Why I skipped school to visit my brother in prison

Tyler Barton 

A Cambridge University study circulated through email chains, claiming humans only needed to see the first and last letters of a word in order to comprehend its meaning. Bsailcly the oderr of the mdilde ltetrs deosnt mteatr. We learn this in the dark, from a guest speaker, in the auditorium. My eyes are drawn to the exit sign, lit like fire.


Between EX

It’s a house, our old A frame on Grant street, turned on it’s side, which it was, by the end, and the dark blue door I ran out of, screaming, yet looking back, struck stupid, at the horror.


But it isn’t true (Casey googles it, whispers): there is no such Cambridge Study. While reporters are busy tracking down the hoax’s origin, we are bored learning about the supposed phenomenon for Psych 10 extra credit. I stare hard at the door to will my disappearance, needing so badly to leave.


Between XI

It’s an eye, a cat’s pupil, our cat’s: Belly, his eyes, his fur, on fire, running through the living room, as I watched from the front porch, my brother cackling.


The lecturer’s enthusiasm grates, as he dances under a powerpoint, daring anyone to misinterpret the stirred-up words. It doesn’t matter what’s inside! I cross my eyes at the exit sign. As long as the beginning and end are right! I look through the sign, as it glows forever on. 


Between IT

A lighter, a butane lighter, my brother’s, the one he’d rigged and called his “crackhead flame” and showed me how it shot fire high like a fountain, saying “Betcha I can hit something ten feet away”, and me saying, “What’s a crackhead?” and him saying:

“I’ll prove it.”

“Anything could be inside,” the man on stage dares us, “and it wouldn’t even matter.”


Tyler Barton is one half of FEAR NO LIT. His fiction has appeared in Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, Mud Season Review, and others. Find his stories at tsbarton.com. Find his jokes at @goftyler

Illustration by Vincent Tourigny