"Saints and Bones" - Young Adult Novel Submission
Time doesn't matter here. It doesn't count the same way. That's partly why we need an explainer in the watching room. The next time we were called, the explainer said it was about nine months later their time and that we were going to watch some people we'd never seen before. The first one we saw was Rodney.
"Sort of an only child," said the explainer. "He has an older sister away at University, but you'll never see her."
If I said Rodney was thin, the words awkward, skinny, and bony would start marching in protest.
"Look," said Li Jing.
"Kitty." Tian pointed a finger. "Kitty."
"Shhhh," said the explainer.
As far as we could tell, Rodney was walking a cat.
"Pretty. What's kitty's name?" asked Tian
The explainer gave in and told us about the cat. His name was Formaldehyde. His name had originally been Fuzzy, but Rodney changed it to Formaldehyde. Some people didn't get it, but it made sense to Rodney. This was the first cat that was ever really his. Formaldehyde was used to preserve dead bodies. The name could stick like a chemical and preserve his cat forever.
Tian smiled and leaned back on the cushions satisfied. That's another thing different up here. Most of the time Tian doesn't say much but he understands everything more than even adults down there do.
We watched. Rodney and Formaldehyde crossed the railroad tracks and walked back towards where the old saw mill used to be. It looked like rain. They started to head west but then Rodney shrugged his shoulders and turned south towards Burdick's Hill. Formaldehyde passed him with a leap and a turn at the last minute, so then it was Formaldehyde leading. The browns of the cat headed down through a bunch of brambles, Rodney laughed and shrugged his shoulders. His head made a funny tic to the side and they were off. Maybe Rodney figured they would eventually end up somewhere he could recognize.
"Will the school still be there?" asked Li Jing. We must have been thinking the same thing.
In the middle of the forest, they came to a kind of clearing. Li Jing, Tian and me, we edged right to the front of the cushions and sat up straight. We couldn't help paying attention now.
Formaldehyde stopped. Rodney rolled his eyes and his head did a funny tic again. He kept walking, but Formaldehyde was going nowhere. The cat sat, waiting.
"Cat got your tongue?" Rodney smiled. "Get it, cuz you're a cat?" He laughed and walked back towards Formaldehyde. "Jeez, it's just an expression. You don't have to take it so personally." Rodney waited but Formaldehyde didn't come rub against his leg, Formaldehyde wouldn't even turn his head. He stared off to the left.
Rodney crinkled up his eyes, and knelt down. His gangly body folded up as he crouched beside Formaldehyde. He rested his chin on his knee. Rodney pushed away the blond hair flopped down over his eyes.
"Everything ok man or are you just tired of walking?" Rodney stroked the top of Formaldehyde's head. His eyebrows crinkled up. And then he saw. His eyes got wide.
I looked at Tian on the couch. His eyes were even wider. I would have worried about them exploding out of his head, but we don't have work place accidents up here.
Rodney was looking at a bone, maybe twelve inches long, whitish grey and weathered. "What's that doing here?" He spoke out loud but didn't move. Me and Li Jing held hands because now we knew why we were watching Rodney.
Finally, Rodney managed to tear his eyes from the bone. "Formaldehyde," spit was coming at the side of his mouth but he sucked it back. Tic went his head. Rodney sucked back again and swallowed. "I think I watch too much TV," he said.
Formaldehyde said nothing. Rodney pushed his hair out of his face again and closed his eyes.
M. J. "Saints and Bones" - Tuscany Prize 2014 Young Adult Novel Submission
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