Guo: A hat is not a hat

by Clara Guo | 3/29/17 2:03am

First Floor Stairs

I dangle several feet off of a cliff — a jagged cliff, painted in the deceptive neutrality of browns and yellows.

I hold on by a string of yarn, boasting of once-vibrant shades of crimson and sapphire. The yarn isn’t taut, but I’m dangling. Something must be wrong.

I feel a pull upward. It’s my sister. Strands of wool escape the edge of the cliff.

Pop. Pop. There they go, swishing in the wind.

The edge of the cliff grows nearer. I place one hand above the other, pulling myself, hoping that the sweat on my hands does not weaken my grip.

I slide downward. My sister pulls harder.

Basement Play-Set

We’re sailing across the ocean on a boat without a helm. We are captains with telescopes, befriending mermaids and monsters.

We play-fight with swords because we have not yet learned the power of guns.

We run around on the deck, wearing plastic sandals that we call “tuo xie,” designated only for sterilized environments. It’s slippery on deck (and perhaps a little salty), but we don’t care. We’re alone, free from the rules of authority.

We’re running too quickly, ignoring the rise and fall of the boat with the impending storm. My friend hits her head on the bulwark.

We must stop running.

Chinese Checkers

I am the general of my troops. We wear yellow because yellow is royal, and I believe I am royalty.

My men move forward, one at a time. We employ a strategy that has worked countless times in the past: one scout marches out first, immediately followed by a zig-zagging line of soldiers that pave the way for the rest of our unit.

We fight against men in purple. They march in step toward us, until yellow and purple blend in the center of the battlefield. We must move forward; retreat is not an option.

We win.

We reach the end first, assembling in the mirror image of our original position. But one corner of our triangular arrangement is empty.

We look behind us; we have left one man behind.

Backyard Sledding

I stand on my sled-turned-snowboard and hold my arms out straight. I bend my knees, bracing for the impact of an improbable fall.

I slide downward, accelerating until I reach the first bump. I release upward.

For a moment, I am flying.

Bedtime Stories

A cow jumps over a moon.

A mouse runs down a clock.

Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall.

Little Betty Blue drops a shoe.

Little Bo Beep misplaces her sheep.

Three Blind Mice lose their tails.

A baby with a lightning bolt scar is left on the doorstep.

The Taggerung is born, an otter with a four-petal mark on his right paw. He will be a legendary warrior.

Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which bestow upon Meg the gift of love and knowledge. She saves her brother from IT.

A little prince travels the universe, stumbling across a king, a drunkard, a geographer, a lamplighter, a businessman and a vain man. Before flying home to his rose, the little prince lands in the desert, where he meets our narrator.

Please keep an eye out for the little prince, the narrator begs of us. Maybe, one day, he will return.

Maybe the narrator will meet another little prince, who asks for a drawing of a sheep but instead accepts one of a box.

Maybe the “grown-ups” will be moved by the narrator’s Drawing Number One.

But the grown-ups see only a hat. And the narrator becomes a pilot.

Golf Course, 1 a.m.

What do you see in the stars?


The Big Dipper pours wine into the leaves of evergreens dotting the periphery. Orion’s Belt moves with the footwork of a master huntsman. Cassiopeia struggles against the confinement of her throne.


Spheres of plasma. Thermonuclear fusion. Gravitational collapse.


What else do you see when you allow yourself the madness of imagination?

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