Chapter Excerpt

I am always there.
But they don’t care if I am
because I am furniture.

I don’t get hit
I don’t get fondled
I don’t get love
because I am furniture.

Suits me fine.


When the garage door goes up
he’s home.

We close up conversation
and scuttle off like crabs
each to our room—
Shut the door.
Shut the door.
Shut the door.

Mom alone in the kitchen
where she should be

before the garage door goes down
and we are locked in hell.


Dinner.

He knocked Darren onto the linoleum.

I don’t remember his arm swing,
just Darren and his chair—
eight tangled limbs on the floor.

No reason that I could see.

But my father picked up his reasons and his
plate and went
to eat
in the living room.

Darren picked up his chair and himself and we
are now eating
in customary ice-age silence.


When I was much younger
Yaicha and Darren
would point at my nose
and say,

“You don’t look like us
your nose is different
you don’t belong.”

Yaicha and Darren
told me that I was
the mailman’s child,

and I got so angry,
stalking away,
hot steam in my ribs.

Yaicha and Darren
told me that I was
the mailman’s child

and now I am thinking
how wonderful it would be
to have
the mailman as
my father.


My mom.

At times I still want to
sigh,
curl into her,
nourish in her motherness,
especially
when she wears that
old suede jacket that
smells of fall leaves, like
the pliable leather armchair
left outside on the back porch.

But she doesn’t welcome that.
Maybe I am not that young anymore.

And when he is there
all her motherness
has to be
spent on
him.


Oh, yay
charity day
visiting Angeline the Wimp.

I see her often enough at school.
Don’t want to visit her house.

Since her dad
left her and her mousy mother
for some bouncy secretary in Texas
mom and I
are here
to
touch base, be friendly.
Our moms met way back when we were
in preschool.

Angeline irritates me—
she’s delusional,
terrified,
weak.

the ocean has “man-eating seaweed”

the garden has “corn-barfing worms”

the fancy sound system has “thought-tracking speakers.”

I didn’t choose to be friends with her.

Angeline doesn’t
have a father around

and my mom says she
really
needs one.

Maybe.

But
not
like
mine.



Scrubbing my volleyball knee pads
while I’m in the shower,
hot water,
way too much soap,
but, man,
three days of preseason training
on the sly
collected a hell of a stink.

The foam won’t dry out overnight.

My knees will probably
froth in soap bubbles
if I dare set foot in tryouts tomorrow.


First day.
Ninth grade.
High school.

Honking in the parking lot,
upperclassmen back smacking,
squeals of recognition,
a grimly nodding principal.

I’m supposed to feel something more than just
rattled
by the sheer number of people in the halls, right?
Scared?

Except that I’ve been in and out of
this building
a bunch of times for years—
Yaicha’s musicals,
Darren’s debate team.

I learned my classrooms from the map,
and I just spent whole days going to volleyball
training here,
so I kind of get it already.

I like school.

Not scared.

But excited in that
jiggering-on-too-much-hot-sauce
kind of way
that it’s time to
step out
of my old framework,
raw and amorphous,
to become something I’ve never thought of
before.

Afterschool is a different story.
Volleyball tryouts.


I wasn’t going to do it.
Even though I crave it
I wasn’t supposed to
try out
because
my father said,
“Competition is dangerous for
a young girl’s mind.”

But I already like the girls from preseason
training.
And that tenth-grader Rona saw me
growing roots
outside the locker room
dangling my new volleyball sneakers
bought with my own money
in secret.

Rona looked me in the eye.

“Youaregoing to put on some shorts, right?”

and as she steered me
through the splintered wood door
she told me
about some player last year
who tried out with mittens on
to protect her nylon nails.


Excerpted from Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.