by Jen Knox
I was an angry child, pursed lips and all. The laughter echoed, grew until it was too loud to ignore. It nested in my belly, deep, and beneath my ribs. It was the buildings with reflective windows that caused the laughter and the trees that bent the way of the wind that laughed.
Men and women snickered. Small, child-like chuckles pelted me, so I ducked. And I retaliated. I screamed at them. Laughter belongs in a music box in a horror movie on a screen in a plastic container in a briefcase as part of a template in a waiting room in a seashell in the ocean, deep. I pursed my lips tighter, till they became a single, thin line like that of an angry woman in a novel that won’t sell. My head became a bell and began ringing, vibrating as though I was riding the bus over rough earth, over sticky, soft clay; but as I yelled and pushed the words out into the world, beyond the thin line, the thing inside me grew too large.
So now I am in my own plastic container, and I am laughing—guttural with the gradient of a middle-aged, overweight man. I am laughing coyly, candidly, primly. I laugh and cough. I laugh and snort. Laugh like I am still a child, like there is no ceiling. And I carry a briefcase and work on templates and listen for the ocean in shells at waters I have finally visited, and I can name the music from what used to be boxes as I wait in rooms.
I am able to yell. And I am able to make fun of those who make fun because making fun is weak and weakness is funny, and I can match it without meaning, without being mean. And the trees, the bushes, the dirt—you, nature, whisper now, call softly as though it is always spring, and I am always in the country, and it is always just us, amused.
Jen Knox is an author and creative writing professor living in San Antonio, Texas. Her writing can be found in A cappella Zoo, Bombay Literary Magazine, Bound Off, Burrow Press Review, Gargoyle, Istanbul Review, [PANK], Prick of the Spindle, and Short Story America. http://www.jenknox.com