TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The three young boys were inseparable. Cool sunlight danced between rippling leaves as they traipsed through their favorite woods. Tommy saw a tree that was just right for climbing, ran to the trunk, and began shimmying his way up. His best friends busied themselves with the beginnings of a fort made of boughs and branches.
Suddenly, Tommy called out, “Oh my gosh! You guys won’t believe this!”
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
Vivek stood waiting for me at the trail head leading up San Francisco’s Mount Davidson. Orange and purpled streaked the sky as the sun started its descent.
“What took you so long, Jon?” Vivek said.
“My dad made me help my grandma roll lumpia.”
Vivek’s eyes widened, and he licked his lips. “I love eating those.”
I chuckled as we began walking up the inclined trail. Dried leaves crunched with every step. I zipped up my hoodie as a breeze blew through the eucalyptus trees. I saw Oakland in the distance across the bay.
“I thought Chang was coming to watch the meteor shower with us,” I said.
“He’s tutoring Marjorie in algebra,” he said, smirking.
“We never see Chang anymore.” I pointed to some kids in the woods stacking branches to make a fort. “Remember when the three of us always did stuff like that?”
“Dude, we’re not little kids anymore. We’re fourteen.” He slapped my chest. “I’m sure if Rosalie wanted your ëtutoring,’ you’d be with her now.”
The wind picked up, and I pulled the hood over my head to hide my chilled and reddening face.
After reaching the top of the mountain, Vivek ran to a gnarled tree and shimmied halfway up until he sat on a branch. I stood at the base of the tree where I saw Vivek pick something out of a knothole. He climbed down and held out a vial of clear liquid.
I turned my head to see if we were alone.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Future Valedictorian, we’re not dropping ac–” he shouted.
Vivek snickered. “Relax. No one cares.”
“My dad will. You know my dad’s been hard on me since my mom died.”
They stood in awkward silence momentarily, avoiding each other’s eyes. “Ready to trip?” Vivek said sheepishly.
“I guess. Have you ever done it before?”
“No. My brother said it would make the meteor shower look amazing.”
“I can’t believe your brother let you take some of his stash.”
“He said lots of guys at his Berkeley dorm used it, but we should take it easy at first.”
After we both sat under the tree, he opened the vial and filled the eyedropper that was inside. He squeezed four drops onto his tongue. “Okay, open up,” he said, raising the dropper over my head.
I opened my mouth and a squirt of liquid shot down my throat.
My eyes bugged out. “What theó”
He looked at the empty dropper and back at me.
“You gave me all of it?” I yelled. I punched him hard in his shoulder. Vivek dropped the bottle, liquid spilling out.
“Fuck!” Vivek scooped up the bottle and quickly shut it.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“Chill. You need to chill.”
“I want to go home.” My cheeks warmed with anger.
“You’ll be fine.” Vivek smiled weakly. “Sit and enjoy the meteor shower. I don’t think the stuff will last long.” His eyes pleaded with me. “And your dad will be pissed if you go home high.”
I glared at Vivek knowing he was right. I took a deep breath and stared up at the darkening sky and the emerging stars. My heart raced, afraid I was going to die. Vivek lay down on the ground. I did the same.
We lay there waiting for the meteor shower. At some point, Vivek traced along the stars with his finger. “I can connect the dots,” he said.
“It’s so great.” He sounded like he was talking through a broken McDonald’s drive-thru intercom.
Stars glowed brighter.
Stars bounced up and down.
Stars formed a happy face.
The stars of the Big Dipper melted and dripped across the sky in a rainbow of colors. A dog made of stars tried to catch its tail.
One star glowed brighter than the rest until there was an enormous white hole in the night sky. A shape of a person walked through the hole. Fear and awe paralyzed me.
Vivek laughed. “Dude, your head looks like the Easter bunny.”
The figure ran towards me holding something. Was that a pink house slipper?
“Who else?” she said, her hands on her hips. “Jon-Jon, how can you be so stupid?” She smacked my arm with the slipper. I winced, amazed I could feel it, amazed Mom called me a nickname she knew I hated, and amazed Mom wore the same blue housedress when she had a heart attack.
“I must be hallucinating.” The trees swaying in the wind now had silver halos and sounded like purple, if purple were a sound.
Mom smacked my arm again. “I’m not a hallucination.”
Vivek shouted, “Your head looks like boobs!”
“He is hallucinating.” Mom pointed to Vivek. “You are being haunted by your loving mother.”
“This must be a really bad trip.”
“You’re not hallucinating. I’m here to knock some sense back into you. Promise me this is the last time you use drugs,” she said.
“If I promise, will you go away and let me hallucinate like Vivek?”
“If you don’t promise, I will haunt you forever.”
She smacked my other arm. “Language.”
I rubbed my reddening arms. “I promise.”
“Good. Go home. You’ll be okay.” Mom smiled and put the slipper back on her foot. “Don’t worry, you’re not the only one being haunted tonight. Vivek’s grandmother is on her way.”