Poems by Kim Culberston
by Kim Culberston
From Canary December 2008
a short, short story by Kim Culbertson
No one at school knew her. She arrived one day in that yellow shirt of hers. It was the shirt we noticed. Guzzle, it read across the front in black letters. At first, we assumed she had something to do with bees, what with the black and yellow. Or Charlie Brown for those of us who had parents who introduced us to that kind of thing.
But there she was at lunch one day, standing by one of those big silver garbage cans half the students don’t seem to use.
“What are you doing?” Stefie Jacobs asked her as Guzzle grabbed the can Stefie had just tossed in the trash.
“Guzzle,” she replied because, as we soon learned, that was all she would say. And she stuffed it into the cream canvas sack she always carried.
“You need therapy,” Stefie sniffed, before joining the girls waiting for her by the door.
Guzzle,” said now as a whisper, eyes downcast.
Several days later, she was still by the can at lunch. Only this time, she seemed to be multiplying. That girl with the big teeth from band had taken a black marker to her white t-shirt: Consume. She talked too much and no one listened to her, but she stood next to Guzzle, unwavering. Guzzle just stared at our trash, sifting through it like a child through sand at the beach.
The following week, three freshman from my gym class and a skinny sophomore who wore a camera around his neck the size of his head joined her ranks.
“Hey, man,” he said when I passed him with my friends. His red shirt said choose in black letters.
“Um, are you guys, like, with the drama department or something?” My friend Trey asked them.
“We’re citizens of the world,” Consume told us, her jaw tilted down like she was anticipating a punch in the mouth.
“Citizens of the freak show,” said Louis Monty, a sophomore built from bulging blocks of flesh. He had come up behind us suddenly. Crumpling his soda can, he threw it in the garbage. Guzzle went after it like a bird after a flashing thing.
Louis laughed and pushed through the glass doors of the cafeteria.
Still, the shirts were everywhere, standing watch next to the dumpsters out in back of the theatre, next to the bins in classrooms. Reckless. Imagine. Think. And my favorite, Fornicate, though this one landed its wearer in Mr. Jeffrey’s office.
Then, Guzzle was gone. That yellow shirt nowhere. No canvas bag. I looked for days, my eyes scanning the throng of students after classes, at lunch, next to any garbage can. Gone.
I passed a girl from my Spanish class wearing a green shirt that said Green in letters like trees. She held a canvas bag at her side with a picture of Shakespeare. I watched her stop in our hallway of lockers, collect some stray papers, place them in her bag, then move again out into the white air of winter.
© Kim Culberston