Sleetmagazine.com

Volume 13 • Number 1 • Spring-Summer 2021

Tony Press

Writing by Lantern

It is Sunday again. Today is entry number 50 in this journal. I know it’s fifty because I counted I always write the date but never put numbers on them until now. “Entry” is a word we learned in Mrs. Ungersma’s class this week. It is connected to “en-trance” but what is neat is if you change how you say it just a little, you get “en-trance” -- and when she told us that, her eyes made her look like a whole ‘nother person.

But this is an entry. I have been doing them late at night for seven full weeks, since school started in September. When Uncle Danny gave it to me he said, “this book is for you, but pay attention to me here. It really is for you and not for anyone else. I will never touch it again. Aunt Calista will never ever touch it.” She was right next to him and she nodded. “Unless you ever want to share anything with us, these words are for you alone. It is your private place.”

I remember holding it, that afternoon, rubbing the leather on the outside and staring at all the pages. I’d never seen so many blank pages. It was after we’d come back from church, after everybody who came back with us had finally gone, after I went to what was now my bedroom, the room what used to be the mud room in the back. Uncle had fixed it up real nice for me.

As you know, Dear Journal, I only write after going to bed. The house is quiet ‘cept for the icebox noises and the creaks from the staircase when Uncle or Aunt are going up or down. I have a little lantern and it’s set beside my bed. When the window’s open the shadows jump around on the wall and that’s fun. I just looked back a little, which I don’t usually do, and I see I don’t hardly ever write anymore about school. That’s about all I did do for the first couple of weeks – how scary Mrs. Ungersma was, how big the new cafeteria was, how mean Millie and Mikey were.

Now Mikey might be my friend. I’m not sure, but maybe.

I wrote three different times about when I was ten and got my left arm snagged on the barb-wire fence and bled all over my shirt. I couldn’t write or throw for a week. For a long time, that was the worst time of my life.

Sometimes I write about what happened on the worst day.

I’ll try again. It was the last Sunday in August when Mommy and Daddy and Jasper went fishing in the Missouri. I didn’t get to go because Jasper said I stole a silver dollar from his coin jar. I yelled: “I did not, and you know it!” But he said I did, and Mommy and Daddy believed him like they always did. Since we were twins, I guess only one of us could be “the honest one” and they always chose him. It was like those unwritten rules they talk about in school, like “if the shoe fits, put it on,” stuff like that.

Daddy said “do not leave. We will be back before sunset and we will talk more. You will do your schoolwork and sweep the porch again and think about what you want to say about this.” We were twelve so I was old enough to stay home by myself, even though I hardly ever did. There was always Jasper.

It was blue-sky-sunny that day and I so wanted to go outside, but I didn’t. I did what he told me to do.

Sunset came, but they didn’t. When ten o’clock came, I put on my sweatshirt – it had gotten cool and a little windy -- and walked the two miles to this house and told Uncle Danny.

About seven the next morning, they found the boat, upside down just offshore from where the fire pits are. That’s all they ever found.

Someday I’m going to write more about all that. I’m not ready yet and my counselor at school keeps saying “take your time, take your time.” Taking time isn’t as easy as taking silver dollars.

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Tony Press tries to pay attention and sometimes he does. His story collection, Crossing the Lines, was published by Big Table. He claims 2 Pushcart nominations, 12 years in the same high school classroom, and 25 criminal trials. He enjoys the San Francisco Bay on a daily basis (from land).