The sky was dripping again. The grass was blue with it. Mr. Thomson was screaming about his car getting stained. Now, he would have to paint it again. Or he could wait until a good sunset dripped.
The Junbergs were sitting on their porch, drinking a bottled 4:30 am August sunrise. They insisted that only 4 am sunrises were proper quality. 5 am was too bitter. And 6 am wasn’t worth speaking of. Since they were some of the few willing to wake up at that time, it was no wonder that they made the good money, bottling it for resale.
Mothers handed their children umbrellas. “Now, remember,” they said, “keep your heads covered and don’t drink it.” And the children nodded obediently and some rolled their eyes (when their parents weren’t looking) and swung their lunchboxes at each other as they hurried over to the buses.
After all, the sky wasn’t dangerous. Everybody knew that. Kids picked up pieces to taste, stuck them in their lunch boxes. The pieces were too light for a meal but they made a good snack.
Blue was light and fluffy, made your heart a little happier.
Thunderous sky pieces were fun, popular for bets because of the electric zing. Boys were always daring each other to see whose tongue could take the burn. They had to be careful though. Teachers were always listening for rumblings, confiscating them as distractions. So the boys tightened the jars of thunder and wrapped them with paper towels from the restrooms, forgotten homework, and sweaty jackets. The smuggling added to the thrill, made them feel sneaky and clever. Rodger was the best. The teacher could search his backpack and dump his desk out and they never found anything but at lunch, he would have twenty mini-jars for sale and bets. He never told them that it was actually Trisha Payton, the humming girl who got A’s and finished assignments early. She’d keep them for him for $2 each and a portion of the bets.
Drips of cloud were the best though. They made excellent excuses. Teachers hated it when cloudy skies dripped. All a student had to say was that they accidentally swallowed some cloud in the morning and their head was all fuzzy and they couldn’t possibly pay attention. Never mind that Jason kept staring at Noveah and the way she was twirling her vibrant hair or that Jennifer had stayed up late playing video games. No, it was clearly all clouds.
The sky was delicious. It was the stars that you had to stay away from.
Eleanor Nakinzi drank one once. It turned her hair white.
The adults thought that was the end of it. It was strange and it sparked several of her classmates to push past their bedtimes so they could have shiny hair, too, but it would wear off. It always did. And children were always looking for any excuse to stay up. When you are young, life is too exciting to pause.
The blue and the grey in the other children’s hair wore off and faded out, but Eleanor’s got brighter. Her teachers started to squint whenever they looked at her.
And that wasn’t all.
She started floating in gym class. Just an inch or two and the coach won’t have even noticed if Eric hadn’t said she was cheating. Eric was always a sore loser.
At first, it was fun. She won dodgeball, became excellent at tag. Everyone wanted her on their team.
But soon enough, they were having to tie her down in math class and history. Even walking to the lunchroom, she tied herself to two classmates to keep from floating off. She wouldn’t walk into any room with a ceiling fan and her parents never wanted to let her outside anymore. She’d sit by the window and watch the grass grow, the sun on the dandelions, and her siblings playing soccer. She started wearing weights to keep her on the ground. At first, one or two, then 12, finally 87.
They let her play hide and seek in the dark with them for a bit. She was an incredible seeker, but she was a terrible hider. Her eyes started glowing with her hair. Eventually, nobody wanted to play with someone who could be found in a second and find you in three.
She forgot to turn the lights on and read in the dark. She would talk about a story of a world where the sky stayed still, and clear water came down. She never could remember where she found it. The others thought it must be boring and bland to live in a world with no extra color.
Dorothy thought perhaps she might have heard it from the stars. Eleanor’s voice had changed, it was higher and brighter. Teachers stopped calling on her and she started texting instead of talking. Bees and flies drove her crazy. She said she could always hear them. Nobody except Eleanor listened to Dorothy. After all, stars don’t talk.
One night, Eleanor left. They said her brother left the window open. Dorothy disagrees. She says she went out the screen door. They found it slightly ajar. And the locks and all 87 weights were scattered through the grass. Dorothy said she usually snuck out to listen to the stars and feel the sky again. Dorothy thinks she’s probably a star herself now, floating away from this world, whizzing like a comet.
“But stars don’t move,” Tony said. Tony was always saying smart stuff that annoyed people.
“But people do,” Dorothy said.
The sky kept dripping. Buses splashed sky back on the sidewalk. Kids kept sneaking thunder. The Junbergs planned their next harvest, plotted it on their calendars. They were planning on traveling, said beach and mountain sunrises tasted better than a small town. And Dorothy kept watching the stars with her feet dew-wet in the grass behind the Nakinzis’ house. And mothers kept handing umbrellas. “Don’t drink it,” they said. And the kids kept drinking it.
The sky was delicious. Just don’t drink the stars.