from The Labyrinth

My parents’ presences and absences become predictable. When they are not with me I decide not to pace anymore and I sit as close as possible to the entrance. I know exactly when I should start pacing, the moment before they arrive again in their business suits tapping their watches, always tapping their watches. I remind myself that I am never hungry. I remind myself that I am always naked. I rub my naked belly and ask why it is never hungry. My skin is smooth except for a protrusion to the left of my bellybutton or to the right of my bellybutton. I trace the protrusion, drawing a key on my skin. My parents are coming in their business suits tapping their watches. My mother takes my left hand and my father takes my right hand and we pace together. I ask them how long before they unshackle me. I ask them aren’t they tired of pacing. I ask them if I will ever get to go inside the labyrinth. My mother says I should brush my teeth. My father says an apple a day.

Joshua R. Helms is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama and an assistant editor for Black Warrior Review. His work appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, elimae, and PANK Magazine.