The Clearing

Nia Metcalf-Thomas

This series of personal sketches was drawn from the ‘hometown memories’ of students in response to watching Lowell Blues, a short film by Henry Ferrini based on readings from Jack Kerouac’s written recollections of growing up in Lowell, MA.

– Fred Bouchard, Associate Professor of Liberal Arts



August 27, 2006


Washington, DC, our Nation’s Capital, home of the misrepresented and taxed. Let’s zoom in a bit further, say approximately 12 miles North East of there, lies a house. No, not a house…a home; Home of the pampered disconnected “struggling” artist, a home where it all began, well at least fast forwarded 6 years, a slight right at the corner of 23rd Ave. just off Riggs road and you’ll find the place where it originated. I lived at my Muskogee home for about two years before the changes began, the four of us; my mother, father, sister, and I, tolerated a comfortable lifestyle in our six bedroom split level home. In the mornings we started separate days all at variable times so we often passed each other without notice. Rather I was often looked over and un-noticed, silently failing behind in my studies and spinning into a new darkness, that was the beginning to my new beginning. I longed for adventure, un-charted journey. Just your irregular, far from average teenager, finding myself right in any, and every situation possible. My mother and I experienced high-leveled emotions whenever we graced each other’s presences; if we weren’t laughing hysterically we were bickering uncontrollably with false hope of amends. The ritual was set and damn near impossible to break. It was the comfort of the large house that drew a deeper wedge between us all. Soon enough the time came and I moved into basement. The new distance now made it so that our paths barely ever crossed. Late mornings bled to early evenings, and nocturnal nights just to bring in a few more dollars. Things were changing again. The change in mood of my home at Muskogee was anything but slight, my mother told me that morning she lots her job, and it was then I knew. My time had come to step forward and take over. The groomed my talents well from the womb so it wasn’t hard to see the next step. I quickly found a small teaching job in a familiar town nearby. Hyattsville, I would pass through almost daily after school to hang with friends and lose all common sense, but know there was no such time for such childish acts. The kids ranging in age from 5-11 years old, listened intently as I was introduced as their new music instructor. We went over some basic theory and laid out a map of the instruments. The forty-five minutes flew by in no time with the help of their constant inquisitive gazes and repeatedly up stretched questioning hands. It was nearing closing time and my brain was running faster than my body could function, not that this was something new as I always found myself tripping over thoughts to catch my main ideas, and before I knew it I drifted off a next days away.


November 15, 2008


Now 2 years and 4 months later, she was no longer in control, her mind had taken over her dreams and reality blended. When she slept she walked and dreamt as she talked. She had lost her grip on reality. Through tight squeezed eyes she yawned as the sun slipped in through the blinds and stretched across her caramel toned skin. Inch by inch, her body awakening, as natures warmth illuminated the final traces of a nightmare. Although the physical remnants were fading now, the mental scar would forever burn leaving a story within its mark. Her body slid seamlessly over the sheets of her twin-sized mattress as she sat up to get out of bed. Wriggling her toes one by one before she placed them firmly on the shag carpet lining her room. Wincing slightly from the pain on her bruised ribs as she pushed off the bed with two almost perfectly manicured hands. Now that her cuticles were no longer blood encrusted she could stand to admire her nails again. Even though it didn’t take much to imagine how only days ago it appeared as if she was forced to dig her own grave with her bare hands. It hurt less and less everyday but the pain was always there right beneath the surface, fighting for the slightest wisp of oxygen, so it could grow and blaze like an open campfire spewing glowing embers that danced against the night sky…But why, the million dollar question that paced across her mind so often these last few days it branded a permanent path behind her eyelids. A path that was all too familiar to; not only her mind, but her feet, her nose, her taste buds.

Every Thursday she walked through the clearing in the trees. Past the hole that was wider and deeper every time she passed, because the neighbor hood kids always kicked in its edges, wondering where the dirt would go as they watched it fall in, but never fill up. She would walk through the clearing and smell the MSG ridden chicken wafting out the open doors of the carryout. The smell would make anyone’s mouth water, once they were starving and homeless that is. Sometimes the aroma was so strong it seemed to coat everything within a miles radius, Dampening all sound and activity so that anyone passing by wouldn’t even notice if someone was being murdered because they couldn’t hear the screams, or at least that’s how it seemed to her last Thursday. Except she heard every sound from the twigs snapping beneath their weight, to the fire engines roaring across the street just through the bushes lining the clearing. Her clearing, she knew the area like a child its mother. So how could this happen to her here in her place…her Sanctuary. She would go there to relax and get away from the world only this time there was no escape. It was late November and the air tasted of snow but every night the school children’s prayer for a day off were left unanswered. Maybe the snow would’ve cushioned the blows, softened the fall, muted the emotion. But there was none, no snow. No fairytale endings or cotton candy and rainbows. Only the butt of his gun against the side of her head, and the ringing in her ears. The sharp pain that jolted her back to reality as she fell onto the rocks and sticks that lined the clearing. She prayed he would pull the trigger so that the shot would ring out, and people would come running.

But he didn’t,

and they didn’t.

It was as though the world stood still to stand by and watch, a pending request for an end to it all. The only thing that moved was her stomach as she fought to hold back the bile that he churned up inside her. She watched the spot where gold wrapper landed after he mindlessly tossed it. Focused on the black lettering anything to keep her mind away from this obscene reality. But it wasn’t enough he snatched her head back from the safety of her imagination bringing the truth of it all flooding back so fast it caused an almost migraine. She tasted the coarse blood coated screams as they erupted from her throat. Watched as the words echoed inaudibly into the air. Rolling aimlessly out of her mouth, mixing with the tears and dirt. Blending with the poison in his spit.


Dingy white letters on a pasty red hexagonal outline, mud-streaked and rain-stained. Passed by without a second glance or the slightest concern.


But rules were meant to be broken, right? Just as promises aren’t fulfilled.

“I won’t hurt you…I promise.”

His tongue lactating lies as the words seeped through cleaned tobacco stained teeth that formed a grin like no other she’d seen before. Something closely related to a snarl in every sense possible, but like it knew something she didn’t, something that was amusing. The twisted humor-seasoned expression plastered across his wicked face. Trapezeing between his beady eyes, eyes so cold you got chills from looking into them. A seaport to an abyss of black death, an ocean of sinful morals. One that probably bled tears that were dark and emotionless if any at all, trickling down and around a slightly bent nose. From her perspective he was like some dark odd hastily put together modern art piece, minus the art. Nothing about him or his actions was worthy of the title art. Being the Christian she was, she understood that everyone was made in God’s image but for the life of her she could not find a morsel of her Savior’s being in this man. It seemed he seeped evil and lewd remarks. Nothing good could come out of a man, no, a creature that grunted like a pig to announce satisfaction. Taking away from her something precious, a gift that could not be re-gifted no matter how you wrapped it. She lay there and felt him twitch and squirm waiting for the final act. She was tired of trying to wriggle away it seemed he only found more pleasure in that, but this wasn’t the end, no way in hell was she not going to have the last say. That was one thing that would always remain the last words was hers no matter who had any objections that’s just the way it was. She was told she’d make a great lawyer some day arguing for some played cause she half-heartedly believed. Some times she’d argue just to her herself speak, she was a fighter had the heart of a warrior, and she was waiting patiently to make her next move.

She thought about all she had to lose if this didn’t work out and she was at peace with herself and would be with her decisions no matter what. Something slight tugged at the corners of her mouth as she felt the anticipation building inside of her, a pot of boiling noodles nearly cooked to perfection.

He looked down at her and must have thought this was his doing. “You like that, huh?” He grunted again like a filthy hog fighting for its place at the trough.

It took everything in her to fight the temptation, his gun lay only inches out of her reach but she couldn’t go for it now, he still had the upper hand. She let him wear his self down, climaxing with his final thrust. She watched him stand fully erect, it was like something straight from the chain of evolution, except his brain belonged somewhere around the beginning of it all.

It was time.

She looked past him, eyes widening in horror at nothing in particular, just convincing enough to capture his attention for two seconds. Just as she hoped he turned searching for the sight that had caught her attention so abruptly. She seized the moment grabbed the gun and looked down his barrel straight into his heart, and then she centered it between his eyes. She saw everything she needed in his eyes, eyes she thought possessed no emotion but she saw differently now. She saw the desperate girl that lay in the clearing; she saw the confusion that glazed his eyes caught like a deer in headlights. She felt all of him pulsing inside of her but she was different; bigger than his infantile morals, stronger than all his will power combined.

She lowered the gun…

Up until today she thought innocence was shed as maturity moved in, but she saw life through different eyes, understanding now that innocence remains until taken leaving in it’s place its hardened outline projecting an ever false sense of security. Inhibiting one to ever completely love without regret or second thought. Things appeared just a bit colder, the sweet fruits she so loved were always a little tarter, and the world itself just seemed a lot darker than before,

Always worried about what’s around the corner,

Always left looking over its shoulder.

…she fired, not to kill but to inform.

The shot rang out carrying her point across loud and clear in its echo. He flinched as his wounded leg buckled beneath the weight of his body performing a disoriented dance, arms flailing wildly to grab hold of anything that might slow his descent. But there was nothing; nothing but the snapped twigs to catch his fall. This time he squealed, like the grunt of the litter, fighting for a turn at its mother’s nipple. Not even worthy enough amongst it’s own kin. He lay there, helpless, his shriveled manhood exposed as he unsuccessfully tried to nurse his wound and cover himself, shouting lewd obscenities to mask his pain and discomfort. She took one last look at the incompetent scumbag and placed her foot square across his neck. Shifting her weight to silence him, taunting him with her eyes daring him to object. With a swift kick to the side of his head she turned and walked away tossing the gun deep into the shrubbery, her pace quickening until she was in full sprint, and she ran head high, shoulders squared never once looking back over her shoulder.


October 10, 2011


I find my grasp has tightened

Regaining strength.

I find my song has brightened

Soul deep and he

Who was my hometown taught lessons free,

lessons that have steered and enlightened me.

The horrors that lie deeply nestled in the bosom of DC

Will find the light that shines through me.

Though then I ran and refused to see,

I know now that has hence made me; me.