Cattails This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


   Sweety's real name isHarrison. I found this out when I was ten and he was eleven. But that was longafter I met him. I met Sweety when I was seven. He was eight. It was on a walkhome from school. The first thing I noticed was that he had a look as though hehad touched down from heaven. I mean, literally. He had sun-blond hair, curly, inwant of a cut, and sky-blue eyes, like two kiddie pools with too much chlorine.He had a sunburn. It was the sunburn that convinced me he was not born like otherkids. He flew down from the sun, or somewhere close to it. I still look up now,trying to figure out which cloud is his. But I never thought he was an angel,just a boy who lived in the sky.

So I see Sweety, and he sees me. Well,of course, he has to. I say, "Hi, Sweety." And he turns around.

"How do you know my name?"

"I heard some kids callyou that. That your real name?"

"Yeah, what other name would Ihave?" At this point, Sweety smiles and I fall in love with him.

"Gee, Sweety, I don't know. I never knew anyone with a name likethat before."

"And I never had a girl for a friend before."My eyes widen and I run to him, staring.

"I could be yourfriend."

"Well then, ask me."

"Sweety, willyou be my friend?"

"Well now, of course I will!"

"Good." I stare at him, thinking this boy is nice and whatwould he say if I wanted him to meet my parents? Then I remember that Sweety ishuman, and I shouldn't stare. The sun beats down on my brown braids, and myoveralls are hot. I wish Sweety and I could go swimming, but then I remember Ican't swim.

"So, you can call me Ruby," I say, "That's myreal name, too."

"Ruby." That is the last thing he said,before we reached his house where his cigarette-smoking mother is on their porch.

"See ya," he says. I wonder how come he doesn't introduce me ashis new friend. But I reason that is probably because his mom doesn't look likeshe comes from the sky, so maybe he is adopted, and she is protective of him.Maybe sky-boys are more fragile than regular ones.

* * *

Sweety is skinny. I find that out at the little pond behind his house.It has a lot of stuff in it, but if Sweety can go in it, so can I. We wadethrough the water. I am wearing a blue bathing suit and Sweety is wearing redtrunks. He is so skinny that they don't fit right. But if they sag on Sweety,that's all right with me. I am 13 and he is 14. His girlfriend, Patty Hollander,doesn't like me. I beat her up once. So now Sweety is going out with a girl witha broken nose, but he is swimming with me. If Sweety goes out with her, I won'tsay anything.

Sweety is in the deeper end. As he comes up, his sun-blondcurls stick to his forehead. I duck under and swim to him, wishing to be a curlon his forehead. I come up and don't see Sweety. That is because he's behind me.In the time it takes me to figure that out, I am under again, eyes open. I popup. There is hair in my eyes, and Sweety is laughing. I laugh too. If Sweetylaughs, you know it's funny.

Sweety's mom calls us in for grilled cheeseand Kool-Aid. It is purple and my grilled cheese has too much grill, not enoughcheese. I point this out to myself. I also point out that people with blue eyescan make them bluer by swimming. Or maybe this is only true with boys from thesky. Sweety gives me half of his Kool-Aid when his mom goes to watch her soapoperas.

Later that day, when I am home, tearing my sister's hair out in afight over room boundaries, Sweety gets slapped by his mom. He is sent to hisroom. He can only see Patty on weekends, and he most certainly can't talk to me.I don't need to know why. All I know is that his mom's from the earth, and that'sreason enough. I decide this while Sweety lays beside me under the fan, on top ofthe sheets, after I open my window screen to let him in. I think that even thoughthis is bad, it is also liberating, because Sweety's mom thinks he is sleeping inhis room, but he is sleeping in mine.

I wonder if he wishes he were inPatty's room where it is white and tidy. But I say to myself, Of course not. Thisis because I am his first girl friend, and we were nine and ten when Patty movedhere. She is from the city and her parents are divorced.

When it startsgetting light, I wake up Sweety. He hugs me, and climbs out my window. There isan indent in the pillow and a rumple on the sheets where he was. I smooth out thesheets and turn over the pillow. Surprisingly, he doesn't leave a smell behind,but neither does the sky.

* * *

I'm yelling atSweety like I never have before. "It's 'cause I love you, Sweety," Ishout. He is choking on my tears. He is running away again, but not to my houseor Patty's. This time, he doesn't know where. The thought of the sky crosses mymind, but I am too old for that. I am 16 and he is 17. He wears glasses and Pattynow lives in Chicago.

"You can't keep running." And it's true.But he looks like he wants to fly. Maybe he wants to fly up, I think. But what amI supposed to do? It's all set with Sweety, but I hate it. I never thought he'dgo back, but who'd want to stay here?

Sweety's eyes are wet, and theylook like the sky about to rain. So I look at the real sky and it already is. Asun shower.

"I'm not running," he says. He and his mom and herhusband are moving. To Des Moines. Montgomery got too small for them. I want totell Sweety so much.

"What am I supposed to do, huh? You are runningaway. You don't know it 'cause your mom's going too, and Stan's going too, butyou are." And he looks at me like he looked at Patty. But better than Patty.Because it just dawned on him that what I'm saying is true, and he loves me back.He actually loves me back.

"And one day you're going to stop runningbecause by then there won't be any place you haven't run to." He turns awaybecause Stan is beeping the horn.

"Harrison," I say, and hewalks a little slower. "Don't go."




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2002 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






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Atl.Braves03 said...
Jul. 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm
Beautiful story
 
MJislife said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm
This story is amazing! please keep writing more! This is soooo great! Sure you could use a few spaces in some places, but that's okay! I love the POV, and just the story plot in general.
 
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