The Apple Fell
David Wirthlin

She took a few steps toward me, then stopped and retreated. She said, What do you think you're doing?
Mostly, I hover upright, like I'm standing, but really I'm not even touching the ground. Sleep-wise, I float horizontal.
Both my teacher and I waited, unwilling to breathe. Most of my classmates looked at our teacher, their eyes pleading for guidance. One student looked toward the ceiling as his legs began to twitch. He looked at me with a smile. My teacher rushed over and handed him a textbook. Will you please hand this to your colleague?
He nodded his head and stood up. His eyes were fixed on the book. Shuffling his feet, he made his way through the maze of desks to where I was hovering. Without making eye contact, he extended the book to me.
Sorry, he said.
As soon as the book was in my hands I began drifting down toward my chair. I stopped a couple feet above it. My teacher dug in her bag and produced several other textbooks. She stuffed them in my backpack, and said, Take a look at these, and then tell me what you think. She handed it to me, smirking. I put the backpack on and plummeted earthward. I bounced off the top of my desk and landed face first on the linoleum floor. My classmates laughed. I remained there until every single person had left the room. All day I wore that bag, and all day I remained grounded.
My Dad punched me in the face, knocking me to my feet. I saw his heart pumping -- his face a red balloon, full of too much air. The school called, he said. What in hell's name do you think you're doing?
I stood erect, blood trickling down my face. We stared at each other forever.
Answer me.
My mouth remained closed.
Don't think I won't hit you again.
Slowly, I lifted off the ground.
He came after me, swinging wildly, but I rose above his punches. Obscenities flew out of his mouth, but those missed me too. He ran to the kitchen, returning with a broom. He painted giant arcs with it, but each time the broom came near the preceding rush of air would shift me out of its path.
He flung the broom against the wall. I could hear tears spilling down his cheeks.
I don't get it, he said. He sat down on the cold tile floor, his face buried between his knees. He spoke softly to himself, like I no longer existed. Everything . . . gone. . .
I looked down upon him for several minutes, unsure how to react.
My mother entered the room, scowling and shaking her head. Come with me, she said. She led the way to my bedroom. After a few feet she stopped. Without looking at me, she pointed down and said, On the ground. I quickly obeyed, entering the bedroom on foot. We sat down on my bed. You're killing your father, she said.
I picked at my fingernails.
Get some sleep.
When everyone was asleep, I hovered into the kitchen and took out a bottle of my parent's favorite vodka. I filled all the shot glasses my parents owned, and lined them atop the refrigerator.
I woke up plastered to the linoleum floor a few hours later. I was breathing urine. Eventually I got up and walked to my room. Walked because I had to. Alcohol and gravity are twins. I found my bed and collapsed.
At school the next day I wore a full backpack. In every class I added a book to ensure I remained grounded. As the day wore on, the pack's effectiveness wore off. I continued adding books until the bottom finally tore out.
I'm a baby again. My mother cradles me in her arms, softly humming a lullaby. She lightly rubs my cheek as she rocks me back and forth. She says, You can do anything you want when you grow up. Anything.