*Not your average publishing company

Things I Stole:

  • one (1) purple stuffed dolphin, from a neighborhood girl, from her bedroom during a birthday sleepover
  • one (1) copy of The Berenstain Bears: In the Dark, from Ms. Emerson’s second grade homeroom
  • a pencil sharpener from the school bookstore, made of buttery soft plastic, shaped like a dog with a human smile
  • the library’s biketire roll of Scotch tape [I was trying to fix the pencil sharpener.]
  • packs of spearmint gum from my mother’s brakeless Mercury Tracer
  • a half-empty tin of Altoid mints from my mother’s brakeless Mercury Tracer
  • a pouch of fine-cut Grizzly chewing tobacco from my mother’s brakeless Mercury Tracer
  • fake pearl earrings, from my mother
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones, from the school library
  • a box of apple juice from an unwatched crate in the cafeteria
  • $2.45 in quarters and dimes scattered on my father’s nightstand, next to his silver reading glasses, right by his hypothermia-blue Bic lighter, close to his splayed-down copy of something or other by Mario Puzo, his caved-in pack of Marlboro Lights
  • My father’s hypothermia-blue Bic lighter
  • three (3) Lisa Frank pencils from the girl who sat in front of me, who would cry during thunderstorms
  • five (5) of her erasers, mango-colored hearts, blimp lips, a butterfly. [They were those cheap chalky rocky ones that would leave big skidmarks all over your paper. So you’d try to erase those, too, but of course that was always a stupid plan, I King Solomon’d one of my spelling tests right in half.]
  • the $10 bill Mrs. Dalesandro left on her desk
  • at least two (2) dozen (12) No. 2 pencils, from the boy who sat on my left, whose father was a cop, who said his father had shot fifty men as dead as doorknobs, who threatened that he would get his father to come and shoot you, too, right between the eyes, if you didn’t hand over the kickball, or give him a turn with the Bop-It, stop being so mean to him in Battleship. [Mrs. Dalesandro thought he was the one who stole the ten bucks, I still don’t know why. He was suspended for a week. At some point in the middle of that I was called to the whiteboard, me and two other kids, we were gutting the class’s math curve, they called us up to the whiteboard to fill in less-than greater-than problems. And at some point in the middle between me unsnapping the marker with its fruity sulphur smell and Mrs. Dalesandro telling me “Well, that was a very good try!”, at some point between these things I remember coming to the uncomforting conclusion that I guess it must have been God. God did it, for justice, is what happened.]
  • at least two [too] hundred [fuckin’ many] sheets of loose-leaf paper from the boy who sat on my left, whose father scared me, who I hated because his father scared me, the boy I frequently and happily crucified at length for stuttering over his ‘p’s and ‘k’s and ‘m’s, the boy I’d bait on the playground with the kickball or Bop-It, who would threaten and follow, exhausted, asthmatic, whose inhaler was a regular hostage of mine and others, who would finally unwrap his throat into some animal sound between a sob and a bark and would lunge, who was slow, whose pinkies and thumbs I’d snatch up stupid and cruel and steer and torque and twist like I was cranking a jack-in-the-box.
  • a Durex condom from my uncle’s wallet
  • Twix, Reese’s Pieces, Bubble Yum, orange Tic-Tacs from gas stations; and books of matches, crude postcards, lighter fluid, M&M;’s, air-fresheners shaped like pine trees and Hawaiian leis that all had the identical scent of boiled sugar and ozone, Mello Yello, Fun Dip, a German shepherd bobblehead, a pair of sunglasses that bulged outwards oily and fat like horsefly eyes that I broke on the basketball court within an hour of taking, highlighters, a Harley Davidson bandana, keychains with tiny stuffed animals, notecards, batteries, mints, pens, gum, caffeine pills and powders packaged lush and thickly bright like Chinese fireworks. [One of the clerks was very visibly a burn victim. She would always smile and wave when I came in, and when I left.]
  • a plastic red jug of gasoline, about half-full, and a bottle of lawnmower oil, from a stranger’s driveway
  • a crowbar from a nearby construction site
  • a cheap switchblade, 8” long, with initials “G.P.” in permanent marker, from a nearby construction site
  • most of a hummingbird, from a neighborhood cat, that was incapable of dying for eighty minutes but could scream quite well for seventy
  • at least twenty 2x4s from a nearby construction site
  • a box of baking soda and bottle of air freshener from a grocery store, to oust the smoke from clothing
  • packs of spearmint gum from my mother’s Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • a .38 caliber bullet from my mother’s desk
  • a .38 caliber from my mother’s closet [for twenty minutes.]
  • a Camel cigarette, from my stepfather. [When they had songwriter friends over, for moonshine and Stouffer’s lasagna, I ducked out to the backyard and tucked down by a healthy little murmur of honeysuckle. I cupped my hand protectively over the lighter and cracked it, biting down with milkteeth on the strange shape of the filter in an attempt to hold it steady, with terrible clumsiness but hey, it was lit, and with that accomplished I took a moment to collect myself. I briefly wondered if the little firefly glow was visible from anywhere. I shrugged the anxiety off. I shrugged quite literally: I let my neck roll slow to the side… and drank my chin upwards, and backwards – artful — in my sincerest rendition of a Soviet femme fatale; I set myself. I steadied. Then I pulled, hard and deep, dragging on the fragile back of the Camel with a granite grimace and gallows’ dignity, pulling hard – with organic, untempered, magnificent cowboy bravado – before exuberantly puking every fucking pint of my fucking guts up from their putrid fucking roots, all over the ground and grass and healthy fucking murmur of fucking honeysuckle. I opened up like a septic Mount Vesuvius. I have no idea where it all came from. There was a very generous pile of turkey sandwich and fruit punch Gatorade already waiting for my knees when I finally doubled over, a little less femme fatale and bit more epileptic leapfrog, for all the world and neighborhood to hear bawling and squirming in my own stomach acid salad like a basset hound that had nosed into the drain cleaner. My family, as far as I know, still thinks this was food poisoning.]
  • inestimable CDs I didn’t want, and DVDs I didn’t watch, from electronic stores
  • an adjustable hinged knee brace from Academy Sports
  • a violin
  • one (1) Polaroid picture of my mother [a teen, tired, crossing mudflats alone. She’s wearing overalls twice her size and age that are caked and flaking brown, she’s tucked the bottoms into her already-overrun boots with dim and pilgrim optimism. Her hair is a different color than I know it to be. It’s lighter, more brown, not quite my brown but almost, noosed up loose on the back of her neck, wonderfully wind-chewed. She is mid-stride and her hand is half-mast against the sun as she squints into the camera. At first glance, when I was younger, this was where the photo ended for me – girl in boots, freckled and acned, in the middle of chores, maybe, too much sun and no smile in sight because of it. I see her a little better now. I overlooked the defensive dip of her chin, the bite-stripped fingernails, the tiny swells of tendon in the ribs of her jaw that meant her teeth were vaulted shut. I overlooked her hand raised – not just to block the sun – but also bunching up and inwards, coiling, withdrawing, fermenting very gradually into the blueprints of a fist. She is staring into the camera from only ten yards but at least fourteen years away], one that I stole from her mother.

KW Carver is a caricature of herself living in Oakland after growing up crooked and strange in the South. She is concerned with memory, ghosts and picking at scabs.

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