Where have the fireflies gone?

We are entering summer, that newly discovered territory of humid, sticky nights and ice cream that melts in your hand and fireflies that flirt with the stars.

I miss fireflies. I used to see more of them as a child. I don't know if it's light pollution or pollution-pollution, or what, but I haven't seen them in a while. I've always liked the idea of trapping them in a jar just to watch them light it up, but something about this always seemed cruel to me, too. So I've never done it. Have you?

So I started writing this story today. It's about a boy and a girl and fireflies. :D For once, the story came to me fully formed. This doesn't always happen. My mind is like a halfway home for characters -- they come, get fed and clothed, and then leave and I never hear from them again. But not these two. They walked in, pulled up some chairs and asked how long they could stay.

I hope they stay a while! Here's what I have so far. Please comment with your thoughts -- they're much appreciated.


She turned away from me laughing, her hand reaching up to open a cupboard. We were in her kitchen. The spare light of evening lay in between us like a gossamer blanket. That transparent. That full of possibilities, of stones unturned and doors unopened.

She opened the cupboard, her profile in sharp relief against the raised wood of the cupboard door. She had a classic face with an upturned nose, a delicate jaw, and obsidian eyes that flashed fire whenever she was excited over something. A face made for cameos, made for photographs taken in sepia.

I cupped my face in my hands and just stared, drinking her in. She hummed lightly as she rooted around in the cupboard, a habit of hers whenever she was concentrating. I couldn’t discern the tune and this bothered me, somehow.

“Ah, here it is,” she sighed with satisfaction as she removed a large mason jar from the cupboard.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

She turned towards me with a ready smile. “This is for the fireflies you and I are going to catch tonight.”

"Do you know I've never seen a firefly?"

She closed the cupboard and turned toward me, her wide eyes even wider in her small face. "Really?"

"Yeah. I didn't even know we had them here in Miami."

"Well, you are going to see your first firefly tonight, buster. Just you stick with me."

I felt like telling her I'd stick with her no matter what, to remind her I'd been sticking with her since the seventh grade. But I've learned there are moments you speak up and moments you keep the words inside, hidden, waiting for the day when you'll really need them.

This is not a love story. Let me make that clear. Love stories have definitive beginnings and definitive endings. A plot, a conflict, and a resolution -- the sickly sweet happy ending where our happy couple skips off into the sunset, hand in hand, while the violins thrum madly in the background.

That's not going to happen here. At least, I don't see it happening. Ever. And I'm OK with that. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

But I suppose I should fashion a beginning of sorts, since I still have your attention.

I met Ingrid in the seventh grade. I was the nerd with glasses and the knobby knees and the voice that couldn't decide whether it was treble or baritone. She was the bully with buck teeth and pigtails.

I was down on my knees in the playground, the glasses having been knocked off my face by my friendly classmate Jose. I was blind as a bat's grandmother and couldn't see where my glasses had landed. The next thing I knew, a foot landed in my face and I landed on my back with a breathless "oof!" that sounded somehow comical, like something from a cartoon. Only I wasn't laughing. I was crying. Jose was now on top of me, punching me repeatedly in the nose. There was both dirt and blood in my mouth.

"What's going on here?" came the strident voice I recognized from my third period Social Studies class. It belonged to the girl with buck teeth and pigtails, the one whose hand was perpetually in the air, the one who always had the right answers. The one who cut everyone else in line in the cafeteria and nobody bothered because she was taller than the tallest boy in the whole school. If anything, I was more scared of her than of Jose.

'Why don't you mind your own business, Beaver."

That was the name everyone called her behind her back. This may have been the first time anyone had dared to say it to her face.

"What. Did. You. Just. Say," she said in a menacing voice. I was inching away from Jose, having found my glasses near a bush. I could dimly see that a large crowd was gathering around us, the noiseless hush of their attention gathering more students.

I shoved my glasses back on and winced. The nose was definitely broken. But at least I could see again. And Jose was looking mighty nervous. I watched him gulp and stutter over a response. Watched her hand flash forward and (wonder of wonders) karate chop him. Watched him crumple to the ground in a messy heap.

Watched her head my way, a purposeful look on her face.

Before I could even blink, she was reaching out a hand towards me. I'll admit it -- I flinched. So would have you after having witnessed the Karate Kid in action.

"The name's Ingrid. I think you're in my Science class."

"A-A-Actually, it's Social Studies. And my name is Jack."

"Whatever. It's nice to meet you, Jack."

Her hand was warm in my hand. Her smile was warm, too. I smiled back nervously but then stopped when I realized the action made my face hurt.

"Come on, Jack," she said, still holding on to my hand with a resolute grip. "Let's go get you some ice."

ETA: Thanks to everyone who's commented on this story! I've published it on Protagonize.com and will keep adding to it there. If you'd like to keep up with the story, you can read it here.
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10 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

Loved this - left a comment on Protag too =D

Gosh, it's awesome when characters do that. It doesn't happen often for me either - and definitely not lately. I've hit this ridiculous long term writer's block, and it's starting to annoy me. Guh =.=

At least there are great reads like this that feed my creative mind a bit! =)


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Ana..seriously..

But I've learned there are moments you speak up and moments you keep the words inside, hidden, waiting for the day when you'll really need them.
beautifully written let me say again...

Ann Marie said...

I want to head East just so I can see these! I have never seen a firefly in the real-life. So sad.

You are quite the writer girl!

Randomization said...

I'm in love with words also, but sadly I don't know how to use them very well and I envy those that are talented like you.

I hope to read more :) <3

Unknown said...

Thanks, guys! Your kind words mean a lot to me. :)

Malia said...

Ana, I loved the line about learning when to speak up and when to keep them inside.

You have such a fluid prose, it's very natural. It doesn't come off stuffy or trying to hard. I really like it.

jennie said...

Some very nice lines in here. Your stories are always so romantic and poetic. They make me want to write about blood and vomit and death because I know I can't compete!! ;-p

Hannahkin said...

i loved it. i still love it. i love ALL your writing! i love you!! :) comments on your awesomeness aside, can i mention that you also picked the PERFECT names for Jack and Ingrid? p-e-r-f-e-c-t.


fireflies make me think of Reservation Road. have you seen that movie? if you do,i advise you do so with a box of tissues. it's intense.

ElshaHawk said...

for one thing, fireflies need trees, and shady bushes, so if you don't have many of those, you wont' see many.
I love how you interject the thoughts of the guy. They add so much to the piece!
It reminds me of the style of you use in the Examiner, and that is why we read you, so down-to-earth and refreshing. Chick-lit-esque without the common plot themes.

Nancy Face said...

Wonderful writing...I enjoyed this so much! The characters are the type I would like to sit and visit with! :)

When I lived in Austin, Texas as a child there were fireflies there! They were so magical and wonderful, and I loved them. I did catch some and put them in jars, because I was so fascinated by them that I didn't stop to think I could be hurting them. I went back in my early 20's for my cousin's wedding, hoping to see more fireflies, but I didn't find even one. I miss them!