Whimper Bang This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 13, 2007
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Wisps of smoke curled on themselves to form overdrawn punctuation over people’s heads. Catey frowned at Julia and said, “Put that out. You know I hate the smell of cigarettes.”

Julia used her free hand to flick her brown hair out of her face and exhaled, smoke streaming from her mouth. “They’re cloves,” she explained. “Come on, Catey, live a little.”

Catey snorted and waved away the sickly smell. Julia talked like she was the new kid in town, grungy from the big city. But she was really the one who grew up here knowing every parent of every child within a two-year margin; Catey was the slightly dirty one from somewhere with a Starbucks.

“Catey,” Julia had said when they met. “C-A-T-E-Y. God, isn’t there a plain Katie around anymore? With a K and an I?” Catey had shrugged and then asked for Julia’s name, which was spelled the conventional way. Julia had looked like she resented Catey’s orthographic abnormality.

“I want to start a revolution,” Julia resolved suddenly. For dramatic effect, she stuck the butt in her mouth and drawled again, “I want to start a revolution,” breathing over Catey’s plate of mashed potatoes.

Catey noticed that Julia didn’t have any food. “You spend extra money on cloves, which are worse for your health than normal cigarettes and smell almost as bad. Don’t tell me that’s not revolting.” She poked Julia’s bony shoulder. “Eat.”

Julia inhaled once more, holding her breath. “You know you like it,” she exhaled. “You wouldn’t have dragged me here if you didn’t. But I refuse to eat with the congregation just because you’re a good daughter.” Catey’s mother directed the choir of their church. It had monthly dinners, and occasionally Catey liked to guilt herself into going.

“Then what do you want to do?”

“Start a revolution.” A woman whose son went to high school with Julia sat down next to them. Julia smiled at her, asked after the unnamed child, and slid further down the bench, pressing herself against Catey to prevent any further attempts at conversation.

Catey sighed. “Get a tattoo, then.”

Julia snorted. “What about the pitchforks and the flaming torches and the angry mothers calling us scum and wanting nothing to do with us?” She tilted her head and appeared to listen to the walls of noise around them, accents falling up and down in a pattern that she knew too well. Closing her eyes, she said, “It’s not a revolution until there’s protests and editorial wars in the paper.”

“Ah,” Catey said. “What you want is a rebellion.”

“Rebellion, revolution.” Julia waved her hand. “Semantics. What’s the difference?”

Catey rolled her neck around to look at Julia, whose green eyes were still hidden from the rest of the world. “It all depends on which side you’re on. Good or bad.”

Julia opened her eyes. “Which side is good?” she asked. “Isn’t it subjective?” The butt lay limply in her fingers, forgotten; she wasn’t as addicted as she pretended to be.

“No,” Catey replied. “The good side is the one that wins.” She tried to meet Julia’s eyes, but eyelids got in the way again. Giving up, she said, “We won’t win.”

“Probably not.” Julia paused. “You said we.”


“You said we. We won’t win.” She smiled. With her eyes closed, she looked almost peaceful. “You never say we. I say we.”

Catey turned her head. “Why are we talking about this?” she asked the rest of the picnic tables.

“What else is there to talk about?”

“Things.” Catey turned back to see Julia peering at her with one eye open. “Get a job.”

“Oh, what’s the fun in that?” Remembering her clove, Julia relit it.

“I hate it when you smoke,” Catey said. She coughed for effect. Julia’s former classmate’s mother laughed too loud at something, and Catey looked for her own mother because, suddenly, she wanted to know where everyone was. She tilted her head and imitated Julia’s earlier position, trying to find in the buzzing crowd what Julia had heard.

“You won’t do anything,” she muttered.

Julia rubbed her thin arms, bare to the cooling June afternoon. “Yes, I will,” she said.

“You won’t,” Catey contended. “You talk about starting a revolution all the time, but you won’t ever do it. What are you revolutionizing? How are you gonna do it? You don’t know. You just talk.”

Julia looked at her, unblinking.

“What if you end up starting a rebellion? Then where would you go?” Catey asked, because Julia didn’t say anything. “We’re stuck here. I know, I know, college. But where are we going after we graduate? We’re stuck. We’re stuck in exile together until the end of the world. You know that. You said that, once. And what are we going to do when we get sick of each other?”

Julia put both elbows resolutely on the table and curved her hands around them. Putting her weight on her arms, she leaned forward and moved her face closer, almost daring Catey to say more. Something snapped in her eyes, but maybe Catey had just imagined it.

“Do you ever think …,” Catey rambled. “Don’t you ever think that maybe we’re friends because we’re both self-destructive?” She wanted to get up, but then Julia blinked.

Julia leaned over and put her mouth against Catey’s, interrupting a new sentence. Clove-laced breath crossed Catey’s lips and tasted bitter against the palate of mashed potatoes. Some of Julia’s air entered Catey’s nostrils and told her sweet and spicy instead of bitter, and then the law of kisses closed her eyes, even though Julia’s hazy green irises stayed open to everyone. Maybe Julia didn’t want the law to apply to her.

Their noses bumped, and Julia rested back on her elbows. Catey followed her lips for an instant, stopped, and opened her eyes. They looked at each other, intensely aware that the blanket of noise that had cloaked their revolutionary discussion had been whipped away. Silence was only the lack of sound; what closed over them now smothered and deafened them. Catey realized what Julia had found under the layers of verbose dinner conversations.

“Yes,” said Julia. She took a deep breath, and Catey almost wished that Julia still had that clove.

Catey swallowed and focused past Julia to see the over-laughing mother staring at her. She blinked. “This is getting too intellectual,” said Catey. Everyone else trapped the words in their suddenly deprived eardrums, trying to make sense of it all.

“Well, we’re the self-destructive ones.” Julia patted her jeans pockets, even though she knew she didn’t have any more cloves. She stood. Catey put her hands on the table, ready to push herself up, but made the mistake of looking at the crowd. Pausing in a half-rise, she caught the eye of some adult who probably knew Julia but maybe not sweet Julia’s friend. She tried to curve her lips up but failed.

“Um,” she said. In an over-exaggerated motion, she straightened and stepped around the bench.

Julia closed one eye. “You know we’ll lose,” she pointed out, eschewing all her previous notions of revolution. Catey shrugged like she did when they’d first met.

“Come on. Let’s make a dramatic exit,” Julia said.

As they left the vicinity of the dining area, someone in the crowd said something that ended with an exclamation point. Overdrawn punctuation bent around various vocal chords. Someone went to find Catey’s mother.

“It didn’t exactly come out right. It’s not how it’s supposed to happen. It’s supposed to be love,” Julia explained later, leaning against Catey’s legs on a sloping hill.

“No, but it’s what you wanted. Angry mothers, editorials, some rotten eggs.”

“Rotten eggs weren’t mentioned earlier.”

“Maybe the mob will forget them.”

“I thought we were the mob.”

“Hmm?” Catey squinted in the dusk.

“I thought we were the mob.”

“No,” said Catey. “We’re the kids who don’t know what we just picked up, only that we set it off.”

“I thought that was a mob.”

“It’s not.”

“Don’t you ever wish you were a plain Katie, with a K and an I?”

Crickets chirped too loudly, drilling into Catey’s brain and pushing Julia’s words out. She tried to think. “No,” she said, and realized it was her usual answer to Julia’s questions.

Julia tilted her head so it rested on Catey’s knees and rolled her eyes up to look at her. “Good.”

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

Join the Discussion

This article has 18 comments. Post your own now!

maddymadmad3 said...
Apr. 12, 2014 at 9:27 am
Great story:)
finaa This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 13, 2013 at 1:31 am
i felt like I was part of the conversation. perfect dialogue!!! I loved how simple the story was - yet nuanced with so much depth. Really fun to read.
In_Love_with_Writing said...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 2:07 pm
This is really good! Nice job! Can you comment and rate some of my work?
In_Love_with_Writing replied...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Whoops. Double post. Not a smart move, but maybe you can check out some of my work twice then? *wink wink*
In_Love_with_Writing replied...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Whoops. Double post. Not a smart move, but maybe you can check out some of my work twice then? *wink wink*
In_Love_with_Writing said...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm
Wow! You are very talented! Nice job! Can you comment and rate some of my work?
Carter13 said...
Sept. 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm
This was exceptoinal. I really liked your dialouge. From some reason the thought that the winner is the good side really stuck with me. :) You are a really good writer.
emattox said...
Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:44 am
It takes an impressive author to be able to captivate the reader for that long of a story of straight dialogue. But you did it. Great job!
kristen178 said...
Mar. 24, 2011 at 8:19 pm
I loved this so much. It was amaaaaaaaaazing!!!!! Keep writing and great job! I can definitely learn from you, and this actually inspired me. <3
Mickey_D said...
Nov. 29, 2010 at 12:31 am

Your use of diction was great, but applying it to both characters and descriptors "monotoned" the story, made it less realistic.

Flow of dialogue was exceptional. Very professional novel-like. Many people here can't understand that. You probably read a lot to understand that (I taught myself to write by reading. A lot.) and I appreciate a good reader :D


The subject of homosexuality was catching and very NOT off-putting, which many stories would do to me. The c... (more »)

LittleMissSong said...
Oct. 21, 2010 at 6:48 am
Wow. This was amazing!!!!!!!! I loved the characterization, and the way the dialogue flowed, but everything was wonderful! keep writing, i'll be looking to read more of your stories!
Hi-5_Girl said...
Jul. 20, 2010 at 7:14 pm

This was, in a word, sublime.

~The Hi-5 Girl

waiting_to_be_found said...
Jun. 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm
Wow. Well done. This is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Like.... holy crap wonderful. Like... I am astounded wonderful.... LIKE PLEASE WRITE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!! WONDERFUL. Hahah Really wonderful piece.
PalindromeGirl said...
Nov. 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm
gosh gosh gosh! i LOVED the way you presented their relationship! It was subtle but also so clear...AMAZING! one of the best stories i've read on teenink by far.
Inkspired said...
Aug. 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm
LOVED the way you described, wrote, etc. Also liked the characterization, too. Also loved the ending. But, er, I'm slightly confused. Are they both gay, or did Julia just want to appear that way?
Sarah P. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 20, 2009 at 3:22 am
Beautiful characterization. You did a great job with the flow of the dialogue too! A great piece.
TheUnknownGuest said...
Aug. 14, 2009 at 4:07 am
I LOVED IT!! That's an awesome story!! Could you make more or is that the total end?
Hay_Wire This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 24, 2009 at 9:28 pm
that was truelly amazing. i wish i could write something like that. im suprised more people havent commented. great job on a tough topic. i think a lot of people can relate even if they dont agree.
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