Time to Write: Cricket Choir

Time to try something new and share my original writing to people outside a classroom. This was a short story I made for my mid-term during my Graduate study (clearly needs more love) and inspired me for an actual YA-contemporary novel I plan to get to eventually lol

Cricket Choir

“I was supposed to be a girl.” I said this as I cracked off the metallic top to my coke. Its artificial smell briefly overpowered the stench of hot earth and sticky humidity. Both of us had found the risk of beer too much today. Everyone was home early in grand preparation for tonight. There was no chance we could’ve gotten a few cans out without getting caught by someone with a big mouth or the ability to cut off all chance of social fun. Of course everyone was probably too distracted with Friday and football on the brain to really notice anything.

Still, I was happy we decided against it. Chris was the one who liked Buds. I find beer nothing more than expensive, flat piss-water. And there would be a lot of that piss-water tonight. The day was bright and clear and our private getaway was close enough to the school’s field I could already smell the tailgating gathering. Volunteers were setting up booths and bouncy-houses and cheap barbeque provided by the school and parents were suffocating the summer air. Classes on Friday home-games always ended at noon but it still never gave us time to really hang out in freedom. There were too many people out and most of them kept their eyes open for the players.

“What?” Chris asked as he opened his own soda. It overflowed as well and he quickly pressed his lips on the top, slurping loud.

“I was supposed to be a girl.” I repeated and started making music with my can’s top and my lack of fingernail. My nails were stubs from mom’s requirement I take up gardening as a hobby this past summer. Something about I needed fresh air and fresh food. I’ve been too influenced by Chris’ addictions to processed sugars.

My fingers always ached and now my dark skin somehow felt even darker than normal and I hated it. It was just the end of the second week of senior year and I’ve gotten three attempts of compliments about how I wore “brown beautifully”. Along with a few snobs asking if I finally picked my fated job as gardener. Original.

“That why you named Morgan?” Chris wiped his mouth and hiccupped. His lips were pink and wet. He grinned and shifted around on the ground. His jeans were going to be covered with dirt and pollen and I wasn’t sure he’d be able to hide the stench of syrup from his parents or the coach. I’m positive he already spilled his Dr. Pepper on himself somewhere.

He was hopeless.

“Yeah.” I had my legs twisted together Indian-style to take up less space for him. It was nice being as close as possible without touching even though we practically had the whole world to ourselves to spread out. Well, an empty lot with overgrown weeds and sunflowers but same thing.

“Why Morgan though? You’re Spanish or Mexican or whatever. Why not Heeeey-Zeus or Ho-say-can-you-see?”

“You’re an idiot.” I laughed because how else was I supposed to react? Chris wasn’t the only one who said moronic things. At least his things had some dumb sort of quality to them.

Chris grinned back at my laugh. He once told me when he got real drunk over a swim-party that he liked it when I laughed. I’m not sure he remembered it but I try to smile and laugh when I’m around him. “What? Just cause they’re not girls’ names? Girls can’t be named Jesus where you’re from?”

“Christ.” I rubbed my forehead.

“Yeah, that name.”

I shake my head and concentrate on my drink. It’s already lost a lot of its crisp coolness and the temperature was what I could only describe as cusp of muggy. September in Texas was always part of the hottest time of the year and by the gathering sweat-stains on my shirt the sun was clearly still working.

And this was the time of year we want to pile kids in pounds of thick padding and then make them run around till they vomit. Then of course there were the games America, especially the south, wept for. I’ve never understood them. I’m happy not to. There is nothing appealing to me about getting squished between screaming classmates and have my sneakers stained from whatever coated the bleachers. Football games were nothing more than loud parties of burnt ribs, the cheapest beer, and people hiding their make-out sessions in the loud cheers.

The only thing that made it mildly bearable was the brief moment I could see Chris with his helmet off and how excitement and happiness practically oozed from his pores at the end of a game. The golden boy always had a glow about him but when he was truly in something he loved he burned retinas. Chris would grin so hard his cheeks made his eyes disappear and he would chant the school’s chant of “Red Wolves, ruff, ruff, hoohrah!” the loudest in their group. He could make something that stupid sound like something to root for. He made it really hard to complain about when he loved pigskin that much.

“So how were you gonna be a girl?” Chris asked when I refused to be baited into some banter. I had honestly got lost in my foreboding thoughts on the game and his smile. He shocked me back into myself to see he was running his thumb over one of the many stains on his jeans. I couldn’t help but acknowledge that he truly looked like a poster-boy for a Texas-town; white-skin with corn-gold hair that’s cropped on his neck but falls on his forehead, right over his brown-whiskey eyes. So many hick colors. His skin always seemed burnt pink and dry from football practice and he enjoyed wearing shirts that showed off his toned arms and collarbone. There were some freckles right under each eye that he covered up with that black reflective gunk with each game and his teeth were white and straight despite how much artificial syrup he consumed.

I guess there was nothing else Chris could be but a football player with his looks. He was doomed from the start.

“Well?” He asked as he caught me staring.

“Abuela.” I shrugged nonchalantly and peeled my damp shirt from my neck. Despite being so down low in the field there was no shelter from the sun. The fabric was stinky and I stunk of sweat. Poor Chris’ ears would pinken on the tips for days after this.

“Ella?” Chris grinned and his mouth fizzed from his last swig of Dr. Pepper. “Ok, not surprised. Crazy Ella is the best.”

We’ve known each other since the age of nine. Our homes were just four apart and he knew about me the moment I moved in. The entire block did. We were the only Mexican-American family to move in and for the first few weeks we were made into some sort of pariah group. It wasn’t until Chris that I knew there was a chance I could ever be friends with someone white. Once Chris showed up everything changed. Abuela became known as Ella, our fridge always carried Chris’ favorite drinks of Dr. Pepper and Squirt, and Friday’s became a night of focus on his football talent.

It felt like most things in my life now belonged to Chris but I think I forgave him for it a long time ago.

“Supposedly she used Angel Cards or something. Each time my gender was revealed as a girl.”

“Angel cards?” Chris looked through his pack for our mini-packets of Ranch Doritos and Gansitos.

“Tarot cards but less evil?” I guessed. I lost interest in Abuela’s interest in the paranormal when I was twelve. It wasn’t nearly as cool as the rated-R movies constantly coming out in the theater. I drank my coke and it bubbled in my chest pleasantly and I hiccupped from the burn. “Anyway,” I stole back one of the many Gansitos he commandeered from home. “Abuela says the cards had never been wrong till me. It was awkward for her once I was born.”

“With dick and all.” Chris laughed. “Had they already bought your clothes and toys?”

“Yep. First six months of my life had a lot of pinks and pale yellow. All my sippy cups had ribbon prints on them. Everyone was so relieved when Casey was born and all my hand-me-downs weren’t awkward a second time.”

Chris snorted over a full mouth. His shirt had crumbs over it and his fingers were dusty with fake cheese and melted chocolate. He unwrapped his second Gansito as he said, “Man, I’m sorry bout that. But guess it doesn’t matter. Still more embarrassing to think at that age it was normal to shit yourself.”

“I guess so.” I sighed and leveled him with a stern look I’ve picked up from mom. “Dude, your coach will kill you if you eat all of this.”

“Like he’s gonna appear in this maze.” Chris pulled the wrapper open and bit into the creamy chocolate bar. “The diet he has us on is killing me anyway. Can’t believe he’s got you guys involved too.”

Dinners with Chris no longer had warm tortillas, spice rubbed brisket, or unlimited chips and Pico. My family wanted Chris’ sports career successful. He’s their second son and the one without limitations. They were happy and greedy for the chance of saying, “he’s a good one and I know him”. It’s not like they don’t have faith in me but, well, they knew my chances of six-figures with the last name Sanchez.

“No barbeques, no tacos, no burgers, no glorious conchas…it sucks man.” He sounded miserable and I couldn’t help but feel joy that I could still engorge myself with homemade taquitos in a matter of hours. I’ll have to resist the temptation and not send Chris a picture of their fried, golden goodness dripping with beef juice and smothered with chunks of avocado and lime. “I’m eating like a rabbit or something. These team-builder things are fucking ridiculous.”

“Well, you guys did blow state.”

Defense blew state. They need this diet.” Chris leaned back and inhaled. The flowers made everything fresh and familiar and I know he loved the scent a lot. Our secret place was something he found and wanted to visit the most. He could hide from the metropolitan haze and pressuring relatives and the upcoming need to pick his college. This was our heaven with jam filled snacks. “So, what made you remember you were supposed to be a girl?”

I scraped my dirty nails over the coke-tab again before I decided to drink it. It was going to go flat soon. “I heard you’re taking Hilary out after practice tonight.”

Chris’ snacking paused for a few seconds and then he starts his second, perhaps it was a third, mini-bag of chips. “Is that a diversion or an answer?”

“Both?” I didn’t look at Chris and started messing with my nails again. They were so blunt and close to my skin they got uncomfortable when I became aware of them.

“Ok.”

“Just ok?”

Chris pushed his hick corn-gold hair off his forehead. He had some breakouts near his hairline. He’s been sweating too much and his helmet’s foam is too dirty. But besides that sensitive spot and occasional burnt, dry flakes, Chris’ skin stayed unfairly clear for a seventeen year old. My face never felt clean enough no matter how gentle I shaved or how hard I scrubbed. “What else do you want me to say?”

“I dunno.” I answered as honest as I could manage.

“Ok, so…” Chris licked his fingers. They’re salty from Dorito dust and sweet from the chocolate. It’s gross yet from his expression I could tell he was satisfied. Chris had never wasted food and that habit had gotten stronger since the team diet was set in.

“So.” I spread my legs out and blood rushed back into them. I could already feel them falling asleep.

“I like her.” Chris said.

“I know.”

“She’s good, you know? Nice and just smart enough. Slender and…” He rubbed his face and stopped. “Yeah.”

“Hilary is nice.” I couldn’t hold myself up any more and flop backwards onto my back. The sun beats down on me and the grass made my skin itch. “Probably the perfect high school sweetheart.”

“Yeah.” Chris finished his soda and burped. “Though, shit man, that sounds so…I dunno, what was that Travolta movie?”

“Grease?” Such a chick-flick and Casey, cause in her own little-sister way was a chick, had binged it over the summer. She wanted it to be her birthday party theme.

“Yeah, like the seventies or something?”

“I think maybe the fifties.” I wondered if ants would crawl down my shirt lounging like this.

“Yeah, it’s too fifties. But guess that’s normal in the south.” Chris laughed but I couldn’t tell if it was happy or not. “Gotta get the girl before college, gotta play a sport, need to make it to state, then college with the girl, then college state, then marriage and mortgage before graduation.” He stuck his tongue at his empty drink. “Fuck, I wish we had brought the beer now.”

“Next time. You can’t go into practice drunk. Besides, we agreed it’s too hot.” I closed his eyes to sunbathe.

“Whatever man.”

“Feeling awkward?” I asked. It still felt normal between us but I couldn’t be sure. We’ve broached the subject a few times before but we always keep tiptoeing about it.

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Guess that’s my fault.” I brought up my drink and placed the bottom of the can against my head. Though it was quickly warming up it was cool enough still to feel mildly pleasant. “Saying all of that.”

“It’s whatever.” Chris was back rummaging through the pack. “Damn, I want more food. Maybe friend chicken.”

“Good luck getting that.” I grinned. “And don’t bother with me. I’m already putting myself at risk here, ya know?”

“I know. You’re too good to me.”

“Damn straight.”

“Sorry about that.” Chris sounded serious and I hated it.

“Any point of apologies?” I huffed and picked himself up on his elbows. “I mean, like, what the hell? Don’t think this is your fault.”

“That I’m choosing a fifties life? Boring and,” he waved his hand around like trying to seduce the final word to him, “fake?”

“I don’t think it’s fake. Just,” I looked up and over and twisted my lips at him to make a sour face. “A second choice?”

“What?” Now I could tell Chris wasn’t happy. “Like a college?”

I shrugged and grabbed a Gansito bar and flopped back on my elbows. “Dunno how else to say it.”

“But it’s my life. Not a “oops, no Rice. But Baylor is just as good” second choice. That sucks dude.”

You suck for saying Baylor and Rice.” I didn’t have a chance at such places. I’d be going to a community college to get all my cores done then going to a state school. “Besides, I mean it like a second choice is nothing bad or anything. It just…works out that way. I mean it’s safe and still something you like.”

“All positive now, huh?”

“I’m too good to you, remember? All about Chris.” I ate half the bar in one bite.

It turned quiet except for cicadas messing up trees and the echo of a highway off in the distances. The sunflowers’ faces were bright and mocking. I found myself wanting to pluck each petal off and rub them in its brown face.

“Why did you tell me you were supposed to be a girl?” Chris finally asked again.

“Mhm?” I finished the rest of the gooey dessert.

“Dude, just tell me.”

“Guess,” I held up his hand and struggled to chew the mouthful of sponge, jam, and chocolate. “Guess I was,” I swallowed and finished my drink far too soon. “Curious about it. About the whole cliché what-if.”

“You mean if you were actually a girl?” Chris scrunched his face. “The fuck dude?”

“I could’ve been hot.” I huffed a bit insulted. I wasn’t unappealing as a guy. I get asked out. Why couldn’t have been a hot girl? Rude.

“Well, yeah, maybe.” Chris took a moment to look me over then scrunched his face again. “But just no.”

“Come on.” I kicked Chris’ legs. “You asked seriously so react seriously.”

Chris sighed dramatically. He was flustered and twitchy. Maybe it was too much caffeine for his purged system. Maybe it was nerves. I’m not sure either of us knew.

“I guess things would be different. But come on, we wouldn’t have been friends. No way I would’ve hung out with a girl. Didn’t we think girls had cooties or some disease like that at that time?”

“We thought they were gross.” I guess nine-year-old Morgan wouldn’t have hung out with a girl either. “And unnecessary.”

“So it’s still good, right? That it’s this way.” Chris sounded so unsure that I had to shrug. It wasn’t a big deal. It doesn’t matter. So there was no need for anything to be serious.

“As a second choice?”

Now Chris shrugged. We were both shrugging and laughing too much. “Guess so.”

“Ok.”

“We should’ve brought more drinks.” Chris looked forlornly at his empty bottle.

“You’re so gonna hurl tonight.”

“I’ll pass it off as a bug.” Chris picked himself up and popped his back. “What time is it?”

“Dunno. Three?” I checked my phone. “Near four.”

“Shit. The team has to meet up at five and the game is at seven. And I need to call Hilary.”

I got up as well. “You gotta learn to keep your damn phone charged.”

We picked up our wrappers together comfortably. I knew where Chris was the whole time and he with me. I noticed our Gansito packs were dripping with melted dark chocolate. It was a sticky mess.

“You want me to text you about Hilary?” Chris asked as he placed the mess in his bag. His mom would get pissed. He discards things too easily and made messes wherever he goes. But he rarely got reprimanded. He bats his sweet brown eyes at her just so and messes just don’t seem like a big deal any more.

“Sure.” I wiped the sweat off my face and I can’t help but worry this whole afternoon would trigger another breakout. I wished something of Chris’ were mine, like the clear skin. I would love to not have a few pimples to wake up to in the morning.

“Ready, Morgan?” He asked me once our area was clean.

“Sure. Gotta get you to the field.” I said as we walked out of the field.

Our shoulders were close as we walked. I kept my whole arm limp and hopeful in the open space. Chris had both his hands in his pocket. It was normal as we left the field and meander down the road back to civilization.