He threw with all his might, but the third stone came skipping back. He threw in anger, yelling for the stone to listen, to leave, but the third stone skipped back. He threw in frustrated amazement, getting distracted with the sun and the clouds, but the third stone still skipped back and landed by his feet. Looking down, this little boy knew he couldn’t get what he wanted. He wanted the rock, the rough rock that sweat green lake water, to leave. He wanted it to belong to the water. He wanted it to sink, sink beneath sunlight, sink beneath fish, sink beneath sand. Sometimes this little boy wanted to sink beneath sand, but little boys don’t usually get what they want, especially this one.
I guess you could say this summer was strange: strange as in completely alien, not as in something new and scary. This summer was hot and sticky, unpleasant and gray. This little boy’s family went away. They went to what they called the “country,” which was just a fancy way of saying they were going to live somewhere fancy in the summer. This little boy knew his sweater vests were strange. Eight year olds didn’t usually like what he liked. He was strange, strange because he was different, so by default scary, but he thought he was strange because he was an alien.
He wasn’t ugly. He was fastidious, and appreciated aesthetically pleasing things. He was a combed hair type of boy. He liked books and fine dining, and he liked being alone in the country, or the fancy place with trees. He wasn’t teased anywhere he went. People knew who he was. For all eight years of his life, people always knew who is was. He had fancy parents who did fancy things and he had a fancy sister who was unanimously fancied. He was a fancy kid. Eight fancy years he lived, and this inherent fancy, helped this little boy survive, survive school and survive himself.
Thinking was kind of his thing. He wasn’t really into sports or sciences and he wasn’t into television or typing. But he liked thinking. He liked thinking to make a drawing and thinking to invent. But he didn’t know if he was a talented thinker. His parents told him all his thinks were lovely and his teachers told him all his thinks were delightful. But he didn’t know if he believed them. Part of this little boy didn’t want to believe them, and part of him feared that if they were lying, his work wasn’t lovely or delightful, which would mean he wasn’t a lovely or delightful little boy.
His room in his family’s country house was bizarrely shaped. The ceilings were low and the corners were sharp and everything seemed short. This little boy felt like a giant in this room and he loved that. This little boy usually felt quite small. He never felt invisible, just small, like as if his silence made him an observer to people much older, much more experienced at living than him. He never felt out of place, just small, like as if his clothes should be baggier and his hands should be smaller.
This little boy sketched magical scenes. He liked magic, but he didn’t like magicians. He liked ordinary people turning into extraordinary, magical things. He liked ordinary things turning into extraordinary, magical things. He liked imagination and fabrication. His family let him wander and wonder and he explored places not so pretty and not so fancy. He went home with muddy loafers and sketched muddy magic and hung it on his low ceiling and watched the scene change as the sun rose and fell.
He didn’t have many friends. He knew who the other little kids were and they knew who he was. There was a little girl who always twirled. She liked looking up and she liked searching for sparkles. She walked with her eyes closed while counting her steps and holding her breaths. She was an odd little girl. If you saw her you might say she was awkward, a clumsy, skinny thing, but she would tell you she was an explorer.
This little girl was a music type of girl. She had elastic fingers that stretched complete pianos and she had posture and she had good ears and she had a voice that hummed almost inaudibly with every song she played. Her parents wanted her to be a prodigy. They tried to train her to be a prodigy and they tried to train her to be more present, “in the moment” they would say. She wanted to stomp on the piano keys and use her fingers to grab forbidden candies and sing in screams.
Her family wanted to be fancy. They wanted to eat from diamonds and wear china. They wanted everyone to know they were fancy and that they had fancy children and fancy things. But they weren’t. They were casual and they laughed and they were disorganized and they were fun. The fancy people usually weren’t fun.
It was a pretty day, when everything went ugly. This little boy’s family went to a funeral and this little boy cried. His parents promised him he would never die, and he cried some more. He hated when people lied because that meant they were liars and liars are people you should never want to be. This is why the day was ugly, because this little boy realized his parents were liars.
This little boy couldn’t stop crying. He was embarrassed and his face was red and he wasn’t acting very fancy. His parents told him to go home and calm down, so he screamed. He was calm. He was calm. Everyone and everything was spinning and this little boy fainted. His parents carried him to a tiny room, separate from the funeral and left him to awake, alone.
There were bubbles in his vision when his eyes yelled to open. The bubbles were green and purple and they floated over his thoughts as he sat and listened to the fancy people mourn. His sister walked in, angry to be wearing black. She usually expressed her angst through colors and today she was feeling particularly full of angst.
“They suck,” she said taking off her sweater and exposing her shoulders, something she thought would impress a not so fancy boy. This little boy looked at her as a blob of speckled green and purple and his eyes widened as she continued to rant about her never ending frustration with those who gave her a fancy, insignificant life.
She stormed out, leaving her sweater crumpled in a ball. Then the little girl stormed in. She wasn’t even mourning. Her family wasn’t the type to get sad, but they were there to pay respects because paying respects is a fancy thing to do. She entered the room panting.
“Hey,” this little girl whispered. Squinting, this little boy couldn’t tell what color her hair was. She sat down next to him and started to stare at the ceiling.
“What an interesting pattern,” this little girl said. She didn’t expect an answer.
“I never noticed,” this little boy said. She looked at him surprised because she usually was ignored. This little boy was also usually ignored. They had this secret understanding. They were just little in this big world. And they were going to be friends.
Choosing friends seemed weird. For this little boy, his parents organized friendships for an afternoon. They called other fancy parents who had fancy children and those fancy children were driven over to play with fancy inanimate objects and eat cut up peppers. This little girl made friends with inanimate objects and ate peppers like apples, letting the seeds make a mess. Being friends seemed special, this little boy and this little girl had a genuine, immediate, not so fancy friendship.
“Let’s go,” this little girl said. They opened the door to the tiny room and walked out. This little girl walked faster. This little boy struggled to keep up. Then, they ran.
She liked to run. He liked to run. They decided to sprint away from the rain cloud of fancy people. They decided to go to the lake. It was a pretty day and lakes are usually quite pretty on pretty days. The lake was like a mirror. It showed this little boy’s floppy ears and this little girl’s bruised knees. The lake wasn’t able to reflect the distaste they had for the way the fancy people decided being fancy was better than being free.
The rocks by the lake were old. They were almost buried in the ground and they were damp with earth’s early morning tears. This little girl picked one up. The rock was more like a stone. It weighed more than the little girl herself. She walked close to the water staining the tips of her shoes with water too warm for a pretty day. This little girl placed the stone in the water.
“Float away,” she said. This little girl and this little boy watched the large rock plummet towards the sand.
“It’s too heavy to float,” he said.
“I guess it’s forced to be stuck here,” she said.
This little boy picked up a smaller rock and skipped it along the lake. It skipped three times then stopped, and then it sunk quickly towards the ocean’s floor. It seemed to like that spot. It wasn’t too close to the edge, but it wasn’t too deep. The rock seemed to belong there.
This little boy and this little girl watched the lake for a while. This little girl’s brain stopped its routine of hula hooping and bubblegum popping. It breathed for a little bit. They breathed for a little bit. But this little girl and this little boy knew they weren’t going to get what they wanted. I’m not sure they knew what they wanted. So they got angry. This little girl screamed and this little boy chucked two rocks deep into the lake.
“It’s going to rain,” she said.
“It’s always, really, raining,” he said. This little girl smiled without her teeth. She knew what he meant. This little girl held onto this little boy’s shoulder. Then he threw with all his might, but the third stone came skipping back.