"Here's Where the Story" by Leanna Lagpacan | ISSUE ONE

"Here's Where the Story" by Leanna Lagpacan | ISSUE ONE

BHISHMA


by Ann Harper Reed

The clay room was filled with warm, hard, terracotta balls the uniform size of large marbles, an “adult” version of Chuck E. Cheese.

Bhishma’s fingers squirmed under the heated spheres as he closed his eyes and listened to the gasping sounds coming out of the girls and the decided silence and focus of his male counterparts and the grating, constant shifting of the clay balls beneath bodies.

It wasn’t that only Eddie had changed. Bhishma heard his sister Enakshi (now Carrie to the other sophomores of Central City Value) kept cut-off shorts in her locker and wore her shirt knotted at her waist to display her navel ring. For all Bhishma knew, Enakshi was pregnant by that idiot Kiefer, who held her ass as they walked down the hallways between classes. Bhishma didn’t know that, though. He didn’t even know for sure if Enakshi had a boyfriend, as he still needed to complete eighth grade at Berendo Middle School, but he heard rumors from Blaze, who was the only one of them in high school. Technically Worm should have been a junior, but he was more interested in skating and smoking weed, so he’d been held back—three times. What Bhishma did know was that all his friends were touching their girlfriends’ unharnessed titties through their Wii Spa T-shirts in the clay room of the Korean Spa; that he was the world’s biggest loser; that his best friend, Eddie, was touching Abi’s ample boob, even though it was clear they were both uncomfortable with said act; and that he, Bhishma, had found a wallet with over twenty bucks in the locker room.

“Knock it off, Boo,” said Paris. “Quit. Boo. Wait: you staring at me? Hey—bhisjihad freak-show. I’m talking to you! I saw you looking! D, what’s his name?”

Paris was Danny’s girlfriend and she was a particularly scary kind of female. A girl for whom the idea of vagina dentata had been created. At least that’s who Bhishma had envisioned when Blaze Instagrammed a picture of “Jaws” with the word and a definition. Paris was that kind of shellacked pretty with loads of makeup and fake blonde hair and snarls just under the surface, which all was normal enough. The sooty distance in her eyes, like she’d seen horrible things and probably been messed with as a kid, that was where she got dangerous, and then, most of all, that Danny said she kept a knife collection. Danny, of course, thought that was funny, but it scared the crap out of Bhishma.

Danny Gonzalez had the “it” factor, the charming smile, the focus, the ability to always land on his feet, the tenacity to own his destiny. Bhishma knew the D-man would want to know about the wallet. Generally speaking, Danny decided what was best for the group, and right about now Bhishma might have brought it up. But he didn’t. Bhishma kept his eyes shut and ignored Paris, sorted the warm clay balls through his fingers, like beach sand drifting from his palm.

“Benny, what you doing?” said Danny.

“Huh?” Bhishma squinted to see Danny staring at him.

“Risy says you was staring.”

“Sick. My shit was closed up. I don’t want to watch, man. That’s sick.”

Danny leaned back and offered an easy laugh. “Man, Benny. Someone better find you a proper Chiquita banana.”

“He’s a perv. Don’t nobody want him,” said Paris.

“Chica, every dude’s a perv if, you know, looking at you is being a perv,” said Danny.

“That’s mierda. Don’t listen to her, Benny,” said Selena, Worm’s chick, and the coolest of everyone.

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing. I ain’t said nothing to you, Paris.”

“Let’s get out of here. Can we? This place is gonna make me barf. It’s so hot,” said Jenny, Blaze’s girlfriend, who wasn’t even thirteen yet. The only child of a single mom who worked as a stripper from seven at night until four in the morning, Jenny and Blaze had been hooking up since summer.

“Yeah, man, I’m sweating my balls off here,” said Worm.

In general Bhishma drifted into the background. He liked to be part of Danny’s posse, but that didn’t mean anyone ever noticed him. So Paris picking on him, that wasn’t all bad, just annoying. Sweat had begun to pool into Bhishma’s belly button and in the sockets of his eyes. More than Paris picking a fight, the wallet lingered on Bhishma’s brain. That and how Eddie had Abi now.

A group of middle-aged Korean women entered the clay room, and everyone froze with their hands in the cookie jar. The women walked a few feet away, trudging the clay balls in an almost grace, which, if you’ve ever walked on those clay balls, is quite impressive.

“Eddie, you know them?” Bhishma said under his breath.

“Ha-ha.”

“What?” said Abi in a whisper to Eddie, who grabbed her hand.

“Ole Bhishma-Benny over here thinks I’m related to every Korean in KT,” his fingers dancing around Abi’s pinky and palm.

“Just cause he’s a wanna-be Muslim Jihadist and trying to be all Mexican,” said Paris.

“Ha-ha.”

There was a moment of quiet. Even the Korean ladies seemed uncomfortable. You know, like a silent question seemed to have been raised: Who is this light-brown-skinned dude?

“He ain’t Muslim,” said Eddie in a loud speaking voice. “He’s from Nepal. He’s like Hindu and Buddhist. Or are you Christian now?”

“I don’t know,” said Bhishma under his breath.

“Shhhhh,” said one of the Korean women.

“I call it,” said Danny.

The old, skinny lady with a puckered face turned the volume of the Korean soap opera back on. Danny sprang up and the others started to maneuver toward the door. Bhishma closed his eyes for an instant, entertaining the idea of letting the group leave without him.

“Ouch,” said Jenny, hobbling over the shifting surface.

Worm pitched a clay ball at Eddie and hit him square on the temple. Eddie pitched a couple back that missed Worm, and the last one came a foot away from hitting one of the Korean ladies.

“Nice one,” said Worm, laughing at Eddie’s glance of terror.

Eddie reached out for Abi as she stumbled, giving her his arm, skinny and feeble as it might have appeared. Bhishma placed a handful of clay balls on his belly. He wanted to stay and watch the door shut after Abi reached solid surface, supported at the small of her back by Eddie. He wanted to watch the ladies enjoy the dramatic doctor scene in the soap opera with closed-caption Korean. He wanted to watch the ladies steep amongst the clay balls, a younger one talking and the old, skinny lady slapping at her in delight, pointing at the screen. He wanted to stay and watch them be happy. But Bhishma knew that would be odd, so he stumbled over the painful clay pods and got to the door.

* * *

Later that night Bhishma lay in his bed. In the living room Enakshi was doing her homework, watching TV, wearing her hāku patāsi. That Enakshi pretended to be traditional annoyed Bhishma. He wasn’t ever traditional, what with the fact that their lottery number had been picked when he was only three, and he only had a vague recollection of Nepal. A year and a half ago, their old village had been destroyed in the second big earthquake, but he could barely remember what it looked like, just images of cracked, dry earth and the one water buffalo that worked the field, and the shadowy memories of a dozen people living in the house, fighting and laughing. Only his aunt and uncle had been killed. The rest of the family (or, as Aame said, “their people”) had survived. Aame and Buwa were still working at the restaurant, like usual, closing up after ten at night. As recently as last year, family together-time came in the morning, but both Bhishma and Enakshi had stopped having breakfast, Enakshi applying her face and Bhishma sleeping as late as possible.

He had wanted to wait until midnight, when everyone was in bed already, but the excitement and the tension had ratcheted up insufferably, and Bhishma grabbed his Dockers from under the bed and took the wallet out of the pocket. A simple trifold, tan camouflage polyester, Bhishma turned on the lamp to see the ID. The guy had mossy-brown hair, maybe sixty in the picture: Alan Craig on South Grand Avenue in apartment 1401; twenty-seven bucks in the billfold and five dollars slipped into the last credit card slot; a Wells Fargo ATM card; a Best Buy credit card; Alan Craig. Bhishma Googled the address and saw it was in downtown, right near the Disney Concert Hall. There were a lot of thoughts. He hadn’t done anything wrong (the wallet was left in his locker at Wii Spa). No one knew he had it. He could just keep the money, but what if ole Alan Craig needed that thirty-three bucks? What if Alan Craig was stone cold broke, and that was the last dough he had for the month? What if he was this cool old goat, and was loaded, and gave Bhishma a hundred bucks for being a good kid? Or what if he started to cry because Bhishma was a good kid and he was this lonely old guy? The money would be nice. If it had been floating on the street, that would be one thing, but Alan Craig needed his wallet back.

* * *

School dragged on, what with all the Abi/Eddie cuddles and the hall lockers looking like the world’s longest prison cell, but by 3:30 in the afternoon, Bhishma had found his way to downtown on the Red Line. He walked on Hill Street, past the Grand Central Market and all the hipsters drinking fair-trade pour-over coffees. The climb up the hill on Second Street was a surprise grilling as the sun tried to skin him alive. Winded and nervous, Bhishma fingered the wallet in his pocket while he waited for the crosswalk signal to change. To his right he could see the metallic glint of Disney Hall.

The apartment building was one of those fancy high-rise numbers with a concierge at the front desk and everything. Bhishma slouched past, acting like he owned the place, and punched the elevator. He knew already: fourteenth floor. Fourteen was Bhishma’s lucky number. All was lining up in a nice fashion. A crowd of about seven people formed, mostly older with hair sprouting from unfortunate facial orifices, waiting for the elevator. The elevator smelled like Chinese take-out and the faintest waft of urine when it finally arrived, and the floor was more worn than one might expect from such a nice building. After everyone else had exited on the ninth floor, Bhishma was relieved. He’d had some concern that Alan Craig would be amongst the passengers and how awkward it could become if Bhishma hadn’t recognized him.

Bhishma’s hands had begun to sweat when he finally knocked on the door. There was a long pause, an awkward thudding toward the door, and an eye blocking the eyehole. The door burst open and a stout, white woman with bushy eyebrows and a blue jumpsuit stood before him.

“Yes.”

“Oh, I. I hadn’t expected you. A woman. I mean: is there an Alan Craig here?”

“Whatcha want with Alan?”

For some reason Bhishma didn’t want to let this woman know he had Alan’s wallet. She might steal it, or scold him. After all this effort he needed to give it directly to Alan Craig.

“I wanted to. I just need to find him.”

The woman cocked her head and sized up Bhishma’s five-foot-four frame.

“Well, okay. Hold your horses. You don’t look too frightening, so bring your behind in here.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” said Bhishma.

“Well, you want to see him or not?”

“Yes. I came here to see him.”

“Then come in and I’ll call him.”

Bhishma entered the apartment. There were windows everywhere looking out onto the industrious cranes and buildings and cars below. Two large cats clawed at the tattered sofa, and the lampshade had fallen off the lamp. An even larger cat froze in terror midway to the kitchen. But the furniture was otherwise well tended, and there were five impressive, cased-in bookshelves filled with hardback books with names like Faust, Proust, and Milton on their binders.

“Stop that,” she said to the cats. “They’re just awful. You know it’s strange you should come here when he’s gone. He just about lives in that room of his like a turtle. With his music and his whatnot. You can sit down if you want.”

Bhishma smiled and shuffled his feet, feeling uncertain if he should have come inside. The rug was newer but also had a bit of uncoiling. Becoming suddenly unfrozen, the larger cat dashed away from Bhishma, skirting into a bedroom with MSNBC blaring on the television.

“He’s a big scaredy cat. That’s why we call him Tinka. He hears a single tink anywhere and he’s under the bed. You allergic?”

“Me? No.”

“Well, I wasn’t asking the cats if they were allergic to you. You like music?”

“Huh? Yeah. I mean sure.”

“Go pick something and put it on the stereo. You can listen while I call Alan. I’m Lee, by the way. Lee Lemon.”

“Hi. Um, I’m Benny.”

“The CDs are over there, Benny.”

Lee pointed to a pile of discs ant-hilled upon each other. Bhishma might have wanted to deflect the invitation, but something in Lee’s nature made him sure that wasn’t an option. The music was foreign to Bhishma, literally from foreign countries, and he finally settled upon Beethoven (the only name he recognized). He placed the CD into the player. The music blasted out much too loud. Bhishma hurried to quiet it down.

“That’s all right. You can’t listen to the Fifth quietly. You like this?”

Bhishma was relieved that he had selected a piece of music which felt vaguely familiar. And while it was too loud, it did make him feel good, important, yet somehow emotionally wrought.

“Yeah. I. Yes. I like it.”

“It’s a bit overplayed but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. I used to dance to it. My balance and my knees, no more. But…I’ll call Alan.”

Bhishma watched Lee semi-waddle to her phone, a little flair for the music visible in the back of her head and hands.

“It is good, isn’t it!” Lee dialed the phone.

Bhishma nodded his head and studied the remaining two cats, who sprung from the carpet as though they were being electrocuted and then fell into an aggressive, pouncing play together.

“They don’t usually do that in front of strangers. They’re enjoying the music. People say cats don’t… Alan? There’s a kid here… Benny. He came to see you. Well, I don’t know. That’s all. Okay. No. No, thank you. Good-bye.” Lee hung up her phone. “He’s out eating. He won’t be back for over an hour. He’s meeting a friend, if you know what I mean. At McDonald’s. That’s just. Well, so I’m sorry. Let me show you the view.”

Lee took Bhishma to the balcony.

“I used to have an unobstructed view of the Disney. Every morning and evening. The sun bouncing into the ether. Really quite marvelous. That’s too loud, isn’t it? I can’t even hear you.”

Lee left Bhishma on the balcony and turned down the music.

“That’s a bit better. I can be… How should I say? Passionate? Yes. What are you passionate about, Benny?”

“I don’t really have nothing.”

“First of all, rubbish. And anything. You’re clearly an exceptional young man. Don’t let people judge you by your grammar. Now it doesn’t need to be like me. And I like a lot of things. You’d be surprised.”

“I don’t know. I like art.”

“You do! Me too! Have you seen the Broad yet?”

“Is that that museum?”

“Yes! Just at the corner…”

“No, not yet. I was supposed to go but I couldn’t.”

“Well, if you can tolerate an old lady lecturing you, you’ve got to make time for the good things. The things you care about. Otherwise you wake up and you’re like Alan at McDonald’s. Sorry, I shouldn’t say nasty things. I’m trying to be better about that. What kind of art? You’ve got a favorite?”

“I don’t know. Uh, can I ask… Do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

“You know, I don’t mind. I’ll even tell you the truth. I just had my eightieth birthday two weeks ago. Not bad, right? I’m not even using that cane anymore. Mother lived to be ninety-eight, and I’m much more fit than she was. I am fat as a horse, but I still exercise in the pool. How about you? How old are you?”

“Me, I’m… How old do you think I am?”

“Now that’s not fair. I could have played that way with you. But truth be known, I was a school teacher, and you’re thirteen or maybe even fourteen. Am I right?”

“Yeah. Thirteen,” said Bhishma, a bit dejected that he looked like a kid, his eyes searching the skyline below.

“It’s the best age, I think. You’re becoming a man before my eyes. Now look over there, that’s the historic core way far away, and then you can’t see it, but the Angel’s Flight is just beyond the California Plaza there. And there’s MOCA. I prefer the Broad, though. May I get you a glass of water?”

Bhishma’s eyes glued themselves to the horizon. He looked at cranes and skyscrapers and people marching below. Becoming aware of himself, Bhishma closed his gaped mouth and shoved his hand back into his pocket.

“I should be going.”

“Well, okay. But do you want any water or a banana?”

“That would be nice.”

They returned inside the apartment. Bhishma followed Lee toward the door and the kitchenette area. There was cat food spilled all over the linoleum floor. Lee poured Bhishma water into a beveled, green water goblet, which Bhishma proceeded to suck down.

“I believe any fluid tastes better in a proper glass. Here’s your banana for the road. Will you come back?”

“Yes. When will Alan Craig be here?”

“You can call him Alan. Everybody does. Any other time is as good a guess as any.”

“Okay. Um. Can I come back tomorrow same time?”

“You may. Nice to meet you, Benny.”

Bhishma took the banana and walked to the door. “Okay. Thanks. Thank you for everything.”

* * *

That night Bhishma went straight to his bedroom. He noticed how the family apartment smelled like Mexican laundry detergent, and curry and the sweet perfume of cooked rice, and then he shut his door. He thought about the images he’d seen on his phone during the Metro ride home: the Basquiat self-portrait at the Broad; the strange, balloon-like objects; the giant table. And how a growling in the fancy music had stayed inside of him. He didn’t really like it, exactly, but it had also infected something within him. And how Lee, with her bushy eyebrows, had said he was smart and becoming a man. He considered keeping the wallet, but he didn’t want anyone to find out. And he would feel terrible if Lee thought he was rotten, like how he was, but she hadn’t seen it yet.

* * *

“And there he is,” said Lee as she flew open the front door. “Alan! Well, don’t just stand there, Benny. Come in.”

Bhishma felt a bit shy and happy to be back.

“He’s in the bathroom, I think. Just come in.”

Bhishma walked back into the living room. The cats were elsewhere but MSNBC was still blaring from the bedroom, and from another TV in a different room a plodding narration of World War II on the History Channel. Lee wore a lavender skirt and a cream jersey top with the hint of red sauce at her bosom. Bhishma could feel the wallet in his pocket. The air smelled a bit like diarrhea and Bhishma felt embarrassed. Lee adjusted her stance and pushed her right foot towards Bhishma.

“I just went to my salon this morning. Didn’t even take my cane. I got pink. What do you think? I’m becoming quite domesticated.”

Bhishma noticed Lee’s eyebrows had been shaped and trimmed. For some reason it disappointed him. And then the bathroom door opened, the vent fan sputtering, and after a second the dome light clicked off. Out came a gray man, more lump than lines, wearing polyester shorts and a yellow, stained t-shirt.

“There he is. Alan. Benny.”

Alan ambled into the room. To say Bhishma was disappointed by the look of him would be an understatement. Alan approached Bhishma with a cautious suspicion.

“Hi. I’m, uh, Benny. You don’t know me. I just,” Bhishma fumbled into his pocket and pulled out the wallet.

Like a chicken seeing a worm, Alan’s bland face lit up with recognition.

“I was with my friends last week, at Wii Spa, and I found this. It didn’t have your phone number or nothing. Anything. So I just came here.”

“Yeah. I was there.” Alan took the wallet and began to look through it and count money. “I thought I had another twenty in here.”

Bhishma’s face lit crimson red.

“No. I… It was in the locker. I didn’t take any.”

“Of course you didn’t. Alan, say thank you, for Pete’s sake.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Bhishma felt a wave of despair. Alan saw him as a thug. After all that he had tried to do, it didn’t matter. Alan toddled back into his bedroom with the History Channel and shut the door.

“Hey, kid. I have a ticket to see Cindy Sherman at the Broad. You wanna come? Marilyn from church is having more trouble with her hip, so I’ve got an extra ticket.”

“That’s okay. I should go.”

“Rubbish. What did I tell you? You need to get to the good stuff. Or else you become something else,” and then, in a stage whisper, “Like that loaf in there.”

Bhishma smiled.

“If it makes you feel any better, he doesn’t pay me any rent either. Big toad. Just can’t get rid of him now. Let’s go. I’m sorry but I’m going to bring my walker. There’s nowhere to sit in that place. We can trade off sitting in it.”

Lee moved quickly, despite her waddle, and they walked past the lines of people into the museum into the exhibit. “Come on. She’s the vainest person on the planet, but you have got to check out some stuff.”

They looked at the collection of bus rider series. Bhishma stared, somehow transfixed.

“But it’s all her?” said Bhishma, pointing to other pictures of Sherman. “I mean that’s makeup but that’s a guy.”

“Yep. All her. Like I said, vain as the day is long.”

“But she’s different people…” There was a quiet while Bhishma went from one photograph to the next, studying the similarities, “that doesn’t even look. It looks like she’s a black chick there.”

Lee and Bhishma moved from one room to the next. Lee watched Bhishma study the photographs. Bhishma’s pupils dilated. Something inside of Bhishma (like a light switch) had illuminated.

“You know, Benny,” said Lee, “I have a son. I was a terrible mother. That’s the truth. Honestly. My mother was awful to me, and my husband left, and I was just terrible. If I could go back, I would say, ‘Don’t change. You’re beautiful. Period. End of discussion. Anyone who tries to make you feel small or turn you into something bland, they’re crap. They’re the broken ones. Don’t let them break you.’ I wish I could tell that to him, back when he was young.”

“That’s too bad. My parents don’t care about me.”

“I could say rubbish, but you know it is.”

“I guess.”

“Don’t guess. What do you think of this one? The way the camera is cropped.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I understand,” he said.

Lee belted out a laugh and grabbed Bhishma’s arm.

“There you go. Good answer. You’re an artist. You’re not interested in being a critic. You’re alive at the creativity. Come on, let’s go upstairs. I can’t have another Cindy stare at me, or my eyes are going to pop out of my head.”

Lee gave Bhishma the walker and managed her way up the stairs with an old-dog exuberance. When they emerged at the top, Bhishma was dumbstruck: by the color, the scale, and, most of all, the mysterious content. He followed Lee as they headed straight to “In the Land of the Dead Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow.”

“Yes, yes,” said Lee as they hurried to their first point of observation. “Chair, please.”

Bhishma set down Lee’s walker. The art was like nothing he’d ever imagined. Part graffiti, part pop art, part wallpaper, all about the unknown, the ancient story, death and life and beauty in the grotesque… An awakening, and his own personal story, the story he’d never exactly understood, the story he had avoided, the story that choked and embarrassed him, the story that swore he was the only one, his story placed here upon two walls in a museum.

A crowd of people undulated in and out. People took selfies. People posed. A little kid about to touch the rainbow waterfall with the phoenix got yanked back by her mother. And then the next wave arrived. Lee let out a sigh of exasperation. She slapped her hands on her knees and rotated her hips.

“I take it back. I wouldn’t tell him to accept himself and know his own beauty. That’s too hard. I’d say, ‘Be still.’ You know? Just be still and watch. No one knows how to be still anymore. Everything’s about us, and it is, but those feelings… It’s not a photo op. They’ve all got somewhere to do. Go, go, go. Shall we follow suit and go? My species is annoying the hell out of me.”

Bhishma didn’t want to leave, ever. And there was so much more of the museum he wanted to see, but Lee had already lifted up her walker and handed it to him.

“Let’s us come back another day, kid.”

“Okay. Yes.”

The stairs were harder for Lee on the way down, and by the time they snail-paced to the ground floor, Bhishma was feeling overcome by the need to get home. Enakshi would never believe him when he said he’d been hanging out with an eighty-year-old white lady at a museum, and he was supposed to be home before five in the evening unless he cleared it with her first.

“It’s a quarter to five,” said Bhishma, the words landing flat, like half a question.

“All right. Is that your way of saying you need to leave?’

“I should have. Yes.”

“Well, Benny, get on with you. I’ll sit here in the garden. Next time we will have more time.”

“Sure. Okay, bye. Thank you.” Bhishma started to jog away but stopped himself at the doors. “So next Thursday?”

Lee nodded her head and waved.

* * *

Bhishma’s heart began to pound. The week had been more non-event than event. He hadn’t been able to hang out with Eddie alone at all. And being with Danny and the guys had felt strange, like he was an embedded journalist, only pretending to be a part of their conversations. Enakshi had let Kiefer come over to study in the living room, and Bhishma had come home to them on the sofa laughing, with their hair all mussed up and her bra on the floor. Bhishma told her he didn’t care, but Kiefer better leave before Aame and Buwa got home. For some reason Bhishma worried that Kiefer didn’t understand that they were from Nepal: that the doltish blonde might think they were from South Korea or Ecuador. He wouldn’t want to admit it, because it would be completely lame, but coming to see Lee and, most of all, going to the Broad and seeing more art… It was all he wanted to do.

Bhishma knocked on door 1401. He could hear the thud of his heart inside his eardrums. The wait was longer than either time before.

“Hello?”

Still no answer. He knocked again. And a certain kind of silence he hadn’t heard from the apartment before. The televisions were silent. The cats must have been hiding under the beds. After knocking yet again, Bhishma went down to the lobby and stopped in front of the concierge, who ate SunChips, the rest of his Subway wrappers splayed on the counter.

“Yeah?”

“I just, I was wondering about a… Well, a friend of mine. From fourteen-oh-one. Lee Lemon?”

The guy’s face kinda fell, and he set down his bag of chips and glanced into a notebook.

“Aw, kid, I’m sorry. Fourteen-zero-one? That’s it. What’s your name?”

At that point a gut hunch in the silence of the apartment was confirmed. But somehow the rest of the words still needed to be uttered.

“Benny…Bhishma.”

“Benny?”

“Bhishma.”

“Yeah… She died. On Saturday. I’m really sorry.”

“Oh, crap… She was so cool,” said Bhishma. “I mean, she really was.”

“I bet.”

Bhishma left the concierge with his SunChips and started walking. He walked past the olive tree park, past the food trucks, through all the people standing in line, a flurry of selfies past the Broad. He hated everyone who stood in the line. He hated everyone for their grand self-importance. He wanted to run but Bhishma kept walking. The more Bhishma wanted to run, the more his feet slowed down. Outside the Disney Concert Hall, a chartered busload of people took to the street, a mixed crowd, mainly older, mainly Chinese. A homeless woman lay on the bus bench like a stack of tattered blankets. The sun reflected on the metal of the building. A little girl held her father’s hand. A hawk flew above. The traffic light changed and a new slew of traffic sped past. And Bhishma found himself stilled among them.


writer's Bio:

Ann Harper Reed has rappelled from helicopters to fight forest fires in the Sierra Nevada, traipsed the Peruvian Amazon in search of God, and worked the factory floor in Iowa. Her first novel Element of Blank was well reviewed. Midwest Book Review described Reed’s writing as “raw, dark, gritty, and undeniably compelling.” Her works have been published in Harper's Bazaar Brazil, FRE&D, and I'll Have Wednesday. She's a member of The Los Angeles Poets and Writers' Collective. She graduated cum laude from Occidental College and currently resides in Oahu, HI. www.annharperreed.com