Friday, April 10, 2009

Streamers



“I’m running away.”

He stopped flipping over a potato bug to look up at her. “You are?”

She rocked her bike back and forth. The rainbows cartwheeling off her streamers blinded him. “Yep. You wanna come?”

He stood and grabbed his arm above the elbow. “I don’t know.”

“We’ll eat whatever we want, Ben. Ice cream for dinner. Anything.”

“Don’t we need money?”

“I’ve got money.”

“You do?”

“Oh, yeah. Lots.”

This staggered him. His mom and dad never had money.

“But won’t our parents, well—”

“What?”

“Won’t they worry?”

She threw up the kickstand, and clambered on her bike. “Yours, maybe.”

“Oh.”

She tiptoed the bike around until it faced the street. A Hello Kitty knapsack bulged against her back. Handlebars curled her fingers into fists.

“You coming or not?” she said.

He watched her hair stream with the wind. Not rainbow-hued, but plain old brown. He’d found an abandoned baby bird outside its nest last spring, and his mom let him nurse it back to health, before it flew away. Its new feathers held that same, soft color.

He colored to remember that he named the bird, “Honey.”

“I’m coming,” he said, heeling the kickstand on the bike that had been her brother’s. Before he got sick. And before the other thing.

He heard the smile in her voice. “Cool.”

Deep down, they both knew the deal. They wouldn’t get far before he convinced her to turn around. But that didn’t stop them from talking about which flavors of ice cream they’d get for dinner. From arguing whether beach sand would make a better bed than pine needles.

And from understanding, as they took turns silently drafting one another up a hill, that the line separating adventure from tears was as thin as two, twenty-inch, Huffy tires.


19 comments:

Catvibe said...

Sarah there is so much being said here between the lines. It sounds like she is unhappy because although her parents have money, they don't seem to give her any boundaries or even much concern. His parents have no money, but they have caring and love, especially his mother who shows her caring in the baby bird recovery. But despite what is going on with the parents, and the deep wounding she may be feeling, the fantasy of childhood and the connection of a young and innocent friendship knows unbounded joy and at least for this moment, that is very healing. Great writing Sarah!

Karen said...

What a deep story you tell in such a short space. Your details -- heeling the kickstand, remembering the baby bird and its name, the Hello Kitty backpack -- all lend verisimilitude to the piece.

The emotional depths of these children, their complicity in their own fantasies reminds us that even babies have their private realities, form their own worlds.

Aniket said...

For once, I don't know what to say Sarah. It cute, sweet, sad, lovely, heart breaking, uplifting and much more all in such few words,

You've packed a world of emotions and dreams into that one. And the pic is great too. I saw the pic and knew this would be something special.

I love you dialogue fiction a lot. You use simple words in such capacity, that we weave the surroundings all by ourselves. That's very hard to achieve.

I was thinking of you all the time I was watching 'Inkheart'. If someone exists who can bring characters alive of a story... it has to be you.

jason evans said...

Oh, I like her! What a great dynamic between these two. And I agree with Catvibe. You do a stellar job of having an avalanche-sized backstory just poke through with artful touches and hints. Paired with the spot-on dialogue, it can't get much better.

If this were longer, I'd especially like to see the summation paragraph at the end come through in action and dialogue. But then again, vignettes are extra sweet because they're not longer.

Aine said...

Great story!! As everyone else said, you say so much between the lines.

Interestingly, I was very disappointed in Ben, until the end. Deep down, they both knew the deal. He isn't just following stupidly. :) I just hope she learns to trust in love some day, and stop feeling the need to run away.

Charles Gramlich said...

That ending is a real punch and pulls it all together.

Sarah Hina said...

Cat, I did find myself creating a bigger backstory for these kids as the story went on. I wanted hints of sweetness and sadness, but nothing that would overwhelm that moment of deep connection. Thank you for letting me know that those threads all came together for you!
:)

Karen, I appreciate your saying that. I do agree that the right details can lift a piece from commonplace to authentic slice-of-life. And I hoped to do that here. :)

I liked your second comment, too. We do all create fantasy worlds, but it's rare for another to agree to come along, whether it's the correct thing to do or not.

Aniket, thank you for that. :) The pic includes my daughter's bike and my son's in the background. Hers was a birthday gift a couple weeks ago!

And yes, a simplicity of dialogue doesn't necessarily imply a simple scene. I like it when readers are trusted to fill in those gaps.

I looked up "Inkheart," btw, because I wasn't familiar with it, and am very touched. :) It sounds like an amazing film, and book!

Jason, I agree this one probably could have gone longer. But in a way, I like the unspoken action of drafting one another at the end, because they are both helping one another with something that they maybe couldn't even name, during a period of immense awakening in their lives.

Thank you very much for the warm words. :)

Aine, I was probably a little too subtle with one aspect of the backstory here. I actually meant to imply that her brother had died, but that Ben's thoughts wouldn't even let him acknowledge it.

I imagine that kids in the midst of grieving, and seeing their parents grieve, can feel worthless and unloved, even when that is far from true.

Thank you so much for the kind comments! :) And yes, I like that Ben is there to help her build that trust.

Charles, I'm glad. Thank you for saying so! :)

Catvibe said...

You know I was just reading the comments and I TOTALLY missed the part about her brother dying, in retrospect it is completely clear. My brain must have been on a temporary lunch break during that line. That really informs the story much much more.

Aine said...

:) I totally got the back story the first time! I just didn't want Ben to end up in an unequal dynamic. He has the strength, the stability to heal her. But would she damage him in the process?

Aniket said...

Oh it was not at all a good film. And I haven't read the book, so can't say how it is... but the concept of 'Silver tongue' is quite fascinating. :-D

Just wrote this, so that you don't blame me after watching the movie. We've had quite similar tastes in movies so far... I have no intentions of breaking the tradition. After all it was through Before Sunrise that I met you remember?? :)

Sarah Hina said...

Cat, don't be so hard on yourself! It really wasn't very clear. I thought about making it more so, but I liked the idea of there being this block of silence around something so huge.

(my brain takes breakfast, lunch, and dinner breaks :P)

Aine, that's a very legitimate question (and I'm sorry for implying that you were missing something!). I felt while writing this that there was a special combination of strength and sensitivity in Ben, even for someone so young.

And I would hope she'd learn to trust in her parents' love again by first trusting in him. :)

Aniket, okay, so we won't put it on the Netflix list. ;) Still, I liked the description of the plot and especially the character of Silver Tongue.

And yes, Before Sunrise is a remarkable film in so many ways. :) I hope Jesse and Celine will let us meet them again for the next chapter someday.

the walking man said...

"...the line separating adventure from tears was as thin as two, twenty-inch, Huffy tires."

Everything before this line could have been written a thousand different ways. This one line though tells the thousand different stories in fifteen words.

Aine said...

Don't be sorry! :D

I'm just proud that I saw it ('cause I often miss subtle details...)
;)

And that is exactly what I saw in Ben (your writing skill shines!) It was the "Deep down..." line that confirmed it.

I also have to tell you that these characters have been haunting me (not in a negative way). Perhaps it's because riding bikes as a kid has many layers of meaning for me. And the pure, basic connections that are experienced in childhood are in many ways more profound than connections found in adulthood. (Well, with a few exceptions.) ;)

Sarah Hina said...

Walking Man, thank you for that. I believe in the essence of those words, too. Our perspectives are so often shaped by the people standing, or riding, beside us. Nobody should have to ride alone.

Aine, a few exceptions, indeed. :)

And I'm so glad you feel bonded to these characters! What you said about those childhood connections strikes me as exactly right. We had more time and focus to devote to relationships in childhood, and there was a purity of intention when doing so. Bike riding holds a special meaning for me, too. And I still find freedom in it. But it's not quite the same...

Hey, wanna go for a ride sometime? ;)

J said...

Sarah, this is one of my very favorites. (I feel like I say that a lot with you guys!) But something about this girl...she has a hold on me. I wonder if it's not so much that her parents don't care but that they can't care right now, not in the important scary ways after what they've been through. The fact that she will always let Ben (blessed little Ben!) talk her into coming back tells me that maybe she knows it, too, deep down. Or maybe I just want that all to be the case! :)

In any case, this was expertly done, as the others have already said. So much backstory suggested in such an economy of sharply-etched detail. And now I have to go hug my kids! :)

David Cranmer said...

The whole things well done (the ending is a winner) but I particularly like the paragraph that begins: "He watched her hair stream with the wind. Not rainbow-hued, but plain old brown..." Perfect.

Chris Eldin said...

LOVE this, Sarah!! Every child dreams of running away at one point or another. You did a really nice job in developing each character's motives and personalities. Though I'd like to see what would happen if they kept going...

Sarah Hina said...

J, thank you!! And your thought process sounds totally on target to me (as usual). :) I imagine she does know, deep down, that her parents love and need her. But in the wake of grief, that knowledge isn't felt. And kids will reach for that attention any way they can get it after awhile.

I'm glad this story made you hug your kids! Nothing could make me happier as a writer, and a mom. :)

David, thanks for pointing out that paragraph, and for appreciating the piece in general. I hoped it would be touching, and true. :)

Chris, I kind of would, too. Maybe I should write a teen version. ;)

Thank you for the kind words! I'm really glad this felt authentic to you. :)

RachelW said...

Oh, I love this. You are inside the heads of the children, so brilliantly.