Back to Issue Forty-Two

Murder Hornets

BY ELANE KIM

The night I moved out of the old home, Appa turned the air conditioner on for the first time. It made a buzzing noise, a noise like a sad bee, so we laughed. I left Appa a Tupperware container of spaghetti in the fridge. “Two minutes in the microwave,” I said, and he nodded.

He and I lived in a small house where we lived small lives: cereal for breakfast, takeout if we saw Appa’s check from the factory before the water bill. Then, the housing market got competitive. The houses grew taller, wider, and so did the people. We stayed small, and small was enough. Then, Appa stopped getting called to the factory, the weeds grew tall in the front yard, and small was less than enough. The night I left, I taught Appa how to use the dishwasher for the last time. “I know this much,” he said, voice flat and sinking, and I nodded this time. We said our goodbyes: “Remember to call”; “Eat well”; “Two minutes in the microwave.”

When I had walked thirty feet, I peeked through the window: Appa was hanging over the sink, wiping his plate, holding the Tupperware close to his body. I kept walking. I settled in a new city within a new county and lived a medium-sized life. I called Appa to say hello, to tell him about the blue houses and the blue pigeons, to remind him that nectarines were in season.

Sometimes, in the quiet spill of the rain, I would catalog what I had left behind: milk swirling in pale ceramic bowls, elbows at the table, cicada songs, soft orange wind. In the mornings, I watched the news: market crisis, election results, giant hornet found in our old county for the first time. The reporters called it a murder hornet and played its cry. It was a sad sound, waxy and sinking. Familiar. I laughed, and then I thought of Appa: his crumpled body, his crumpled wings. Then, his voice playing over the phone, cracked and unfamiliar: “You can stay longer, you know. You can stay as long as you like.”

 

Elane Kim is a Korean-American high school student whose work has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, the Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine, The New York Times, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Her poetry and fiction appear in Columbia Journal, Narrative MagazineBeloit Poetry Journal, West Branch, and One Teen Story, among others. A 2022 Davidson Fellow, she serves as the editor-in-chief of Gaia Lit.

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