The Daily Breath

Lara Katz

Weston, CT

Pierrepont School

Fiction

     The air con wheezes in the corner. The ceramic pineapple quivers on the shelf. The morning is dribbling down the sides of the divan, over the shag rug, and nestling in the cracks between the floorboards. 

     My sister has spread herself out across the daybed, draped in an old velvet bathrobe, and is staring down at the hair on her ankles. 

     “I can’t remember the last time I shaved my legs,” she mutters.

     The vaulted ceiling yawns. The windows tremble; the lace curtains flick slitted figures across the walls. I adjust my sailor’s stance. Outside the window, the pavement unzips from the earth and peels down the hillside. Two parallel lines are crossing, twisting, and doubling back over each other in a stream of coupled yellow. The ceramic pineapple has shuddered into dust. 

     I watch, unperturbed, as my sister’s bathrobe begins to commit itself to strangulation. Soon, I realize, we will join the sunlight spelunking between the floorboards. The air con will succumb to its asthma, and then the morning will be gone.

     My sister sighs, shoving away an old couch pillow, and gets to her feet.

     "I want an omelet," she says, and I observe as she walks, unstumblingly, her toes not struggling to grip the floorboards but balanced like weights on either side of a fulcrum, both shifting slowly back and forth and also simultaneously unshakeable. She reaches for the door—to open it, I suppose—and I expect it to fall away from her, crumpling like a curtain, not as the plank of wood that it is; I expect a shaft to appear down its center and run down to the floor, so that it splits along some invisible perforation, sending my sister dancing through a sea of splinters. But none of this happens. I watch as she walks, still stable, still some bizarre unwavering knife that cuts through lead as though it is butter.

     She leaves the room, letting the door bang shut behind her, and although I feel the impact rolling through the floor like the tremors of an earthquake, my own feet still do not move. Then commences a long absence of sound, one that seems to last for another small infinity; I can’t help but wonder when I will hear the sound of my own lungs once more.

     Then I do, and the breaths are all like sheaves of parchment, each a distinct sliver of unmanufactured beauty, each piling up on top of the others with a swish swish swish

     I turn and look out of the window. The road has relaxed into insignificance. The morning has alighted from the windowsill; the sunlight has released itself from the floor and is now peeling back off the walls, floating free-form in the air, as light should. The ceramic pineapple remains on the shelf, untouched and sturdily ugly. The air con still wheezes in the corner. I let my own breaths join it, as smooth and regular as the burst of sun that appears outside my window, every morning, without fail.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

This piece is quirky, confusing, and incredibly insightful. The author is clearly not afraid to take risks, and I think it pays off in a way that is refreshing and innovative. Each reading of it uncovers a new connection or meaning that challenges the reader’s view of the world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lara Katz is a high school senior. Her writing appears in the Alexandria Quarterly, Teen Ink’s print magazine, the Bookends Review, and other publications. She is also the winner of Princeton University’s 2019 Leonard Milberg ‘53 Poetry Prize and a semifinalist in the 2019 Smith College High School Girls Poetry Contest. She loves curling, Latin, and not following recipes.