Eagles May Soar, But Weasels Don't Get Sucked Into Jet Engines
Class assignment. I wrote it literally 15 minutes before it was due, but I kind of like it anyway.
The sun was blindingly bright, its light dazzling across the surface of the water in ricochets of white and blue. Jess shielded her eyes with the back of one brown hand and peered out over the edge, down at the lake below. Geez… It looks a lot higher from up here. She briefly regretted her hasty decision to add Pine Hill to the list. She snuck a sideways glance at Brandon, wondering if he felt the same way. His face gave her nothing. Brandon always was unreadable that way.
“Well?” she said.
Brandon turned his gray eyes in her direction. “Well what?”
She adjusted her hands on her skinny hips. “Are you going to jump or not?”
He waved her back. “I’m getting ready to. Just give me a sec.”
“Okay… ‘Cuz for a second there you were looking kinda chicken.”
He glared at her. “I’m not a chicken!” He nonchalantly kicked off his black sneakers. The soft springiness of the grass between his toes bolstered his nerves. “I’m not a chicken,” he repeated, more to himself than to Jess.
Jess shrugged as if it didn’t really matter one way or other, as if this wasn’t the single most important part of their adventure. “I didn’t say you were… Just thought I saw you sproutin’ a few feathers, is all.” She mumbled the last part, just loud enough for him to hear.
Brandon ignored her. Shoulda made her go first, but she did call heads. Fair is fair. Taking a deep breath, he jumped. For a moment he felt an incredible sense of suspension and weightlessness before feeling himself drawn forcefully downward. Without realizing it, that word reserved only for those most upsetting of situations, that word which if his mother heard him utter would surely earn him a beating, that word howled out of his mouth as if some maniacal puppet master was jerking his vocal chords.
He heard a clear laugh from high above and then he was under.
Jess watched Brandon vanish through the surface of the lake. She didn’t dare to blink as she scanned the water, waiting to see where he would come up. When his head reappeared she let go of the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. He’s ok! She tried her best not to acknowledge the creeping dread in the pit of her stomach. For one mad instant she wished that he had landed wrong so that she wouldn’t have to go through with it. Then he was swimming easily to the edge of the lake and heading back to her. With every step he took Jess felt her legs begin to shake.
Brandon clapped his wet hand on her bare shoulder and then snatched it back as if it had been burned. “Your turn.”
Jess brushed off the damp spot left by his hand and readjusted her tank top strap. “I know, okay?” She hesitantly stepped out of her flip flops and felt the cool grass beneath her feet. “How cold is the water?”
He shrugged. “S’okay. Warmer than I thought it was gonna be.”
She started to take a step toward the edge and then pulled her foot back before it could touch the ground. “What did it feel like? The jump?”
“It felt like flying,” he started then paused, furrowing his eyebrows. “Nah, it was more like falling. But if I had wings I coulda flown. I could feel the gravity really strong.”
Jess dug her toes into the ground and dug up a clump of grass. “Are there rocks?”
“Way down at the bottom. I saw ‘em when I opened my eyes under there, but I wasn’t anywhere near ‘em.”
“Well… what about leeches?” She asked, already knowing the answer.
“Leeches!” said Brandon. “Are you nuts? We swim in Pine Lake every summer. ‘Course there’s no leeches! That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!”
“Well, I know there’s never been leeches before, but we’ve never jumped in from this high before and… what if… what if you stirred ‘em up when you jumped in? And what if they get on me and suck my blood?” Jess knew it was a long shot, and she knew it was her idea in the first place, and now she knew that the absolute last thing she wanted to do was jump. “I could bleed to death!”
“What are you, retarded?!” said Brandon. “There’s never been a leech in Pine Lake! Even if there were you can’t bleed to death from ‘em. They’re just big slugs!” He narrowed his eyes at her. “Are you wussin out on me, Carter? Is that what I’m hearing?”
Jess bristled at the use of her last name. That was Brandon’s classic intimidation tactic. It never failed to get her hackles up and she knew it. “No. I’m just saying… maybe this was a bad idea.”
“It was your idea!” he shot back at her.
“I know! But it was a stupid one and I don’t wanna do it anymore.”
Brandon stared at her as if seeing her for the first time. “You’re doin’ it. I can’t believe it. Ramon was right! You are!”
“I’m what?” Jess asked confused.
“You’re turning into a girl.” He spat that last word as if it tasted of medicine. “A damn girl. A damn dresses wearing, lip stick eating, frilly bow covered girl!”
Now it was Jess’ turn to glare. “I am not!”
“You are too! You’re wussing out on me! You never wussed out, not even when we ate those worms! But now you are and it’s because you’re turning into a girl! My brother told me all girls are,” he struggled with the word. “Inconsistent!”
Jess wasn’t sure what that meant, but she knew it was an insult from the way his lips curled when he said it. “You better take that back,” she warned, balling up her fists.
“Make me,” he taunted. “Oh wait, I guess I can’t fight you know because you’re a girl and you might cry or something.”
“I’ll make you cry,” she said. “Like I did last time.”
“That was the first grade! I’m a lot bigger now.”
“So am I.” Jess countered. “Now take it back.”
Brandon shook his head. “I ain’t taking it back, and I ain’t going to fight you neither. I don’t hit little girls.” He kneeled down shoved his right foot back into his shoe. “Well, if you’re gonna wuss out and turn into a girl on me, then I guess I’ll just go home because if you can’t handle a little bitty jump like Pine Hill then I don’t think you’ll ever…”
A high-pitched scream interrupted his tirade and he looked up. Jess was gone. He jumped up and scrambled over to the edge with one half-laced show on his foot. “Jess? Jess!”
The water was shimmering violently.
“Jess!” he yelled. She musta jumped. I sure hope she jumped and didn’t fall! “Jess!” he called again. I can’t see anything! He turned and sprinted back down Pine Hill, barely feeling the twigs and rocks that jabbed his naked left foot. He reached the edge of the lake, his eyes shooting back and forth, still searching. Then he saw her.
Jess was floating face down near the spot where he had come up, unmoving. Her long black braids fanned out around her head like a halo of tentacles.
“Jess!” he screamed. He plunged into the water, and fought his way to his friend. Reaching her, he flipped her over and was both infuriated and relieved to see her grin up at him.
“I heard your voice crack when you yelled.” She said. “Now who’s turning into a girl?”
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