Keith Brennan Who Colonized Mars from the Sixth Grade
For his homework Keith Brennan painted the inside of a shoebox the same shade worlds were destroyed in when he rubbed his eyes. None of the galactic rooms beyond Earth were colored between their boundaries—he already knew this from scribbling his own comic books, and when night became necessary he did not know how to draw it.
But right then he had to finish a science project: a sloppy shoebox with an orange Styrofoam sphere dangling on a life-rope of red yarn. He added no stars or moons or cold. Just the planet, by itself, untitled, maybe a rip in its hide that he couldn’t see, a shipping defect where furry black canal blisters made weeping sounds and held each other in the billion-year-old wind.
The laziest and most belligerent project I’ve ever seen, Mr. Stark wrote on Keith’s blank index card about the little universe where the boy sometimes lived, struggling in a tide pool lit by the reflection of many moons that were nowhere in the sky.
He forgot to title his world, alone and without gravity and oozing through the same attention span as when someone dies on that planet or a stone closes its eyes. It is where Keith thought everyone lived. But only he lived there, reciting the name of each classmate. He spoke as loud as he could from the ruptured distance of that Styrofoam ball, its blood-dry canyons and horizons of granite television and baseball card shacks, and his voice filled with bottomless epithets in which the whispering snow and the rest of his intelligence disappeared. It’s been said that he woke up in the middle of the night right after he was bitten by a stone that told him he would never grow, but no one can prove this. None of the hallway teachers or lavatory patrols, none of Keith Allen Brennan’s accidental life forms could hear him though he tried that whole angry eternity to make them fall.
Rob Cook lives in New York City’s East Village. He is the author of six collections, including Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (Bitter Oleander Press, 2013), The Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), and Asking My Liver for Forgiveness (Rain Mountain Press, 2014). Work has appeared recently in Caliban, Dalhousie Review, Natural Bridge, Hotel Amerika, Toad Suck Review, Verse, etc.