SmokeLong Quarterly

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Arlo’s Big Head

Story by Stefanie Freele (Read author interview) March 15, 2008

While Arlo’s parents argued, he levitated. Seven months old, ready to put the world in his mouth, and eager to jingle everything, he focused on Dad’s voice, then Mom’s while floating his head a few inches above the mattress.

“Besides, I can’t hear what you’re saying.” His dad fiddled with a fork. “So keep it to the confines of your intellect.”

Arlo raised both arms to go along with his floating head.

His mother snapped a towel on the table. “That way you can act as if I didn’t say it.”

Arlo lifted his legs above the crib. If he could just raise his bottom, float above the mobile—seven kinds of fluffy trains—over the kitchen, and out onto the porch. There, he could sit in the middle of his empire: his Exersaucer, where he’d be surrounded by blinking, twinkling, moving doo-dads.

“Maybe you didn’t.” Arlo’s dad said while cleaning his glasses. “Maybe in the plane of existence I’m in, you didn’t say it.”

“I did say it.” His mom thundered. “And, I don’t regret it.”

Arlo’s head hovered above the mattress and tugged at the rest of his body, ascending above the mobile.

His mom’s voice lowered. “We’re on the same plane you dunce.”

Arlo floated quietly behind his mother’s back. The back porch door opened for him.

“If there are many planes of consciousness and they interpenetrate themselves,” His father spoke slowly. “How can you be so sure we’re here together?”

It was almost twilight. Bats swooped down on mosquitoes. One tiki torch remained lit. A moth struggled in a melting banana daiquiri.

Arlo’s head led him to the kingdom of his Exersaucer. He eased his legs into the seat, reached for the green squeezie, “Honk honk.”

Arlo’s dad pushed back a chair. “You left him out there with the June bugs?”

“I brought him inside and put him in his crib. I know I did.”

“Honk.” It was all better. The orange donut swerved, the yellow floppy made a beepity-beep sound, the red button said “Three! Triangle!”

But then, hands reached under Arlo’s arms and he felt himself being lifted. “Sorry son, we’d rather argue than put you to bed.”

Arlo let his forehead be kissed by his mother and his cheeks be caressed by his father. He let a blanket tuck around him and closed his eyes while his parents admired his soft skin and tiny toes. “Goo,” Arlo responded and let his body go heavy, all of it except one finger which remained pointed as if he still had something to add to the conversation, but had fallen asleep mid-thought.

About the Author

Stefanie Freele is the 2008 Kathy Fish Fellowship Writer-In-Residence for SmokeLong Quarterly. She has an MFA from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts: Whidbey Writers Workshop. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glimmer Train, American Literary Review, Talking River, Literary Mama, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, FRiGG, wigleaf, Cafe Irreal, Permafrost, Hobart, Cezanne’s Carrot, and Contrary.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty

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