the digital home of Lauren Tyree

Introduction: First Day

You must pronounce my name Naomi, like what you call some of the females among you. I wouldn’t know how to convey the sound outside of my native language, but what have we lost? A label is no more than a shortcut. You should get to know me and call me what you will.

One is assigned a number at birth where I’m from. I understand it’s the same way here. If no record were kept, the threat of chaos would arrest us. And we all like to maintain order despite our vain demands for freedom. Anonymity is a romantic dream turned nightmare when realized.

I only know this because my own identity was a secret from all but the doctor and God for ten years. My mother and father got a clever tale and a free bundle of joy; I got a new life and a tough riddle to solve.

Our doctors back at home are above reproach, not obligated to the law of the land but trusted to make the right decision in every case. I’d like to change that condition, but no one ever asked me what I think before now.

So I’d like to thank all thirty-six of you for giving me this platform. You should know what a rare honor it is to be called upon by my peers. I have worked hard to finally arrive, and you’ve given me an even warmer welcome than expected. Your citizens have exceeded all my naive hopes.

Today we stand together on the brink of a new year ready to face the unknown. Ms. Brown is more a guide than a teacher, since our lessons will reveal themselves. Later, we will praise her for showing us the path. None of this should feel like a chore.

No matter what happens here, let’s all promise to be kind. I may struggle to catch up at times. Please forgive the ignorance that I will no doubt display. Just know that I never err without correction and I may on occasion seek your help in providing it.

You have my deepest gratitude, new friends, for agreeing to host me on Earth, for accepting the future with open hearts.

- Class speech, Cherokee High, 2026

I Will Try Again Next Year.

Dear Diary,

I spend most of my time in harsh scrutiny of the past, and what’s left in the way of minutes and seconds is devoted to the tedious task of predicting the next little calamity I might cause. Clouded eyes rest in the realm of the real as mind drifts off to more utopian alternatives, so it’s hard not to stub the occasional toe.

They said these glasses would fix the “coordination complications,” but I haven’t observed any difference. It could be that I haven’t adjusted just yet. Or it could be the macular degeneration that, if I have it, will probably take my sight in ten years. I’ll have already learned to drive by then and would even be a legal drinker, at least in Canada and Europe. And I wouldn’t like it at all being blind.

Anyway, I was going to tell what Mom did when I kicked over the birthday cake today. Well, she ranted and pointed and couldn’t believe I’d done that sort of thing in the middle of the room, in front of all those potential guests who might’ve actually come to the party if only they weren’t purposely avoiding it. I’d really wanted that brown frosting spider on top (one spindly leg for each cursed year on this planet), but now he was in pieces on the floor. Of course, I couldn’t help remembering my late arachnid friend Moses, who lived in a tree behind the house until he dried up and underwent a careful dissection inside the bug magnifier I’d gotten a year earlier at a similar soiree.

But what I meant to say is that I’m punished now, for who knows how long, locked in my room without dinner or ice cream and bananas, all because I couldn’t fix my footing in time to prevent a pitifully predictable pratfall. Do you think that’s fair? I’d like to see her try the same if I were sick and faint with pneumonia or some kind of feverish vertigo. I do feel something like that coming on. And she should have read my embarrassment from across the couch. The puffy old sack was as bottomless as the bloody marys at her favorite breakfast spot; no heads were blocking her view. (Sometimes I think she lives to prosecute. It’s her rebellion against nature’s freak accidents.)

I know I should not have kicked that tall dessert like I worried I might. What I really should have done, and could have if I’d been able to see what’s in front of me like they’re always imploring, is meet a real friend or two or three last summer at the park. Ravenous guests would have compelled me to take care with my presentation and the placement of the food cart on which my vanilla mountain sat vulnerable and motionless before its sad collapse.

At a sort of bash like that, there’d be separate stations if I had anything to say about it- foods of the finger kind right next to the punch, cake safely obscured by a curtain until the big reveal. Once the song was sung and a balloon playfully popped as punctuation, we’d laugh and dig in without restraint because we all have a few remaining years of relative cuteness. (Mom herself doesn’t eat cake anymore.)

My point, diary, is this: I can’t always help tripping or falling, though I know I should know better by now. This is no pair of magic goggles, so I still ought to pay some mind. But no other day except this one could have happened today, and time doesn’t stop itself, not even for a miracle mutant child.

Until next time,


Though he’d never especially enjoyed visits to the shopping mall, today was different; Robert had a mission. Today, for an hour or two, he could withstand the too-many teenagers lounging next to filthy fountains, the aggressive mongrel scent of too many spritzes of too much cologne. If he thought he couldn’t stomach it, now he’d have to try. After all, his dear wife was not the patient kind, no longer willing to allow him the time he needed to plan or to scheme or to dot the ‘i’ in her name on a birthday card. Always preempting, assuming, always waiting in the wings, Bob’s better half was weary of vain expectation and dashed hopes. He allowed the mental picture to sharpen. This very moment, she was no doubt sitting at home, toes tapping and wrist twitching, surmising her surprise- a snug red sweater, the very one she’d requested weeks ago.

Robert bobbed in and out of the thick crowds haunting cute boutiques and department stores, feeling robbed of precious time with two children he’d not seen since breakfast. Straight to dinner from work- a comfortable daily routine, on those normal days when he wasn’t compelled to purchase arbitrary items in celebration of a wedding anniversary. Still, proud of himself for remembering the gift in the nick of time after many explicit reminders, he soldiered on in search of the golden ticket which would gain him admittance to the dinner table and, hopefully, into his wife’s good graces. But 'later,’ he thought, was getting sooner by the second, so “ why can’t I remember the stupid store ?” In response to his frenzied frustration, a young cashier turned with a slight grimace, not because Robert was no longer welcome, but because she could not wait to clock out and escape the piercing headache of too many shoppers on a too-hot day.

Hoping he could cheat, perhaps, and find a knockoff of the desired designer’s design, Bob even toyed with the idea of presenting a flashier item in its place. A ring, maybe, or a new painting could do the trick. He paused and sighed. The tragedy of it all was that his lover cared not about material goods; she wanted nothing more than an occasional, tangible sign of his undying affection. Since her husband did not know to kiss her everyday, and was not fond of chores, their bank account took the hit. She had learned to deal with a lack of creativity on his part, a tendency to stall and buy time. They had settled comfortably on this, a tacit agreement to give and take just as much as they could handle.

Walking past the blinking neon arcade, Robert braced himself for the onslaught of annoying noises and shrieks from the children inside before a sudden bang, an aural assault both distant and deafening, interrupted his dread and caused him to jump slightly and take in a terrified breath. Boy, have these games gotten creepily realistic. He disapproved with a shake of his bowed head. A woman’s guttural cry broke the silence that had frozen all shoppers in their tracks several seconds ago. Looking up just in time to avoid being tackled by the crowd, Bob turned and ran, keeping pace as a helpless member of the startled and stirred herd.

Because he was headed toward the exit, Robert was spared a glimpse of the thing, of the unfortunate reason for his hasty, empty-handed departure. If he had looked back, past the throngs of gasping sprinters, he may have been curious enough to walk toward it. He’d have almost certainly tip-toed toward it- an abandoned corner near the restrooms, now doubly-abandoned and quieter than a late Sunday night. At the moment, no brave or foolish soul was there to see the grisly scene, a site of shocked terror and arrested exchanges of quips and merchandise. It’s a good thing he did not look back, a good thing he did not allow his morbid curiosity to draw him closer. Not much remained, save the casings of the slain- an ugly sight, to be sure, for any eyewitness. Lucky Robert, thank heavens, was not among the many who saw what clamoring reporters reported that night- two bodies too limp to stand (one very young, one a mother). The details were not spared- a pool of bright red, a small, pink sleeve, a tiny tennis shoe, a sticky rubber toy. A mess of brown curls, a smudge of lipstick, and a bullet between the eyes.

His aversion to shopping now justified, Bob sank into his car with no feeling but the slightest twinge of regret. Leaving without a gift, nothing to show for his trip besides a sweaty brow. A waste of time, he thought, a waste and a terrible bother. Before turning the key, he blinked and wiped away the torrent of tears on its way to his collar, wet already from his dramatic dash to freedom. Home is two minutes away, and they can’t see him wild and upset like this. They can’t, not like this, when he was too eager to escape with the crowd, too weak to guide stragglers toward the door. Too shaken to investigate, too startled by a too-loud bang. He felt sick and ashamed as he watched security guards in their feeble attempts to detain fleeing vehicles from the expansive parking lot. It was already dark, already late; hundreds of headlights only added to the macabre chaos. Once again, he pushed through, like a bat out of hell, away from danger toward the safety of his home.

Early in the morning, Robert awoke from fitful sleep to the smell of singed butter and the sound of his daughter laughing. To the kitchen he carried a half-remembered nightmare in his throbbing head, heading toward a frantic wife with a somber kiss. “Sleep okay?” she asked, to which he shrugged and smiled. Nothing should ruin this special day- not a foul mood or a missing present or a toy on the floor. “Pick that up, please,” he grumbled to his beaming little boy. “It’s not mine!” but he obeyed anyway, dutifully straightening up the cluttered space. Robert kissed his wife’s temple, her cheek, her shoulder. Suddenly thankful to have her next to him, safe in the crook of his arm, Bob whispered two words in her ear. She smiled, with genuine surprise and a gleam of hope visible even to her husband on this day. Breakfast at the table was a very rare occurrence; she feared that was what tipped him off. If Bob had had his wits about him last night, his wife would have awoken to a bouquet of flowers and a playful hint regarding her gift. Alas, he was not so clever.

After a bite or two of dry eggs and soggy toast, Rob dragged himself to the double doors, stopping to sit and put on his shoes. A voice drowned out the clanking dishes: “Go say goodbye to Daddy before you put on your sneakers!” A bundle of baby girl rushed through the foyer with outstretched arms. Robert, scooping up and kissing his daughter, tickled her neck until his wife walked up to the mirror to fix a mountain of tumbling curls. “Honey, go put away your jacket. It’s going to be hot today, and we’re not leaving until later.” Robert watched as his child removed a heavy coat to reveal a hot pink shirt while bouncing up the dangerously steep stairs. “Where are you guys headed?” he asked, scratching his head and smiling up toward the occupied mirror. “I promised her a trip to the toy store, just the two of us, once we drop him off at soccer,” she half-whispered, gesturing toward their still-eating son. Robert nodded and realized he had just enough time to finally pick up the coveted red sweater; hopefully, he would recall the one she wanted. “Can I bring ducky with us?” yelled their baby from the bathroom, her plea falling on distracted ears. Mom fiddled with her hair while Dad crossed his arms. He sure did hate shopping, but he’d have to make a quick trip to the mall after work- just this once, for his wife on a special occasion.

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