So, I wrote this story. It’s fiction. Ish. The important bits are facts, but of course, ‘important’ is subjective, and so, you know, I’ll let that area remain murky. It’s kinda long for one blog post, so I’m going to do a series of installments every few days. If it goes well, I’ll keep going till the story ends. If not, I’ll keep at it and maybe get someone to illustrate it, and see if, together, we can’t take it someplace better.
***side note: I cannot figure out how to indent on this stupid thing. I have tried. It is indented just fine in word document. I need wines. apologies.
How to Clean a Permanent Stain
My parents loved to begin their responses to everything with, ‘At least…’ which was not only often funny, but also an optimistic approach that managed to leave reality intact and uncompromised. For example, my younger brother, Sam, was always and forever wanting to play with me and my friends – dress up, dolls, coloring: anything. He wanted in. I wanted time with my girlfriends so we could do fancy, special, things and pretend like we were grown up. This meant that after we tired of dressing Sam up in baby clothes and strollering him around the house, there wasn’t much of a role for him in our activities. My solution was to promote him to mailman. He could drop letters off every once in awhile, and we’d be left in peace to drink pretend tea and discuss the cost of jelly beans.
Of course, Sam immediately saw through this ploy and went to clarify the issue to Mom post haste. She listened amiably for a while, then said; “At least you get to be mailman, right?”
Sam hadn’t thought of it that way, and decided that when you finally get invited to the party, you don’t complain about the costume requirement. Thusly, my friends and I were the recipients of some of the most intricate and detailed faux letters and packages in the history of make-believe.
The ‘at-least’ approach to life instilled a sort of gritty, quirky, optimism in my brother and me. It colored our characters and personalities with a perpetual chirpiness that made life beautiful for us and probably annoyed everyone else to pieces. I’ve often wondered if my tendencies towards anger and frustration stem from being lucky enough to have avoided those things almost entirely when I was younger.
Kayl moved into my perky bubble life when I was six. His family appeared one Saturday morning during a wretchedly hot August in a long, yellow truck. They rolled into the driveway of the sprawling, green, Victorian three houses away from mine, on the other side of the cul-de-sac.
It was still preternaturally early for my family. Mom and Sam were just finishing the latest segment of the Potty Training Experience – an event that inevitably ended with a pull-up diaper, an unopened, un-earned, Star Wars figure left to gloat on the sink, and no poop in the toilet. Dad was in the middle of making faces and funny hair-dos in the mirror while singing nonsense words and asking me if I knew what he was talking about. I typically struggled to remember all the freshly invented words so I would know them for next time, simultaneously giggling hysterically and shouting irritably whenever Dad tried to sculpt my lengthy mass of brown hair into one of his made-up animals. On this particular morning, however, I was peering out of the bedroom window at the new family hefting boxes and furniture into their soon-to-be home.
Mr. and Mrs. New Family unloaded their two kids from the front of the truck and ushered them into their new house with a quiet speed that left me wondering if I’d really seen anything. I thought maybe there was a boy with curly hair and a toddler in a dress, but even that was a rough guess and warranted a frustrated stomp to Sam’s bedroom where Mom was helping him pick out shoes.
“How old are those kids?” I asked.
“What?” Mom eyed Sam while he matched up a rain boot to his gym shoe, and managed to throw me a confused eyebrow tilt.
“Oh come on! Those guys moving in! Who are they?” That my parents weren’t given prior notice to all things that happened to strike my interest, up to and including the arrival of a new family on my block, had not occurred to me.
“Don’t know, Asa. Why don’t you go say hi and then you can tell us?”
“Well, because that would be weird.”
“I think it’s weird that you want to know who they are without even saying anything to them.”
“Asa’s weird!” Sam laughed hysterically while running around the room in a Thundercats t-shirt, pull up diaper, rain boot, and sneaker.
I heaved an exasperated grunt at my brother and trotted out our front door to say hi to New Family.
I crossed the oasis of our cul-de-sac quickly and found myself frozen in front of the yellow moving truck. I stood at the start of their sidewalk and wondered if New Family would take kindly to a random kid in fuzzy purple pajamas on their porch. I had half changed my mind about saying hi when a boy in brown corduroys and a blue polo shirt ran out of the front door and onto the steps to his porch. He had a gigantic swarm of curly black hair tumbling across his forehead, and translucently pale skin. His face was covered in red sauce.
“Spaghetti?” I guessed.
The boy laughed and said, “Yeah! Mom told Dahlia, my sister, that we could have dinner for breakfast once we got to the new house.”
“Oh.” I shrugged, smiled, and said, “I’m Asa. I’m six.”
The boy smiled back, revealing two missing front teeth and said, “I’m Kayl. I’m five, but I’ll be six in a month.”
Kayl picked up a rock from one of the stairs, skipped down to the sidewalk, and scratched a long line into the cement near my purple slippered feet.
He looked up at me from the gouge in the ground and said, “You have to mark these things.” Then he turned and ran back into the house, leaving me to stare blankly at the scratch. By the time Kayl’s sixth birthday had arrived, he and I were best friends.