Editor-in-Chief’s note- Hello, everyone! I’m pleased to announce the beginning of a new segment under Arts and Culture: student art submissions. If you would like to be featured, please feel free to submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. Without further ado, please enjoy Victoria’s short story.
That was the summer we scratched our names into the table outside Lula’s Snowball Stand.
Lula’s Snowball Stand was fixed in the middle of nonexistence off of Highway 98, right in front of a cornfield. The only reason why Josie and I knew it existed was because, unfortunately, that cornfield belonged to me. After all these years, I still haven’t come to understand just how it stayed open – we were the only people I ever saw there.
It was the first week of summer. Ants skirted around our cups, burying their noses in wasted puddles of spilled syrup that must have looked to us like only droplets. A clean, white notebook stretched between us, Josie’s neon pink pen slowly beginning to stripe it with the names of all the snowball flavors we had never tried. There was forty-four in all, which of course, we giggled over the absurdity of. If we were the only customers, then how old must be all that untried syrup?
I was moving away to college in the fall, to a great, grand city where there was no such thing as a Lula’s Snowball Stand. As a token of my respect for all the years Lula had put up with the two of us sitting in front of her snowball stand laughing, talking about boys, arguing and doing homework I decided to try every flavor on the list. Not to mention that it would make her some extra money and get rid of some of that extra syrup.
I met you, Josie, in elementary school. A boy, two heads taller than me yanked my hair and said that was the same color as your lemon-yellow dress. You walked up to him, put both of your feet on top of his and said ‘you’re a lemon’ so innocently that at first, I didn’t believe you had done it on purpose.
Our addiction started early when my father began sneaking bits of hot brown liquid into our cups at the beginning of first grade. We never told our mothers and we never looked back. He filled our cups every time we were together and soon enough we were begging for it separately like a pair of alcoholics.
Our first time at the beach, neither of us had been before. We were chunky second graders waddling awkwardly in the sand. We cried because we didn’t know that water had salt in it, nor did we realize that crabs in real life weren’t nearly as friendly as in The Little Mermaid. I still have the scar across my big toe to prove our ignorance.
When we got older, we went through a brief phase called ‘sneaking out at night’. We never drank or anything like that, just lied on the dewy grass and talked about how the stars were probably just angels winking at us.
Each autumn, as the trees began to wilt, you and I used to throw a schoolwide bonfire at my house. No one ever came, because we weren’t what anyone could possibly call cool. But we never gave up, and we were never disappointed by the empty hay bales stacked around the blazing fire. It was really just for us anyway. We held sparklers against the black sky and watched movies until daylight.
We used to lie awake and tell each other about the dreams we had, not daydreams or hopes or wishes. The kind that you hallucinate when you’re asleep. We would google symbolism and try to relate our dreams to paintings and poetry. Sometimes we would even try to decipher if our dreams would actually come true. Most of them didn’t.
When my family went to Mexico, you came with us. We stumbled over our syllables as we tried to communicate with the locals. This stumbling led us to accidently buying a fifteen dollar cup of coffee in a tourist area. We were grounded in the hotel room for three days. We rebuked my parents’ punishment with notepads and began to write poems and short stories and generally had fun in ways they didn’t know existed.
That week we both became poets. I with rhyme, you with prose.
One time you had the flu, and I spent the night anyway. Your mom was away for the weekend, and I didn’t want to leave you to suffer alone. I made you tea and an oily, poorly cooked form of soup that probably only made you feel worse. I slept in the living room and listened for the cry of your halfhearted coughs.
The first time we drank, it was a straight splash of rum mingled with half a glass of coke. And then another. And another. You always said that no matter how hard you tried you could never remember that night. I wish I couldn’t either. It seems better than remembering the clear, sharp scent of vomit and the tile cooling my forehead as I pressed it to the floor.
I spent the summer before junior year in the hospital, dainty knives scraping tumors from the outside of my stomach. You read me my entire Summer Reading List in the rocking chair beside me in my cold, blue, beeping room, your voice humming through my dulled senses and pushing through the steady throb of monitors.
Downtown, fifteen minutes before both of our houses emerged from the trees, there is an abandoned train station. As soon as I got my driver’s license, we filled up my trunk with books. We stacked the main room of the station like it was a library and spread an old curtain across the floor as a rug. In the afternoons after school, we would take our snacks there and sit quietly in the dim light.
In the train station, we used to recite our Spanish notes together. Sometimes we would sing them, pretending that we weren’t downtown and that no one could hear.
Sometimes, in the summer, we would spend weekends with your grandpa. He would give us each ten dollars and I would use all of my gas money driving to the nearest town with a bookstore so we could squander it.
We were going to go to the Bahamas one day. We thought that maybe there both of us could have a first shot at having a boyfriend.
When we were younger, fourth grade or so, you and I practiced kissing on each other so we would be prepared whenever we met the magical man who could sweep us away from our small town and into whatever charms the world may be weaving for us.
It wasn’t until my senior year that we figured out that such a man didn’t actually exist. The only way to get out of this town was by the power of our own brains. So, we started staying up late, unraveling the puzzles of math and science that we had never bothered to love before. Thanks to that year, you decided to become a chemist.
One time I almost went to prom with a boy. I picked out a barbie pink dress even though I despised every shade of pink. You looked at me and said, “If this is what he does to you, you don’t need to be with him.” You took my phone from my purse and politely explained to said boy that I was planning on being sick on that particular date.
I remember one time I said to you: “I hope you get your heart broke. It’s a good life experience.”
White Chocolate Macadamia.
Well, I was there when your heart broke. He had curly hair and a smile as wide as his long-legged strides. We went on a ‘date’ together (this was your kind way of saying that I was third wheeling) and I caught him texting another girl while you were in the bathroom. When you came to my house later that evening, I deleted his number from your phone. You told me I was just jealous and went home crying.
I waited to tell you what I had seen for three whole days. It was the longest I had ever kept anything from you.
You didn’t believe me even then. You said you were waiting for him to text first anyway, so it didn’t matter if he wasn’t in your contacts.
After a week without him texting you, you decided that even if I was lying, it was obvious that he didn’t care that much. I’ve always possessed a temper and I promise that we were only still friends because I understood that you had only tested him because you knew I was right. I would have dropped anyone else for talking to me like that.
When the acceptance letters started coming, I made sure that I picked the one closest to home that was still farthest from my parent’s beliefs. In other words, I went Ivy League.
You were moving to New York at the end of our last Summer. Your mother had found a man there and didn’t see a point to sticking to a small town that could only offer her a lost job.
We were going to go to an actual fair one day. I want you to know that I’ve been now, and I don’t think you would have liked it at all. But maybe it was missing you that made it feel so out of control, like there was no point in going up and down or sliding around razor curves, if there was no one to scream with and no one to hold on to.
When we finally tried this one, it officially became your favorite and you dropped out of the great snow cone race so that you could lavish in all of its tropical glory. I said that you were a wimp and kept going.
The last snowball I ate before the accident.
The day before the accident, we were under a tornado warning for the entire day. We stayed in your room watching movies and trying to forget that at any moment we could be swept into the foreboding sky. It worked pretty well, considering that we never heard the sirens.
You lived through that day, but not the next.
That’s the way life works. For every day you live, fate destroys another.
Lula brought snowballs to your funeral. Her eyes had always been bloodshot, so I couldn’t tell if she was actually sad or not.
I’ll never be able to remember if the wreck was my fault. I just remember the crush of glass wavering into darkness latex gloved hands prodding my bones and rushing voices asking me to please rate my pain.
The court never decided either. Maybe the problem is that soulless people are unjudgeable. We’re just as cold and untouchable as the people whose bodies have died along with them.
On my first day home from the hospital, I didn’t lock myself in my room like a stereotypical depressed teenager. I went for a walk in the sunshine with my sweater still on because after living in such a sterile environment I couldn’t feel anything but cold. My crutches squeaked and my back ached, but there was nothing more to feel than silent blossoming of August.
My body heaving sobs in your old pillow over and over again as your mother’s moving van pulls away. Who just leaves their daughter’s grave like that?
I still watch our favorite movies, go to the train station, and eat snow cones. Sometimes, I feel guilty, as if I leave a bit of shredded sadness wherever I go, waiting for the next person unlucky enough to find it to pick it up and chew it like innocent bubble gum.
I still have my favorite picture of you hanging on the wall. It was our first junior high dance. You had dyed the tips of your hair orange.
In October of this year, I laid outside on your should have been birthday and listened to all the crickets crashing their wings together. I went back inside because they sounded like my car crashing over and over again.
Each time winter comes, it snaps against my face. It is unwelcome friend that I secretly adore. I cloak my feet from it, my arms, my legs, but never my face. I need its claws to remind that I’m not alone.
We were going to go on a book tour together, traveling every country in the world and greeting lovers of our words whose language we couldn’t even understand.
This turned out to be my favorite. I didn’t stop the great snowball race, though. In the time before the accident, I had always been an overachiever.
This was the last one on my list, and I never tried it. It felt too much like finalizing that you would never watch me taste it.