Two Stories by Andrew Tran
Toy Story 2, Walt Disney Pictures, 1999
Elise and the Cat
Elise stared in awe at the looming river birch tree. It stood at an irregular angle, stump-slanted and uneven. Bowlegged, for the boughs stretched. And they spread and reached. Dandelions and petunias, too, faced the blue brick bungalow, sitting at the corner of the cul-de-sac. It was 8:45pm and a dreary summer night rolled by. It was dark. The moon shined. And there was a white cat, with a black tail thick as the bristles on a paint brush, sitting on the top branch of the tree. The cat purred and licked its paws. Elise had always wanted a pet, but her mom and dad said no. She wanted to hold the cat and give it milk. Feed it tuna. She wanted a friend.
She had to get to the cat. Elise took in a deep breath, reached up and began to climb the tree. She hugged the thick trunk, feeling the bark scratch against her cheek. She extended her hand across and grasped one of the low-hanging branches. She wedged the soles of her shoes against the bark and climbed. The cat meowed and sank down on its hind legs before springing up onto a higher branch. Elise smiled at the cat.
She felt cold and rubbed her arms to build up warmth in her blood. She brushed back her black hair and found a foothold on the right side of the tree. She lodged her foot there and grabbed ahold of a branch. The bark teared and chipped. It collapsed. A single green leaf to her touch, she plunged to the ground. The cat hissed and whimpered, jumping from branch-to-branch. Elise was looking up towards the sky, until the back of her head hit the rough soil.
She was only six years old.
Davidson, Elise’s older brother, was snug in bed when he heard the noise. He looked out and saw the river birch tree. A branch was missing. Elise was lying on the ground. At first, he thought his sister was playing possum. A minute passed. She still hadn’t moved. He rushed to his parent’s room. “Dad, mom, dad, mom. Elise is on the ground and she’s not moving,” he screamed. No answer.
Arnold and the Flag
When his parents passed away—dying instantly in a boating accident—Arnold inherited a pickup truck and astronaut suit from his dad and a welder’s helmet and blowtorch from his mom. Dad used to love riding around in his pickup truck, careening over rocky trails to cruise across grassy plains, so different to New York City. Every Halloween, he wore the astronaut suit and delighted in pretending that he was Buzz Lightyear. He worshiped outer-space and dreamed of living on a different planet. Perhaps Pluto; maybe Mars.
Arnold shared the same outsider mentality as dad. They both felt distant from others. They were not astronauts, but rather extraterrestrials.
Mom, when she had downtime from financing at the dealership, put on her welder’s helmet and grabbed her blowtorch. Mom created glass figurines and sculptures, in the garage of their two-story Georgian style house. She imagined being the only person in the world, a world in which the only thing that carried importance was heating up glass and shaping it into artwork. Mom generated hundreds of figurines and sculptures. She made Medusa, Helen of Troy, Jackie Kennedy and Jackie Brown. Hers was an agency born from years of hard work, guts and grit.
Dad was Buzz Lightyear. Mom was Iron Man. And somewhere in between, Arnold searched for his seat at the pantheon of superheroes.
A confederate flag billowed unapologetically in the wind blowing from the Northeast. Arnold was cruising in his pickup truck, passing through Richmond, Virginia, when he saw the flag. He was damn sure he didn’t want to see that flag flying high and waving dangerously. He was a P.O.C. Arnold put his hand over his stomach. His insides were churning. His head swirled with dizziness.
After parking, he took in a deep breath, opened the door and began to walk to the back of his pickup truck. He was from Reston, Virginia, a part of Northern Virginia that seemed to be covered only in swimming pools, office space and vibrant nature trails. As he walked, his piece of gum stuck to the corner of his mouth. It felt unnatural to him.
Arnold reached inside of his truck’s bed and grabbed ahold of the blow-torch. Arnold put on the astronaut suit and the welder’s helmet. He raised up the blowtorch and felt connected to his deceased parents. The astronaut suit, the welder’s helmet, the blowtorch gave him solace. He felt a comfort that he wouldn’t give up for anything. He strapped the gasoline tank over his shoulders. Now vindication.
About the Author:
Andy Tran lives and works in the Washington DC metro area. His writing has been featured in The Virginia. Normal, Defenestration Magazine, Calliope, and Queens Mob Teahouse. He’s a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, and he has a degree in English.