The Emerald City | Verso.ink

The Emerald City

By Cassiopeia Fletcher

3
~ 27
163
A small town in Kansas

The sidewalk stretched towards the horizon, never twisting or bending as it shone pearlescent in the sunlight. His brand new scooter jumped and rattled with every dip and imperfection in the sidewalk. The handlebars, wrapped in bright red foam that reflected in the chrome neck, felt like clouds beneath Joe’s palms.

He almost regretted cutting off the red and white plastic streamers that were attached to the hollow ends of the handlebars, wondering how they would look flapping in the breeze as he raced down the empty sidewalk. But the streamers were very girly and no self-respecting nine-year-old boy would keep them. Mom had sighed when Joe asked for a pair of scissors but handed them over without a word. She looked on with a small frown as he grabbed a handful of the cheery plastic and snipped it off, the little streamers slipping from his fingers to litter the garage floor like confetti.

For now, the long plastic ribbons remained on the concrete floor, coiled up like two dozen red and white snakes prepared to strike. Joe promised to clean them up when he got back from the store, the whole reason he’d needed to cut the streamers off in the first place. The store was on the corner, across the street from Joe’s neighborhood. Liam Parks lived in the corner house, just before the stop sign, and he noticed everything.

Joe’s house was the smallest on the block with a dilapidated porch colored by weeds that poked through the cracks between wood planks. Vines and dandelions filled the diamond spaces of the splintered lattice that rimmed the gaping maw beneath the bowed porch boards. The front entryway’s broken screen door hung from the top hinge and thunked off the bottom hinge every time it opened. Mom said she would fix it—it was on the long list of Things-To-Do she stuck to the rust pocked white fridge with a Mickey Mouse magnet—but she never had the time. Joe didn’t mind, the back door opened fine despite the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound it made when the door slammed closed.

On Wednesdays and Sundays, Joe pulled the dandelions out of the tangled vines and weeds beneath the porch and put them in a clear plastic Solo cup on the kitchen counter. That way, Mom would see them when she came home from third shift at the hospital in the next town over. He was always asleep when she saw them, but he knew she was happy because she would draw a smiley-face on a post-it note and stick it to the bathroom mirror so he’d see it when he brushed his teeth.

The only time Joe invited Liam over to play, the older boy had wrinkled his nose at the disposable red plates stacked in the sink and the popcorn bits scattered across the color-blocked commercial carpeting Mom bought for fifty dollars from Dr. Jay when he re-did the floors in his dentist office. Liam had twisted the sleeve of his sweater between his fingers as he trailed down the short hallway after Joe.

They spent less than an hour playing with Joe’s second-hand Ninja Turtles on the cut square of color-blocked carpeting that covered his bedroom's plywood floor. Liam didn’t say anything, he just looked around taking note of the mustard yellow paint on Joe’s walls and the two mattresses stacked together without a frame. It was embarrassing.

“That’s a lovely scooter, dear,” said Mrs. Newman from next door. Her dandelion fluff hair rose over the fence line as she smiled at Joe between pickets. She was gardening again, tending the flowers and bushes that grew on the inside of the white plastic fence that circled her tiny, single story house. Mom said it was very American Dream.

Daffodils and violets seemed to be Mrs. Newman’s favorite flowers because she planted them everywhere. Cascades of tiny, blue-faced flowers tumbled from the sunshine yellow window boxes set into the bottom of the two front windows that bordered the jade painted door. Mrs. Newman liked lots of color, though the house itself was a plain eggshell white.

“Thank you, Mrs. Newman,” Joe said, stopping next to the mailbox Mrs. Newman’s son Nick had painted cobalt blue. Nick didn’t live with her anymore, he was too old for that—Mom said he was almost forty—but he stopped by almost every day to help Mrs. Newman around the house.

“If your mom doesn’t mind, Joseph,” Mrs. Newman said and Joe sighed—he’d long stopped telling her his name was Jonah. “I’d like my Nick to come spray your yard for weeds this week. They’ll start cottoning soon and I’d rather you not share.”

“I don’t think Mom will care,” Joe said, scratching his toe against the sidewalk. The sun was high in the sky now and his shadow had dissolved into a single blob of black beneath his scooter. Nick was nice, even if he was old, and he made Mom laugh. It was a stupid laugh, high and bubbly as she twisted her already curly hair around her finger, but it was still a laugh.

Nick only moved back to town three months ago, but Joe had known about him for years. Every time Mom was late coming back from work, she’d call Mrs. Newman, and the kindly old woman would be standing on her doorstep as Joe stepped off the bus.

Joe liked those days because Mrs. Newman always had cookies and milk in the kitchen; the warm, gooey, fresh-from-the-oven kind with extra chocolate chips. On a good day, Joe could eat five cookies before Mrs. Newman realized they were gone because she spent all of her time talking about her son Nick who lived in Florida with his crazy wife and her even crazier mother.

“She doesn’t even want kids!” Mrs. Newman would say as she pulled a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. “What’s the point in getting married if you’re not going to have kids? I’m not getting any younger, you know. I want grandbabies!”

And then, as if remembering Joe was there, Mrs. Newman would give him her widest smile as she set a glass of milk next to the overflowing plate of cookies Joe was snitching from.

“Oh dear, where has my brain gone,” she would say apologetically as she pushed the cookie plate closer. “Have another cookie, dear.” Joe always nodded politely and smiled, his cheeks stuffed chipmunk-like with warm dough and melted chocolate.

“Fank-fu, Mfs. Nufman.”

Now that school was out for the summer, Joe spent even more time at Mrs. Newman’s house than before. Today, however, was Sunday, and Mom didn’t work on Sundays until late. Right now she was making lunch, but Joe had forgotten to tell her he’d used the last of the Wonder Bread for cinnamon toast. Since the tomato soup was opened and Mom had already sliced the cheese, she’d decided to run down to the corner store for some more bread.

“I’ll do it!” Joe said, waving his hand in the air as he tried not to jump. The whole house shook when he jumped. “Please? I’m nine today, Mom. I can do it myself, right?”

She was going to say no, he could see it in her face. With great restraint, Joe tucked his hands behind his back, stood straight, and gave her his biggest puppy eyes.

“I can’t help?”

With a heavy sigh, Mom relented. “But take your scooter,” she said. “And don’t leave the sidewalk!”

And so here Joe was, standing on his scooter in front of Mrs. Newman’s house as the old woman tended her petunias.

“Are you off to young Liam’s house?” the cotton-haired woman asked. “I do believe his family just drove in from church. Such a lovely family. His mother quite likes my butternut squash. I’d have you take her some but it’s still mid-summer, you know. They’ll not be up for a while yet.”

“No, Mrs. Newman,” Joe said, long used to the woman’s absent-minded ramblings. “I’m off to the corner store for bread. Mom’s making lunch.”

“To Ozzie’s you say?” Mrs. Newman looked both startled and impressed, and Joe preened under her wide-eyed gaze. “All on your own then? How grown-up!”

“Yes.” Joe nodded once in projected humility—Mom said it was wrong to be prideful. “Today is my birthday. I’m nine, now.”

“Oh my! Happy birthday, dear.” Her brow furrowed, and she cocked her head to the side. “I’m sure I must have known that; you and your mother having lived next door for so long.” She shook her head with a laugh. “I suppose you won’t be needing me much longer then, will you?”

She looked so sad as she said it, Joe couldn’t help but exclaim, “Mom said next year too; after school starts.”

A bit startled by the outburst, Mrs. Newman stared at Joe for just a moment before her face softened into a warm smile. “I’d quite like that, dear.”

Joe beamed, grateful he could help the old woman feel happy again. Mrs. Newman looked best with a smile.

“Oh!” Mrs. Newman exclaimed, her eyes on the road over Joe’s head. “Where has my brain gone?”

Joe turned just as Nick’s gray Pontiac turned into Mrs. Newman’s drive. It was an ugly car, dented and rust-pocked like an old tin can dropped too many times and left in a damp cellar, but Joe loved it. Sometimes, when Nick came to visit and Mom wasn’t home yet, Nick would take him driving down Hwy 27 until the cornfields hit the river. Propped up on his knees, the windows all down so the wind could rush inside, Joe felt like he was flying. It was the best feeling in the world, and Joe always hated when Nick slowed the car to turn around and drive back into town.

“Can’t we go a little farther?” Joe once asked, turned around in his seat so he wouldn’t have to watch the town come back into view. “Just over the bridge?”

“Sorry, Buddy,” Nick had said, ruffling Joe’s hair without looking over. “But it’s best to avoid the water; I wouldn’t want the old Tin Can to rust solid. If that happened, we wouldn’t be able to drive at all!”

That didn’t really make sense, but if crossing the river meant they couldn’t drive anymore, then Joe was okay with not crossing the river. For now.

“Hey, Joey,” Nick said, climbing out of the Tin Can’s driver-side door. He slammed the door shut, and it bounced back. Muttering, Nick slammed the door again, and it reluctantly latched.

“Piece of junk,” Nick grumbled. “I hope that stupid credit check goes through.”

“Still haven’t gotten your new car?” Mrs. Newman asked, standing up behind her picket fence. She was only about a foot taller than the triangle tipped plastic barrier with most of her height coming from her curly puff of silver hair.

“You’re replacing the Tin Can?” Joe’s face contorted with anguish. “Why? I love the Tin Can!”

“So do I,” Nick said, patting the Tin Can’s roof. “Despite everything, he’s been good to me. But it’s about time I got something better.” He winked at Joe. “Faster.”

Despite his anguish at losing the Tin Can, Joe couldn’t help but be curious. “Faster?”

Nick nodded with a grin. “Definitely. Is your mom in?”

“She’s making lunch,” Joe said, working his fingers around his scooter's foam handles. The Tin Can was a good car, but a faster car would be good too, right? Maybe then he and Nick could drive across the river before the car could rust.

“Weren’t you on an errand, Joseph?” Mrs. Newman asked. “I’m sure your mother is waiting.”

“I forgot!” Joe exclaimed. He looked back at Nick with his chest puffed out and his chin angled upward. “I’m going to the store for Mom. We need bread.”

“The store, huh?” Nick squinted down the sidewalk towards the end of the street. “You mean Ozzie’s, right?”

“Yes,” Joe said, trying to tamp down on his smugness. “I’m nine, now, so I can go that far.”

Nick whistled, obviously impressed, and Joe preened. “Nine, huh? You sure are growing up fast.” He looked over at Joe’s house and licked his lips, rubbing them together in thought. “It alright if I keep your mom company till you’re back?”

Joe shrugged. “Sure. But you should stay for lunch, too. We’re having grilled cheese and soup.”

Nick grinned. “My favorite.”

“Mine too.”

“Oh, honestly.” Mrs. Newman huffed, squatting back down to work on her flowerbed. “Loitering on the sidewalk. Off with you both!”

“See you later, Mrs. Newman,” Joe said, waving as he kicked his scooter down the pasty-white sidewalk. “Bye, Nick.”

“See you in a bit,” Nick said, but Joe was already turned around to watch the corner. The Turner’s house came next, but they weren’t home. They always took their boat out on Sundays, driving all of the way to Brown Lake to fish. Joe scooted by their salmon house—it wasn’t pink, the Turner’s oldest son Harry said so—and bumped over a crack in the sidewalk.

The next house was pale blue, like a robin’s egg, but Joe didn’t know who lived there so he just scooted on by, ignoring the overabundance of garden gnomes that populated the small front yard. There were at least a dozen of them, all painted vibrant colors with their faces frozen in creepy smiles. He'd never liked those stupid gnomes.

“Hey, Joe,” Liam said from his front porch, and Joe looked over the gnome-infested yard to wave. “I can’t play on Sundays.”

“I know,” Joe said, it was the same rule Liam always had. To Liam’s mom, Sunday was for family. “I’m going to the store.”

Liam’s eyes went wide. “By yourself?”

“Yeah,” Joe said with a careless shrug. He didn’t want to brag. “It’s no big deal.”

“But…” Liam looked out towards the road that edged the sidewalk to the left of his house. Unlike the neighborhood road where kids often gathered to play kickball after school, Poppy Street was a main road; it ran all of the way to the edge of town. Liam looked back at Joe with wide eyes. “What if a car comes?”

“I won’t go when there’s a car,” Joe said, motioning towards the empty road. “Besides, it’s Sunday.”

Liam pursed his lips. “I guess.” His eyes narrowed at Joe. “Is that a new scooter?”

Joe rolled back and forth on his scooter, only moving an inch or two each time. “Yeah. For my birthday.”

Liam’s face turned sour. “You should wear a helmet. Scooters are dangerous. What if you fell off?”

“I’m not a baby,” Joe sulked. Why did Liam always have to spoil everything?

“Liam?” Mrs. Park called through the open screen door. “It’s time for lunch.”

“Coming.” Unlike other kids, Liam didn’t jump up and run inside. Instead, he carefully picked up his uniformly placed army-men and put them into a plastic ice-cream bucket. Snapping the lid on, Liam stood and brushed off his khaki church pants.

“You should go home and get your mom,” Liam said, his eyes moving back to Poppy Street before looking back at Joe. “You shouldn’t cross the street by yourself.”

“It’s fine,” Joe said, trying not to snap as he rolled his scooter harder, the distance shorter. “I’m not a kid.”

Liam shrugged and went inside. Once the door closed, Joe stuck out his tongue at Liam’s back. Even though he was a year older than Joe, Liam was such a scaredy-cat. Why were they even friends?

Scooting passed Liam’s house, Joe abruptly ran out of sidewalk. He stared out at the daunting stretch of black road that separated him from Ozzie’s Corner Store and suddenly he understood. Liam lived off this street; cars probably drove by all the time. Apprehension opened in Joe’s stomach, yawning as wide as the yellow-lined road barring his way to Ozzie’s.

Going from the sidewalk to the road was easy; a ramp was built into the sidewalk so his scooter would barely bump as Joe maneuvered it onto the black asphalt. But there was something about that jarring juxtaposition of black and white pavement that made him pause. If Joe crossed the street by himself, then it was proof that he was a man now. But was he ready for that?

Being a man meant that he had to be brave and strong. No more running to Mom’s room after a nightmare or during a thunderstorm. No more Mrs. Newman and her gooey cookies or late afternoon rides with Nick. He’d have extra chores instead of TV time and more vegetables than dessert. He didn’t want any of that.

But he promised Mom.

Swallowing hard, Joe shifted his scooter until the front wheel edged against the black pavement. He paused, looked both ways. Nothing. There wasn’t a light on the corner, only a stop sign, but Joe stared at it; daring the sign to change colors. Nothing.

With another quick glance down the street, Joe pushed out onto the asphalt. The road was seamless beneath Joe’s scooter, and he coasted across the whole black expanse with only a single thrust. The wind rushed through his hair and stung his eyes as he went, picking up speed with the very slight slope that angled him directly in front of Ozzie’s Corner Store.

Leaning left, Joe angled his wheel to hit the sloped ramp that led up to the sidewalk. He thumped into it, the front wheel hitting a crack. The world lurched, the sidewalk, road, and green-painted bricks of Ozzie’s store all blurred together with a splash of blue that must have been the sky.

Joe crashed against the ground with a gasp, his whole body jarring from the impact. Everything throbbed, and he closed his eyes against the sting of tears that clouded his vision. He wouldn’t cry. Joe sucked his lower lip into his mouth to stop it from trembling.

Breathing slowly, trying to sort out what hurt worst, Joe slowly opened his eyes and pushed up onto his right arm. The arm didn’t hurt, but his ribs flared and Joe gasped, freezing against the pain. His whole right side felt like it was on fire. His knee hurt too, even worse than his side.

Blood trickled down his right knee, staining his white baseball sock and dripping onto his second-hand sneaker. Joe sniffled, biting down hard on his traitorous lower lip as it tried to wobble. He was grown up now, nine whole years old! He wouldn’t cry.

Standing up, Joe scrubbed his teary eyes with the back of his hand and grabbed the scooter’s red handlebars. The chrome neck was dented in two places, distorting his reflection, and part of the handlebar foam was torn. He wheeled the dented scooter to the store’s bike rack but knew better than to slip it between the U-shaped divisions. Instead, Joe turned the scooter sideways and leaned it against the wall behind the rack.

Now that he was up and moving, his ribs didn’t hurt as bad, though his knee stung even worse. Joe sniffled and scrubbed the brimming tears from his eyes. His knee was scratched and bloody but as long as he didn’t look at it, he was fine. Wobbly lower lip now fully under control, Joe released it from his teeth and half-limped to the storefront. The bell over the door jingled cheerily as he stepped inside.

He’d been to this same store a thousand times with Mom, but somehow it seemed bigger today. The aisles went on forever, each one packed with different kinds of food. Red-boxed crackers were lined up next to bottles of Coke and Dr. Pepper with a giant yellow sign above them all that read “Sale! 75% off.” The green floors reflected the glaringly bright florescent lights that hung overhead and the tiles reflected in the glass-faced doors that kept the milk and ice-cream cold. Would Mom be mad if he got a fudge bar too?

“Don’t you bleed on my floor!”

Joe jumped, his injured knee giving out from shock. A large hand closed around Joe’s arm, holding him up. Joe looked up and back to see Ozzie standing over him. The store owner was a big man, almost as wide as he was tall, with a ruddy, unshaven face. His store apron stretched tight over his large, round stomach, which made the white-stitched Ozzie’s Corner Store stand out even more boldly against the viridian fabric. Joe’s mouth worked wordlessly. Had Ozzie always been this big?

“I just mopped,” Ozzie continued. His dark eyes glanced down at Joe’s bloody knee, and his large caterpillar eyes drew down in annoyance. “I got a clean rag in the back. Don’t move.”

Joe stood ram-rod still as Ozzie barreled down a narrow aisle to reach the open work-room door. He knew Ozzie wasn’t being mean; he was always like that. Mom said he was an abrasive man but that he was all talk and no bite. But knowing that didn’t stop Joe from wrapping his arms around his waist where he clenched the fabric of his graying Royals t-shirt.

Standing still with nothing to do but look around the overwhelmingly large store, Joe couldn’t ignore the pain in his leg. It burned all the way down to his ankle. He wanted to move, just a little, to take his mind off the pain, but if he did, Ozzie was sure to notice.

“Here,” Ozzie said, dropping a ratty white rag onto Joe’s head as he came out of the backroom. The rag was old, tattered around the edges, and looked like it used to be a towel, but it smelled clean and there weren’t any stains.

“Thanks,” Joe said, going down on his good leg to press the rag against his bloody knee. It looked a lot worse than he originally thought, and Joe winced as he pressed the rag against the torn skin.

“What are you doin’ here anyway?” Ozzie asked. “Where’s your mom?”

“Making lunch,” Joe said, glancing up at Ozzie through his bangs. Kneeling on the floor, Ozzie was even larger and scarier than before. “We ran out of bread.”

“Bread’s on aisle three,” Ozzie said before looking Joe up and down. “You got money?”

“Five dollars,” Joe said. It was the most money he’d ever seen in his life. He reached into his pocket for the crumpled bill, but it wasn’t there. Joe froze. Did he lose it? Frantic, he switched hands on the rag and fished into his other pocket. Nothing. Joe swallowed hard and looked up at Ozzie. His lip tried to wobble again. He made it stop.

“I…” Joe’s voice cracked, and his face went hot. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I lost it.”

Ozzie barked a laugh, and Joe jumped, almost dropping the bloody rag on his knee.

“Of course you did!” He swatted at Joe, and he scrambled back. “Get out of here ya little thief,” Ozzie said, chuckling. “Come back with your mom.”

Joe’s mind buzzed as he scrambled from the store. Was Ozzie angry? Did he really think Joe was trying to steal? He’d never steal! Mom said it was wrong to take things without paying. But if Ozzie really did think Joe wanted to steal, then why was he laughing?

Joe’s knee buckled when he pushed open the door, and he yelped, nearly tumbling to the ground. He clung to the door handle with one hand, dangling precariously over the pavement. A line of ants trailed into a crack in the sidewalk. Regaining his footing, Joe stepped over them.

Pain flared in his leg, and Joe gasped. The rag ripped free of the bloody scrape when he fell and more blood welled up to dribble down his leg. He wanted to put the rag back on his knee, but it was on the ground now. The ants were already crawling on it.

“That’s mine!” Joe said, snatching the rag from the ground. He shook it free of dirt and ants, tears welling in his eyes. He sobbed. “I didn’t even step on you!”

When he woke up that morning, Joe was excited for his birthday. Mom had woken up early and made pancakes with orange syrup and then played Ninja Turtles with him before she had to wash the dishes. But instead of playing on his own like he usually did, Joe decided to help wash the dishes.

Washing dishes wasn’t fun on its own, but Mom blew bubbles at him or splashed him a little, and that made him laugh even though they had to wipe up the water later. When the dishes were done, Mom had homework, so Joe cleaned his room so she wouldn’t have to tell him later.

Because that’s what it meant to be grown-up, right? To wash dishes in the sink and wipe water off the floor and clean your room without being told? Sure, it wasn’t all fun, but it wasn’t bad either.

But oh! How naïve he’d been! Growing up wasn’t just about cleaning things, it also meant going to the store on your own and crossing the big street by yourself and tripping and falling and getting bloody and forgetting money and being scolded and feeling dumb because you want to cry but you can’t because you’re grown up now and grown-ups. don’t. cry.

The tears fell and Joe curled into a ball, sobbing into his knees. The salty water stung his knee, and that made him cry harder.

Joe didn’t want to be grown-up anymore. He didn’t want to go to the store alone or cross the street by himself or stop driving with Nick or never eat Mrs. Newman’s cookies. He just wanted to be a kid again! To play Ninja Turtles in his room without picking them up or put his dishes in the sink without washing them.

He wanted to make cinnamon toast without worrying about running out of bread and needing to go to the store to buy more. He didn’t want his stupid scooter, and it’s temptation of the free, open road. He didn’t want to have to help himself when he was hurt and scared and alone.

He wanted Mom.

“Joe? Honey, are you okay?”

Joe looked up with a sniveling gasp. “M-Mom?”

“Oh!” Mom said, going down on her knees to inspect Joe’s scraped knee. “Poor baby!”

Joe gaped at her. Poor baby? He was nine for crying-out-loud!

A hand landed on Mom’s shoulder, and Joe traced it up to find Nick looking down at him with a half-smile.

“Why don’t you grab the bread, Em? And some wet-wipes for Joey’s knee. I’ll brush him off.”

Mom pursed her lips, looking back at Nick for just a second before she nodded. “I’ll be right back,” she said, kissing Joe’s forehead. Joe waited until he heard Ozzie’s bell ring before he wiped the kiss off.

“You okay, buddy?” Nick asked, hoisting Joe up by his armpits. “It sounded like quite the spill.”

Joe blinked. “You heard me?”

“What?” Nick laughed, brushing the dirt and dust from Joe’s clothes. He didn’t even notice he was dirty. “No. Liam’s mom called. Liam saw you fall.”

Joe felt a deep pit open in his stomach as he looked across the street. Sure enough, Liam was peeking through the curtains. He gave Joe a wave. Heat ran through Joe’s body from head to toes, the pit in his stomach yawning wider, but he forced a wave back.

Liam saw him crying.

Who was the coward now?

“Hey,” Nick said, nudging Joe’s chin until they were eye to eye. “None of that. It’s okay to need help, Joe. And it’s okay to fall down sometimes. Heck, it’s even okay to cry. That doesn’t mean you’re a baby, okay? And it doesn’t make you a coward either.”

The pit in Joe’s stomach started to fill. “Really?”

“Really. You think I’ve never cried before?” Nick looked up at Ozzie’s glass-front door and Joe glanced over too. Mom was standing at the register, holding bread and baby-wipes while she talked to Ozzie.

“Hey,” Nick said as Mom pushed the door open and the bell tinkled. “You did a good job helping your mom today.” He ruffled Joe’s hair. “I’m proud of you.”

“We should have enough bread to last us until pay-day,” Mom said, two loaves of Wonder Bread sticking out of the green plastic bag. “I got the wipes too.” She popped the top and tugged on a wet-nap. Joe’s jaw dropped. She was going to clean his knee now? In front of Ozzie’s store? While Liam was watching?

“It’s not so bad right now,” Nick said before Joe could stutter out a protest. “The bleeding’s stopped, and it’s not that far to the house. I can finish lunch while you clean him up.”

“Oh,” Mom said, looking from Nick to Joe. “Well…all right then. Are you okay to walk, Joe?”

Joe nodded vigorously.

Nick grabbed the scooter from its resting place against the wall. Mom held out her hand, and Joe stared at it. He wasn’t a baby, he'd already crossed the street once by himself, and he could do it again. But just because he could do something, did that mean he had to?

Joe took Mom’s hand. Then, for good measure, he took Nick’s too. Joe may not be a baby, but he wasn’t grown up yet either. After all, he was only nine.

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About Cassiopeia Fletcher

I wrote my first book when I was six-years-old about a fat cat named Stephanie who wandered around the city looking for her family, and I’ve never looked back. As a writer, my goal is to continually move forward, learning from my past self as well as other’s in an effort to become the best I can at my chosen craft. I’m blessed with a wonderful, loving family —Mom, Dad, six brothers, one sister, and five sisters-in-law—that has supported me every step of the way, even if they don’t always understand what I’m trying to do. And while I believe life is education, not everyone always agrees, so I’ve made pursuing a formal education a huge priority. Currently, I have an MFA in Creative Writing and am attending grad school for the second time pursuing an MA in Mass Communications. Eventually, I’ll get my Ph. D., but who knows if that will be before I or after I settle into a job teaching Creative Writing to undergrads? Life is a mystery, and I’m happy to discover it all, one day at a time.

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