mumbled.

Suddenly, the animal flashed another light. This time the light was so blinding that James had to squeeze his eyes shut in pain.

All that was left in the end was the deep lonely ocean, and another mystery of the great Challenger Deep.

Gone Now

by Angela Kempe

 

The creek rushes and Sam goes running,

After leaves drifting down stream.

The water shushes, my tears are hiding,

And the day blurs like a dream.

 

The trees are stirring as I’m walking,

But leaves have long since gone.

So branches crackle, bending, moaning,

As they try to carry on.

 

A ray of light breaks through the grey sky,

And I could smile at how,

You are like the snow that melted,

Beloved, but gone now.

 

(For my soul dog, George, who lived a good 15 years)

Mother

by Angela Kempe

Jan and Melissa reclined back on the leather sofa and crossed their legs casually. I bent to sip my Frappuccino when Jan’s toddler snatched Faren’s plastic dinosaur from her. Faren let out a high pitched shriek and tears started gushing from her eyes like geysers.

“Mine!” Faren yelled, stomping her feet on the ground.

“Faren share!” warned her mother, Melissa.

Melissa flashed an embarrassed smile.

“Give that toy back!” Jan ordered her son.

Jan’s son looked down at his dinosaur, snot dripping from his nose into his mouth in a continuous stream of clear boogers. He was already sad because although he was two, he was old enough to know the outcome; Give it back or Mommy would take it back. Either way was bad news for him, so he slurped up his boogers and threw it on the ground, running towards the blocks.

I looked at my daughter. She was playing contentedly with the giant legos.

“You’re so lucky, Cindy.”

Jan took a sip of her latte.

“Your little girl is always good. I never see you have any problems with the kids. And look at you. You are like perfect looking.”

Melissa stole a quick look at my flat stomach, enviously. Then, cast her eyes back towards my face and smiled.

“How’s potty training going?” Melissa asked me.

My kids had potty trained themselves. Wasn’t that normal?

“Good,” I said. “I haven’t had any problems.”

“Isn’t Freddie in kindergarten now?” Melissa interrogated. “How’s that going? Must be hard getting him ready for school. Does he throw any temper tantrums?”

“Um,” I said, sipping uncomfortably. “It’s good. I mean, I don’t have any problems really.”

“See!” Jan yelled. “You are the perfect mom. Too perfect! Gain some weight or something. There must be some issue with the kids. I mean, nobody has a perfect time raising their children. You don’t really enjoy motherhood that much, do you?”

“Well…”

They both shot up from their seats and were staring at me with fake smiles. I didn’t know what to say.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll think about it and get back to you.”

Everyone laughed.

“I’m sorry, but I have to go, girls.”

I stood up and began cleaning up the big legos.

“So soon?”

“I forgot I have to do groceries before Ted gets home. Let’s do this again next week, okay?”

I couldn’t wait to get home. I put my daughter in her carseat and spiraled down the mountain road towards our house playing the conversation in my mind over and over again hysterically. I decided to try my husband at work. I commanded the car to dial Ted Johnson.

“Hello?”

“Teddy.”

“Yup.”

“Something happened at coffee today. I think we’ve been found out.”

“Why’d you think that?”

“Because I was talking with Jan and Melissa over a Frappuccino and we were just watching the kids play. You know, like usual. When Jan started saying how perfect I am. I did a horrible job acting human. We are going to have to leave as soon as possible.”

“We have another ten years left on Earth.”

“They are going to find us out! I can’t do this, Teddy.”

“So, you’re under confident about your ability to be a normal mother?”

“Yes. I’m not home yet, but I’ll start packing.”

“Cindy, I think you’re more human than you think.”

The Copernicus Belt

By Angela Kempe

Amy clenched her seatbelt as the space shuttle accelerated into the Copernicus Belt.

“Why don’t you slow down a little?”

She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing. Focused on easing the tension in her face so that her migraine wouldn’t overwhelm her.

“Just trying to make good time,” he said, swerving between the giant rocks.

Amy was sure she’d be sick. Maybe she’d faint. She wasn’t sure which one would happen first, the fainting or the vomiting from the pain in her head. If only he knew how much she hated his flying. Didn’t he know? Wasn’t he at all concerned that your chance of getting into an accident near the Copernicus Belt was one accident per five years?

Still, the space shuttle whisked between astroids. One of the astroids near her window grew in size until it became frighteningly close and she thought it would hit her, so she closed her eyes and succumbed to feeling her body sway left and right. She tried to center herself in her seat. She tried to imagine she was somewhere else to give her a few more moments before she passed out from fear.

“You’re not even trying to slow down!”

“But we’re getting there so fast! Okay, fine. I’ll slow down.”

Her husband slowed the shuttle down to 12 speed and a few other space shuttles blasted passed them.

Amy was satisfied for the moment, but before she could smooth out her space suit, her husband sighed and accelerated again.

She knew she had a problem with space flight. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply as he weaved between rocks. But Amy was tired of being scared. Flying to their Mom’s planet was becoming a real problem. She decided to force her eyes open and try enjoying the ride a little. Anyway, after eleven years of marriage maybe she could trust her husband and his driving.

Her body clinched under the pressure of the speed as she urged her eyes open.

Open your eyes dammit and enjoy this! 

Then, suddenly she saw it.

Oh, the irony of being right. But, at least her headache was gone.