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10 September 2008 @ 09:49 pm
"Mud"  
Glutton for punishment that I am, I'm back in the brigits_flame game.  The prompt this time around is "mud."

I actually wrote this over the weekend but didn't get around to touching up due to all the ambient insanity.  Which, of course, I brought upon myself, but that's a given. ;)

Much thanks as always to eltea for another truly amazing beta. :)

Just a boy, just a boy, just a boy, he thinks, for he is.  He sings it to himself in rhythm with the pattering of his clumsy feet on the wet sidewalk, because it is true, and because he knows it is what his mother will say.  Just, just, just a boy.  He’d hate to break her back; the cracks are jagged and try to dart beneath his sneakers.

Some of the other kids at school have Rain Boots; he’s seen them—bright like paint splatters in the gray days on which they’re worn, clearer and closer than any rainbow he’s ever seen, in purples and greens and blues and that warm yellow that transplants the sun into a world that lacks it.  He’s jealous, of course, but he’s getting accustomed to jealousy and its quiet poison.  He wishes he had Rain Boots, wishes his mother could buy him some, wishes that he could go tromping up and down the yard and watch out of the corner of his eye as the others gazed wistfully at his little plastic pair, at his Rain Boots, but that’s all right.  He can imagine.

And for now, he can soak his sneakers, drench his socks, meld with the rainwater, become one with the puddles.  Grownups say that, say “Become one with—” and then add something strange and implausible, and then the other grownups always laugh.  They have keywords like this, grownups do.  Special phrases that mean nothing and everything and set everyone to laughing in that odd, not-quite-real way that worries him.

Artifice unnerves him, because he can just barely detect it hammering at the fringes of his staunch belief in Santa Clauses and Easter Bunnies and Tooth Fairies (and other fairies besides), because the world is real and true and right, such that falseness has no place in it.

The puddles, though are very real, and the soggy leaves crumpling wetly in the gutter are real, too.  The raindrops gathering on and clinging to and throwing themselves free from the edge of his raincoat hood are real, and the grit and grime that swirl in the water he disturbs are real, too—real enough to splash on the cuffs of his corduroy pants and stain his off-white socks even further off-white.

And he feels real, in the midst of it, with the rain running off of his plastic coat and confirming his small, self-centered existence, with the water squishing between his toes, with his limp shoelaces flopping and trailing.  Who needs Rain Boots when you can have the rain?

His mother sighs and smiles and shakes her head all at once when she opens the door to find him dripping on the Welcome mat, hair plastered on his forehead, grin plastered on his face.  She tsks, but tsking isn’t for you’re-in-trouble-young-man; it means he’s already gotten away with it.

“You’re covered in mud, sweetheart,” she tells him, and he giggles, because he knows that, and anybody with a pair of eyes would.  “I suppose that’s what I should expect… Come in—careful, watch the rug—look at those socks—here, give me your coat—”

Quite contentedly he follows her to the bathroom, where she’ll fill the tub almost to overflowing and set him to the task of scrubbing himself clean, but that’s okay.  The mud comes off easily in the warm, warm water, almost as fun to remove as it is to get on himself in the first place.

It’s all very simple, which is good, because he likes it that way.

As his mother starts off down the hall, laden with his filthy, discarded clothes, he leans into the bathwater up to his chin and listens to her murmur, “Just a boy…”, and he thinks that just-a-boy is a pretty okay thing to be.

 
 
 
Feeling: sleepysleepy
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 12th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
Aww, shucks. x)

*scuffs feet and hugs Jenny*
No Whimsy, Sugartaste_is_sweet on September 11th, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
Lovely. The images and the gentle happiness and the boy's sober acceptance of the small cruelties of life made me smile. I'd like to imagine my own son like this someday, splashing happily home through the rain, knowing I'm just going to 'tsk' and fill a warm bath for him. Thank you.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 12th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
Thank you! :) That's pretty much how I feel about my prospective/eventual/potential children as well. x)
richelle2972richelle2972 on September 11th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were a boy who remembered his childhood and wanted to write it down. ;) I agree with everyone else's comments about how these always seem like worlds in and of themselves. Great job as always!
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 12th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC)
Hahaha, WELL... :P

Thanks, as always! ^^
insolentscrawl: quill_and_journalinsolentscrawl on September 12th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, fantastic
I love the intense playfulness, and the contrast. As an adult looking back, it's interesting to remember a time when I thought all grownups were lost, because they obviously didn't remember how to play in the mud.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 12th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh, fantastic
I'm glad, thank you! :)

It seems to me that the best way to combat adulthood is by refusing to forget childhood. x)
DrippedOnPaperdrippedonpaper on September 15th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
Re: Oh, fantastic
I look your statement about combating adulthood though some people actually want to forget at least parts of their childhood. But I understand what you were trying to say.

I liked this paragraph best:

"Some of the other kids at school have Rain Boots; he’s seen them—bright like paint splatters in the gray days on which they’re worn, clearer and closer than any rainbow he’s ever seen, in purples and greens and blues and that warm yellow that transplants the sun into a world that lacks it. He’s jealous, of course, but he’s getting accustomed to jealousy and its quiet poison. He wishes he had Rain Boots, wishes his mother could buy him some, wishes that he could go tromping up and down the yard and watch out of the corner of his eye as the others gazed wistfully at his little plastic pair, at his Rain Boots, but that’s all right. He can imagine."

The above reminds me of my kids. My daughter actually wanted some rain boots today and I had to say no. It's so human to (in a way) want the other kids to envy you and it's so hard to say no because we've all been that little kids before. I hope my kids can conclude like your little character does:

"Who needs Rain Boots when you can have the rain?"

I try to give them that attitude but it is hard. They notice economic differences more and more as they get older.

This piece was such a joy to read, remembering moments of my childhood and thinking of moments with my children. I hope I am the kind of mom in your story.

To me, a good writer is one who writes something others feel pull at their heart so they feel connected to her. This piece definitely qualifies you!:)
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 15th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
Re: Oh, fantastic
I've definitely tussled with that question before -- do I want that thing, or do I want other people to want it because I have it?

One of the things that frustrates me most about the world is how much day-to-day living depends on money in all these small, insidious ways... But I guess we have to do what we can. x)

Thanks again; I'm very glad you enjoyed it. :)
Biancamermaidbia on September 12th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, truly. I can only repeat what others have said - you have a real talent for seeing little things, small "rites of passage" that come full circle within the length of maybe one sentence, but they're complete and fill a world with passion. It reminds me a little of my favourite writer J.S. Foer. It's not just an eye for details, it's an eye for what makes a little boy's huge - and yet small and familiar - world, his highlights and pet peeves and reliefs.
Brilliant, really.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 12th, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanks! ^^;

I've never encountered J.S. Foer, but I'll have to look into that.

Thanks again! :)
wierdauntiewierdauntie on September 13th, 2008 02:19 am (UTC)
sweet!
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 13th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :D
(Deleted comment)
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 13th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks! This was sort of my distilled-childhood piece. XD

Good luck to you, too! ^^
Ngocorientalblossom on September 13th, 2008 06:32 am (UTC)
Awwww...I just love little kids. My parents's friends came over last night with their son (who's two or three-ish, i think) and he was so adorable! He kept following me everywhere, even when I went into the bathroom to wash my face. ^^ maybe i was a kindy teacher or child care worker in my last life...
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 13th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)
Haha, they can be great sometimes. XD I have half-brothers who are almost-four and almost-six, so I know where you're coming from. XD

Who knows, maybe you'll be one in this life, too! ;)
dreamifyeddreamifyed on September 13th, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
"and he thinks that just-a-boy is a pretty okay thing to be."

That has got to be my favourite line from your entire piece. I loved the way you ended, and it was very real, very refreshing, to read it from the perspective of a child in this manner because I can totally feel for it.

Good job! I enjoyed this immensely.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 13th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :) I'm glad you liked it! ^^
dragonrose: Reach for the Starstriplescorpio on September 13th, 2008 04:18 pm (UTC)
Absolutely deightful. I enjoyed every minute of reading this. Your portrayal of the little boy, his thoughts and his world was genuine and sweet. Great piece of writing.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 13th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
kithlyarakithlyara on September 13th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
I love this entry. Especially on a day like today and with the week I've had, it's nice to be reminded that there are so many little things that someone can find joy in. Rain and mud puddles are so often seen as ugly, negative things by adults but I think children have it right. Stop, splash, and play for while then go home and take a nice, warm bath.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 13th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you, and I'm glad! :)

I agree -- as long as it comes off at the end of the day, why not have a good time getting a little muddy every now and then? ;)
insolentscrawl: writinginsolentscrawl on September 14th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
Second Editor
Hi. I'm your second editor this week. As I said in an earlier comment, I love the playfulness of this story. In fact, I think this story is one of the best this week.

I really only found one sentence that made me pause. In the third paragraph, you wrote "He’s jealous, of course, but he’s getting accustomed to jealousy and its quiet poison." Using both 'and' and 'but' made me pause and re-read it.

Overall, that's really the only thing that stood out. Well done, and good luck.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 14th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
Re: Second Editor
Oh, my goodness, thank you. ^^;

That sentence is a bit awkward, come to look at it; thanks for pointing that out. :)

Thanks one more time! x)
cedarwolfsinger: head shot 1cedarwolfsinger on September 15th, 2008 12:26 am (UTC)
Editing
Hello, I'm one of your editors this week. My first reaction is that I want to pick up “just-a-boy”, give him a huge hug, and swing him around, rain notwithstanding. I find it interesting that I voted for each of the pieces I am editing this week before I read the editing post.

In paragraph 2, the rainbow image is just lovely. I can see the rain boots and the paint splatters – this is a striking image!

In paragraphs 3 and 4, when he talks about being uncomfortable with grown-ups, and unnerved by artifice (great word, that!), I just can't help thinking of the song “You Have To Be Carefully Taught” from the musical, South Pacific. (If you are unfamiliar with it, the character is talking about how children have to be taught to hate, to be prejudiced.)

The sentences run on a bit, I think that is a choice, because it seems to be consistent with the boy's thought process... If it is NOT a choice, you might want to make some shorter sentences. It's not a problem, it is just something you might want to think about.

I love the Mom being calm about the mess. My reaction to the final paragraph was a sigh of sheer contentment.

I found this to be realistic, tender, and a fine example of the sacred in everyday things. Thanks for writing, I look forward to seeing more of your work.
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 15th, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)
Re: Editing
Hi, there! :)

Thanks very much, first of all. I'm glad you enjoyed it! ^^

The point about prejudice reminds me distinctly of a song we were listening to in my French class the other day, which included the lyric "Dans la bouche des enfants réside bien souvent la vérité des parents" -- "Parents' truths live frequently in children's mouths."

The slightly rambling sentences were a conscious choice, yeah, though I have been known to get lost in my own syntax. XD

Thanks very much! I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it! ^^
Innana88innana88 on September 15th, 2008 02:37 am (UTC)
This was an absolute delight to read! Thank you for sharing it!
Vitamin Ctierfal on September 15th, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you liked it! :)