The tale of a peculiar, and potentially emphatically extraordinary, young girl named Koss…
by: Frederick Foote
You know what’s bad? When people talk about you behind your back and put your name all out in the street. That’s bad.
Do you know what’s worse? When people know, on, like, some unconscious level, that it would be seriously dangerous business to talk bad about you — to anyone. It’s not that these people dislike, hate, despise, or fear you. Their feelings are deeper than that. So deep that they don’t want to understand why they feel the way they do.
Don’t look at me like that. I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about our sister.
Not June. My older sister, June, is fifteen and a full-on nerd with an attitude. I like being around her sometimes. She’s always the star of her own show.
I’m talking about my eight-year-old sister, Koss.
By the way, my name is Klein, and I’m twelve years old. I’m not as smart or as outgoing as June. I’m more of a loner. I like to take my time and feel my way through things.
Koss is eight and looks like an average Black girl with braces and bangs and silly giggles.
But June and I and our parents know that this is just a kind of disguise. Koss is our sister, but she is a whole lot more than that. I mean, it’s like the sister part of her is just the tip of the iceberg that looks nothing like the part of her you can’t see.
Koss is a boy’s or girl’s name that has been in our family for so long that nobody knows its origin anymore.
So, one reason we believe Koss is way more than she appears to be is that she will freeze up for a few seconds or minutes sometimes. We’re convinced that she’s traveling in her other body during those spells. We believe this because we have asked Koss, and she has described some of the places she visits. Places with lakes of melted greed that are like hydrochloric acid eating away at every living thing and turn the air into poison. But there are things that thrive in the lake. They look a lot like us but with gates for mouths and picket fence fangs. And the place where there is blackness so thick you can taste it. There is no ground or sky or up or down. There are screams of dying, tortured, terrified, things coming at random from every direction forever. Her Koss body could not have survived the places she visited.
When Koss was five, I asked her how old she really was. She smiled at me, touched my forehead with her finger, and whispered, “Klein, I don’t know. I don’t even understand that question.” She giggled, pushed back her bangs, and went to search the freezer for ice cream for us.
I like hanging out with Koss more than June. I kind of know what’s happening with June. And that gets old. However, with Koss, there is the feeling that anything and everything can happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t know quite how to describe the way I feel. I guess it’s kind of like holding your breath waiting for the end of the world, or the beginning of the world, or something amazing like that.
June is not a Koss fan. She feels like Koss is stealing the spotlight from her. But when it is only the two of them, they seem to get along just fine.
Most of the time, I prefer to be by myself. I like reading, drawing, and playing video games.
Sometimes I just need to be near Mom or Dad, and I will sit by them. They always welcome me. It’s like they need to be with me, too.
Last year, in the last week of school, Odell Woods, a boy I have known for years, came up to me during morning recess.
Koss was in the weedy part of the playground trying to catch “hopper grasses.” That’s what Koss called grasshoppers. For some reason, my sister could never grasp the word grasshopper.
This was like the first time I really understood how people felt about Koss. It was like everybody on the playground was a herd of wildebeest on the African plain. And they all knew a lion was watching them. And they knew the lion was not after them, but all eyes were on the lion. Their lives depended on knowing where the lion was at all times. I mean, no one was looking at or staring at Koss, but everyone was aware of where she was.
It was a very tense moment. It was as if the herd had elected Odell to represent them. Odell stopped about six feet from me, took a deep breath, and spoke. “Klein, is Koss an angel?”
Koss was leaping to catch a hopper grass.
Everyone on the playground was waiting, breathless, for my reply.
The question caught Koss’s attention for just a split second.
The playground herd felt Koss glance at them and was on the verge of panic and stampede.
I said, “No. Why would you even think that?”
Odell was sweating like a melting popsicle on a hundred degree day. He took two steps back, turned around, and walked off the playground and out of the schoolyard. No one tried to stop him. I never saw Odell again.
I looked at people around Koss more closely after that. People watched her out of the corners of their eyes. They never, never let their eyes linger on Koss or stare at her. And I could almost hear the sigh of relief when Koss left the area.
I looked at how people treated me and June because of Koss. We didn’t have any real friends. I mean, people went way out of their way to not offend us. But no one wanted to get too close to us. I guess that’s how people treat the children of gangsters and tyrants.
I talked to June about this, and she agreed with me. She said she stopped caring about what people thought about her when she was about my age. June said living with Koss was like living on the slope of a volcano. “You know it’s just a matter of time until BOOM!” I never felt like that. That was a really sad conversation.
Koss and I were playing Monopoly at our kitchen table.
“Koss, are you, like, watching all the people, grading them, trying to decide what to do with us?” Before she could respond, I asked, “Do you even know what you are?”
Koss moved her top hat four spaces to Go.
She grabbed my hand and held it tight as she spoke. “I’m not a judgment machine, silly. I know that. I know that one day you will see me. The real me. Let me know what you see, okay?”
“It’ll be too late then,” I said without thinking, but I know it was the truth.
Koss did too. She stood and left the kitchen. She needed to be alone.
I went and squeezed in between Mom and Dad on the couch. They were watching some old black-and-white western.
June came and sat with us.
It was a tight fit, but it felt right.
Eventually, Koss spoke to us, and everyone everywhere, “It won’t be long now. Just close your eyes and look at me. You can look at me now.”