Bo was eating a watermelon: pretending he was a wild timber wolf and that the watermelon was you.
“Don’t eat the seeds,” Katy commanded.
He didn’t listen to his pig-tailed, know-it-all sister. He just growled, ate the black seeds anyway.
“Oh…I’m telling you.”
The kid’s face was slick and wet with fruit. He let the juice drip down his chin onto the red and white checked table cloth. He grinned, imagining that his hands were sticky with guts instead of fructose. The gnats circled in.
“I’m not stupid,” Bo said.
“But you don’t know everything.”
“Don’t you know what’s gonna happen?” Katy said, mockingly.
“Uh, yeah. According to you, a watermelon’s gonna grow in my belly.”
Bo was wired, nearly feral. He decided he was no longer a timber wolf, now he was a scalp-taking Indian warrior. He jumped up from the picnic table—made a beeline for the dark woods, doing a war cry. He was on a kid tangent to kill some cowboys, dressed like an Indian now, you just couldn’t tell, the costume was invisible.
The following day Bo got sick and had to be pulled out of grammar school; fever, a rash on his chest and arms, he couldn’t keep down food or water, dizzy, irritable, hallucinogenic.
His worried mother pulled his purple dinosaur t-shirt up to listen to his heart. The boy’s ribcage was well-defined but his stomach had become massive, bloated, oblong. She felt the odd bump. It was very hot. She tapped on it. There was an echo.
The family piled into the station wagon, barreled Bo towards the hospital, but it was too late. He died surrounded by frantic nurses and doctors in a flash of noise and helpless science.
The boy’s funeral was interrupted by a thunderstorm. Everyone went inside, talked in low voices. They cried as if competing with the rain which didn’t stop for two weeks. Cats and dogs.
Some time later, Katy came back to her little brother’s plot. As she walked through the cemetery, she couldn’t believe how vibrant green everything was. All of that rain. The grass was as tall as the gravestones. She had a hard time finding Bo’s plot.
When she did find it, there were thick vines and large elephant ear leaves, dark and prominent with heavy veins. A watermelon plant grew there like supernatural mania.
Katy pulled back some of the leaves, there was Bo himself underneath, attached to the vine, eyes shut, as if asleep.
He was just the way he had been before, the day at the picnic table, though now he was growing on a vine. Kate looked down in disbelief. When she yanked him off the vine, his blue eyes opened.
“What happened?” the boy asked, not missing a beat.
Katy explained it all, grinning.
“Oh,” he said, groggy, blocking the sun from his eyes.
“You gonna listen next time?” she asked crossly.
He shook his head. “Probably not.”
Bud Smith is a writer from Washington Heights, NYC who sits next to an open window and listens to the moon scrape across the tips of adjacent buildings—and on a good night, his own. In the past few months his writing has appeared in The Bicycle Review, Red Fez, Full of Crow, Citizens for Decent Literature. Recently, the collection of his short stories Or Something Like That was released. His website: http://www.budsmithwrites.com.