by Z.K. Abraham, January 10th 2023
I’ve been traveling for weeks. I hope this trail is deserted. If people see me all the way out here, will they stare? Be afraid? I am a little larger than the rest of them. Walking up the steep path, I wobble. Looking down, I think how big my feet are, how bright their orange is against the dirt. I look up at the leaves, the sun, the slow slow clouds.
It’s the beginning of spring. The trees are about to blossom and I am on a road trip. Just bought a VW camper van off Ebay. I’ll live in it for a while. Motels and hotels don’t usually suit me.
They shut us down for the first time in 50 years. Suddenly, no more Mr. Snuffy, Elmo, Grover, or me. They moved to Hollywood. Elmo is learning boxing for a western. Mr. Snuffy joined a circus. For awhile I lived in the rented attic of a brownstone. The director’s house. I lived there all winter, in the attic’s sharp, ice cream cold. His children loved finding my yellow, silky feathers all over the house. I read a lot of books and discovered all the places I’ve never been. Then the neighbors spotted me through the window. My big, dumb, yellow beak like a traffic cone. They didn’t like me, didn’t like me at all. Bangs on the door like earthquakes, screams like the broken megaphone we played with on set, screaming screaming get that thing out here! My director had big eyes, wide and wet, lips wiggling like worms. The children hid under their beds. I had to get out. Out the door, the neighbors had snarling dog faces, one had a long black gun, and I barrelled through them all. One bullet hit me in the arm, went right through my cloth skin and feathers shot out like a confetti explosion.
My broken heart aches. My home is gone. My friends moved away. After they shut our street down, I started working at the mall’s toy store.
Out in the world, people stare, they gape, they snarl. Lean in too close. Little kids always hug my legs. They gasp and tell me I have long, thin bones. People like to stare down my beak, into my gullet; they ohh and ahh like they are staring into space. Others turn red and start yelling things I can’t understand, except I know they are mad. They think I will hurt them. They want to hurt me. They want to hurt anyone that looks big and yellow and weird. But my friends tell me it’s not just my feathers, or my beak, or that I’m eight-feet tall. I don’t belong here.
I was Created, not born, 50 years ago. In all those 50 years, I was never so aware that I am not like them, that I am big and yellow.
Elmo and the gang are in Hollywood. What if I leave the city too? I tell them I’m going on a road trip.
I leave the city, the buildings, and reach the woods and a tall mountain. I’ve never hiked before. On my mountain walk, the top of my head brushes the trees. Breathing in gusts of morning forest air, I huff and puff my way up. I raise my floppy short arms to the sky, the sunlight pouring through the bullet hole like water.
“Ah!”. A high-pitched scream bursts from behind me. I start, flinging down my arms and turn as quick as I can.
“You’re a big bird.” A little girl stands in front of me, her mouth an O.
“Sweetie, where are you?” A tall man, well, not as tall as me, runs up behind the little girl, out of breath.
“What is going….oh.” He freezes, then steps forward carefully. He reaches his hand up and waves it, like a magician. He pulls the little girl by her waist with his other arm.
“Sweetie, I said never run away from me out here!”
The little girl screams and her dandelion afro shakes. “Let go daddy!” She smacks her little hands on her father’s arm and pouts.
“Hi mister! Nice day out here.” I shuffle.
“Hello. Ah, you. You!” His daughter smacks his hands. “You are here. In the woods.”
“Yeah! I’m hiking. I’m on a road trip.” The wind rustles around us, and crows call from the distance. “I’m going to keep walking. You two?”
“Yeah, keep hiking. My daughter loves it out here. It’s usually…good folks. We don’t want trouble”.
“I don’t want trouble?”
“You’re a fucking monster.” He hisses, a big snake. Suddenly his face is twisted and he has that look I should recognize by now. The man starts to turn and walk downhill again, yanking his daughter along, glancing back at me as he leaves.
In the real world, I am a bright yellow yeti. A big weird canary. Maybe I fell into a radioactive vat and became a giant glowing yellow beast.
Sighing, I continue along the trail.
On the summit, my yellow washes away in the sun.
I climb back down and I drive away. No cops on this highway, which is good. I’ve been pulled over five times in these last few weeks. Yes, sir, I have a license. No sir, it’s real. Yes, I’m real too. What am I? What kind of thing am I? What am I really, really really, what person is inside me moving this feathered costume around? No, please, I’m just trying to go…trying to go….
Can I be with people? Maybe they can’t help treating me like…something strange.
I sleep that night in my camper, in a parking lot by a lake. It’s cold, and only one group is camping out nearby, their twinkly fire swaying on the opposite shore.
The sky glows in the morning. Soon, it’s snowing. This horizon is wider than I’ve ever seen. The sky cracks open.