The Journey to Adolescence Crosses the Tracks






Masters of the Universe

By X. Press

From Kindergarten through second grade, I had no idea if Lynn was a girl or a boy. I only knew that Lynn had a curly red mullet, which in the eighties, was often rocked by both. Lynn wore red and blue checkered, button-up flannels shirts and jeans and when bullied, took no prisoners. Tenderness quickly succumbed to red-faced fierceness when Lynn was challenged, teased or otherwise tortured as we all were on that sun-beaten playground.

Once, when I was on the merry-go-round, two boys decided to spin it so fast that my head hit a metal handle bar and I was thrown off into the gravel pit, landing flat on my back. When I opened my eyes, I found myself surrounded by curious second graders. I looked up, mostly at the faces of other little girls and most noticeably, I saw two Lynns: both a girl and boy version. For that brief moment, I believed I had seen Lynn’s true form: a boy and a girl, standing side by side, decidedly neither and unapologetically both. The howl of the freight train still haunts the memory.

The train track felt dangerously close to the playground, with only a steep hill and a fence protecting us from the train that whistled and screeched by twice a day. On good days, I fantasized about packing a backpack full of Cheerios, peanut butter and a loaf of bread and jumping aboard when the train stopped. The good thing about being so invisible is that you could do things like that, like jumping a fence and hopping aboard a train in broad daylight. On bad days–for instance, the day I watched three boys knock a robin’s nest off a branch and use short sticks to stab baby robins to death and I could do nothing to stop them–I thought of jumping in front of the tracks and letting the train take me on a different kind of journey, a place where darkness swallowed me and every day cruelty would no longer throttle my nerves and heart so viciously.

I never jumped aboard the train or stood on the train tracks, but I did eventually find out Lynn’s sex, at least, the bits and pieces Lynn was born with. However, by then, it didn’t matter. Lynn and I were in the fifth grade and we’d embraced our outcast status. We sat secluded on a small slope of the playground, played with He-Man figures, and chased off pretty girls who called us freaks. Lynn was Lynn, freckled & baritone. I was me, strange, observant and yes, mostly invisible.

At our new school, I still heard the train’s whistle and roar, but it no longer beckoned me. I’d found a place with Lynn in the fresh cut grass, tiny-headed, plastic men in our fists, who shouted in our voices, I am Master of the Universe! And in those moments, we were.


10 thoughts on “The Journey to Adolescence Crosses the Tracks

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    Now the contest is really rolling with a story which could be published in any fine collection or magazine of quality writing. The editing, imagery, cadence and human intimacy of observations and experience are retold with country elegance. I will be surprised if the author is different from my educated impression.

    Assuming that the author is who I believe them to be, let me thank them for their influence on my own writing. If the author is not the person I am imagining I thank them and praise their art in a story perfectly told.

  2. Salvatore Buttaci says:

    For some reason this flash brings me back to my own childhood where playground antics ususually earned me a slap of Sister’s ruler and pages of “I must not…” As for the double vision, the last time I experienced that was my last boxing event at age 15. Thanks for this excellent story!

  3. Parisianne Modert says:

    After carefully reading and rereading each of the first ten entries, I believe this story is the best entry so far and deserves an advance into whatever finals have been proposed by the editor-in-chief. I swear I didn’t write this entry piece, but I wish I had. “Masters of the Universe” is a true masterpiece of word craft writing combined with a very human, Americana compassion and uplifting triumph.

  4. Michael Stang says:

    Masters of the Universe is a tribute to the talent of one who waits behind doors #1,2,or3. Shades of Chabon, and a blending of the sexes. Could read a novel’s worth and, someday, I would be thrilled to do so.

  5. Diane Cresswell says:

    Now this is good to read. A clean walk through childhood not caring who is what gender – just playmates who come to the realization that we are Masters of the Universe. Very well done.

  6. Grant Laurence says:

    Read this several times…..could read it, and probably will, a dozen or so more — give me the ‘book’ please! Pure is all. Thx

  7. Grant Laurence says:

    A bit disappointed that this one did not make the cut. Reminded me a little of Iain Banks, a favorite author of mine.
    Thanks again for the excellent story.

    • Parisianne Modert says:

      I am 99% sure I know who the author of this story is and I agree with you Grant. This story was easily in my top 5 choices for its solid quality of writing, Amerciana, beauty of original expressions and depth. If I am correct I owe this lady more than any other writer for how fiercely she once challenged me to improve as a writer. I would have never met Thorn or found AWWYP if I had never met her.

  8. Grant Laurence says:

    Just wanted to congratulate you again, Kirsty – a superb entry, in my humble opinion.
    Look forward to reading more of your submissions.
    Ps. Are you published?

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