Soda

By Maggy Liu

The sun reared its blinding head early this year, making the students squint and seek shade under the faded umbrellas of the plastic lunch tables. Chemistry worksheets, pencils and pens, erasers and rulers lay scattered while they swear and graph lab results.

A band kid screams, disturbing the peace as his kind are apt to do, as he jostles and elbows his way onto a seat of the packed table. “They’ve installed a new fire alarm!”

Immediately, “Let’s test it!”

Everyone laughs, and the idea is stowed away for later, a summer night or a late-night study session.

Someone’s phone buzzes, dancing on the green plastic.

“Hello?”

Everyone continues to talk at the same volume.

“HELLO?”

“PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON,” a friend bellows. The unrestrained, guffawing laughter of teenage boys echoes across the quad, empty two hours after the last bell.

The owner of the phone ignores his friend. “Guys! Rob wants to know what kind of soda we want.”

Image Courtesy of Mark Brennan (flickr.com)

“Sprite!”

“No, fuck Sprite,” a junior snaps. “Let’s get Coke.”

“Root beer!” a foolish freshman howls.

“Your mom tastes better than root beer!” The freshman’s ears burn red and he looks down sheepishly.

“Canada Dry,” says the lone senior authoritatively.

“What the fu—“

“It’s fucking delicious,” he cuts the naysayer off, enjoying the power of his seniority. The junior opens his mouth to argue again for Coke, but the phone’s owner speaks up.

“GUYS,” he yells again, “There’s a deal at Safeway. Ten dollars for ten bottles.”

“One for each of us!” someone exclaims gleefully.

“Hold the fuck up,” protests Rob, on speaker phone. “I’m not paying for all this.”

“We need soda,” someone pleads while another one states, rationally, “We’ll pay you back.”

The senior gets his say, and Rob promises to bring back ginger ale. They spend ten minutes swearing and laughing and sharing sex jokes about things they’ve never experienced and probably won’t for years, before the phone jumps again. Five of them rush off to carry back the glorious prize of fizzy sugar water. Ten bottles, as promised, one for each of them.

Image courtesy of Quite Adept (flickr.com)

Someone produces a stack of plastic cups. “These are fucking classy,” he says, flourishing the cups. They’re clear plastic with slightly angled triangular planes, so that each cup glitters in the sunlight. A recyclable trying to pass off as a glass goblet.

The anthem of middle school birthday parties–the soft hiss of air escaping its plastic chamber–rises into the air as worksheets and calculators are pushed aside. They jostle and push each other to pour themselves a cup first. Predictably, some is spilled and there is more swearing.

The ginger ale is light yellow with flecks of gold and white. It’s a party now, and the foam and the trapped air bubbles glistening inside an equally scintillating cup fill them with a buoyant glee that giggles up and escapes with every sip of soda.

They’re all alcohol virgins—bookish kids that have never been invited to parties with illicit beer or wine. But they imagine that this is what getting drunk must feel like—liberating and lifting. They guzzle ginger ale, feeling sophisticated and worldly. Drinking soda on a Tuesday, for no reason, and before they even finish their homework. The sweet fire of rebellion swirls in their bellies with the soda bubbles.

A sophomore tosses his head back as he chugs, and the sun shoots through the ginger ale, turning the cup into a golden inferno. Specks of gold and white light settle on his tanned, dry face and skip across his eyelids. It was like he had plunged his plastic fancy cup into the fountain of youth, and was swallowing the very essence of these few years.

Later, when the blinding sun sets and the boys are at home, the bubbles of ginger ale are released as contented burps, fizzing into the dark atmosphere. Excitement dies as they take out their soda-stained worksheets, but immortality lingers in their blood, the last bubbles of that afternoon drink.

Maggy Liu has lived in California for all sixteen years of all her life, yet she does not know how to surf. For the majority of her life, she believed that she expressed herself better through paints and pencils, so it is only recently that she has started writing stories. She has been published in “Seamless Magazine” and “The Writer’s Slate,” and she has won first place for narrative in the High School Division in the Writing Conference’s annual competition. Her favorite activities include buying old books at garage sales, drawing fish in Calculus, and doodling historical comics for the amusement of her friends.

 

 

 

 

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