C. T. Saldarini

The Boy Who Ate Watermelon Cubes

The boy’s throat was sore, burning. It had started leaving Ytinamuh station in a blowy sideways rain that made murky his father waving, the droplets hovering as he pressed on the smoggy glass, then rushing down. “Be sweet, I love you.” Now he tugged and squeezed from different angles, his fingertips palping to place the pain, so he could stop it off, and talk and swallow and breathe without wet in his eyes. In a short time, they ate watermelon from a cart sold at the stop in Evoli, cut to meaty cubes on a bright white pile of snow-cone ice by the cart- man and he felt happy feeling the cool sweet juice slide over pain his fingers could not source. His sister put extra pieces in a crinkling bag and then into a school pack with his new shoes.

With soft breath into him she said they had enough of the melon, and also of the ice chips, so he could have as much as he liked, and she gave him a medicine pill and he took it with water she held for him from a bottle with a jazzy bird pictured. He traced the bird without wings and pointed and opened his eyes wide and she told him it was a peacock, and they were too proud to fly, only show off birds. The train moved and he slept thinking of peacocks walking while flying birds flew ahead to make sure people would watch their parade. He was sure he slept a long time, but not so sure it was true peacocks could not fly otherwise why would they call them birds.

At Htaed station there were no birds except for the pigeon kind he saw all the time and in which he had no interest. Ugly all, and begging always, even when they had good wings for flying anyplace with seed fields and fruit trees and could help themselves instead of being mean, sending him running to jangle loose things he found for eating. Rain stayed with them, making a carpet of peppered water twisted with reflections. Some bop-jerked their neck heads at him as he gripped hard her hand sploshing through puddles lapping soggy glops of big people things. In their walking, he thought it was getting near to snack and she knew his thoughts and said they would eat when settled. This was good news. The peacock water made swallowing better and he thought he could swallow with big bravery and this would make his sister smile, which was always worth doing something brave for; he liked the way she smiled now with full red lips moving over pretty teeth, not like when her face was grey like ash snow and would not move no matter his talking or nuzzling.

Inside the new train they had good seats for watching things, some which whipped into his view, and hovered to look at him before sucking away and before he could ask any questions. A cow with walking legs stayed for hello, then was gone before his talking could start. Others with legs straight pointing up would not speak, their heads unseen, their hooves smoked dark and charry, and he was glad for not feeling their biting fly-bugs and for missing their smell on him. He did not blame them in their leaving, maybe they saw lots of boys on trains and saw they were the same, like he saw all bop-jerkies. His sister asked if he was ready for snacks and he was right away. She pulled a string that closed a curtain and made the window black, so he could no longer see other burned things he would never pierce for knowing.

She had fresh soft bread shaped like smiley giant-sized clamshells, the kind he remembered on a piled plate at a table he could reach, near one with painted eggs he could not. Small pieces blossomed from her hands, which had turned back to clean scrubbed again, and stayed straight on her arms and felt hot soothing his hair. The pieces she passed did not hurt in swallowing, the bread moving in his mouth easily, even with hard cheese, and there was room for sweet chunky butter. He ate until he was full, and the feeling of fullness was his most welcome feeling and the same as when Mother and Father could make it so, but different from times when his sister could not. When she went away from helping him, this was when he felt never full and it lasted a long time until he thought he would not again. When she found him, he could make no move to run from the thunder which never spilled rain but always lightning fire. He let her take him up from between the walls of a place he liked best, with shiny ants tumble turning on twisty lines of sugar, which with quick licking, all his fingers dabbed up. Then, all he needed do was spit out the ants that also liked sugar.

When the train stopped there was no station and no carts, and he did not feel or see rain or wobbly walls to be careful in. His sister took his new shoes and helped him even though he could always do his shoes, this was easy. He stood looking at their bright tops which had peacocks that spread their hidden wings when he wiggled his toes against their strange bodies. She made a big smile back in his looking up. “They will take you to Mother and Father,” she said. “They are waiting because you have been sweet.” He held her hand and looked for them and she heard his thoughts and said they were there, pointing, and he believed her and smelled none of the sour tang of the things which he learned to be afraid of from in his alone times. “And you?” he asked without sore in his throat.

“I must go back for our brother,” she said.

C. T. Saldarini is a retired business leader, now striving to produce worthy reads. He thanks you for your attention, acknowledging it is all we have to give.