Fifteen candles and six pairs of cracked slack lips sent smoke through song and sky. The neighborhood boys swapped pencils for cigarettes and grew fast, hard, and knotted—like trees. Root beer floats on Saturdays now sloppy Smirnoff and strobing streets. No more body of Christ on Sundays, amen, just steaming Stiiizys and girls passed out on the beach.
The boys shake sand from their hair, their Vans, and underwear. Sand spills from their belly buttons and trails behind them, endless breadcrumbs. Their feet move fast and their eyes even faster—darting over bicycle pedals and long legs nicked by metal.
These boys were once marshmallow men. Bumbling toddlers, smiles sticky from sweet jelly and peanut butter. Milk bellies, round as the moon, full of honey and oats and all things good.
Like taffy, they were stretched and chewed. Chewed and spit out by the world they knew. Their faces changed. Some shadow clouded their mother’s grace; some vice seemed to poison their holy place.
But poison, no, they say. Not poison. Not the venom of some green garden snake, but nectar, rather. Marshmallow fluff and peanut butter. Baked bananas and strawberry jelly. On teenage tongues, beer tastes like honey.
Julia Do is a junior at La Quinta High School in Westminster, California where she is the copy editor of the school yearbook. A recipient of two Regional Gold Keys from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Julia attended the 2019 Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and has had her artwork and poetry published in Canvas Literary Journal. Her work primarily focuses on girlhood, family, and identity.