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Upside Down by Kathryn Kulpa

I got one of my dizzy spells climbing the stairs to the Upside Down House. There was a lady just inside the door, jiggling a baby in one of those snuggly slings, and something about how she smiled made the world spin. I’ve always hated stairs and these were the kind I hated most, rickety metal pool-ladder stairs where your foot could slip through the rungs and you would hang there until someone came to rescue you, an embarrassed father, a laughing brother: You’re such a loser! At least I didn’t get kicked out of school, I could have told my brother, but didn’t, just like we didn’t say anything to my father those long nights when he had to “see a guy” in a bar and left the two of us in the baked concrete parking lot, took the car keys so we couldn’t even run the A/C or play the radio. Sometimes we’d climb onto the van roof and watch the stars. He always parked slap in the middle of the lot, never under anything like a tree or a light pole that could come crashing down. Nothing above us but sky. Nothing ahead but road. We would live in a real house again someday, maybe. We would go back to school someday, probably, but right now we were traveling, and travel was an education, my father said. We saw woolly mammoth skeletons. We saw Stately Homes of Yore. We saw the Upside Down House. And if my leg got caught in that half-ass ladder and I was stuck, neither right side up nor upside down, my father and brother would come and pull me out, because they had to, because they were what was left. We were what was left of my broken family after the hurricane, after that night the world spun, after we left the smashed Popsicle-stick sculpture that used to be our home, to become permanent tourists stumbling through this land of alligators and lizards, in our camper van with its racing stripes like a giant sneaker. Sneakers are what you wear when you run away, from a storm or a falling tree or yourself, and three of us ran fast enough that night and my father never let us talk about the two who didn’t.


Kathryn Kulpa is a New England-based writer and editor with stories in Atticus Review, Flash Frog, Milk Candy Review, Monkeybicycle, Pithead Chapel, Smokelong Quarterly, and Wigleaf. Her chapbook Girls on Film was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest, and her work has been chosen for Best Microfiction and the Wigleaf longlist. She is senior flash editor at Cleaver magazine.

Art by Five South.


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