Run around the neighborhood with the white kids, playing like you're all the same. Jump on the trampoline with the boys, before they start saying pussy, & don't be so sad when they do. Pretend in backyards with the girls, & know you can
pet the old horse in the field behind the house before she dies. Steal carrots from the bottom of the fridge. If no carrots try pears from the backyard, that tree will die soon. Call her over. Careful not to get too close
to the barbwire, the rust will stain. Take in her smell, summer & hay & heat. Make peace with her flies. Pet her good & pet the dog after, while you're at it. Pick up the receiver, meet him in ten. Bike down Adrienne to the drainage ditch and lay there for a moment
in the grass. Learn that friendship, like chiggers, won't last forever. Spend the night up the street, but tell him no one more time. Know that safety isn't in white houses, but only two blocks down. Sleep on the floor, if you can. & you don't have to listen. & you don't have to
change. Know that no matter what, it won't be what makes you. Play "The Mole" in backyards, it'll last all day long. Challenges & quizzes. The goal is to figure out the saboteur among you. Play it again & again & again tomorrow. You'll never have fun quite as good.
STEFFAN TRIPLETT is a writer, instructor, and MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a Nonfiction Editor for Hot Metal Bridge and a recent VONA alum. Steffan is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where he was a John B. Ervin Scholar. Some of his words appear or are forthcoming in BOAAT, Wildness, Essay Daily, pnk prl, as well as other places. Steffan was born and raised in Joplin, Missouri.
<Willie L. Kinard III ** John Manuel Arias>