HOW TO BECOME IMMORTAL • by Dale Rappaneau

Write a book. Turn your beliefs, what few you have, into words. Write those words in large, black scribbles. Who cares what they look like? It’s your book. If someone asks what you’re writing, lie. Tell them it’s an epic space fantasy and the main character dies at the end. Huge explosion. And lots of gunfire, don’t forget to say that.

Show no one your book. No one except Phillip, the boy whose father leaves the gun cabinet unlocked. Let Phillip read your book; better yet, read it to him as he unleashes the fury of an automatic shotgun into a pumpkin. Then stop reading and comment on the stringy sinew and seeds strewn across Phillip’s yard. Say they look like brains, and that you’ll add it to your book.

After Phillip laughs, he’ll say it’s a manifesto, not a book, and that all geniuses write manifestos. Smile, say that he’s your best friend. He is, after all, your only friend. Don’t lie to him — ever. He’ll let you borrow a gun someday.

Flinch when you come home late and your father shouts your name. Flinch when his drunken words stumble out of his fat lips, down his knuckles, and against your stupid head. When you get free, scramble to your room – fast, as fast as you can. Deadbolt the door. This room, the one with pictures of your half-dead family, is where your mother used to sing you to sleep — right there, right in that bed. That was long ago, before your father took a liking to leather belts and bruises, before his fists grew thick with bombarding doors.

When you cry her name — and you will cry her name — remember the words you wrote in your book — your manifesto. Then remember Phillip, and what he let you borrow.

Dale Rappaneau writes in Rhode Island, USA.

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