and I remember how hot it was that summer, how it seemed like it was going to be hot forever, each day sweltering, melting into greener greens and yellower yellows; and I remember the dandelion clocks proudly telling time until a wind dashed their faces; and I remember the somber mass of peonies whose heads grew so heavy that they bowed to kiss the ground; and I remember when it rained, the gutters chuckled and the water boiled down the drainpipe down the long driveway down to the road, and across the road was where I ran in nightmares, to the neighbor’s house, with its trim little shutters and messy garage, as full with things as a mouth is full with teeth—

and I remember the kid who lived there but only in snatches of color: a red shirt, faded jeans; white Keds  with a red-blue striping: battered and flap-soled; his name was Jeremy but my sister called him Germy on account of how he always had a smear of mud or dust on his face, and she always scowled and flinched when Jeremy came over: The Germ Brigade is here for you, she’d call, and her voice was high and shrill, like a telephone ringing, or a doorbell, or a warning, and I remember how Mom would take a little breath before asking him to come inside, and if she did, how she guided him like a docent in a museum from place to place—don’t touch, don’t touch, don’t touch.  I remember how Jeremy winced at everything, like his face muscles got snagged on some invisible barbed wire—

and I remember the day I wrote with a Bic pen on the leather seats of our new Island Blue Chevy Impala, and the leather seats were milky and creamy like nougat on the inside except for the one that had the lone line of pen I tattooed on it, because all we had was clean new stuff, even our bananas on the counter were so yellow I sometimes thought they were fake.

and I remember how the next time Jeremy came over, I ran down the hall before Mom got the chance to hesitate and woosh we whisked off into the woods, down the winding and spindly trails, past the deadfalls, past the hoot-hoot-skree of whatever bird was gaily chirping its loud little life away and into our cave, where the cold breath of the underearth welcomed us from the broiling halitosis of the sun and after a while Jeremy asked me about my shiner, he said

did you run into the doorknob too, and I said

no Leroy found out I used a pen in the car, and he hit me, and Jeremy said

oh, and then didn’t say anything else

and I went slam-shut quiet and something turned in my stomach like a key in a lock and something hot grew in my throat and my face started to prickle and I said

we’re not friends anymore but I didn’t leave, I didn’t leave, I didn’t leave, and I didn’t cry, and Jeremy sat next to me and didn’t say anything either, and at some point I remember his fingers crept over to my hand and he held my fingers for a while and I remember all I could think was

oh god he’s infecting me

and eventually he left and he took his fingers with him,

and I remember when I came out of the cave later there was a crunch and when I looked down there was the remains of a robin’s egg, shards of blue and a gobbet of yellow—

and up in the trees, a bird was laughing with caustic gusto, saying

look what you’ve done now boyo, they’re gonna lock you up in bird jail for sure

and I remember picturing the tiniest jail in the world, a tiny cell with a tiny lock, and how they would have to chop me up into tiny pieces to fit my body inside; and how all I could see between the tiny bars would be the tiniest sky

TJ Price’s corporeal being is currently located in Raleigh, NC, with his handsome partner of many years, but his ghosts live in north-eastern Connecticut, southern Maine, and North Brooklyn. His work has been published in Coffin Bell Journal and The Bear Creek Gazette; he can be found at or on the blue bird @eerieyore.


Photography by: Robin Canfield

such small crimes

by TJ Price

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