kind Kim

Issue 12 | Summer 2024 |

 

 

I felt it when the seed was planted. I remember it because it was the day I butted heads with a bat on my way back from school. It was dusk. That hour the bats go a bit crazy. That hour they make screeching noises. It was a baby bat that hit my forehead. Probably learning how to fly. I only believed it because I saw it. The bat. On the floor. Right after it hit me. Twitching. Looking scary and human. I wanted to poke it with a stick. There were no sticks around. I wanted to step on it. But I didn’t. The only reason I didn’t was because it was a baby bat. Had it been a grown bat, a mum bat, a dad bat, I would have squashed it with my foot. But it was just a baby, so I abandoned it the way you do to babies.

 

The seed grew roots. The day they told me they’d give me back a sharp leaf popped and scratched my throat. I’d been returned once before. They didn’t say why, but I heard them arguing. The man wanted to keep me. The woman said she couldn’t. I didn’t hear the rest. I was busy trying to pull off a scab on my knee. But it wasn’t ripe enough. I’d have to wait another day or two.

They were nice, the man and the woman. The way they talked to me. They said it wasn’t my fault. They said I was kind. They said I’d find another family in no time. But I knew it wasn’t true. I couldn’t find another family. They’d have to find me. The man and the woman had already packed my bags. The following day they dropped me off and waved goodbye from their car. I had my hands in my pocket. I couldn’t stop looking at their hands moving from side to side framed by the car window. I was told I couldn’t just stand there staring, so I went in. There were new children in the old house. Children I didn’t know. Children younger than me. The following day I pulled off the scab. A tiny red blob formed like a miniature Christmas decoration. I sucked it quickly until my knee stopped leaking red. I didn’t like red.

 

One day a couple came in and spent some time with me. I liked the couple. They had kind round eyes and flat mouths. I wanted to ask them how they cut a slice of ham. Did they cut it into thin vertical strips then horizontally into tiny squares? Or did they cut it all jumbled up? I thought it was too early to ask that sort of question, so I just asked if they lived far. They didn’t live far, and I’d stay in the same school. Because it was important that I stayed in the same school. A few days later they came back. They came back a few times. One day they asked if I’d like to live with them. I nodded and scratched my leg. Their flat mouths turned up at the corners. Flowers bloomed and padded my insides. When they took me to their home, I wasn’t the only one there. They had another child. Younger than me. Their real child. They’d told me they had another child, but I didn’t think it was true. Why would they want me if they already had a child home? My flowers wilted. They said I was her big brother. She kept her hands to her chest like a mantis. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like her. Her eyes were different too. They were not round.

 

In the new house I had my own bedroom. There was a lot of light in my bedroom which made it very very white. I turned off the lights and squeezed myself under the bed. People can’t see inside darkness. I stayed there poking holes into the carpet until my new sister found me with a torch. I eat plants, she said, like a diplodocus. How did she know about my plant? I turned my head to face the wall. Couldn’t she go back to being a mantis?

After turning her torch on and off a hundred times, she left me alone. I waited a little while and went downstairs. In the kitchen, I watched my breath steam up the glass door that gave to the garden. They had a garden. Full of snails. Through the foggy glass I watched the snails move. They weren’t that slow. Probably a breed of fast snails. I wanted to take one, put it on my shoulder and make it my pet. I went outside, picked one up and brought it in. Before I put it on my shoulder and gave it a name, I remembered that snails eat plants just like my new sister. So I flicked the snail with my thumb the way you do to a marble. And back it went to where it came from.

The mum asked what I wanted for dinner. I said, ham. A ham sandwich? No, just ham. (I really wanted to see how she’d cut it up.) She said, okay, opened the fridge and took out some ham. She plopped two slices on a small plate and gave it to me. Uncut! I wanted to cry. But my plant didn’t like the salt in my tears, so I didn’t. I asked if I could have another plate. She gave me another plate. I put one of the slices of ham on the new plate and cut it into thin vertical strips then horizontally into tiny squares. I ate four squares at a time. One square for each point of the fork. My new sister watched me. Then she decided she wanted ham too. But you don’t like ham, the mum said. Yes, I do. Wasn’t she a herbivore ten minutes ago? The mum gave her a single slice of ham. She tried to cut it up like me, but she didn’t have much patience, so she just jumbled it up and cut it with the side of her fork. I couldn’t even look at it. Then she shoved her mouth with big pieces of ham and looked at me as if she was winning. I shook my head and kept on forking my tiny squares.

It wasn’t until after I’d had my bath that she said, my mummy is not your real mummy. I thought there was no need for her to say that because I already knew that. But then she said, my mummy will never ever be your real mummy. A thorn pricked the side of my throat. My plant had never grown thorns before. It was very uncomfortable to have a thorn pricking the side of my throat like that. I started walking around with my hands around my neck. Why are you holding your neck? Because it hurts. You’re very strange. I didn’t like it when people called me strange. So I sucked in my cheeks, brought my eyebrows together and pushed her with my elbows. She looked puzzled, as if she wasn’t sure of what it was that I was trying to do. And you have toothpaste all over your mouth. She pointed to my mouth and did a zigzag thing with her finger before she stuck out her tongue and went away.

 

I eventually got used to the thorns digging in my throat. There were more than one now.

 

There was this one time she walked into my bedroom with an orange hairbrush in her hand. Can you brush my hair? She straightened her arm in front of her face and cocked her head to one side. I’d never brushed a girl’s hair before. I came out from under the bed, took the brush from her hand and walked to the back of her head. The brush was almost the colour of her hair. I stuck my nose in it. I stuck my nose in her hair. It smelt sticky like dates. So I touched it. I touched her hair. It didn’t feel sticky. It felt soft like good dreams. I twirled my fingers in it and felt like going to sleep. You’re not brushing. Why are you not brushing? She startled me. I looked at the brush. There were two words written on it. They both started with t. I took the brush to her hair and it was like brushing air. I didn’t want to brush air, so I planted the brush on her scalp and pulled it down. Her head tilted back, but she didn’t complain. Halfway down I twisted the brush around, so her hair got all tangled up in it and I pulled it down. Hard. You’re hurting me. I pulled the brush down again with both hands now. Stop. It hurts. She turned around and ran out of my bedroom with the brush swinging from her head from side to side.

I went to my desk, got my notebook and added tangle and teezer to my list of words to use later. It was the first time I found words on the back of a hairbrush. Some of the words I found I already knew, others were new. I kept them in my notebook and from time to time I’d choose a few, mix them with other words in my head and make a poem. I thought it was a good time to write a poem now that she’d left my room. So I picked some of the words and organised them into lines. When I finished writing, she was back in my room. Her hairbrush was gone. What are you writing? She took my paper. Give my poem back. What? This? She waved the paper high above her head like a flag. I wished the words would fall off the page and hit her in the head like a pile of bricks. This isn’t a poem. It’s just words. And what’s a poem if not just words anyway, I thought it, but the thought didn’t transform into sound. She started reading the words out loud. She read slowly. She was still learning.

napkin pumpkin use mast kind power on/off tongue horoscope
spoon pen library Kim barcode Kim ovaries(?) canned food
hypotenuse kills tissue flu huh indeed kills indeed pig nail
indeed kin armpit submarine razor pump car kin nostrils

This isn’t a story. A poem isn’t a story. What’s indeed? (I thought she was going to ask about hypotenuse.) Just a word people say. But what does it mean? I don’t know yet. My teacher says it a lot. It’s like yes, I think. Yeah, it’s like yes but rounder. She didn’t know I liked round. She gave me my poem back and said that she wanted to tell me a secret. I stayed very still while she cupped my ear with both hands. Her breath was wet. Remote control, she said in a not-so-low voice. Did you hear it? Did you hear my secret? I bobbed my head. You can tell me yours now, and she stuck out her ear towards me. I don’t want to tell you my secret. That’s not fair I just told you mine. Remote control isn’t a secret. Don’t say it out loud. It’s a secret.

I couldn’t tell her that my soul lived in the space between my thumb and my index finger.

Then she asked if I wanted to go to her room. Do you want to come to my room to see my smelly shoe? I don’t want to go to your room. And I don’t want to smell your smelly shoe. I didn’t ask you to smell it, I asked you to see it. I still didn’t want to go. She brought her smelly shoe to my room. I said it didn’t look smelly. She shoved the shoe in my nose. And I told her that Santa’s beard was fake.

 

One weekend we went to the grandma’s house. The mum’s mum.

Have you been in a car before? Of course I’d been in a car before, who did she think I was? Here, you can have my bunny. She handed me her bunny and I put it on my lap, seatbelt across its round belly. I liked round. I watched outside through the glass of the car window. It was like watching a movie at different speeds. I took the bunny from my lap and propped it on my shoulder so it could see outside too. What’s his name? I said. It’s not a he, it’s a she, can’t you see? No, I couldn’t see. And it doesn’t have a name. You should give it a name. Beings have names. It’s not a bee. It’s a bunny.

I hadn’t met the grandma yet, but we’d talked on the phone. She said she was looking forward to meeting me in the flesh. I looked at my arms and thought of meat. When she opened the door, she hugged my new sister first. Her smile was wide. She said nice things to me too. Things like: look how big you are; such a handsome boy. But I saw it. Between her eyebrows. The disappointment. My plant knocked on the inside of my ears as if it wanted to come out.

The grandma had a large basket on the kitchen table. Not the type of basket a child is left in, more like a Little-Red-Riding-Hood type of basket. Full of fruits. I didn’t like Little Red Riding Hood. I didn’t like red. I emptied the basket one apple at a time and lined them on the edge of the table following its roundness. Once the basket was empty, I wrote a capital k on a paper napkin and put it inside. The grandma watched me with her mouth ajar like a door. Disappointment had disappeared from her face. There was something else instead. I think it was fear.

I don’t like your hair, she said on the way back home. I touched my head. I had so little hair I wasn’t even sure what there was not to like. I know why your mummy left you. Why? I can’t tell you. Why? I’m not allowed. Why? Because it’s going to hurt your feelings. Was it because of my hair? She laughed a very hurtful laugh and I wondered whether my plant was actually a cactus. Don’t be silly. Why then? Please tell me. I’m sorry, I can’t. The car stopped and she got out pulling her stuffed rabbit by the ear.

 

That night I dreamt of the basket. The wicker basket. Full of k’s inside. K for kind and Kim and the other words. Who put kind Kim in the basket?

You didn’t leave me. You wouldn’t leave me. You died. I did it.

When I think of you, I think of a circle.

 

I woke up and everybody was still asleep. I went to her room and very quietly emptied her toy chest. I made a circle on the floor with all the dolls and pink pigs. I went to the kitchen and emptied the fridge and placed the horseradish and milk and all the food in a big circle around the kitchen island. I was tired so I went to sleep. When they woke up, they asked why I did what I did. I said it wasn’t me. How did they know it was me? It could have been her. It was probably her. She said it wasn’t her and I said it wasn’t me. So we didn’t know who it was.

 

When her birthday arrived, there was a party. Lots of other children. Children with parents. And balloons. Purple and pink. But not bright. No. Not bright. Like the colour had been erased a bit. There was also a bouncy castle with a blow-up princess and dragons and knights. It looked fun. I almost jumped on it. But I’d have to take my shoes off and I didn’t want to take my shoes off just to have to put them back on after. The dad said, why don’t we take a family photo? He gave me a purple balloon to hold. When we were all around the cake table, she said she didn’t want me in the picture. I just want my real family. The mum said I was her real family. No, he’s not. And she snapped the balloon from my hand. The dad tried to get the balloon back, but she opened her hand and the balloon floated up and got stuck in the ceiling. Then she said I could be in the picture if I was under the table. He won’t go under the table, the mum said, he’s your brother. No, he’s not. That isn’t a very nice thing to say, is it? But it’s true. And no one said anything to that. So we took the picture and after the picture I went under the table. I wouldn’t have minded being in the picture that way. I liked it under the table. It was dark in there. People can’t see inside darkness. I stayed under the table watching feet move around. The cake knife fell on the floor. It looked like a beach spade. I picked it up and wished I could dig. Then I heard her. I heard when she told one of her friends about me. He’s adopted, she said. I didn’t mind that she said that. Anyone who looked at the mum and the dad would know I hadn’t come from them. But then she said other things. Mean things. Bad things. Really nasty things, she said. About you. About me. About me and you. She said she knew what I’d done and– My plant swelled up. I pulled her by her orange hair and brought her under the table. In the darkness I thought of the baby bat. On the floor. Twitching. I wanted to poke her with a stick. There were no sticks around. So I poked her with the cake knife. Her body was soft like a slug. She screamed. The mum lifted the tablecloth, what’s going on under there? She went to her mum’s arms and pointed to me as if I’d tried to hurt her. The mum took the cake knife from my hand, let’s not play with the cake server, okay? She spoke as if I was two years old. I wasn’t playing with it. I was using it. As a stick. I wanted to tell her what her daughter had said. I wanted to tell her that her daughter had cut me without a knife. But the plant in my throat had swollen to a log. I opened my mouth and I couldn’t speak. I spent the rest of the party in a corner. I was given an arts and crafts kit and was told to draw. So I drew. I drew her. I drew my new sister. Her long hair and fast mouth. Her short neck and fat knees. Her small hands and glittery eyebrows. And in her body, I hid the letters. The k’s and the i’s. Two of each. The n, the d and the m. One of each. And once the letters were well hidden, I did something I’d never done before. I picked up a red crayon. I got a red crayon and I coloured her red. I covered my sister in red. Her belly, her eyes. Everything. I didn’t like red. So I covered her in red because I didn’t like her, and I’d rather she didn’t exist. Like I’d rather red didn’t exist. I then got the scissors and cut her. I cut my sister. First into thin vertical strips, then horizontally into tiny squares. I looked at the tiny red squares of her scattered on the table and I collected them in my hand. I collected her in my hand and I fed her to my plant. The squares felt waxy in my mouth. Like honeycomb, but bitter. And it hurt so much when I swallowed. But I had to do it. I had to do it.

At home they thought the time I’d spent colouring at the party wasn’t enough, so they said I should go to my room and think about what I had done under the cake table. They were going to return me, I knew it. When I was climbing the stairs to my room, the mum called me. She called me and she put her hands on top of my arms and looked me straight in the eye and she said, Kim. This is your home. We are your family. And she stopped. I think something got stuck in her throat, because she made a little noise. And I wondered if she had a plant inside her too. But then she spoke again. She said, we are your family. And there is absolutely nothing that you do that will change that. You are my son. Do you understand? Do you understand that? And I felt the plant in my throat get a little skinnier. And I was able to nod my head. And I almost wanted to smile. And I think I would have smiled if it wasn’t for the wet in my eyes. I love you, Kim, she said. And in the round of her eyes, I saw you. In the round of her eyes, I saw you, Mum. And when I saw you, I felt my plant shrink. And I swallowed to make sure. And it didn’t hurt. And I swallowed again, and I felt nothing. And I thought my plant might have turned back into a seed. She lowered her head and kissed my cheek. Off you go to your room, she patted my back. And off I went to my room. And under my bed I poked holes into the carpet.