I Don’t Sing

Another story idea I had about a homeless girl who can control people with her singing–even kill with it. Found it in the conclaves of my archives. Guess it never really got anywhere, because this little prologue is all there is. 

The cinnamon roll in his hands had already had all the icing licked off. What a childish thing to do for such a gruff, dark looking boy. I kept singing anyways and took it off his hands. He let loose a shuddering sigh as the weight vanished from his palms, as though an urgent relief had come over him.

Finished, I breathed out. Finale. Andante.

Then, clutching the roll to my belly, I scurried out from the porch of the decayed house, leaving behind the acrid smell of cat urine behind me. No one took a second glance at the girl in a hoodie jogging through the neighborhood, still singing under her breath. Why should they? They were either too stoned or too use to odd things to care. Even so, I kept my head bowed anyways.

Because that’s who I was: a thief of the lowly; worse than they, with their tobacco stained fingers and meth dusted nostrils. I was the prison rat who stole the crumbs of the inmates.

I didn’t slow till I had left the project neighborhood behind me and stepped into a more middle-class neighborhood, where people actually bothered to mow their lawns and re-shingle their roofs. Only when I reached the doorsteps of an empty little chapel in need of a new paint job did I pull out the second-hand cinnamon roll. Despite having no icing, the roll had come from one of the gourmet hand-made bakery’s on state street, so it was almost bigger than my face. As I got underway devouring it, I was almost glad for the lack of icing. The sugar in the roll alone left me feeling slightly queasy.

I pulled back from the roll when only a quarter of it remained.

“I’ll probably get a disease from this,” I said to it. “Spit can do that.”

And I dropped it to the side of the cement steps. I licked my fingers one by one as I watched the sugar ants discover the remains. They came out the bottom of the cement steps. Beyond the sugar, my fingers tasted like salt. Salt and a dusty base of bare skin.

What to do next? Return home, I guess. Curl up in my lice infested corner and die, hopefully. Or sing until every cockroach that had dared crawl in while I was gone had come out and died belly up along with a few flies and centipedes. Maybe, if I was lucky, I’d get a mouse, but they hadn’t come since the first time I had sung. I regretted it, in a way. But it wasn’t like I could aim sound, and I didn’t like the idea of getting whatever disease pests brought with them.

I suddenly imagined the little black ants on my cinnamon roll curled in on themselves and shriveled. I scooted to the other side of the stairs till they were far out of sight.

The sharp snap of breaking glass brought my head up. As usual, I narrowed in on exactly where the sound had come from and spotted the shifting figure just as it slid into the house. I took in the yellow siding, the bright flowers, and the battered mini-van outside. There were sunbleached plastic children’s toys in the front yard.

A chilly spring breeze, one of the last remnants of winter, passed through me and I stood.

“I’ll just check,” I whispered to myself. “For my own conscience.”

Because ants and cinnamon rolls were different. Right?

I made sure to pull down my hood to make me just a bit less suspicious as I jogged across the street, over the fence, and into the carport. I found the broken glass in a basement window well besides the side door leading into the house. As I squinted into the unlit gloom beyond, I heard a toddler give an excited squeal.

“Maybe their dad,” I said to myself. “Couldn’t find his keys and wanted to surprise his wife.”

Who left the door locked during the day? Okay, so that wasn’t so weird. But from the state of their van, did they really have the luxury to go breaking windows?

The warbling shout of a woman decided it for me. I kicked out the last triangle of glass and slipped in, cringing at the large spiders huddled away in the crevices of the window well. The fearful part of me screamed in the back of my head of the possibilities that I was wrong, that I would be caught breaking and entering, of what they’d think—but I still crossed the dusty cement floor and climbed the stairs lined with boxes of cans. The door up top had been left open, and my sensitive ears picked up the words immediately.

“…one move, one peep, and baby bites the dust.”

A woman choked to silence her desperate whimpers. The toddler in question didn’t make a sound, possibly sensing the situation.

I stopped just beyond the light spilling through the cracked door. I could see stained, but clean linoleum on the other side, bearing some old 70’s flower pattern. My brain buzzed and scrambled. Now that I was here, what did I do? This wasn’t taking cinnamon rolls from stoned boys or killing pests.

A memory floated to my mind. It was one of my first, taken back when I was younger and something big had loomed over me. A man, a mugger, with ill intent. As usual, my head ached at the recollection, but I clung to it, closed my eyes, and breathed in deep.

I’d have to be subtle. Start quiet, then get louder; ease the burglar like boiling a frog.

So I started no louder than the dust about me.

“Pick up the baby. There’s a girl, now get walking. Down the hall. Show me your valuables—jewelry, DVDs, maybe that fancy ring you got on your finger.”

I was just above the hum of the water heater beneath me now, waxing the notes over each other like waves upon the sand. The wood of the staircase vibrated beneath my fingertips with the weight of their steps. I could hear her sharp, short breaths now, along with the beginnings of a sob from the toddler.

When a heavy boot appeared in my line of vision, my song jumped up a decibel.

“What’s that?” snapped the man.

Though my heart tapped a more frantic beat against my breast bone, I kept the pace slow, steady, calming…I couldn’t rush this. Peace wouldn’t be rushed.

The babe’s whimper turned to a coo. The boots had hesitated. I followed them up old cargo pants to a dark hoodie, not unlike mine, and to a slice of grizzled, shallow skin.

I kept climbing, louder, louder, till I no longer hummed but sang from the bottom of my gut, throwing each note over them like heavy woolen blankets. I pushed the door open just a crack to see the woman, a slightly overweight mother, no older than twenty five, clutching to a toe-headed baby boy, whose eyes instantly found mine.

He smiled.

The burglar dropped his gun, his gaze unfocused. The woman too looked a bit dazed, though confused as well when I rose from the depths. I would have rather stay hidden, but it had to be done. There was no saying how long they’d stand there, feeling completely content to do nothing, and I couldn’t stay in the basement to sing forever. But I couldn’t very well call 911 either.

The little boy squirmed out of his mother’s arms and followed me as I padded through the house. He was a well loved boy, with a clean face, scrubbed hands, and a neat Thomas the Steam Engine outfit. He tugged at my jeans as I opened drawer after drawer, distracting me. When I heard the man give a loud “Huh?” I refocused on my voice and searched faster. Zip ties, duct tape, anything—

I ran to the bedroom and went at the dresser. Bingo.

I pulled out strings of nylons and leggings and left the toddler to bury himself in shirts in the bottom drawers.

I made quick work of the burglar, leading him to a kitchen chair and tying him up soundly. He responded to every nudge and pull I gave him, a sort of delirium taking over the peace that had been on his face. The likeness to a tweaker’s expression unnerved me as I tied layer after layer of nylons and leggings. I didn’t like the feeling that I could induce the effect of a drug.

The toddler came running down the short hallway once I’d finish the work. By now my throat was beginning to feel a bit sore from singing. I’d need to swallow soon or something. He handed me a little battered Thomas train, flashing me a charming, toothy smile. No doped out expression slackened his face. It was almost as though my song didn’t touch him at all.

“Fo you!” he chirped.

I was charmed. I accepted the train. Then I slipped out the side door and ran for it. I took shelter behind the neighbors shed to listen in case the man should escape my makeshift bindings. Only after I caught the sirens of police cars a street away did I finally jump the neighbor’s back fence and into the streets beyond.

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