Some Things Just Break

By Eileen Donovan Kranz

 

Eighth grade graduation—okay, not as ridiculous as a fifth grade graduation, but nearly so. All of us students were packed in alphabetically that night, in rows facing the stage of our dingy gym. Alphabetical seating was fine with me because it meant that Ethan and I were fated to land side by side. We’d always been the only N and M in our tiny, rural middle school’s alphabet, surrounded by a freakishly large crop of Ls and Os.

Image courtesy of Terry McCombs (flickr.com)

Image courtesy of Terry McCombs (flickr.com)

“We are here to rejoice in the friends we have made,” the principal began from the podium on the stage.  Silver streamers, a faded flag, and the principal all drooped from the June heat. She continued, sing song: “…the experiences we have shared…” (Ethan and I poked each other simultaneously, just one of the thousand reasons that other kids always said we were separated at birth) “…and the middle school lessons we have learned. But before we move on to new friends, new lessons, new lives . . .” (Ethan and I curled our fists and together raised them to our mouths to cough, “new bullshit!”) “…we are here to celebrate achievements…”

“Yeah,” I said softly, “because parents want to celebrate every fart.  It’s a community obligation.”

“I can do that on demand,” Ethan said.

“It was an expression,” I said, waving my hands.  “I didn’t mean—”

But it was too late.  Ethan let one rip, precisely at the principal’s next pause.  And everybody stared at the two of us, not knowing which one did what, the same way that people have always stared at the two of us, all the way back to kindergarten.

I didn’t hear anything later that night from Ethan’s house.  Sometimes I could.  Like dishes being washed, or a toilet flushed. Or yelling. I lived on the street right behind his, Ferdinand Court.  All the streets in our development looped around each other and all of them started with the letter “F.”  His was Franklin Place.  (“Figures” Ethan said once, “that our lame city planners left the best “F” words out.”) To get to Ethan’s house, I could walk out my back door, through my back yard and straight into his.  During open window seasons, I always listened for sounds from Ethan’s house, registering them, in a way.  If the sounds were usual, like the clicks, clacks, flushes and laughs that typically flowed out of my house, then Ethan would be himself when he knocked on the back door to get me for school.  But if the sounds included yelling and slamming, then I knew a different Ethan would be standing outside.

What happened inside his house must have happened quietly.  I’ve read that bombs are silent, too, coming in.  Impact—that is loud.  Just the way it was for Ethan: unexpected and deafening.

I pieced together what happened from the town newspaper and from the few things Ethan later chose to tell me. The paper didn’t print his name, just “14-year-old boy from Franklin Place was brought into protective custody after spraying Cheez WhizTM on the keys of two public phones, one ATM, and into the deposit slot of a U.S. Postal Box at the train station.  Released to parents.”  There were only two houses on Franklin Place.  Two ancient old ladies lived in the other house, and probably together they didn’t even have the strength to operate the nozzle on the can, so everyone who read the paper could figure out who the culprit was.

What he did was bizarre, but Ethan explained it all to me, after he got out of jail.  After his family got home from the graduation, he’d had been left alone again with the baby. The baby always seemed like some kind of afterthought in that family.  Ethan’s mom often just left her in a Pack n’ Play™ with a bottle and a stuffed animal or told Ethan to pick her up and entertain her.  Tons of times Ethan and I took her to the park to push her back and forth on a baby-swing while we talked over her head.

"Say cheese" courtesy of RD the Milkman (flickr.com)

“Say cheese” courtesy of RD the Milkman (flickr.com)

To entertain her after the graduation, Ethan had resorted to making sculptures out of Cheez Whiz on a paper plate. His sister got so excited by the sculptures that she jumped up and tried to spread some of the cheese on the TV screen.  Ethan was trying to stop her.  He had the can in one hand and was holding his sister back with the other when his dad came in from the kitchen.  His parents had been talking in there.  The dad was crying and he took the baby from Ethan and then he said something about him and the mom maybe getting a divorce.  Ethan just stared at the TV.  The dad said, do you hear me, do you understand, don’t you get it?  But Ethan just got up and ran out.  He was all the way downtown before he noticed the can of Cheez Whiz still in his hand.  Ethan said it was like he woke up when a cop put a hand on his shoulder.  He looked around and he saw that everything nailed down at the train station was all cheezed-up.  So he took off.

He said that the cop ran after him, threw him in the squad car and then locked him up in a cell.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” my dad said when I later recounted that part of Ethan’s story.  “That’s not the way it happens, with middle schoolers! I have friends on the force, and they don’t go locking up kids for food fights!”

“He’s not a middle schooler,” I said, insulted on Ethan’s behalf, even though I had some nagging questions myself.  “We’re done with eighth grade, remember?  We’ve already ‘celebrated our achievements!’ We’re going into ninth grade.  That’s high school!”

“Well,” dad said, “you’re not there yet.”

My mom shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know whom to believe,” she said.  “But it seems that in high school, you might look around at some other kids for a change, and think about adding some new friends.”

Both of my parents stared at me, as if they were trying to sell me something and were awaiting my decision.

“Sure,” I lied, “I’ll look for some new friends.  For one or two people I can trust.”  My parents seemed pleased with that, and they didn’t even understand I was calling them out.

And why would I doubt what Ethan had said? After the paper came out, his story was more or less proven, and he was totally popular for a while, down at the town pool and at the park, what with being thrown in jail and all. But in truth, I should get some kind of credit for renaming Ethan, for making him stand out, and even for turning something old into something new—almost what my parents wanted.  Of course, even Ethan needed convincing, at first.

 


 
“It’s not so bad, being in the paper,” I said a few days later, when the town paper arrived.  We were sitting on the stairs of my back deck.  I had an old beach towel under my butt because the deck was dangerously worn.  Ethan was wearing his long board shorts even though we weren’t going swimming, so at least he didn’t have to worry about the splintery wood.  He was jittery.  Occasionally his calf would tap against mine and I could feel a light tickling from the hair on his leg.  It didn’t bother me. We’d been finding ways to sit closer together lately, like if we were sitting on a couch, one of us would drape legs over the other.  More than once my mother had blinked hard and pulled her head back, finding us like that. Sometimes she swatted us apart with her arms and one time she actually squeezed between us and pretended to watch the show we were watching.  Today we sat closer than ever, as if sitting like that could fill the empty space between us where his words should be.

“Probably they’ll get back together,” I tried, because I knew what he was really thinking about.

Ethan pulled up a long slim piece of wood from the deck and examined it. He stayed silent.

I patted the newspaper in my hand. The words “Police Log” stared up at me. “And it’s cool to be in the paper. Right?  Ethan?”

Still nothing.

“Right?  Cheez?  Cheez Whiz?”

He stared at me.  Sometimes Ethan’s brown eyes go blank. In that second you can’t tell whether he loves or hates something.  Whether something is funny or dumb.  Whether you are genius or—

“I like it,” he said.

“Cheez? Whiz?”

“Yeah,” he said, his eyes coming to life.  “And I like that you thought of it.  Now we need one for you. Everybody just calls us ‘those two’ or even ‘the twins’ as if we haven’t lived long enough to earn our own names yet.”

“I dunno,” I said.  “Even ‘Jessie’ hasn’t stuck.  Everybody calls me ‘Jessica’ no matter what.”

“I won’t,” Cheez Whiz said.  “Hey, catch!”

He tossed the long splinter piece in his hand into the air.  I kicked my bare foot high and actually caught the splinter mid-air—with my toes!

“What are you,” Cheez Whiz cried out, “a monkey?”

We looked at each other and cracked up.  We knew right away that he now had his name, and I had mine.

It seemed like a good time for new names.  Everyone was making such a huge deal of high school—as if we were about to board a space ship to some new planet, forever to leave our old civilization behind—that we intuitively knew we might as well reinvent ourselves over the summer, before high school itself decided who we would get to be.

Even my mom started to call me Monkey.  But right away Cheez Whiz’s mom asked me to stop calling him Cheez Whiz.  I just blinked back at her.  I didn’t want to commit to leaving a great new name behind. “Jessica,” she said after a minute, “you’ve gotta stop calling him that.  I don’t want everyone remembering the incident.”

I suppose I understand that his mom didn’t want people to remember the incident. Then again, she didn’t even want me thinking about it.  Believe it or not, Cheez Whiz’s mom is a psychic and one time she told me that if I just thought a thing, I couldn’t help but suggest that people around me think it too. It was sometimes hard to keep a straight face when Cheez’s mom talked.

“It’s embarrassing to me,” she finally said.

This made sense, but I didn’t feel like hearing it.  To get away from her voice I stuck my head in her refrigerator and looked around for something to eat.  Cheez Whiz does that at my house, and he always comes out with something good.  He’ll fill celery sticks with pepperoni and peanut butter, or dip a whole peach into the wide mouth of a Greek yogurt cup and then slurp and chew at the same time.  But Cheez’s refrigerator was near to empty.  I could see all the way to some gunk below the bottom drawers that in my house are filled with fruits and veggies.  I just kept looking, as if imagining my own fridge could make the items there reappear over here.

“Jessica?  Did you hear me?”

I pulled my head out of the cold.  “It’s Monkey,” I said.  By then Cheez was out of the bathroom and we were out the backdoor, with both our names in place, ready to soon start high school with our old friendship and our new names, ready as ever, together as ever, no matter if his parents or mine sometimes shook their heads about the way we ticked or wished that wishes were enough to tear us apart.

 


 

We started the Injustice Club after Ethan became Cheez Whiz and I became Monkey.  It was a secret club.  We were way too old for games like this, but Cheez Whiz and I tried to ignore that.  “It’s our last summer as kids,” Cheez Whiz said. “We can’t waste this one.”

“Our golden summer!” I said. I felt smart when I said it, as if I had a special new knack for naming things.

He agreed: “Our Golden Summer!”

And then we stared at each other and snorted, because we both knew, without saying so, that it’s hard to turn ordinary days, even summer ones, into gold.

But we talked about a lot of things, especially about injustice, or what Cheez Whiz called police brutality.  We didn’t think cops should be able to throw kids in jail, even though jail was the thing that gave Ethan a chance to stand out.  Still, we planned all sorts of bad things to think about cops.  Or he did, and I agreed. If we thought about tying their shoelaces together, for instance, we hoped maybe the cops would reach down and do it themselves.  Because, like Cheez Whiz’s mom, Cheez Whiz and I, at least in that Golden Summer, still believed in clairvoyance.

If clairvoyance really worked, things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did.  I would have known what was coming, for instance, and how to avoid it.  But I didn’t even know that it was Cheez’s mom who was the one to finally move away from him and his dad and the baby.  I heard that from my own mom.  She heard the story at the grocery store.  I guess Cheez Whiz’s mom stuck around for a while after the incident and then one day, she got up and said that the wind was right for a move to California.  My mom told us that story at the dinner table.  She looked at my dad and said, “An ill wind.”

Image courtesy of Scott Ableman (flickr.com)

Image courtesy of Scott Ableman (flickr.com)

There used to be a wooden sign outside of Cheez Whiz’s house that had an eyeball painted on one end and a hand, palm up, on the other, and in between the words said: “Psychic Consultation.”  My mom would wince whenever she saw it.  “It cheapens the whole neighborhood,” she’d say.  I kind of liked it, though.  When we were little, Cheez Whiz and I would take turns lying at a certain angle underneath the sign.  When we squinted, the eyeball would blink.  It was the best kind of creepy.

We had never been allowed inside the house when his mom had customers; she said we would make too much noise and we could interrupt her vibrations.  Cheez’s mom held consultations in their glassed-in sun porch.  She usually pulled down the big brown blinds but sometimes she forgot to twist them shut.  If we sat really close together on our crooked oak tree in the back yard, on the two-foot wide plank that Cheez’s dad nailed up there for us, four or five years ago, special, we could see inside the room and we could watch his mom’s face.  Usually she sat on a couch facing the windows and the customer sat on a beach chair, his back to us.

I noticed that most of her customers were men.  I asked Cheez about that last year.  He said his mom had told him that was because grown-up men didn’t talk very much, and they certainly didn’t talk to their mothers the way they should, or the way that grown-up girls tend to.  He said that was why they needed a psychic.

“That sort of makes sense,” I said, even though it didn’t.

Sometimes we watched with binoculars.  They were mine.  Up in the tree one afternoon, in our Golden Summer, Cheez Whiz took turns passing my binoculars back and forth.  I always kept the strap around my neck, though, just so the binoculars wouldn’t fall and break.  I couldn’t trust him with some things.  All through middle school Cheez Whiz had grown taller and clumsier.  My mother noticed that first and then I couldn’t help but notice. Now that we were entering high school, he was a full head taller than me, and though I could remember back to when we would step on a scale together and evenly split the weight between us, now he was thirty pounds heavier, at least.  But his coordination hadn’t caught up to his size.  For instance, his fingers didn’t seem to work nearly as well as my toes did.  One afternoon he broke two juice glasses at my house and my mom said, “Ethan, I think you can break a glass just by looking.”  That was mean, but Cheez just reached for three Oreo cookies, put them all in his mouth, and chewed for a while.  After gulping he said, “I don’t think so.  That’s telekinesis.  That power doesn’t run in my family.”

“Ohhh,” my mother had said, with a voice that communicated all her doubts about his family, and maybe even some things she knew that we didn’t know yet.  I hated my mom’s know-it-all voice, so I squinted my eyes in that angry way that makes her doubt herself enough to back out of the room and leave us alone.

“Remember kindergarten?’ I asked now, as we sat side by side up on our plank.

“What goons we were,” he said.  “Holding hands at recess.”

“I know, right? And sixth grade?”

“Yeah,” he said, “ten blocks isn’t long, but it feels longer when you always have an arm around somebody else’s shoulder.”

“Or under it!  Uncomfortable, really, given the weight of the arm.”  I elbowed him.  And we both just looked at each other.  He was probably remembering that by seventh grade we had to quit all that, because some kids thought we were hooking up.  That’s not the way it was between us.  He liked what I liked, and I did the same. Every year I could count on some disappointment with teachers, parents, movie plots, but every year I could count on him.  He had his moods and moments, but I knew my role after so many years of playing it.  I’d ask him questions, or move his mind to something else.  I’d always been able to distract him.

On that mid-summer day, up in the tree, we sat a long time watching and we didn’t see anything. We weren’t expecting to see anything, either, and we didn’t care whether we did.  But that day the blinds were open a little bit so we could see the room.  It was full of furniture but the furniture wasn’t full of people.  I craned my neck and looked at all the places I would look for my own mom from behind my own house.  Our houses are shaped exactly alike so I knew what windows to look in.  Finally I said, “Maybe they’re both in the bathroom.”

“We’ve only got one,” Cheez Whiz said.

“Maybe the customer got a splinter in his foot or something.  Maybe your mom is in the bathroom with him, helping him take it out.  My mom still does that for me.”  I said that in a big rush, as if I wasn’t lying.  I didn’t know what they were doing but I knew that probably a splinter had nothing to do with it.

“May-be,” Cheez Whiz said, lingering over the word.  He was probably thinking something different too.  He dropped the binoculars.  I hit him when he did that.  He could have let them down gently.  They’re professional binoculars and they’re really heavy.  The way he dropped them snapped some hair out of my ponytail and made my neck hurt.

“Let’s go to your house,” Cheez Whiz said.  He was out of the tree and running before I could even say, Okay.  I didn’t even come close to catching him.

 


 

The first thing Cheez Whiz broke after that was my arm.  He told my mom he didn’t mean to do it, but my mom saw the whole thing from the window overlooking the backyard while she was rinsing the dishes to put in the dishwasher.  Later, when she stood outside the curtain pulled around my cot in the emergency room, I heard her tell my dad: “It sure as hell looked deliberate!”  I heard her sigh and then she said, “Playing like that—with a girl!”  My dad didn’t say much, as usual.  Just, “Maybe he doesn’t know himself yet.  His size, what he can do.” Then I heard him clear his throat.  Like me, he hates hospitals.

I didn’t really mind having a cast.  At least it gave me something to distinguish myself with at the start of high school.  I couldn’t tell anyone the story behind it, though.  I wouldn’t even know what to say.  I don’t know if Cheez Whiz broke my arm on purpose or not, but I wonder about that on rainy days because that’s when my arm aches, near my elbow.

We were just hanging out, talking about what high school might really be like.  It was two days after we hadn’t seen anybody in the psychic consultation room and we were sitting in our oak tree again, trying not to fall off the seat we had outgrown years ago. Every time we climbed up there, it seemed like a new balancing act, because Cheez was changing in shape and height by the week. Cheez put his hand on my leg and said, “Shh—shh!”  when a car pulled into the gravel driveway.  We sat there, quiet, and then we heard a door slam.  Even I knew it wasn’t Cheez’s dad.  His dad has a truck that gives a big “pop” sound when he turns off the motor.

We jumped down and peeked around the corner.  Same car as the other day and this time, we saw the man.  He had a nice suit on and he walked like somebody’s dad.  Like dads you see everywhere, at the mall and in the park, in the city, and everywhere else.  Looking down at his shoes as he walked over the lawn, jiggling some change way down deep inside his front pocket.  He walked into the house, comfortable as could be.  Didn’t ring the doorbell or anything.  Anybody would have thought he was Cheez Whiz’s dad.

I’ve been trying to think about what I said next that made Cheez Whiz so angry.  Sometimes you say things you just can’t recall but when you try to remember, you know it could have been something bad, all right.  I think I said, “I guess that man needs to talk with a mother again.”  And I might have said that sarcastically, because sarcasm just keeps coming out of my mouth lately.  It’s like a new symptom to a disease that hasn’t yet earned a name.

Cheez Whiz went crazy. When I said that thing about his mother, whatever it was I said, I took one look at him and started running.  I didn’t run into my own back yard right away.  I should have, because maybe my arm wouldn’t hurt me on rainy days if I’d done that.  Instead, I ran all around the “F” streets, with Cheez Whiz chasing me.  Once or twice he got close enough to pound my back with his fists.  But I was running fast enough to get ahead.  Being scared makes you do that, even if you’ve never ever been scared of that somebody before.

Finally I got smart enough to run home. In my backyard Cheez Whiz chased me in circles and I darted away from him at each turn.  When I was too tired to run anymore, I just stopped.  I stood still.  I gave up.  I didn’t think Cheez Whiz would hurt me.  Even when he jumped up on the picnic table, I didn’t think so.  I looked back at him for a second and then I started to walk away, toward my own sun porch.  I could see my mom watching me, could see her mouth move from a smile to a wide “O” of surprise when Cheez Whiz landed on my back, from way high up, and even through the closed kitchen window I could hear my mom yell, “MONKEY!”

 


 

Image courtesy of James Lee (flickr.com)

Image courtesy of James Lee (flickr.com)

I don’t remember what my mom said to Cheez Whiz once she got to me.  It was something bad, though.  I couldn’t have cared less at the time because I was lying on the ground with my arm twisted up behind me.  The pain cannot even be described as pain.  Maybe shock is the better word, and separation is another.  My arm was broken down the bottom and pulled out of its socket up the top too.  The doctor said that was because Cheez Whiz somehow jumped me, pulled, and twisted, all at the same time.

After I’d been lying around the house for almost a week, Cheez Whiz dropped by to see me. I sat up on the couch, surprised my mom even thought about letting him in.  She had been out of her mind over the accident, and for a day or two she even thought about asking the police to press charges against him for assault.  My father finally asked her to drop it because, he said, we couldn’t prove intent and besides, hadn’t Cheez Whiz always been a good kid with a tough life?

I could hear my mom and Cheez talking low from two rooms away.  My mom finally said, “All right, Ethan.  I’ll go see.”  And then she came and asked me if I wanted any company.

“No,” I said, turning back to the TV.

Now I wish my mom had overruled me.  Sometimes you do need a mom to fix things up for you.

He left our house.  I guess he left town, too, for a while.  I’d look out the window in the last evenings of that once Golden Summer and see just the baby and the dad sitting in that sandbox with the sand level so low you couldn’t even drag a bucket across without scraping the wooden bottom.  I don’t know where Cheez Whiz went those two weeks before school started because my dad started doing the grocery shopping and dads, annoyingly, only seem to get food at the grocery store, not stories.

Finally, we started school and soon enough it was time to get my cast cut off.  I thought a lot about Cheez Whiz while the little saw whirred.  I wondered if he could somehow feel what I was feeling, the way some twins have reported.  But I doubted it. My arm looked old after the doctor sawed off all the plaster.  Even today I can’t move it the way I used to.  I’m almost glad, because it’s like my arm matches my feelings.

My mom seems to know this.  At home she says things like, “Feeling low, old girl?”  She smiles at me nicely.  I don’t particularly like it when she calls me “old girl” though, so I hang my head and count the seconds till she says, “Monkey?” in a high voice with a question at the end.  It’s the same way that she says, “Honey?” to my dad.

“The future will bring good things to you, Monkey,” my mother said the other day.  “Good things that you have never imagined.”  I nodded.  I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I wanted to think she was right.  Then my mother touched my forehead and stared at me for a minute, as if I had a fever.  I didn’t mind; her palm was soft and warm.

“When is the future you keep talking about?” I managed to ask, almost in a squeak.  I didn’t want to start crying but I couldn’t help myself.  My mother nodded as if she knew the answer.  “It’ll come,” she said, “it’ll come.”

Now it’s the end of October and Cheez Whiz and I have been high schoolers forever, but we haven’t talked to each other at all.  Not once, unless you count the time in gym when he tipped his head at me and I shrugged.  After that I thought we might talk more but nothing’s happened, even though our alphabetically linked lockers practically touch, just like our cubbies did back in elementary school, and our seats did, at middle school graduation.

Ethan, that’s what he’s calling himself now. He said those very words, “Call me Ethan,” right in front of me, after some girl— a tenth grader —stopped by his locker and asked who he was.  She also asked whether he wanted to skip class with her. She’s beautiful and sort of mysterious, too, with long dark hair and crazy long eyelashes and eyes beneath them that shift back and forth quickly, as if someone is coming whom she might need to run away from.  Her name is Cali.  Spelled like that, too, as if her parents couldn’t figure out what letters should come next.  A couple of times I’ve seen her hanging out in a dark corner behind the school, smoking pot with some juniors and seniors. Honestly, watching her talk with Cheez Whiz at his locker that first time made my eyes start to burn and ache. I trained my eyes not to water after that.  Which was good, because now, every time I raise my eyes, I seem to see the two of them in front of me.

And today, after school, I hear a girl yell, “OUTTA THE WAY, JESSICA!”

I jump a little because not too many kids know any of my names at the new high school, even though I might want them to.  I turn around. Cheez Whiz is the person I see first.   He’s on girl’s bike.  No cross bar. His face is all red.  He’s standing up on the pedals, pumping, and a girl is right behind him, on the seat.  It’s that tenth grade girl, Cali, and she’s the one who yelled my name. She’s sitting behind Cheez Whiz on a bike. Her legs stick out at the sides.  I just stand there.  They are headed straight for me.

Cheez Whiz swerves, sails right off the curb and into the street, even though there’s a lot of traffic late in the afternoon.  When they fly off the curb, Cali’s rear-end flies up in the air.  She laughs when they land and then she even lets go of Cheez Whiz’s shoulders for just a second.  I watch as she pumps her fists in the air, kind of like she’s the victor of some unseen battle and she wants to rub somebody’s face in it.

At the Publix grocery store, they take a right.  There’s not much down there.  Except the river.  Kids like to go down there after school to lie down together near the water, beside the bushes. Sometimes you can find a dozen high schoolers there, in pairs obviously, hooking up.

I know because once, way back in elementary school, Cheez Whiz and I went down there.  We had to go—we had to rescue the scooter that some high school kids had stolen right out of my driveway, right out of my hands!  A teenage girl from down the street—she’d even babysat for me once—had grabbed it away from me in my driveway.  Her boyfriend was right behind her, laughing.  I remember the way she put one confident foot on the baseboard and pushed off with the other. The boyfriend took a running leap and landed right behind her.  They were close together, like one person, almost.  He held onto her shoulders and they pushed off again, together this time, and they sailed right down the street.  Cheez Whiz and I followed, hollering, for a little bit, but they were too fast for us.

Then Cheez Whiz found a short cut through some scrabbly woods near the road.  We were little and we were fast, and we arrived by the path beside the river just as the lousy teenagers from Ferdinand Court ditched the scooter, dropped to the ground and started rolling around.

And what do you know, today I find myself at the mouth of the very same shortcut that Cheez Whiz discovered way back when.

I follow it.  With my good arm and my weak arm I strike out at the underbrush that has grown up since we last cut through here.  I arrive onto the riverbank and from another direction, Cheez and the girl arrive, too.

“Whoa,” he says, twisting the handlebars and skidding to a dusty stop.  I’ve emerged from the brush practically in front of his face.  Cali slides off the seat and stands beside Cheez and the bike.

“Whoa,” I say.  I stare at Cheez Whiz, at him alone.  I wonder if we might continue this way, playing the mirror game, where we say and do everything the other does. That was great, when we were ten.

“What the f—” Cali interrupts.

I can’t believe she doesn’t complete the word.  Suddenly she seems younger than before; her face looks small and pinched. I stand up a little taller.  I feel as if I can pull power from the word she hasn’t finished.

“What are you doing?” Cheez says. “Why are you here?” He moves his arm around this Cali-girl’s shoulder.  It’s funny, he’s holding her, but with his eyes I feel like he’s trying to hold onto me, too.

I stop mirroring him.  There’s nothing to say, really.  No single word that describes a break.  I turn around and walk away from Cheez Whiz, from Ethan, and from the girl I don’t want to be.

From behind I hear him, maybe I’ll always hear him, his full-throated cry: “MONKEY!”

I don’t turn back.  I begin the walk on the paved path, toward home, toward a girl I don’t know yet, but whom I might, someday, in that future my mother has promised, like to meet.


 

Eileen Donovan KranzEileen Donovan Kranz lives north of Boston with her husband, Jonathan, and with two teenage daughters who together did indeed experience “a golden summer” that lives apart in memory—especially as it shaped their understanding of things past and things to come.  Eileen has published fiction in print and online journals such as South Dakota Review, Literary Mama, and Storyglossia.  She teaches writing at Boston College and is at work on a children’s book.

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One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Great story! I like how Monkey and Cheez Whiz’s relationship develops as they grow older. I also like how it subtly suggests the kind of relationship between Cheez Whiz’s mom and that one man. Good job!

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It's a brilliant thing to have a place where you can read fresh original short stories by both seasoned YA authors and aspiring teens. YARN is a great tool box for growing up writing. - Cecil Castellucci

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YARN is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry, and essays for Young Adult readers, written by the writers you know and love, as well as fresh new voices...including teens.

We also believe in feedback, which is why we encourage readers to post comments on pieces that inspire thought, emotion, laughter...or whatever.

So. What's your YARN?

Vocab Conundrum?

Highlight a word, click the "?," and quench your curiosity. How about "hibernaculum?" Go ahead, try it!

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