Oubliette: “Phoenix”

Note: This is part of an experimental creative writing exercise. If you want to read more or start from beginning. You go to the Oubliette page. Please note the earlier stories are crude. 🙂

It was still dark outside when the alarm went off. Tisha rolled over in her bed, fumbled for the alarm clock on the floor, and flipped a switch with a soft click to turn it off. She reached over to a small lamp on the floor, turned it on, and rolled onto her back. As she laid there finding people, places, and things hidden in the water stains on the ceiling, she wished to sleep for another ten minutes.

She knew she could not. The last time she did, she and her brother missed the bus. She remembered seeing the rage in her mom’s eyes the last time. She knew that ever since her mother got sick, money has been tight and she has already missed too much work already.  Tisha knew that she cannot let that happen again. Plus, a wayward spring in the mattress was prodding her to action.

She sat up and looked around the dimly lit room. All she heard was the humming of the space heater in the corner. Under the frosted window on the other side of the room, there was an empty mattress on the floor. She almost expected to see her mother there because she had not been not feeling well lately. She stood up, walked into the bathroom, and turned the hot water on. She was not expecting any since the gas was disconnected a couple of weeks ago but some say miracles happen. She quickly got in the shower and washed as fast as she could. As she was drying and trying to warm up, she wished that it was summer again because cold showers felt great on a hot summer night.

As she headed back into her bedroom, she shouted down the hall, “Hey, get up! We need to get ready!”

An audible grunt was the only response she got.

As she was dressing, she heard the familiar set of thumps going down the hallway as her brother was heading to the bathroom. He hands were itchy and as she scratched them, she gave a quick glance at them. There did not seem to be anything wrong but as fast as the itchiness came, it went way.

After she finished with dressing, she collected her school books and folders. She picked up a small stack of papers and looked them over. She hoped that Ms. Green, her English teacher, liked this story. She thought to herself that this was the probably the best she has written yet. She wished that she did not have to rush the last couple of pages because the library was closing. She assembled everything into her backpack and went downstairs.

As she entered the living room, her brother called to her from the kitchen. “The power’s off again.”

“Did you check the circuit breakers?”

“Naw, you want this last frozen waffle?”

“Yes!”

Her first thought was that at least he did not steal it this time. She opened the door next to the stairwell where the circuit breakers were. As she expected, one of the black switches had flipped. She reset it and as she heard the fridge starting, her brother mockingly said, “Miss Tish is a smart girl, she studies lots of books.”

As she entered the kitchen, her hands started itching again. This time the itching was more intense that what it was in the bathroom. She scratched her hands. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Z Dawg said you’re wasting yer time will all of that book learning.”

She took the last frozen waffle from the almost empty fridge and placed it in the toaster. “Who?”

“Nicholas, he’s going by Z Dawg now.”

“Well, you can tell Nicolas Z Dawg that at least I am trying to do better. Do my hands look all right?”

She showed her hands to him. “Yaw, you’re good. You call me X Dawg now. Jerome… Y Dawg and Z Dawg and I going to make an album.”

“How you going to do that none of you can rap worth anything.”

“We got it figured out. We have to work on the image first. Once you have image, the music follows.”

An exasperated expression crossed Tisha’s face. “I don’t think that’s how it works. Did it take all day for you guys to come up with those names. Oh, and call me Tish again, I’ll smack the back side of your head.”

The waffle in the toaster popped up. She took and ate the waffle quickly. Grabbing her backpack, she headed for the door. “Come on or you’re going to miss the bus again.”


Tisha and several other kids stepped off the bus at Williams-Hill Middle School. The school was a large sand colored rectangular building with few windows. In one corner of the building the paint was a slightly different shade as it was recent due to graffiti. Off to the side, there was a more recently constructed building. The school called it the annex and it housed the eighth grade class. She headed towards the annex along with several other kids. As she approached, Chloe, Nicholas’ younger sister, walked towards her.

“Did you hear what the three stooges are up to?”

Tisha laughed, “Yeah, Andre explained it to me.”

“Did he show you the poses?”

“No. He didn’t say anything about poses.”

“Yeah, Andre would stand there with his arms crossed like an X. Jerome would stand up there with his hands up with a confused look and Nick would wrap his arms around looking all badass. Oh there is space between his arms. Can’t forget about the space.” Chloe laughed.

Another girl with an angry expression walked up to Tisha. “You better stay clear of Donna, she’s pissed at you.”

“Again? what is it now?” asked Chloe. Tisha’s hands started itching again more intensely than before. It looked like she was wringing her hands as she scratched them.

“She said that you would know, snitch”

Tisha responded, “Well she’s just making stuff up. I’ve never snitched on nobody. Chelsea.”

As both of the girls walked away from Chelsea, “She’ll find you Tish and she’ll make you pay. Nobody likes a snitch!”

Once away from Chelsea, Tisha asked, “Is there something going around? My hands have been itchy all morning.”

“Not that I know. Jerome’s baby sister has that foot mouth disease, maybe you got that?”

“Maybe. I hope not.”


Throughout the day, Tisha walked from class to class. Other than a surprise quiz in history, nothing unexpected happened. She thought that Donna was going to confront her during lunch but she never showed up. Towards the end of lunch, her hands started itching uncontrollably again and she went to the nurse. The nurse told her it was just in her head and gave her a pass back to class.

At the end of the day, as she was walking to the bus, she saw Donna. She kept walking and tried to ignore her. “Hey snitch!”

She kept going. “I’m talking to you snitch!”

Tisha felt a hand on her shoulder and Donna yelling at her, “Don’t you walk me off!”

She spun around, “What is YOUR problem?”

Donna got up in her face, “You know what my problem is snitch. You saw me smoking in the restroom and right after you left Ms. James walks in and busts me. Thanks to you I have in-school suspension.”

“I didn’t tell Ms. James anything. If you was stupid enough to get caught, that’s not my problem.”

About this time, a small crowd had gathered to watch. Tisha’s hands began to itch to the point it felt like they were burning. Not now, she thought to herself as she hoped the itching would pass quickly. Donna pushed her and she stumbled back.

Donna then lunged at her grabbing her hair while trying punch her in the face. Instinctively, she grabbed Donna’s face. She heard Donna scream in pain and suddenly everybody got quiet.

Tisha looked around. Everybody was staring at her. Their faces were painted with combinations of surprise and fear. Suddenly, the smell of burnt hair hit Tisha and she looked at Donna. The left side of her face was covered by a burn the shape of a hand and a sizeable chunk of her hair was singed and smoking.

Tisha looked at her hands. They were engulfed in flames. There was no pain though she could feel the flames dancing around her hands. As she stared at her hands in terror, she barely heard Donna calling her a bitch.


What happened after the fight was a blur to Tisha all she remembered was going to the office after someone extinguished her hands and being taken to the police station. She was given a pair of gloves that she was told was flame retardant and was released in the morning to her mother pending a decision from the prosecutor.

Mr. Jake, a family friend, drove her mother to the police station to pick her up. As she sat in the car while heading home, there was an uneasy silence. Mr. Jake was normally a very talkative person who had many interesting things to say. He did not say a word. Her mother just sat there and did not look back at her.

When they arrived at home, Tisha walked up to the house while her mother and Mr. Jake sat in the car. She could tell that Mr. Jake was telling her mother something and she was nodding at what he was saying.

Tisha walked in the house and sat on the old broken down couch. A tear ran down her cheek despite her attempts to keep from crying. Her mother walked in shortly after. In a soft voice, Tisha said, “I’m sorry.”

Her mother leaned in the doorway and looked at her. “How did it happen?”

“I… Donna pushed me… she grabbed my hair and I grabbed back… then… I don’t know what I did. I didn’t mean to do it!” Tears were streaming down her face.

Her mother slowly walked over to her. Tisha braced for what was going to happen next but it did not come. Instead, her mother leaned down on her, hugged her and said, “I know you didn’t. That is not who you are.”

Tisha looked at her mother. Her mother used to be a strong proud woman before she got sick. The illness had destroyed her body but Tisha could now see that strength in her eyes. She hugged her mother back. “What’s going to happen to me?”

“I don’t know honey but God doesn’t give us trials that we can’t handle.”

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