Good Work

by a contributor

Anna Elise Anderson

Johnny’s fake front tooth sticks out
glossy like an untouched piano key with
every other key struck down, which makes his
a lucky face, the face of the only white child
who lives at the mission house in town.

The only son of a missionary couple, he grew up
lonely in the Philippines and came back full of stories,
like how he lost the tooth going face-down a waterslide
smiling right into rocks. Unable to save the knocked-out tooth,
he swears he watched it float on a bloom of blood
in the water for a second or two before it dropped.

He says all of Manila smells like a McDonald’s
parking lot, and he spent his childhood afternoons
at the window of the mission house, counting
brown bodies in the trees, watching for his father’s
weighed-down white truck hobble slow over the potholed road.

Most of his stories revolve around the fruit they ate:
the bowl of cherry bones his dad marooned
on the table each night. He moves his words around the memory
like a shark circling bloody meat, describing first the round red stains,
the reedy stems, then the sweet dark clots caught between pit and skin.

He says moving to America was a wash of relief: blank
in his own pale glow amid the flood of other
white teens, their flashing TVs, bright rows
of straightened teeth. When his parents returned
overseas to the mission house Johnny refused to leave.

U.S. doctors prescribed Lithium to sleep, and stranded on
a friend’s couch every night he dreamed the same dream.
One night he pissed whisky on the carpet
by the couch and, too drunk to crawl back up, lie staring
at the dark liquid that had passed through his body, taking
inventory of things.
Pits, stains, seeds.
Bucket by bucket, the Philippine Sea.
Brown water thick like blood on a cheap white sheet.

Anna Elise Anderson lives in St. Pete, Florida. After spending several years in Brooklyn doing odd jobs and freelance writing, she recently returned home to pursue a more peaceful existence. She’s currently working as a web writer for an online wildlife art gallery and spends her free time reading with her Belgian Shepherd mutt Minelli. Her work has appeared in 491 Magazine, Quick Fiction, Charlotte Viewpoint, and Grasslimb. She loves the sun.

Also see Elise’s poem Miracle Made Her.