by Marc Alexander Valle
The boy looked down at the worm, squirming on the backwoods trail. A ray of light illuminated its pinkish hue and a warm breeze hit his face.
“Eat it,” she said. “I’ll kiss you.”
“No,” he said.
“Then no,” she said.
But he had wanted to kiss her all summer, floating in the deep in the pool, bumping her hand at the movie theater as he reached for soda, lying on the grassy field with the late morning sun warming him enough to feel bliss.
He looked back down. Then kept squirming and picking up dirt.
“It tastes like nothing,” she said. “Go ‘head.”
He thought of candy then reached down and picked it up.
He could feel its life force as it wiggled and expanded on his palm. Candy would be pointless, he thought, “It’s too fleshy.” Then he imagined roast chicken instead.
“I’ve done it,” she said, “You won’t get sick.”
He popped it in his mouth and could feel it slither then contract, the dirt turning to grim on his tongue. He swallowed it and closed his eye. It slide down his throat quickly and he could feel it move. And like everything else he ate, the feeling disappeared just before reaching the stomach.
He opened his eyes and looked to her.
“Yuck,” she said.
He stepped forward and closed his eyes again.
His lips touched hers.
But he felt nothing in return. He held the kiss and waited for her to reciprocate. But he felt nothing in return. He stepped forward and moved his face closer to her. But he felt nothing in return. He could feel nothing but the dead lips, hear nothing but the cicadas and crickets chirping. Just the dead lips and live bugs and the hope of something in return.
She pulled away and jabbed his stomach.
“Gross,” she said, “I’m not kissing bugs.”
As he held onto his gut crunched over he could see her walk away down the path and out of sight. The pain spread across his abdomen and he wasn’t sure if he needed to go to the bathroom.
He could hear the bird chirping and an animal moving in the brush. He had to go home now. If he was late for dinner one more time, he’d be grounded for two days.
Rays of light disappeared as a cloud rolled in. A cooler breeze hit his face. He wondered what boy he’d get to tell first.