“Pick up your lip.” Daddy said
that night during a phone call.

It was the day I got pulled
out early
from school after mom’s

I held the receiver to my ear
and reached to pull
an invisible dangling cord
beneath my chin;

I imagined shutters
on a cartoon character’s eyelids;

I hoped it might stop my crying.

“Your mom has cancer.”
My step-dad said that day
in the car
from the driver’s seat as we drove away,

and I wished to be a big
yellow bus broken down

outside of this town far from home.

I held my mom’s hand
as a blind passenger

behind her seat.
She patted at it.

I could tell it was genuine
like a genie
that wanted to rub three wishes
from the back of my hand

but had no idea how.

They cut it out.
They sewed it shut.
They spared her the chemo,

and she got to keep her hair.

“Ha, ha, ha.” My step-mom said,
“That is what she gets for having
breast implants.”
I blamed myself for ever telling.

“Ha, ha, ha.” My step-dad said
when I collapsed from crying

because mom was bleeding
into a plastic bulb
with a drain at an alarming rate.
I wailed as wheels
screamed under the hospital bed

that took her away;

a nurse I didn’t know gave me
a hug and Juicy Juice.
My step-dad left the room
he couldn’t be sarcastic long enough

to hide his own panic or hold mine,
because they said she might die.

Why are you so sad? Everyone thinks.
Why are you so morbid? Everyone says.
Why are you you? Everyone asks insincere.

“Go find your mom.” Daddy said
that morning through the phone.

It was the day he found my sister
dead in the garage,
a dog leash around her neck.

I held the receiver to my ear,
and somehow
I couldn’t hear over the ringing
for my feet to move.

I imagined my legs floating to find
my mom, my voice

speaking under water like an oil
spill, polluting everything pure.

Why are you you? I ask myself.
Why are you so morbid? I wonder.
Why are you so sad? I want to know.

“Your step-mom might have breast cancer.” Daddy said.

It was the day he wanted
empathy. I said,

“Ha, ha, ha.”

Everyone got offended.

Selected byJordan Trethewey
Image credit:Kyle Broad

Kaci Skiles Laws is a closet cat-lady and creative writer who reads and writes voraciously in the quiet moments between motherhood and managing Crohn's Disease. She grew up on a small farm in a Texas town alongside many furry friends, two sisters, and a brother. She has known tragic loss too well, and her writing, which is often dark and honest, is a reflection of the shadows lurking in her psyche. Her work can be viewed at:https://kaciskileslawswriter.wordpress.com/, and her visual artwork and music can be viewed on YouTube under Kaci and Bryant.


A list of the places where my writing has appeared or is forthcoming:


The American Journal of Poetry, The Letters Page, Terror House Magazine, Bewildering Stories, Unlikely Stories, Anti-Heroin Chic, Red Fez, The Bollman Bridge Review, Triggerfish Critical Review, Capsule Stories Cajun Mutt Press, Levitate, Harbor Review, Fragmented Lines, Written Tales, Kiss My Poetry, Rough Cut Press, Eighteen-Seventy, Ten Million Flies, Open Arts Forum, The Broken Spine, Necro Magazine, Pif Magazine, Otherwise Engaged Literary and Arts Journal, Nod Magazine, Ponder Savant, Sleet Magazine, Goat Milk Magazine, Memoryhouse Magazine, Martin Lake Journal, 50 Haikus, Sub Rosa Zine, and Former People.


One thing I'd like people to know about me: I test high for schizotypal personality disorder.


“Psychologists believe that a number of famous creative luminaries, including Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Isaac Newton, had schizotypal personalities.”


That quote comes from the ScienceDaily article Odd Behavior And Creativity May Go Hand-in-hand, which explains,


“Often viewed as a hindrance, having a quirky or socially awkward approach to life may be the key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor.


“New research on individuals with schizotypal personalities – people characterized by odd behavior and language but who are not psychotic or schizophrenic – offers the first neurological evidence that they are more creative than either normal or fully schizophrenic individuals, and rely more heavily on the right sides of their brains than the general population to access their creativity.”


What defines it?


Schizotypal Personality Disorder Symptoms:


People with schizotypal personality disorder have odd behavior, speech patterns, thoughts, and perceptions. Other people often describe them as strange or eccentric. People who have this disorder may also:


Dress, speak, or act in an odd or unusual way.


Be suspicious and paranoid.


Be uncomfortable or anxious in social situations due to their distrust of others.


Have few friends.


Be very uncomfortable with intimacy.


Tend to misinterpret reality or to have distorted perceptions (for example, mistaking noises for voices).


Have odd beliefs or magical thinking (for example, being overly superstitious or thinking of themselves as psychic).


Be preoccupied with fantasy and daydreaming.


Tend to be stiff and awkward when relating to others.


Come across as emotionally distant, aloof, or cold.


Have limited emotional responses or seem “flat”.


Other fictional examples include:


1. The main character in Taxi Driver

2. Willy Wonka

3. Belle from Beauty and the Beast