Toffer D. Brutechild
A Creator of Things

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Finding and Losing: Three Bits of a Single Thing

Bit One: Finding a Loss

I needed a better pen so I wouldn’t be dumb anymore.

If I found the right pen my handwriting would be better and my teachers would stop making fun of me. If my teachers would stop making fun of me the other kids would stop making fun of me for being dumb.

I was a dumb kid with great grades so my teachers didn’t like me.

“The cat ranp three? What does that mean?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is that what it says?”

I shrugged.

She pushed the volume and condescension of her voice up, “You think that what it says?”

I didn’t move because I was bracing.

“You wrote it!”

She looked around as if she was expecting some of her better fifth grade students to give her high-fives. Which was pathetic of her and is depressing to me that I thought something so implausible could have happened.

I remembered later while I was writing a "d" that I meant to write, "The cat ran up the tree." The "d" I was trying to write looked more like a "b" and I went over the backward "d" so many times that the paper tore. It hurt me and so I ended up getting my mother to take me to the office supply store.

There were no more pens to try there other than a $20 pen that could write in space and my mother told me I would never be in space.

I went to look around with the pen in my hand. I cut it open with some paper cutter thing, pocketed the pen, and put the plastic in one of the random safes they had on display.

At home, I went to a pad of paper to try it out and it turned out I failed.

The problem was me and a few grades later I was given a diagnosis that became more a name for me or at least a terrible club membership. I was dysgraphic.

Bit Two: Dealing with the Finding

Having dysgraphia meant I would never be able to write as legibly as others, which meant people would always think I was dumb. It hurt, but the other parts of the diagnosis crushed me. It’s not just the physical act of writing, but any organization of thoughts.

I wanted to be able to write legibly so others didn’t call me dumb, but I also thought it would help me with what I loved doing, which was storytelling.

There was always some kind of notebook in my hand and there had always been one since my third-grade teacher had given me a single compliment about being good at writing — which is all a sad kid needs sometimes.

In the months after finding out what was wrong with me, late into middle school, there wasn’t. I would still write. I would just try to remember any good idea until I got home to type it, then after I would re-read each sentence and change things around until I deleted everything in defeat. No matter what I wrote I felt like it had to be wrong.

At least my teachers stopped complaining about my work being decorated. I stopped doodling in the margins of everything handed to me since dysgraphia meant I couldn’t draw either. I didn’t know I couldn’t draw before I found out what was wrong but now I did.

Doodling was a hard habit to break so I broke it along with the lead of my cheap mechanical pencils. There was no reason to have nice ones or nice anything for writing anymore. So when I would start drawing little circles the lead would break and the slight annoyance would remind me that I was broken.

My head was on my desk after one of these moments in my favorite teacher’s class and someone called me dumb. The teacher told him that wasn’t nice and he said it was true because I was retarded.

“Yeah, I’m retarded but I’m still smarter than you.”

My favorite teacher said ‘Hall’ louder than I had ever heard her say anything.

We got up and she told him to sit down while she grabbed my wrist to pull me into the hallway.

She was angry and got on her knees to shake me. I had never had anyone tell me how smart I was in any way that I believed and I never thought someone could make me believe it, but she did and I tightened my jaw to keep the tears inside. She demanded that I tell her why she never saw me write in class anymore and the tears made their way out.

The next class period there was a stack of composition books at the front of the room and everyone had to grab one. She told us that we would write without stopping for ten minutes. She told us that we were to be in our seats with our notebooks open when the bell rang every class period and start writing until she told us we could stop.

“Write about what you're thinking. If you don’t know what to write you will write about how you don’t know what to write. Write that. Write that you don’t know what to write over and over again if you have to. Do not stop writing."

This exercise hurt me because of intrusive thoughts about how I was bad, broken, and wrong. I did it every class period without stopping. Nothing had ever made me confront my thoughts and emotions like that did and I still write without stopping almost every morning.

I carried that composition book everywhere and I would even write in it outside of class.

Bit Three: Losing the Loss

I was in a bookstore with that composition book in my hand. It was summer and I had stopped writing in it. Not because the school year was over, but because there was so much emotional weight in the book that I didn’t want to fill the last few pages with something meaningless.

It needed an ending of some kind. It needed something to summarize everything in it. There were chairs and I decided now was the time. I sat down, opened the book up to the last blank pages and started to procrastinate.

I looked around and adjusted my position enough that I understood I wasn’t going to finish those last few pages that day or ever. My eyes were on the ground and the tips of my fingers slid over the shelves to keep me on any path. Having the self-awareness of other teenagers I was worried about how pathetic I looked. My head tilted back into a non-defeated position and I started to pretend to look at the titles on the shelf. I moved along the wall section-by-section with unfocused eyes.

There was a wall of sketchbooks and notebooks and my eyes suddenly cared. I pulled the least fancy one from the lower shelf that cost a quarter of the price of the ones at eye-level. It was a green A4-sized hardcover sketchbook and I headed to the cashier with a stride that was only stopped by a display of nice pens.

Written for issue 4 of Plumbago

Crashing Bird

He heard a pencil had six miles in it so the few he had might not last him. There were less than a dozen left and he had hundreds of miles to go. His heart put him on this journey, but it seems like the bastard pushed him through the gate and didn't wave goodbye.

The window seat cost more money than he should have spent, but this all started by him trying to get the things he wanted so he paid the extra money. Matthew pulled his lap belt tight enough to show off his inexperience flying and waited to be scared.

“I am not a bird. I am an animal without wings. I do not understand what is happening. Flying is not in my bones.”

He repeated the mantra over again. It calmed him and brought him peace, but he whispered it to himself so loudly that the person next to him was annoyed before they even left the tarmac. And in fact, even after they took off. She put on headphones before the attendant said she could, and Matthew took the notebook he bought for the trip out of its cellophane and a half-dozen pencils from his jacket.

Matthew knew his name and the date so that part was written easily. He didn't know which city he was over so he just wrote, 'Air' which made him feel fancy. He turned to the second blank page, and the tip of his pencil hovered over the paper. Then he rested it on the paper. Matthew adjusted himself in his seat and rested the graphite against the paper again.

God dammit.

He was on an adventure to meet the woman he loved but had never met. This was going to change the rest of his life.

Matthew adjusted himself again and put the pencils between the pages of the notebook and asked the attendant for a soda. It was going to be a long flight. He had plenty of time to think of something to write, but he didn’t. He was nervous and unsure. He never loved like this before, yet all he had done was talk with her on the phone and shared a few pictures.

This was crazy and Matthew felt even crazier for being scared of the turbulence that the other passengers seem to ignore.

“I am not a bird. I am an animal without wings. I do not understand what is happening. Flying is not in my bones.”

Hours later, the flight was over and his notebook was empty.

He was sad she couldn't meet him at the airport, but she arranged to see him at the hotel. It was a nice room with a view and a balcony. There was a little table out there (according to the reviews), and he imagined eating breakfast with her there during the slow and soft mornings they would have until they decided who would move where.

Matthew sent Ella a text that he had landed. He was excited and went straight to the hotel even though he knew she wouldn't be there until after her shift. Her break wasn’t for another couple of hours so it would be awhile before she saw his text.

Taking a shower would have been nice. A shower would have been the smart thing to do, but instead, he opened his notebook and wrote until the first pencil was dull. He did the same with the next. He was scared before the plane and he was scared on the plane, but now he knew he was safe. All he had to do was wait. He was a few hours away from kissing the girl he had wanted to kiss for months. The only way he wouldn’t kiss her was if he left, but he was already writing in his notebook about how he would never leave.

He took a sharpener out of his checked bag and sharpened all the pencils he dulled just so he could dull them again.

Matthew hadn’t wrote like this in awhile and it felt good to him. He wrote and he planned the life he dreamt of on paper. A life with her. Time went by and he was glad, because if it didn’t, he would have gone insane.

He told himself she must have taken a later break and later he told himself she must have skipped her break to get off early. She was reading his messages, something must have been going on at work.

Maybe his signal was bad?

He went on the balcony and sat down to call her. She should have been off work by now, even if she didn’t take a break.

He called again.

He waited a few minutes and then he called over and over again without waiting.

Nothing. He felt nothing but shame.

He sat on the balcony, right where he was suppose to have breakfast with Ella tomorrow morning. Matthew found a place nearby that sold the kind of muffins she liked. Best in the city. There was a good coffee shop nearby too. He’d leave a note so she wouldn’t think he had changed his mind. He wouldn’t want her to have that thought long. It was dark. The only sound was the wind until his phone vibrated.

He didn’t want to look, because he knew what it said. It must have said that she changed her mind. His phone’s screen faded to black and he waited for it to vibrate again. There would be another message. She always sent another message if her first wasn’t read. It was her way of making sure he was there and he wanted her to know he was hurt. He waited for another message, but it didn’t come.

Matthew debated with himself even though he knew he would look. He had to put on an internal monologue for his own sanity.

Maybe she did get hurt or maybe something really bad happened. Traffic?

He looked.

The message was long but just the first sentence was enough.

“Ella is a lie.”

He read a few more sentences until his mind caught up with the feeling in his stomach and then he stopped reading. He locked his phone and slammed it down next to his notebook, filled with the future he couldn’t have. It was all lies. It was all lies like Ella. Matthew threw the book and was too high up to hear it hit. He looked at his phone and opened the text again and skimmed a few more sentences before throwing the phone off the fucking balcony too. He grabbed the railing and kicked it. He kicked it again then punched it even though it couldn’t feel anything.

It couldn’t feel just like whoever Ella really was couldn’t feel. If she could feel, she wouldn’t have done this. How could someone do this? What did Matthew do to deserve this pain? He hit the balcony again and then wrapped his hands around it tight enough to choke a person to death.

Matthew cried and had a debate with himself. It was a short debate. Shorter than it should have been and he shouldn’t have felt so happy to have won it.

All Matthew could think was that he wasn’t a bird. He was an animal without wings, but he understood what was happening. He would soon be just bones.

Written for issue 3 of Plumbago

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When I die I want it to be easy on everyone left to erase my existence from this planet. I don't have many things. I stream my music and I don't own, or want, a way to play movies on discs. The problem will be my stationery. I have 313 pencils, 242 pens, and so many pieces of paper bound in one way or another that I don't want to count them. Hopefully, whoever is left will just toss my boxes of stationery after deleting my twitter account and burning my journals.

That's what I've told them to do. I've told them to throw everything away and gave them a few other instructions. They know what I want done. I'm prepared for the worst to happen.

There's so much to do.

I could start the process now. I have a favorite pencil and notebook. I could buy them when needed and toss out everything else today — which sounds completely freeing to me.

It even seems like the right thing to do. I'm imagining it now and I can see the fire in my mind. It smells like burning ink and cedar. I'd make s'mores even though they'd be infused with bad chemicals and worse memories from my journals.

Today is a cold day in Houston. It would be fantastic. I bet my neighbors wouldn't even call the cops, but no one has to put any money down because I'm not going to do it.

As much as I hate having things I love having these things. The notebook I'm using now could be where the novel I always wanted to write starts. Inspiration could strike and I could finally have the words to describe how I truly feel about my partner before I'm not here to tell her. All these different colored pens could help me mind map and get everything under control. They won't. None of this will happen, but it's nice to think that I'm able to do those things if needed.

It's good to be ready for the best instead of just the worst.

Written for issue 1 of Plumbago

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