For five dollars, I will hold a tarantula in my mouth, let its hairy legs dangle from the tip of my tongue, tickle the back of my throat. For 10 dollars, I will close my mouth and make the tarantula disappear. I am a wizard. I cannot speak or look you in the eye, so the tarantula is the language I use to trade for your attention. Or maybe I can trade you a dance. My mother taught me how in the living room of our house. The Pointer Sisters on the radio, she would grab my hand and twirl me around and I would climb onto the couch when the sisters asked me if I wanted more and more and more and jump when their voices commanded. Or maybe I can trade you the scar down the left side of my leg. I tried to crawl under my grandfather's fence and caught the bottom of the chain link and it peeled me open. I was too afraid to show anyone because my grandfather liked things to be clean and perfect and unblemished and I still remember what it feels like to be pulled up into the orbit of his anger and hang there while my mother holds my hand and tells me everything is going to be okay, so I mummified my leg instead and hid it beneath my pants. It wasn't until the swelling made it too painful to walk that anyone noticed. I trade in stories. None of this is true. All of it is true. My grandfather kept two tarantulas in his den. They had rose-tipped fur on their abdomens. They felt like stones in your hand when you held them. I slept with them on a green egg crate mattress on the floor. Sometimes, I woke up to them on my chest, their rose-tipped feet feeling in the dark. I would open my mouth to let them squeeze in. I didn't have the language at the time to describe this feeling. Today, I might say it felt like my grandfather's fingers closing around my throat after I peeled the skin off his favorite tree with a garden shovel. In certain light, the scar on my leg looks like a river set ablaze by floating paper lanterns. I have other scars, too, but not all of them you can see, and I also imagine them as estuaries radiating from a center, ablaze in the darkness. A lamp can tell fictions as beautiful as a mouth. These are all experiences you can have and put in your pocket. Mark Zuckerberg encourages me to share everything. When I share everything, I create more meaningful connections with the world. So here is one more. I used to sit on my father's lap, a book between his hands, the book a wall between me and the world. Language poured out of my father's mouth like water. Soaking and wet with language, I would crawl into bed and dream those words onto my ceiling, a crawl of wet soapy words that dripped down the walls and back into me. And this, to me, made my father a wizard. But nothing is left of that world, the twelve-inch space between my father's arms. No matter how much I need to crawl back into the twelve-inch space between my father's arms, no matter how much I try to compress and contort my body, I will not fit. This, this I think I will keep for myself.
Kevin Lichty is currently living in Tempe, Arizona with his wife and two daughters. Before that, he lived in Miami, Florida where he was a copy writer for the National YoungArts Foundation; and in Annapolis, Maryland where he was a high school English teacher at a small private school outside Washington, D.C. He was a semi-finalist for the 2017 William Faulkner Wisdom Novel-in-Progress award. His work can be found in Palooka, Four Chambers, Hawaii Pacific Review, and elsewhere.