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To Handle the Water and the Soap
A short story.
This week, we are presenting a short story to you for the Mind Stayed series. Sara Oyela is, again, the originator of the piece. (She will continue to be the originator of the pieces shared here, until mid-June, as previously explained in the introductory post to the series.) Of this piece she says the following: “I am really nervous to share this piece because, first of all, I have not been much of a story writer. And secondly, this is kind of the first story that I’ve written fully with some sense of it being complete. The story reflects my experiences with raising children.”
Deven’s eyes fluttered open straight away as the sunlight peeped through the edges of the blinds. He jerked his head to look at the clock. 7:36. His parents made him go to bed at 8 the night before, even though it was summer break and it was still light outside. The sun’s up now, and now’s definitely the time to be awake!
He flung his blanket off his body. With wide eyes and a sneaky smile on his face, he stretched the slumber out of his limbs, pivoted on his butt, stood up with a slight bounce, and with light steps, made his way to the kitchen. At the fridge, he grabbed a cheese stick and an apple, and then went out the back door.
Behind the house was one-and-a-half acres of yard that Deven had turned into a jungle. He had been hunting in it since the second day of summer break, after his parents had forbidden him and his siblings from being on screens all day.
I'll fill up with energy and muster my courage at the campfire. He sat on the patio next to the artificial fire pit. Not being the patient type to eat the cheese string-by-string, he gulped it down in three chomps. Next, he bit into his apple. This would take more time, and so as he ate, he swung his legs off the patio and used his fingers to draw pictures in the red dirt nearby. Juice from the apple dripped down and he swiped at it using his drawing hand, leaving a smear of dirt across his chin and jaw. After his last bite, he dropped the cheese wrapper and apple core on the ground, then took off running toward the "jungle."
Close to the cluster of pines, he grabbed a branch off the ground and lifted the end of it to the front of his shoulder. He took aim at a squirrel, "Pop, pop, pop!" making sound effects with his voice and jerking his shoulder back multiple times. Not satisfied with pretense, Deven dropped the branch and ran to catch the squirrel for real, with his hands. At about four feet away, he dove for the squirrel's tail. His fingertips lightly brushed fur. "Dagummit!" he yelped, as he popped up onto his feet. He grimaced and grabbed his left knee. "Aaaaargh!" he growled and wiped the slight blood with the edge of his shorts. The other knee was covered in dirt and grass stain. After the brief knee inspection, he jetted around the tree where the squirrel had gone. He looked up and saw it now bounding across the yard. Perfect.
With a war cry, Deven sprinted with all the force inside of him. As he caught up, the squirrel suddenly bounded left and made a sharp turn behind him. He swiveled around and dove. This time he landed sideways in a muddy puddle that had developed from the brief, early-morning downpour. After a slight shock from the coldness of the puddle, he surrendered to the squirrel and mud, and laughed at the outcome of his chase. He also thought of what he must have looked like during that last dive. Like Danny when he takes a dive past the defense into the end zone.
"Nice dive, dweeb!" Danny said with laughter and jest in his voice, coming out the back door and clapping his hands. "That was a good run, though. Not gonna lie. I saw you. Prouda ya. Almost had 'im." Danny threw a football at Deven which bounced off his butt. "Git up! Let's pass."
"H-hey!" Deven protested with a hearty greeting. He rolled on the ground a bit, to wipe off the mud and water, scrambled on his hands and knees, grabbed the ball and popped up with a strong-arm spiral throw straight at Danny's chest.
The boys played pass together for the next 30 minutes or so in the sunny, open part of the yard. Deven's clothes began to dry, but then sweat from his body started to pour from the humidity of the summer morning. After pass, they muddied themselves up in various other parts of the yard for another hour or so.
"Dude, I need to go hydrate." Danny at length surrendered to fatigue and the heat, and urged Deven to stop for a minute.
"Awww, maaaan! Come on, Danny! Let's keep playin' 'til lunch."
"Nah, man. I'm gonna pass out. Let's go get water." Danny took charge, wrapped his arms around Deven's shoulders from behind and push-dragged him to the back door. Just as they were about to cross the threshold, mom popped her head around.
"Don'tchoo even think ‘bout comin' in here with all that mud. Stay right there." she held out her hand and gestured for them to stop. "Whatchoo want?"
She brought out their request for water, plus bonus popsicles, and told them they couldn't come inside until they were ready to stay put for the rest of the day. The boys indulged her demands, knowing that if they went inside, they'd be put to work.
They stayed out all day until just before dinner time. When they were done, at the back door, dad demanded they leave their shoes outside, put stinky socks in the hamper in the basement, and go shower. "Deven, you first."
Deven rolled his eyes and began to protest. Darri, his older sister, walked past to the kitchen. She was mumbling, "Ew, Deven. You stink again. Worse than last night. Stop whining and just go take a shower."
"I heard that, and It’s none of your business." he retorted in a raised voice and then made his way to take care of his socks.
Deven lingered in the kitchen after coming up from the basement, took a seat at the table, and drank water. He stared out the back window, exhausted from the day spent outside. I just want to eat. He stayed seated at the kitchen table. He knew his mom wouldn't mind if he stayed there, because he wouldn’t "soil the other furniture" with his dirty clothes. He stayed until he was done eating dinner. As he excused himself from the table, mom reminded him to take a shower.
"We don't want a repeat of last night, Deven." dad chimed in.
He sighed and groaned a bit, "Yes, sir." He paused as he remembered the slight wrestling match with dad, the flip-flop wallops on his butt, and the early bedtime. He moseyed his way to the bathroom. I’m so tired. Taking a shower is WORK and BORING. Aaaargh. “Aaaargh!” he growled out loud.
“Deven, it’s really not that bad.” Danny said as he followed behind him in the corridor. “Just go take a shower, bruh. Once you get in there, it feels good.”
After much sighing and stalling - about 30 minutes worth - and a couple threats and reminders from dad, at long last, Deven pointed his toes down toward the porcelain. The water from the shower poured over his head, shoulders, legs. Looking down at his feet, he watched dirt swirl into the drain. That was actually kinda satisfying.
The warmth and moisture sank into his pores, loosening him up, relaxing him. He suddenly felt slightly invigorated and in spite of his fatigue, soaped up his loofah and started scrubbing, head to toe, as he had been taught. Danny’s right. This really ain’t that bad.
As the suds poured down over his brow he closed his eyes and only felt a slight sting before he let the water rinse over. He used his free hand to wipe the soap residue fully away from his eyes. Yeah, it’s really not that bad. You just gotta… know how to handle the water and the soap.
After his shower, Deven settled down in his pj’s, with the rest of his siblings, and enjoyed some screen privileges. Later tonight, I will close my eyes to sleep when it's dark outside. That’s the way it oughta be.
Check back here in a couple days for a discussion thread in order to share your thoughts on the story. Then also again, on Friday evening, to test your knowledge of, and challenge yourself to dig into, the Bible, and to find out what the author thought of when she wrote this story.
Thanks for reading and following along! We are excited you are here.
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