Whiffs of hot buttered pans sail through my window. The neighborhood mamas have woken and their kitchens groove with sizzling hash and toddler cries.
The hallway smoke detector still beeps, but I welcome the day with my usual pacing.
Instead of grits and bacon slabs, like the mamas, I carve one pepper. Crunching on green ribbons, I spew seeds on the weekly circular.
My new cereal commercial will air soon, but I wait for the jump rope girls. At last, they scramble from their tenements. These grade-schoolers are cloaked in beads and braids and each wears trousers cuffed at the knee. With noses tipped in sweat, they battle for treasures I have left on the stoop: vending machine capsules stuffed with jawbreakers, charms, the temporary tattoos, the mini yo-yos.
One girl, Carla, carries a crate of ropes and soon, after some sass, they begin. The girls toss the first line. It carves through the hot air, slowly at first. They increase their speed. One and then two more ropes glide into motion, snapping the sidewalk.
As one, they chant, “Policeman, policeman, do your duty: Here comes Kathy, the American Beauty.” They sing, “Johnny gave me apples, Johnny gave me pears. Johnny gave me fifteen-cents and kissed me on the stairs.” Bouncing, hopping, they marry to the rhythm. These brown girls, they become some taut team. These brown girls, they become some large organism.
One child trips. The ropes go slack, leaving a snarled web on the pavement.
Carla yells, “Patrice! You scab!”
I never learned to jump rope. The networks had busied me with variety show rehearsals, tutors or table readings.
I figure that I do long to join the girls. It is, after all, ideal to perform as part of an ensemble.
June cannons through the door. She glares at my flea market paintings, my sofa salvaged from another tag sale. As usual, she wears a bathing suit and shorts hiked up beyond her bellybutton. The bulbous mole on her neck appears larger, more insistent than last week. June is my mother, my manager.
“Chip…your smoke detector is beeping,” she says, her sandy voice, rasping. “Can’t you hear it, sweetie?” June dumps a stack of headshots on the counter. “For your fan club.”
“Any calls about that ketchup ad?”
“Not yet.” June gestures around my second hand apartment. “Chip, you can live in Beverly Hills. Or Calabasas. You have a serious career.”
I sigh. “I played a stupid little kid who said stupid things like, “That’s hogwash.’”
“People love that line. And I don’t know why you enjoy acting poor.”
“I’m not acting.” I begin to autograph outdated photos of my face. “I like it here. The Hyde Park ladies are nice. And the ice cream truck comes twice a day.”
“You’re allergic to dairy remember.”
I scribble. “You made that up when I was a kid so I wouldn’t eat cheese and get tubby.”
June pushes her diamond bangles down.
I tell her, “I need to be far away from the coast. LA is going to fall into the ocean.”
“You watch too many TV shows. That’s alien space stuff.”
“Scientists say so. It’s a fact,” I say. “Everything will be under water.”
She chuckles. “Then I’ll swim. Look, I’m about to chit chat with those fellas at the Hot Rod Auto Club….”
“June, I’m not doing that.”
“They want you to jump on the fall circuit…”
I’m scrawling. My signature resembles a dramatic mountain range or a speed freak’s heart rate.
June plants her palms on the tabletop. “All those classic convertibles…travelling around the country. You just show up and do meet and greets for the old farts.”
“I’m not your only client you know. What about Kenya?”
June bats at the air. “Aw, she’s terrible. Awful actress. If we weren’t lovers, I’d fire her.”
“I don’t need to work.”
“No, but you want to work. Jobs lead to other jobs, better jobs. You know that’s how it goes. Soon…a hosting gig. Someday, a sitcom.”
I draw two hearts shrouding my famous eyeballs.
June says, “You’ll think things over. You’ll do the right thing.”
On Fridays, Frankie, my Puerto Rican driver, drops me at Don’s Pharmacy. I slide coins into the chrome vending machines and begin to crank, to turn. Trinkets for the jump rope girls tumble down the chute: key chains, candy suckers, the Slinkys, the snap bracelets.
Right now, I’m almost pleading with some triple-head relic. A reel of pony stickers is trapped inside. “Come on,” I whisper.
“You quarrelin’ with the machine?” A boy, beyond six feet tall, lumbers near. Stubble stains his upper lip, which, at first, appears to be a dessert leftover. He wears a fixed cinderblock jaw, as well as a nametag that says, ‘Byron.’
I explain, “This happens sometimes.”
“My apologies.” Sluggishly, Byron says, “I service these here machines. Open ‘em up for the coins. Fill ‘em back up with goodies. I know this one here can be tricky. I’m a help you.”
“It’s just fifty cents,” I say, stepping sideways.
Byron kneels before me and his eyebrows meet my shoulders. He grins, shaking a giant ring of keys. “I can turn my head…act like no one’s around. You can help yourself. For all the trouble.”
“I’ve got plenty of change.”
Byron jerks open the glass head and fishes out my prize. “Here ya go,” he says.
I smile so heartily, my cheeks ache. “Good job.”
Byron says, “I’s been doin’ this forever. My uncle’s treat machines is all over town. Big ones, little ones.”
“How did you end up in LA?”
Byron squeezes his chin. “Hey now…you look familiar. Like somebody I might know. Can’t put my finger on it…”
“I’m not really that memorable.”
This morning, I dropped more treasures for the jump rope girls: whistles, gumdrops, the plastic rings, the neon kaleidoscopes.
Now, I watch their ropes sweeping the pavement.
They hop and they jitter and they jam, singing. Clara leaps in while Sadie chants. “My mother, your mother, live across the way. Sixteen, seventeen, East Broadway. Every night they have a fight and this is what the say: boys are rotten, made of dirty cotton, girls are dandy, made of sugar candy…”
My body jigs, matching their rhythm.
“Oh my God!”
I see Monique double over. She howls, cracking the soupy morning air. All ropes fall, flaccid.
Monique screams, “Somebody! Laaawwwwwd! Help!”
“Are you girls alright?” I am gasping. “Should I call 911?”
“Help me,” Monique says. She clutches a filthy, plush bunny rabbit. “It’s Diamond. Her ear ripped off!” Monique thrusts a handful of white stuffing forward. “See, Mister. Diamond’s guts!”
I look at Clara who shrugs.
I say, “Maybe go and tell your mama.”
Monique wails, “She at the claw shop till supper! Like always!”
Clara latches onto my arm, “Mister, this is an emergency. Monique will have a fuckin’ stroke if she don’t settle down. She got a heart murmur, you see? Can’t you help us?”
The jump rope girls had followed me, their sneakers squealing.
Now, Monique sits at the kitchenette, tears parachuting from her eyes.
I plunder countless drawers and find a mini drugstore sewing kit.
Clara tells me, “Listen, mister…I’m just gonna leave your door open. See, white people always tryin’ to kill black people.”
“I’m not a cop.”
Clara cocks her hip. “Well, if you is some kind of doctor, shouldn’t you wash them hands first? Cooties, diseases, nasties?”
Dutifully, I rush to the sink, dump detergent into my palms and lather up.
Monique whispers, “Just be real careful, mister.”
“Got it,” I say.
“Diamond’s been mine since I was just a little baby.”
Clara tells her, “Least she aint got some kind a cancer, girl.”
I begin Diamond’s procedure. Slowly, carefully, I stitch a link through her ear and across her skull. I thread firmly, in and out. As the girls watch, my hands quiver.
Monique asks, “Is Diamond gonna end up with Grannie Black in heaven?”
Clara says, “She’s lookin’ pretty good.”
I realize that the all the jump rope girl bedlam has stopped. Their shrieks and tongue clucks are simply no more. Playing a physician, I will save the stuffed toy, Monique’s spirit and, perhaps, her life. I continue to sew.
I say, “Diamond will recover quite nicely.”
“Thank the lawd,” Monique says.
Byron had promised me lunch at The Hot Pot Buffet in Silver Lake. He passed the hostess one rumpled coupon and twenty dollars.
Right now, he’s stabbing a cut of steak, sawing clumsily. Meat specks fling and juice slimes his fingers. “How’s that meatloaf?” he asks.
I poke my plate, a sea of ketchup and gravy. “It’s okay. A little tough, but okay. It’s nice to have normal people food.”
“I like their lasagna. Real tasty. Only before three, though. Turns into a brick after that.”
I watch the tiny waitress top off my cola. “I should be a cook,” I say. “Fill people’s bellies, make them happy. I can’t do anything fancy. Just like hot dogs and pizza and fish sticks. You know, the good stuff.”
Byron chuckles. “You wanna be one of them lunch ladies, huh?”
“Maybe,” I say and grin.
“I’d eat your lunch for sho. Eat it all up.” Byron peppers his meat. “I aint too smart about cookin’. Just don’t get it. Don’t get lots and lots of things.”
I shred a roll. “Maybe you just need some help.”
“You gonna be my little helper? That’s mighty nice.”
I pull Byron’s buffet tray across the table. Slowly, I begin quartering his meat. “See. Smaller pieces are better. Safer. No choking,” I say.
Byron folds his arms, grinning like a dope. “I figured you out, Chip. Saw your commercial on the tube last night. You was the cute kid from the old TV show. That’s hogwash! I remember.”
I smile at him.
“Well…is that cereal as good as you say it is?”
“Don’t ask me.”
“Looks like it might need a little somethin’ more. Marshmallows?”
“I don’t eat cereal.”
I scale down the stairs, my pockets bulging. I do hope the jump rope girls enjoy the new wax lips and jelly bracelets. Byron dropped them off during his Friday shift.
A pan waits on the stoop and there is a note tacked to the tin foil cover. It says, ‘Dear Mister Doctor, Thanks for fixing up Diamond. My mama thanks you to. You a saint! I helped her make this Misssisipi Mud. Eat it all up! XOXO Love, Monique.’
The dish is spattered with brown flecks from former desserts. As the pie warms my hand, I toss more loot.
An ice cream truck tinkers at the curb. Its bygone speakers crackle through a child’s rhyme, looping with no mercy.
June smacks her beat folders. “Kenya must be a dumb bitch. I asked her to keep shit organized and everything is worse than ever before.”
I place spools of thread inside a former cookie tin. Shutting my eyes, I whisper, “I think…now is the time.”
She snaps, “Time for what?”
“Time to bow out…close the curtain.” I lean closer. “It’s time for me to retire.”
“Ugh. Stop being dramatic, Chip.” She scratches her freckled chest and says,
“You’re only thirty-one.”
June flicks my forearm. “What are you gonna do then?”
I sort buttons, pink or jeweled. “I’ve pretended to be other people since I was three. I’m tired of pretending.”
“Chip…no one wants to be themselves. No one.”
Gladys Night and the Pips croon on the stovetop radio.
Clara jams her head to the right and says, “Mister, you know there’s a beepin’ in your hallway?”
“The smoke detector,” I say. “Probably needs a new battery.”
“That would make me crazy in my head.” She hooks her thumbs around her suspenders. “Beep, beep, BEEEEEEP. Call yo landlady or somethin’.”
“I think she’s in Bermuda on vacation.”
“Better hope you don’t get no real fires.”
Clara has brought me another girl. Her name is Jarissa and she clutches a shabby, stuffed dog.
At the kitchen table waiting room, Jarissa says, “Doctor, I was hopin’ you could make Bundles all better. His tail has been hanging off since Christmas. My mama tried to staple it and tried to tape it…”
Clara jabs me, whispering, “Jarissa’s mama is real slow, so ya know. Not joking. She is legit retarded. Somehow got pregnant and had Jarissa.”
Scrubbing my hands, I call out, “I’ll do my best, Jarissa. Nobody needs their parts falling off and getting lost. Especially Bundles.” I ready my surgical tools.
“Doctor?” Jarissa asks, “Will it hurt?”
“Only a smidge,” I confess.
“Don’t worry,” Clara says. “He’s the best. A real saint.”
“I promise to be as gentle as possible.”
Clara tells me, “Don’t forget, you gots a 4:15. An American Girl doll with no legs. Some sort of accident with an older brother. Yeah, right. Hey, can we get some magazines in here for the waitin’ room?”
An inferno charges on every stoop, every street. The Hyde Park air is like corn chowder.
I decline a game of cribbage and I tell Byron, “So glad I turned on the AC this morning.” I giggle at his giant, socked feet drooping off my bed.
Byron says, “This feels real good. Like Alaska.”
“Heck no. Planes aint for me. I’m a scaredy cat.”
“We can turn on the TV. Watch a game show.” I see that more whiskers have sprouted on Byron’s face and I graze his stubbled jaw. “Scratchy,” I say.
“I’m too beat to shave in the mornings. Not like when I served. Number one rule. They get after ya to look spiffy.”
“You were a soldier?”
“For about a year. Wasn’t too smart about army stuff though.”
I skid closer to Byron. “All I know about the army is what I’ve seen in pornos. It seems like they just start screwing all the time.”
“Guess I haven’t thought about it like that,” he replies.
“Well, I have.” I’m grinning.
“Chip, I aint touched another fella before.” He hacks thrice. “A chick neither. I don’t know what it’s…like to touch someone.”
I unbutton my trousers. “I’ll help you. Put your hand on my cock. Just pretend it’s yours.” I pass Byron a stiff, crusty washcloth. “Use this to clean me up afterward. That’s what I do.”
I screw a thimble on my index finger.
Clara asks, “You gonna survive?”
She is glugging her favorite cream soda. I am sure to always have a spare six-pack chilling in the refrigerator.
I tell her, “I forget where my fingers are and where the patients are.”
“Well, my uncle says, your hands are the only things ya need to get a job done. Just yo hands.”
“I dunno.” She slurps. “For real, it don’t make fuckin’ sense. My hands can’t saw no wood. My hands can’t screw in no screw. That is legit stupid.”
“I think it’s just a saying.”
Clara swills the last of her cola and folds her legs like I do. “You think I could be a doctor too? Like you? I mean, someday?”
I smile and I do shrug. I say, “Clara, yes! If you want to. Yes.”
“I mean, forget the gross guts and stuff. But doctors make everybody okay again.”
I snap a lighter to life and singe the tip of my largest needle.
“Look, ya gave Keesha’s pony brand new button eyes. He can see again!”
Sheepishly, I grin.
“Patrice’s cousin, Darrien…she wants to come in too.”
“Soon. Real soon. Needs yo help. Serious case, this girl. I told her yo the best.”
I’ve only tromped down Hollywood Boulevard once. I was seven years old. During a red carpet premiere, I recall June feeding me gumdrops in exchange for smiles.
Now, Byron trots backward before me, stepping on stars. I warn him of pedestrians, trashcans and light posts. Someone dressed as a furred cinema creature signs autographs.
He says, “Look at all these famous types. You never wanted your name on this here street?”
“Seems deluxe to me.”
“They’re nothing special. Regular people think famous people have it all figured out.” I point to Bugs Bunny’s star. “We’re more screwed up. That’s a definite. And if my name was here, people would just scuffed it up. Probably spit on it for a laugh.”
Byron grins. “Naw.”
“Watch out,” I say and titter.
Byron dodges a woman, hauling luggage. “Close one,” he says. He claps and chuckles. “So, where do you keep all your trophies?”
“I’ve never won any awards. Not good enough, I guess.”
He says, “Well, that aint right.”
I look toward the hills, the Hollywood sign that always appears volted.
Byron smiles and tells me, “I’m a get you one. I hear old celebs sell their trophies on the computer.” He squeezes both my hands. “Heck, buy one for me too. We’ll both be winners.”
Floats bob in the swimming pool. I see flamingos, unicorns and two donuts. June swats them away, paddling, careful not to wet her hair. She tells me, “Come for a dip, Chip.”
“No suit,” I say.
“Swim naked. I’ve seen your ding-a-ling thousands of times.”
Kenya, gorgeous and brown, leaps into the pool. Bands of water rise, drenching the patio, freckling my shirt.
“Stop splashing! Fuck!” June screams.
Kenya emerges. She spits. “It’s still too cold for me.”
“Then get out,” June sneers.
Kenya sinks away.
I ask, “What if I moved somewhere else? Somewhere far away?”
June climbs the steps. Liquid drizzles from her shoulders and suit. “Don’t say New York. I hate when LA people say they’re moving to New York. Fucking gauche.”
“Not New York.”
I knuckle my eyeball. “A place with seasons. A place where everyone goes to bed at 11:00. A place where people open the shades in the morning and close them at night.”
June towels off her pebbled legs. “If I wasn’t such a miserable dyke, I might think this all has something to do with a boy.” June smiles warmly, as if I’m a toddler once again. “For your sake, he better have a real pretty dick.”
“Would you come see me, June?”
She yanks off her sunglasses. “No. Probably not. You know me, Chip. I can never leave Los Angeles. Because something bad will happen. I’ll explode, maybe. But you’re not going anywhere anyhow. I know you wouldn’t hurt me like that.”
The mamas continue to scorch their famed block party ribs. Barbeque stink hugs the entire neighborhood. Clara has delivered us two Styrofoam plates complete with potato salad, double scooped.
Chowing, Byron and I recline on the stoop. We watch the jump rope girls chase one another with sparklers.
I ask him, “Will our kitchen have a real, real diner booth like I like?”
He smiles, spooning coleslaw. “It sure will.”
“Will the kitchen be white, I hope?”
He points upward. “Just like them clouds there.”
“What time will the sprinklers come on?” I ask.
There is a brief silence.
He says, “I dunno. The morning I would guess.”
Even when I was a child, I had no dreams, no aspirations. Life was chosen for me by June. Now, I realize that dreaming is quite a pleasure and dreaming as part of a duo, even more so.
Byron says, “I’ve made a decision. A decision to make myself into a very important person. A person that, you know, people need.”
I gnaw and suck on a wedge of watermelon.
“I’m going to be a crossing guard. People gotta make their way across the street, safe-like. Or they end up road kill. Smooshed. Flattened. And then you can be a lunch lady like you want. We’ll both very important people.”
I spew seeds on the steps. “Aren’t we already important?”
The woman on the telephone tells me, “Hollywood, Alabama is quite different from Hollywood, California.”
“Ugh. Thank God,” I reply.
I hear her shuffling papers.
She asks, “Now three bedrooms will be sufficient? Are you certain?”
“Oh, yes. It’s just us two. But does it have sprinklers? For the lawn, I mean?”
“Uh, I believe so. I will double check.”
“I want it then. Ring me up.”
The jump rope girls snap through waiting room magazines. Patrice continues to nibble on the chocolate wafers I had set out.
Clara calls, “Doctor?”
“Darrien is here. She’s ready.”
I turn and see a small child. Darrien has one hand. A jigsaw scar substitutes her phantom limb.
I can barely manage to say, “Oh…hi…”
She tells me, “All the girls say you perform magic, mister. I aint got no stuffies to fix ‘cause I gotta fix me.”
I drop my needle on the countertop. “Darrien…”
“You know, I figured you might have spare parts around here.”
Clara pats her back.
Darrien says, “I can feel my fingers at night time. Even though they gone. Is that normal, doctor?”
“Just have a seat, girl,” Clara tells her. “We have some new Highlights for you to look at.”
One tear begins to hustle down my face. “Girls…I thought that you knew. I thought that you…got it. This is all pretend mostly.”
The realtor on the telephone says, “You can come to my office, when you arrive and pick up the keys to your new home.”
“Well, I don’t know when I can get away,” I tell her. “And I don’t want to be a pest. So, just leave it unlocked. Put the keys on the counter. There’s nothing to steal yet.”
I hear her sip something.
She says, “You’d be surprised what people will take. Copper piping, door knobs. People can be animals. It’s shocking, really.”
“Maybe leave the key inside the mailbox?”
My office is closed and all magazine subscriptions have been cancelled.
I still listen for new chants from the jump rope girls. This morning they sang, “Ice cream, soda, ginger ale, pop. Tell me the name of my sweetheart. A, B, C, D… Does he love me? Yes, no, maybe so. What will he be? Rich man, poor man, beggar man thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.”
Now, on this Fourth of July, I curl around Byron.
He says, “Can we try it again? I sure promise I won’t take so long this time.”
“No, thanks.” I rise up and stuff my legs inside a pair of trousers. “I want to go see the fireworks at the park.” I say, “We’ll get an ice cream or something on the way back. But not soft serve. It reminds me of doody.”
He groans. “Chip, let’s just stay here.”
“They’ll be pretty. I wanna see.”
“You can. Let’s just watch ‘em on TV. Same thing.”
I glare at him.
I suppose I’ve learned that if you want to truly live your life, you must not be lazy. There is little room for laziness in adventuring.
Byron says, “If you’re seeing them, then you’re seeing them.”
“It doesn’t work like that!” I shout. “We can’t say, remember that time we watched fireworks on TV.” I almost hiss, “Anyway, they look different…in real life.”
Byron yanks on his penis. He clucks. “I kinda feel like you’re sore at me, Chip.”
“I’m pretty sure I am.”
June blathers on the telephone and I wait for her complaints about Kenya to subside.
I say, “Maybe get her cast in something that films in Toronto.”
“Like that will ever happen. She sucks.”
I see a stray black button peeking out from beneath the sofa.
June says, “They sent over a bunch of that cereal you whored for.”
“Just eat it.”
“I’m on a detox cleanse.”
I tell her, “Give it to the poor.”
“Nice idea, but I don’t know any poor people, Chip.”
I sigh and silence invades. I hear nothing. No jump rope girls and no waning smoke detector.
June tells me, “Look, at least you gave it a try with him. Most people can’t even do that, you know. The effort is…torture. But real estate is a true investment. Even in hell.”
I return from the corner bodega, hauling a bag of peppers.
A cigar box, stickered and painted, waits for me on the stoop. Inside, I find treasures from the jump rope girls: quarters, mint discs, the insurance company calendar, the barbershop coupons.
I smile at the sidewalk and I begin grieving for Hollywood a little bit less.
Mustang convertibles, Camaros and restored jalopies circle me. Many hoods are flung to the sky. As flashbulbs sear, clouds of corn dog stench sync with my poses. I am signing and I am signing.
Someone asks, “Will you ever be on another show again?”
“Who knows?” I say, amid faux smiles. “Keep your eyes peeled.”
Another begs, “Say your famous line! Please? Say it!”
I jab my chest with both thumbs. “That’s hogwash!”
One young girl approaches. She cradles a plush giraffe.
I ask her, “What’s your name?”
“Estelle. Can I get your picture for my nana?”
“Of course,” I say and smile. “And what about for you? A picture too?”
“Mister…I don’t even know who you are.”
I tell her, “Yeah. I get that.”
Read Michael’s exclusive essay for STORGY: ‘I’ve Learned a Thing or Two: Lessons from My First Novel’
You can enjoy the first chapter of Michael’s debut novel; Parade, by clicking on the links below:
Chapter One; ‘Genesis’ – Part One
Chapter One; ‘Genesis’ – Part Two
Chapter One; ‘Genesis’ – Part Three
Chapter One; ‘Genesis’ – Part Four
Chapter One; ‘Genesis’ – Part Five
Michael Graves is the author of the novel, Parade. He also composed Dirty One, a collection of short stories. This book was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist and an American Library Association Honoree. His fiction and poetry have been featured in numerous literary publications and anthologies. Visit his official website: www.michaelgravesauthor.com.
If you enjoyed “Jump Rope Girls” leave a comment and let Michael know.
To purchase a copy of Parade and/or Dirty One click on the images below:
Reggie Lauderdale suffers from a crisis of faith. His cousin, Elmer Mott, dreams of becoming their hometown mayor. Both boys are stuck in suburbia trying to be adults… but they aren’t sure how to bethemselves yet. When a twist of fate sends them fleeing in a stolen limousine, the cousins escape to Florida where they meet a retired televangelist, who inspires them on a path of glitzy sermons and late night parties. But are the celebrations sincere or deceptive? And who is keeping tabs? Who is watching?
Parade is a tour-de-force, comic tale of religion and government.
Set in the 1980’s, Dirty One follows a pack of adolescent characters who live in the acid-drenched, suburban town known as Leominster, Massachusetts—the plastics capital of America, as well as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed. In the story, “From Kissing,” a sixth-grader named Butch has his first homosexual tongue kiss during a monster truck show and, after a bout of the flu, he is convinced he has somehow contracted AIDS. With “Curls and Curls,” nine-year-old Lee hates his kinky, brown head of hair and is seemingly possessed with magic, casting spells to unfurl his evil tresses. In “A Snow Day,” eleven-year-old Cassidy longs to be the next mega-watt, teen pop star, but is forced to deal with her crazy classmates, her gay father, and her dog that continually vomits in the driveway. “Do It” follows a tween named Denise as she seeks her first sexual experience with a boyfriend who can never remain erect. Denise strives for high school greatness while her gay best friend is crowned king of all local paper routes. These selections join five more, constructing the remarkable world of Dirty One.
Read more of Michael’s fiction below:
Eclectica – ‘Black Doll’
Soft Cartel – ‘The Keepers’
Post Road Magazine – ‘Balloons’
You can find and follow Michael at:
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
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