In the glass window the pond outside looks small and flat and like green black goo. But whenever I walk next to it and I look down, it is so so big. When you look down, it’s all you can see. From there it’s so big, and it still looks like goo. It makes me so nervous, and I think it could swallow anything it’s so big.
I can hear Mom walking down the stairs. She’s going to yell.
“Jamie, were you watching the TV? You cannot keep doing this! I do not want to keep starting every day so stressed out! You don’t get enough sleep anyway! Do you have everything together for school? You were watching the television and you weren’t ready for school!”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so so so so so sorry. Mom. I’m so sorry. So so so so so so so sorry.” I don’t tell her I was just watching the pond. I didn’t even do my math last night. I try to kiss her but she’s making eggs.
“Sweetie. Not near the hot stove.”
She drops me off at school early because she didn’t remember I start late today, but I didn’t tell her so it’s more my fault. Jonah is on the playground already, probably because he forgot too. Jonah always forgets homework, and I went over to his house once and it was really messy. His mom said she was so sorry for the mess and they just had family over, but when Mom was driving me home she said that it’s probably always like that, and it’s grimy and it makes her stressed out to be there.
Jonah’s pants are too short for him and he has a wood chip in his hand. He tries to stick it in his ear like an earring.
“What are you doing with that?”
“I’m not doing anything.”
“Yes, yes you were. You were being stupid with that wood chip and now you have to eat it.”
“Are you sure?” He looks down. I feel bad for a second, but I already told him to and I can’t go back now.
“Yeah.” I watch to make sure he eats the whole thing. When he finishes, he asks me what I’m going to eat. I tell him nothing, because I wasn’t being stupid. Oh yeah, he says.
When school really starts and everyone else gets there I try to hide behind Jonah so they don’t think I was early, too, and that I am as stupid as Jonah. But he doesn’t get it, and he’s so stupid he doesn’t care if people think he’s stupid, and he runs up to Ms. Leonard in front of everyone and he says “Ms. Leonard! Ms. Leonard! Jamie and I have been here for like two hours already!” She laughs and smiles at him and I want to pull my T-shirt over my head but I smile at her and I try to tell her with my eyes how this was all a big mistake, how I’m not like Jonah and my house is so clean.
Mom calls the office at lunch to tell them that Jonah’s mom is going to drive me home. When they tell me, I ask if I can call her back and they let me. She tells me she just has too much to do at the office this afternoon and Jonah’s mom has to work too, but she’s going to drop us off at our house to play for a few hours. She tells me that getting to be home alone is a privilege and will not be a regular thing, and she tells me to be good. I tell her I already played with Jonah for a few hours today and it wasn’t that great. She says Oh Well.
When I get back to class it’s already silent reading time. I close the door as loud as I can and kind of stomp back to my seat so that the class will look up and wonder what I was up to. When Eleanor looks up at me I just shrug a little. I think I’m the most interesting boy in the whole third grade, or maybe the world. Or maybe not. I wish I could know what everyone else was thinking about all the time. On my desk there is a doodle of a cat, and I add on a mama cat on the outside, so that it looks like the little cat is in the mom’s stomach. I push down so hard on my pen that I’m practically carving into the table. While I’m drawing hairs on the mama cat’s belly, silent reading ends. Ms. Leonard is talking about time zones.
If it’s noon here, it’s six o’clock in Italy, she tells us, so the Pope is probably enjoying a late afternoon nap right now.
I raise my hand. “So we’re in Italy?” I ask.
“No, Jamie, we’re in America.” Everyone in the class laughs. I try not to, but I laugh too. I look over at Jonah, and he’s looking at me already. I squint my eyes at him.
I look back up at the map. “Soooo, we’re in France.” Everyone laughs again, but Ms. Leonard just goes on with the lesson. I feel sort of bad now, and I feel a little squeezing in my stomach.
After class Jonah and I are waiting outside of the front doors. There are pink flowers around the bottom of the tree next to us, and I ask Jonah what kind he thinks they are.
“I don’t know. Chrysanthemums?”
“No you stupid head, they’re daisies.” In my head I think they might really be chrysanthemums. I think maybe I remember Ms. Leonard saying something about that.
“Do you wanna know a secret?” I ask. He nods. “Your pants are on backwards.”
“That’s not true,” he looks up at me sort of sad. “No, they’re not.”
“Sorry. You don’t have to freak out about it.”
His mom pulls up in her dark blue car. There’s dried mud all over the sides so that it looks all dusty and I wonder what Mom would say.
Jonah’s mom brought us muffins in case we were hungry after school. I say thank you and I smile at Jonah. He smiles back. Maybe it’s okay that we’re hanging out for so long today. When we get to my house we start to get out of the car but Jonah’s mom calls to him. She points to her cheek, and he kisses it. She takes both of our muffin wrappers from us and puts them in the door pocket next to her seat.
“I’ll see you in a few hours. Nice to see you, Jamie. You boys be good!”
We play beyblades for a little bit. Then Jonah says he’s hungry, so we go to the kitchen and make lemonade out of powder. I take him over to the window and point to the pond.
“Let’s go look closer,” he says. “Maybe there’s koi in there like at my grandma’s house.” We walk out on the lawn and I decide to tell him. How it swallows. How it’s always there and always big and always going to swallow.
“It’s gonna eat my mom.”
“The pond. It’s going to swallow my mom.”
“How do you know?”
He nods at me. I think Jonah knows about that kind of thing. Moms being eaten by ponds and stuff like that.
“I have a job for us,” I tell him. He nods again with big eyes.
We walk up to the pond’s edge and now he can tell how big it is, too. When you look down over it, it’s the whole world. I tell Jonah that if he doesn’t do it with me then it’s his fault when my Mom dies.
Now we are down on our knees and pond bottom is oozing into our pants and shoes and on the count of three we put our faces into the black green water. When I open my mouth it tastes like when you suck your papercut, and eggs. Even when I pull my head up I can’t get the smell out of my nose, and it smells just like it looks. Like wetness, like when Mom makes me smell my clothes after I leave my wet bathing suit in the laundry basket and it ruins all the dry stuff. I’ve never seen it this close up before, and it’s even bigger than I thought, if that’s even possible. I am too scared so I just pretend to drink but when I look over I think Jonah is doing it for real. On my knees, I watch while he keeps going and going and drinking and drinking. When he lifts his head up for a minute he looks all queasy, like he’s gonna be sick. But he keeps drinking, he keeps swallowing back.
“You can stop now, Jonah,” I say quietly with my mouth pressed into my shoulder but I don’t really want him to. To stop. “You can stop drinking if you want to.” He doesn’t. I see my face in the black water with little bits of green and brown in it like a dirty mirror, and for a second I don’t even know it’s me.
“Okay, don’t stop,” I tell him. “I’m not making you. You can’t tell anyone I made you because I didn’t, and if you try to tell them that then you’re a stupid liar.”
Jonah doesn’t say anything back. I can see his face starting to turn blue, and sort of pale and swollen. I turn around because I don’t want to look anymore. This isn’t my fault, anyway. I didn’t make him do anything. I just want my mom to be safe. I just want me and my mom to be safe. This pond could swallow anything, and if I didn’t do anything it would probably swallow my house whole. But I didn’t make him do anything. He decided.
I turn back around, not all the way around but just with my neck, like the great grey owl in that video Ms. Leonard showed us. Jonah’s head is down now. Seaweed is floating into a circle around his head.
I remember a show on Animal Planet where an octopus hid inside seaweed. I wish it would come and pull Jonah under, so I didn’t have to look at him like that anymore. No, I wish he would jump and say, “Ha! Jamie, you thought I was really just floating there like that, didn’t you? Ha, Jamie, I really got you just now!” I wouldn’t even mind that he’d gotten me like that. Plus, octopuses probably don’t even live in ponds.
“Jonah,” I tell him, “We should go watch that Animal Planet show. It’s so freaky. I bet you’d be so scared, Jonah, I bet you would look under your bed every night for an octopus afterward. Jonah. Do you want some skinny pop? I’m pretty sure my mom just bought some yesterday.
“Jonah, I didn’t tell you to do this! You decided!” I try to run back towards the glass sliding door, but it’s so hard to run fast in the water, and even when I get out it feels like I’m still in there, or maybe like there’s water in me. Green goo pond water in my shoes and my pants and filling up my legs and my stomach and my brain.
I get back inside and I walk into the kitchen and there’s mud all over the ground and it’s not so clean anymore but I’ll be gone soon anyway. I saw in a police show on TV that they can find a killer by their fingerprints. I open every drawer because I’m not sure where Mom keeps the lighter and the matches, and finally I find them in the junk drawer under the bag of clothespins. I sit down on the floor of the kitchen and I try to turn on the lighter but I can’t get both buttons at the same time. I try to use the matches but the sandpaper rips off every time. I can’t stand up anymore and I fall on my knees and throw up all the pond water in my guts onto the kitchen floor. Mom just got a new stove that she loves so much, she says that it’s so quick and that it saves energy. I turn it up all the way to 10 and I press my fingers to the stovetop. I don’t think anything’s ever hurt so much except maybe when I was six and I accidentally sliced my foot open on a nail when I was swimming under a dock at Uncle Jim’s cottage. Maybe I can go there. I don’t think anyone would find me for a while, and when they finally did maybe everyone would have forgotten all about this.
I imagine Jonah’s mom standing in her messy kitchen, and I burst into tears. I’m sorry. I’m so so so so sorry. I’m so so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so so so so so sooo sorry. I’m so sorry.
Outside the glass window, the pond looks green and black and gooey, the same as always.