Villa Monterey Apartment, Burbank

In California the earth shakes, Ma said yesterday crossing an invisible line from Nevada into California. She pushed the gas pedal hard and the car almost jumped. I clapped for her.

Today Ma's meeting with a real estate company to ask for a job so I get to stay at Tanya's apartment and swim. Tanya is the beauty in the family--fourteen years older than me. She has a bronzed face, streaked hair--is addicted to the sound track from West Side Story. Her boyfriend, an actor named Sam, smiles at me. He has dark muscles, swimming shorts, Popeye shoulders stretching out against her avocado shag rug. He just got a part in a TV show.

Can you walk on my back with your little bare feet honey? Sam asks.

My dad was old and always looked hurt--I'd hurt him by being so little and clumsy. Once he taught me a lesson about it, and I never touched him again. Maybe Sam doesn't know how bad I am.

Tanya won't talk about dad, she hates him so much--so I pretend I never knew him when I'm with her.

She's not to get hurt Sam! Tanya barks--a hundred years crawling into her voice.

Oh, come on! She's a kid! he says, blowing air.

I don't want to hurt you, I say. He stays quiet, waiting. Stepping on him feels soft and hard, squishy. You win, Tanya says. You both fucking win.

Tanya is so much older than when she left home to become famous a year ago. She walks out swishing a bright red towel behind her. She's going swimming.

A kid can't hurt me, he says.


In the pool, they don't talk with words, just touch each other's faces bobbing up and down in deep end. I pretend it's a movie. Seven short palm trees stand in a line behind the pool deck as if waiting for autographs.

Mom once told me smog is invisible once you're in it. She's right. Everything sparkles in Burbank: the Vacancy sign on the apartment building, Sam's neon goggles, the two lines of pool water sliding from my sister's bloodshot eyes.

About the author:

Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 971 Menu, The Rose and Thorn, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica, Chanterelle's Notebook, 34th Parallel, Literary Mama, Blossombones, Ghoti, Elimae, Word Riot, Frigg, DOGZPLOT, Wigleaf, and Smokelong Quarterly's Fifth Anniversary Issue. She has performed with theater companies throughout the United States and considers writing a natural extension of sensory work developed as an actor. Her blog, and links to her work, can be found at: