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We Contain Multitudes
Excerpt

Dear Little JO,*

I guess when you read this letter you’ll be sitting right here looking at what I’m looking at. The front of Ms. Khang’s English classroom with the old-?fashioned blackboard and the posters offamous book covers and the Thought of the Day and this new thing, this big wooden box painted in bright colors. I mean you don’t know me because I just drew your name randomly. And if you’re in grade ten this will be your first course with Ms. Khang, which means you don’t know her as a teacher yet either. Pretty weird getting a letter from a total stranger I bet. Or how about getting a letter period, in this day and age.
Khang stands up there taking as much time as possible telling us what this box is for. She’s turning it around and around to show off her paint job, tilting it forward to show the two slots in the top, pointing out the separate combination lock for each lid. All that buildup. After a while we’re all expecting doves to fly out of it or something. And then poor Khang looks all disappointed when we’re disappointed that it turns out to be only a mailbox. Which is the whole problem with buildup. Well you’ll see it foryourself pretty soon I guess.
On the board it says Introduce Yourself. So my name is Adam Kurlansky and this is Grade Twelve Applied English. One of the courses I flunked last year, which now I’m regretting because this assignment is not something I’m all that interested in. A letter every week for the entire semester. *JO stands for Jerkoff in case you were wondering. I’m sticking it here in the middle of the letter instead of at the top because Khang wants us to hold up the paper to show her before we put it in the envelope. To prove we actually filled the minimum one page, since she’s not actually planning on reading our letters herself. If she asks me I guess I’ll just say JO is short for your name, Jonathan.
Don’t take it the wrong way. I figure it’s fair game to call you a little jerkoff even though I don’t know you personally because I was one too, as a sophomore. Only most likely not as little. I was already pretty close to my full height by then: six foot three.
I mean I see you all in the halls with your faces turning red whenever I catch you staring at me. You’re like these arcade gophers popping in and out of holes. People know who I am because of being a bunch of credits behind and not graduating and having to come crawling back for the so-called victory lap. Or not because of that. More likely because of football I guess. Because they decided to let me keep playing football.

Sincerely,
Adam Kurlansky

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Chicken Girl
Excerpt

I had one leg in the feathery yellow costume my boss called a uniform when Cam stomped into my room like a runway model on crack and thrust his chest out at the end of my bed.
“Pops? Be honest. Do I have”—he paused for effect—“moobs?”
It was a running gag, our use of word blends. He was obviously trying to one-up me after I’d used automagically earlier that day.
“Nice try,” I said. “But if it doesn’t fit organically into a conversation it doesn’t count.”
He looked down at his torso. “If you must know, the development of man boobs are a genuine concern of mine.”
I gave his naturally athletic body a once-over. “Pfssh. Yeah, right.”
I stepped into the other leg of my costume. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m running late and don’t have time for this meaningless”—I paused for effect—“nonversation.”
He groaned in defeat. “Damn you, Poppy.”
I was almost out the door when he said, “Pops?”
I turned around. “Yeah?”
“I love seeing you happy.”
And just like that, the smile fell from my face.
“What’s wrong, Pops?”
My sweet Cam. Didn’t he know? Happiness was only temporary.
I put on my head. “I’m fine. I’m late, that’s all.”
It was true.
I only had ten minutes before I had to be curbside holding a sign: Hot and spicy chicken wings, $8.99 a dozen.

I walked down Churchill Street identifying each house as I passed: Plan 47-17, Plan 47-28, Plan 47-6. I’d been obsessed with wartime houses ever since I’d found the blueprints in the basement when I was ten. Each design was outlined in an affordable housing pamphlet for returning vets. Discovering that I lived in a home built during the war sent my imagination soaring. I became obsessed not only with wartime housing but with the whole era. It made me feel a longing, for what I didn’t know. Simpler times, maybe. I figured everyone was happier in the forties.
I followed the railway tracks into the downtown core. If I kept walking I’d reach the nicer part of downtown and eventually my school, but I stopped smack-dab in the middle of Elgin Street, where the surroundings were rundown and shabby. One building stood out though: Chen Chicken. Its white fairy lights twinkled all year round and the crisp white storefront looked warm and inviting.
I snuck in the back door and grabbed my sign. I was ten minutes late. With any luck Mr. Chen would think I had been there all along.
I walked up and down Elgin doing my usual moves—the hop, the skip, the jump. The sweat rolled off me. It wasn’t the best summer job in the world but it was nice to be someone else for a change. Even if that someone was a bird.

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