Global Haiku • Spring 2010
Dr. Randy Brooks

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Susie Wirthlin

1st Place Haiku Story Award
for "Alexander" as judged by
Dr. David Lanoue


Susie Wirthlin

My name is Alexander. I am eleven years old, and tomorrow is I will turn twelve years old. My peers try to call me Alex, and my Dad tries to call me Al, but I like Alexander. I like a lot of things that don’t make sense to other people. I like to yell, but not like the other kids. I like to yell at the other kids. In the hallways, in class, when they’re eating their lunch. I try to figure out why, but I can’t. It’s always...inspired, something in the heat of the moment. Bill would die if he saw what I’m writing now. He calls himself a “friend,” but actually he is my specialist. My mother, Alice, takes me to him three times a week. Sometimes more.

playing tag and tetherball

I get panicky a lot. And I don’t like to talk to other people. So that’s why I write. This is my thirteenth journal, the twentieth page. But this is the first page where I’m writing about me. Bill tells me to write stories, stories about big boys and girls who talk and hold hands and eat lunch and play tetherball. Normal stuff. But that stuff is boring to write about. Bill doesn’t understand that simply writing about normality doesn’t make any difference in my actual doing. The stories aren’t good. They’re bland and sculpted by the treatment, like white bread sliced with cookie cutters. I wish I could burn them all, but I can’t. That would be a major disappointment to Bill and Alice. And to Dad. I guess. That’s why I’m writing this, and other stuff too. So I don’t burn the white bread stories. And also to prove that I do have something normal about me: an imagination.

waiting room
white walls screaming
broken water

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived in a faraway land called The Land of Port. This princess was pretty and nice, and everyone liked her. She was popular, and had many young men interested in knowing her. Everything looked perfect from the outside. But on the inside, she was dying. Something evil had crept into her castle and taken over her daddy. He liked her too. Even though he said it was okay, the princess still knew something was bad. So she ran away. But she always got caught and taken back to her castle, and locked away. One by one the young men were sent away, discouraged by the daddy. The princess was sad. She wondered if life would ever get any better.

pink bedroom
he turns the teddy bear’s face
to the wall

As time went by, the princess learned things. She learned things and went to a wonderful place where men and women taught her about the world, and she lived with other princesses who’s daddies hadn’t been infected by something bad, and she slept with her animals with their eyes on her, watching. And then a boy came along. He promised to always watch over her. And he did...for a while.

darkened bedroom
he delicately caresses
her scars

Alice had a “disappointing” childhood. That’s the way she put it one night at dinner, 4 months ago on a Tuesday. She probably doesn’t even remember that she said it, but she did. I remember lots of things other people don’t. She was propped up by her Zoloft, and that night she was rambling and gesturing with the delicate wine stem in her manicured hand, saying words like “nuisance,” “disruption,” and her favorite word, “disappointing.” She uses that word like an exotic spice that she can’t get enough of, as if a privileged childhood filled with molestation and self-mutilation was something as mundane as coriander. As if an autistic child was a chipped nail, something to be touched up and fixed by someone else.

steamy kitchen
dumping all of her salt
in my soup

So tomorrow I turn twelve. I think in my twelve years on this Earth, I’ve seen pretty much of human misery. A drugged up Alice and a delusional Dad can really open up a kid’s eyes, even if he does have a “disappointing” disability. In my humble, Alexander opinion, Alice’s problems far outweigh mine. At least I don’t need five different medications to wake me up and send me on my way in the morning. She has to take them in order to speak and interact with those around her. But me...I don’t have to interact with anyone. I have a built-in, ready made excuse. Forever.

The princess lived happily with her boy (and soon her prince) for a while. They moved far away from the Land of Port and decided to forget the past once and for all. But soon, it became clear that the past hadn’t agreed. The princess was plagued by headaches, nausea, and weight. A baby. But the baby didn’t come right. It disappeared one day in a red river that drained the princess of her last resolve. She began to see things, people who weren’t there. Her Daddy frequented her in the night, inside of her head where she couldn’t get him out. So her prince stood upright and proclaimed they would see a healer. The healer worked wonders. He took away the people and sounds and sent Daddy on his way...but he also took away the princess’ taste, smells, smile, and feelings. She just sat there. And soon she took more of the healer’s cures, day after day, more and more cures she swallowed.

warm bed
carving into the warm sun
black void

When she and her prince made love, she lay there in a haze, sometimes not knowing exactly what she was experiencing. Then one day, another baby came. This one did not go away in a red river. But he was still not quite right. He didn’t talk, didn’t play with his toys. The healer came back, and told the princess the magic word. What a disappointment for a beautiful princess and her devoted prince.

doctor’s office
the sterile white table
can’t lift his head

So tomorrow is my birthday. And tonight, as I write this, about to go to sleep in my warm cozy bed, I realized something. If Alice can’t feel anything, and Dad is too busy and deluded to see anything, what does that leave me with? All the feeling and seeing and hearing and touching and experiencing of the world, the understanding that those adults and peers and Bill will never know. I’m done, essentially. I have a meeting with Bill tomorrow. On my birthday...yes. It’s not as if Alice can throw a party for me; even a flickering candle can make my heart pound. So tomorrow I’ll see Bill. At four in the afternoon, in his beige office with the colorful prints hanging on the walls that are meant to stimulate children, me and Bill will meet. I think I’m going to show him this story. I wonder what he’ll say. “An imagination!” I can’t even imagine.

giving him a gift

          Susie Wirthlin

© 2010, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.