When Under the Stars

Submitted into Contest #80 in response to: Write about a child witnessing a major historical event.... view prompt

52 comments

American Creative Nonfiction Friendship

“I remember when the news broke out,” Marlowe said, her words jabbing at the inside of her mask. “I was on a ski lift with my mom. I’ve never skied before and never planned to in that moment. I guess I was just going to take the lift back down.” She peeled bark off a nearby tree and swatted moths out of her tangle of curls. “We were sharing a bag of chips. My mom had heard about the virus and told me. We stopped eating chips.”

The air was stale and chilling. It was silent except for dog howls and the pulse of hearts under coats and the crunch of Gracen devouring her bowl of popcorn. 

She paused mid-bite to say, “I heard there was barely any snow up in the mountains last year. Doesn’t your grandma have a house up there, Ana?” 

“She sold it a few months ago,” Ana said, biting at the dry skin on her nails. “Just after she told us to call her Glamma. Glamorous grandma.” 

Gracen chuckled behind the fabric and puffed out her cheeks. “I believe the term ‘grandma’ is now considered derogatory to the grandmas of the world. They say it makes them feel old.” 

Marlowe leaned back in her chair and glanced up at the sky. “As if they aren’t old. But we can’t say anything because we’re young and beautiful.” 

The sky was speckled with stars just as their desks might be speckled with post-its. They were seated on Marlowe’s roof in beach chairs at 10:32, tracing lightning bugs across the air and observing slugs eat stray kernels twice their size. 

“I became an aunt,” Ana blurted. “Andrew had a stupid baby and God knows when I’ll ever get to meet it.” She folded her hands in her lap. 

Gracen scooted her chair forward. “Auntie Ana,” she mocked. Ana pushed her chair back a few inches. It was still noticeable. 

“Do you guys believe in God?” Marlowe asked. She’d begun to chew on the end of her popsicle stick, her mask sliding down her face. Her parents had given them chocolate popsicles in the dead of winter. It was funny the way their teeth chattered and how they couldn’t feel their hands. 

Gracen did not consider it. “No.” 

Ana looked away. “I don’t know. My parents want me to think there’s something up there.” Her breath beated shallowly against her mask and her hair frizzed over her forehead. “Something up there that’ll help us. Unless we’re sinful.” 

Gracen bit her tongue because she hated the thought of religion and God. “If there is a God up there, he’s already fucked us up beyond repair.” 

Marlowe nodded in agreement, “For example, being homosexual is apparently a sin—although not originally, it was added in 1946—but other things are sinful too. For example, wearing mixed fabrics. But people do that all the time.” 

“So you’re basically saying we’re all walking sins,” Gracen pointed out. “Regardless of religion.” Marlowe half-laughed, like exhaling and choking on air. 

Ana stayed quiet for a bit. The bare trees whistled breezes under their branches. “Yeah, I guess I’m still thinking about God and my religion.” 

“If there is one,” Gracen added stubbornly. 

The three girls admired the sky from the broken roof of a broken home. Maroon shingles click-clacked beneath their feet. They felt like they were above the world, commenting on its imperfections while children closed their eyes and the cow tripped awkwardly over a marshmallow moon. 

“My brother doesn’t know the months of the year.” Gracen popped a handful of popcorn into her mouth, immediately covering her face with her mask after. “He’s already dumb as shit but now this. Honestly, he thought it was August.” Ana giggled behind her palm. Gracen rolled her eyes, “I mean, he thinks every month is August. Is he that desperate for summer?” 

“I know I am,” Ana said. She brushed hair out of her eyes. 

Marlowe shrugged, but it was kind of hard to see with her overly large sweatshirt on. “I don’t blame him, though, when every day feels like Groundhogs Day.” 

“Exactly,” Ana agreed, slapping the arms of her chair. 

“What a good movie,” Gracen remembered. 

Marlowe sighed and it seeped through her mask. “I’ve never seen it. But what a good metaphor we just came up with!” She propped her legs up on the little outdoor coffee table. 

Ana tapped her chin, “I think the groundhog’s name is Pootaney Piper or something—” 

“Punxsutawney Phil.” Marlowe grinned but her friends couldn’t see it. 

Gracen coughed into the crook of her elbow, but it was followed by a chuckle. “What a name,” she commented. 

“What a world,” Ana nodded. 

“It’s crazy to think, though,” Gracen knotted her hair in the back of her head, “that we’re living through history.” 

Marlowe sipped the chamomile tea that rested near the legs of her chair. “We are, that’s true. Imagine how future generations will ask, ‘How was living through a pandemic?’” She stopped to think about how their lips would be of paper and their spines would be the squeaking of a wheelchair. “We’ll say, ‘Terrible.’” 

Ana and Gracen laughed.  

“Sometimes I wonder if our actions really matter,” Ana said, running her hand over the stars. It felt like drawing on a frosted window, cold and smooth. 

Gracen licked her chapped lips. “Me too. I think that if I wear blue pants will it change the world? Probably not.” 

“Our actions do matter,” Marlowe reminded them. “They always impact people in some way or another, even if that impact is small. Like a stone into a pond.” 

“I guess,” Ana muttered, before checking her phone. “I’ve got to go.” 

“Same here, it’s getting late.” Gracen tucked her empty bowl into her bag. “Thanks for letting us chat, Marlowe.” 

Marlowe stood, stretching. “You’re welcome. Have a good night.” 

Ana and Gracen hopped down the stairs and into the cold streets. The lights barely shone from the windows of houses so Ana spelled the shadows away with the flashlight on her phone. 

“And to think I’ve always spelled ‘marshmallow’ with an ‘e,’” Gracen remembered. “See you later, Ana.” 

The sky folded into itself. It swallowed their faces. 

“See you, Gracen.” 

February 07, 2021 22:03

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52 comments

The Manticore
22:55 Feb 12, 2021

Yay on 50! Glad you've been here so long. The dialogue is really good as usual, just a showing of some peoples' lives. Descriptions are awesome, too. Great job. Agree with Zilla on elaborating on the cultish religion thing they talk about, but purely out of curiosity. We wrote a story this week (for once) about love and loss and old museums, and would adore an opinion if you have the time! :)

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Scout Tahoe
02:15 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you! And I’m so curious—who are you? Is this an alternate account?

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The Manticore
04:36 Feb 16, 2021

Curiouser and curiouser.

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Scout Tahoe
05:48 Feb 16, 2021

. . . I have a pretty good idea, though. You'd never say. ;)

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The Manticore
15:07 Feb 16, 2021

Of course not :). But, however, nevertheless, one of our members dropped off the edge of the world. So we're looking for a new one. And if you happen to be interested... it's a lot of plagiarism and very little writing. And jokes. And bantering. Let us know.

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Scout Tahoe
18:23 Feb 16, 2021

Scout will now refer to herself in 3rd POV. Scout thanks you for your offer and sips coffee. She props her feet on her desk and pretends to read the newspaper. But behind it she’s actually reading Charlotte’s Web for the umpteenth time. She smiles and scoots the skyscrapers of papers and work she has to do aside. Scout politely declines but takes out her magnifying glass. She studies The Manticore and compliments their very sharp teeth. Scout also asks how the member who fell off the edge of the world is doing. Do they need surgery?

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Scout Tahoe
22:07 Feb 07, 2021

Yay, 50th! This is under creative nonfiction because it actually happened. I met with some friends the other day and this was some excerpts from our dialogue. Although I wanted these characters to seem younger, which one do you think is me? Thanks for reading.

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Amany Sayed
05:04 Feb 09, 2021

yay! congrats :D Hmm, Marlow? It reminds me of conversations I've had since the whole shebang happened with my sister and friends and occasionally just myself in my head. Wow, this makes me remember when I first heard the news. Ugh. Well written and an interesting way to go about the prompt. I feel half of Reedsy could write creative nonfics on this topic, don't you?

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Scout Tahoe
14:17 Feb 09, 2021

I do, haha. Thanks.

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Amany Sayed
14:37 Feb 09, 2021

A pleasure :)

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Avani G
18:44 Feb 10, 2021

Happy 50th! Ana, hands down. Am I right? No problem, Scout. It was a pleasure :)

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Scout Tahoe
02:13 Feb 16, 2021

Thanks!!

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Avani G
13:52 Feb 16, 2021

No problem!

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Julie Ward
21:59 Feb 13, 2021

Congrats on your 50th!! I love the normality of this story, how it's just a conversation. How life goes on when everything is turned upside down and sideways. What makes it special is the language you use. You're so good at making a normal situation feel unique, with layers and layers of texture and details.

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Scout Tahoe
02:14 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you so much, Julie. :)

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. .
14:42 Feb 13, 2021

VAYD. NEW STORY.

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14:39 Feb 08, 2021

Congratulations on your 50th. I'm happy for you. And to think you did that with the best of titles. Beautiful. I like this story a lot because we got to see into the lives of people without you stating it. I think that this is wonderful and you did a really good job at it.

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Scout Tahoe
15:56 Feb 08, 2021

Thank you, Abi. ;)

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R. K.
22:08 Feb 07, 2021

I like the title so much better now that I see it. Kids these days are hard for me to describe. But the ones here are so mature and have lovely conversations like they're modern renditions of Shakespearean dialogue scenes (even the cussing). I hope there are people out there who still think for themselves. I hope kids like these still exist in the world, somewhere under the stars. Happy 5t! You're definitely Gracen, or I might be way off ;)

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Scout Tahoe
02:15 Feb 16, 2021

You’re not way off. :))) And thank you loads, Ru.

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Mia S
01:39 Feb 23, 2021

50!! Hurrah! I'm very late and I feel absolutely terrible. Please do chastise me for my incompetence. I love this a whole heck of a lot. The dialogue feels realistic but also sorta philosophical, and the rooftop setting is so surreal. It's really cool that this actually happened with you and your friends. They seem fun to be around. Anyways, congrats again on 50. Off to read your other recent stories.

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Scout Tahoe
14:19 Feb 23, 2021

Thank you, and you're not late at all! :)

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N. N.
08:34 Feb 14, 2021

A cleverly executed piece, Scout. There's so much depth to each character, and their dialogues, that it feels quite soothing to read the whole story. "Sometimes, I wonder if our actions really matter," Perhaps, it's how everyone, myself included, wonders the same or maybe it's the irony that their actions do affect people, or at least us as readers, but this line really stuck out to me. Anyways, a great story to celebrate your 50th. Congratulations! P. S. Firstly, I've been a little aloof from Reedsy for a while, and will be for maybe ...

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Scout Tahoe
02:18 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you so much, Neha. For everything. And don’t worry, I comment late all the time. Let me know when you have a new story out.

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N. N.
12:43 Feb 27, 2021

Hey Scout, I posted a new story a few hours ago. Be warned, though: it's unedited.

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Avani G
18:15 Feb 12, 2021

Hi Scout! I saw that you mentioned me in your bio!! Thanks so much for that; aside from the new prompts and winner it was a good thing to wake up to :) Oh and happy one-year anniversary!

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Scout Tahoe
02:20 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Avani G
13:52 Feb 16, 2021

No problem, Scout.

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Nancy Drayce
16:25 Feb 12, 2021

Very lovely and interesting story! The conversation about God was very interesting too! Very clever idea to transport something that happened to you into the story!! 💙🌟 I have a favour to ask, would you mind taking a look at my story called "Cold Hearts"? Thank you in advance!

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Scout Tahoe
02:21 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you! I’ll get there if I can! Pretty busy nowadays.

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Nancy Drayce
12:30 Feb 16, 2021

Oh, no problem! Take care. I hope you'll finish all you have to do with ease!

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Fjc Montenegro
00:31 Feb 12, 2021

This was a cute one. I usually go for more arcs and structure and all that jazz, but this was just a conversation between friends, people hanging out, and I was eavesdropping. Life doesn't have to be running around all the time. It can be hanging out, enjoying our time. I liked it. The voice was on point, as always. Congrats on 50 stories!

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Scout Tahoe
14:27 Feb 12, 2021

Thank you so much, Splinter! Check out my bio... :)))))

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Fjc Montenegro
17:40 Feb 12, 2021

Oh, I hadn't seen that! How kind of you! Thanks for mentioning me. And congratulations on one year of amazing stories! And here's to many more! I don't know if I ever mentioned this but you're my favorite writer on Reedsy. Your voice is so strong and you're so versatile. You go first person present tense, third person past tense... second person future tense??? Sure! Why not? And it's never a hinderance. Although I'd be lying if I said I love everything you write (because I don't LOVE EVERYTHING anyone does, LOVE and EVERYTHING are strong ...

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Scout Tahoe
02:13 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you!

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Claire Lewis
05:15 Feb 11, 2021

I was about to comment on how natural and effortless the dialogue feels in this story and then I read your comment about it being based on your own conversation— it makes perfect sense! I love the little peek into these characters lives mostly through conversation. It’s really well done and we get a good understanding of each person’s unique contribution to the group as a whole. I loved the casual topics interspersed with deep thoughts, it felt so real and showed us how close your characters are. I have seen several covid-related stories (...

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Scout Tahoe
02:24 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you so much!

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Zilla Babbitt
19:17 Feb 09, 2021

I can't wait until I'm a mean old lady and my grandkids will ask "how was living in a pandemic?" And I'll regale them with (mostly) fake horror stories. I would appreciate a further exploration of that religion/cult they were talking about. The mixed fabrics thing sounds like Judaism, but I'm not sure. I think a lot of people might choose COVID as their "historical event" for this prompt, as you did, but you added something magical. This story is special. And not just because it's #50! Congratulations :)

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Scout Tahoe
02:25 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you. You have helped me so much.

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Genevieve Taylor
04:07 Feb 09, 2021

Congrats on 50 stories!! You've worked really hard on writing recently and I'm so proud of you. Great work!

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Scout Tahoe
04:12 Feb 09, 2021

:) Thank you!

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So sorry I couldn't comment on this one sooner! But, really, 50 stories??? That's a big number! You will soon be on your way to a hundred, and then two hundred, and then...a thousand!! (haha, lol) I really enjoyed this story Scout, and I felt that this one seemed more...better, just more engaging to read. I felt like you poured your heart and soul into writing this. Great job. =)

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Scout Tahoe
02:26 Feb 16, 2021

Thank you.

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Of course Scout.

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09:29 Feb 17, 2021

Bye Scout, never stop writing :)

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Scout Tahoe
14:48 Feb 17, 2021

You too, Sia. We love you and all your different names. :)

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15:08 Feb 17, 2021

<3

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Kay (:
21:32 Feb 16, 2021

Can you please read my story 'Falling Wave" and give me some feedback no one has and I worked really hard on it.

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Orenda .
16:48 Feb 13, 2021

hey! I remember telling you I'd come back and say hi to you ;)

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Scout Tahoe
02:20 Feb 16, 2021

Orenda! Nice to see you. How are you? Mind if I call you Ori? It’s different from all the other nicknames I’ve seen people call you...

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