Benjamin Davis is an historical fiction writer for middle school textbooks. His
shorter works can be found in Maudlin House, Star 82 Review, 5x5, Cease, Cows.
I couldn't spell my own name—so, there was no chance in hell I was going to be able to spell Rachael—with the a's and the e's and the ae or was it ea's? It addled my six-year-old-love-struck-brain. I saw her when I brought my dog across to the baseball fields; she said, "I am sorry, but I can't come to your birthday party." And I made it home before I started crying, on my hands and knees, beside the refrigerator, wailing as I rubbed her marker-ed name off of the magnetized white-board first the R then the A, then C, H, and maybe an A or an E, or just an E or an EA or AE.
Toilet Paper and Pecans
It took twelve hours by car to get from Louisiana to Texas. (Where my father grew up). We stop to visit the pencil shavings of his childhood. We stayed with our uncle in a wealthy, planned community of old people called Pecan Plantation. "But no one is around to pick the pecans no more," we are told. My mom said, "This will probably be the last chance these boys will get to see their grandaddy." And my aunt told her, "Life is like a roll of toilet paper—the more you go through it, the faster it seems to go." Then we all jumped as the backyard motion sensor lights came on, and a dear walked into the yard. We calmed down with a shared laugh. My brother asked, "How'd it get over the walls?" and my uncle said, "oh, they always seem to find a way." The next morning, we went to the facility. We sat with grandaddy over his hospital tray of lumpy scrambled eggs and cubed carrots. The nurse came by and put a hand on his shoulder. She said, "Howdy handsome! Well, look here at these handsome boys, these your grandkids, bet they are?" Grandaddy tried to nod as he brought a shaky forkful of eggs to his mouth before it dropped into his lap.
That Thing You Did on a Summer's Day
We had a stinking old air mattress (a thing you force children to sleep on when adults are visiting) decaying in the basement (a place where you put the children on stinking old air mattresses). One summer, my brother (a big dumb thing that was stronger than me), my friend Billy (a small thing that would later hang itself), and I (A thing also known as "me") blew it up and threw it into the lake (a place where you can pee and not feel guilty). We played a game called King of the Hill. One person stands above everyone else on the stinking old air mattress. He is the king (a thing like the grain of sand furthest from the tide). Then everyone tries to knock him off. Once he is down, everyone else tries to take his place, and when someone does who isn't you, you curse yourself, accuse someone of biting you, then jump back up and try to take the new king down. You do this over and over and over. And your brother always wins. And he stands above you. Glistening in the sun (a thing like a rude star), while you and Billy tread water, breathless, bruised, and burnt, and worry about sharks (you don't want to know about sharks).
Flowers in my Peripherals
I was born with my eyes where my ears should be and my ears where my eyes should be. When I was a kid, my brother and I attended a festival with our parents. We left them and went off to the food tents where I spotted a girl standing to our right, smoking cigarettes outside of a corn dog tent and I pointed her out to my brother and he said, "Go talk to her! She's looking at you." "Go talk to her? She's way out of my league," I said. "Plus, she's not looking at me because she likes me. She's looking at me because my eyes are where my ears should be and my ears are where my eyes should be." He laughed and told me, "That doesn't matter! It's all about confidence. She's only out of your league if you believe she's out of your league. Trust me." It was simple, but I found it profound. It was inspiring. It was genius. I sidled over, turned to face her. I could see my brother motioning to me and mouthing: "Go for it." I did. I said, with all of the confidence I could muster, "Hi." And she said, "Let's get a look at you!" And so I faced her. She smelled like warm leather and laughed like a hailstorm on a flower patch.
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