“Big, Blue Watery Eye” by Joe Ducato

They stood at the edge.  Sticks (a name she gave herself) was so taken by it, she fell forward on her arm crutches.  Nicknaming herself was vintage Sticks; the girl not happy waving a cape at the bull, the girl that had to stand-toe-toe with it and stare it down.

Kit was shaking so bad, his cell phone flashlight made the interior of the cave turn disco-like.  Kit was the opposite of Sticks; a natural-born coward of a kid who, for some reason, felt his destiny was to be a writer.  The only problem was he was so afraid of everything he never had anything to write about.  Sticks found Kit to be hilarious.

“It’s beautiful, like true love,” Sticks gushed, her eyes fixed on the still water of the large cave spring.  

Beautiful, like true love.  Who says stuff like that?  Sticks.  Sticks said stuff like that all the time.  Stuff like that flowed from her every day like sweat in July.  The girl was 100 years old in her soul.   She had a river of poetry running through her.  Once, when the class was visiting the Smithsonian, she told her classmates; “So here we are again, laughing in the face of history.”  Who says stuff like that?

Her other big talent was the ability to talk Kit into anything as long as she supplied the courage.   That’s how she got him to go into that cave that day; that day the entire Senior Class, all 48 of them, skipped school and met up at The Dunes to party and tie a bow on their rebellion.  It was the only time there was perfect attendance.  

The Dunes was strictly off limits, had been off limits since the day the town hobo, Orzo the Magnificent (he had Viking blood), stumbled onto the lifeless body of the Sparrow girl up there.  The Sparrow girl would forever be remembered as The Girl Who Died From Nothing.  An autopsy revealed no good reason for her to be dead; but she was, apparently from nothing.  They put up the signs shortly after.

The party had been going full throttle when Sticks dragged Kit off to The Black Dove Cave (from a distance the cave’s entrance resembled a dove in flight).  Nobody noticed they had left.  No one hardly ever notices when the weird kids leave.  Sticks had to coax Kit into The Black Dove Cave like coaxing a dog into the car for a trip to the vet.  It was darker, danker and colder in the cave then she had imagined but the girl had “no retreat” in her bones.

“There’s bats in these things,” Kit whined.

Sticks laughed, “Who would know?  A bat will never bother you unless it wants to.”

Then she stopped, lowered her head and closed her eyes.  Kit made the Sign of the Cross. 

“They should have left her body alone,” Sticks whispered, “Sometimes they can come back.” 

Kit took a breath.

Sticks then opened her eyes, gripped the handles of her arm crutches and trudged on, deep into The Black Dove.  Her crutches and leg braces sounded like tambourines amid the echoes.  Neither kid had any idea there was a cave spring back there, but soon they found themselves standing at the edge of the big, blue, watery eye.

Sticks saw the Sparrow girl’s face in the water; pale and youthful with a blank expression.  Kit just stood there and shook like an unbalanced washer. 

“This is where she was,” Sticks mumbled.

“How do you know?” 

“How do I know that stars are stars and not pin pricks in a blanket God tossed over the Earth?”

“I don’t know.”

Then it happened, happened fast like it always did.  Sticks got that look in her eyes; that jumping off the cliff look, that riding the rails look, that wild, mercurial river in your soul look.

“You’re not going in,” Kit warned, “Not with your…”

“Hardware?” Sticks lifted a crutch, “Listen cowardly lion, this could be the day you finally have something to write about.”

“Always a joke!” 

“Not joking.”

She turned.

“I hereby deem you The Holder of the Crutches.”

Kit was beside himself.

“You don’t even know how deep it is.”

“That’s correct.”

“Or how cold it is.”  

“Correct again.  You win the toaster oven.  Maybe I should get Weasel to help?” 

Weasel was Lawrence Sangster, Kit’s chief rival.  He was very fond of Sticks.  

Kit stared at Sticks; the half Plato, half Bugs Bunny, old soul kid.  The girl who grew up 4 houses down; whose parents were friends with his parents, their families sometimes going to the beach together with Kit and Sticks in the backseat using her arm-crutches as air guitars.  Kit knew then that Sticks had the “It” factor.   Everyone knew it. 

 “Look at you, and you call yourself a writer,” Sticks laughed.

 Kit turned his head.  He tried to hear the party outside but they were in too deep.  

“One thing’s for sure, I’ll never be a writer if I don’t make it past my teens!”  

“Living ain’t about stacking years Kitty-poo.” 

Sticks sat on a boulder and slipped off a leg brace. 

“But we’re kids.  We don’t know anything yet,” Kit crowed, “That’s why we’re in school, because we don’t know anything.  We have to listen to them!”

Sticks’ face hardened.

“I know things.  I don’t know how, but I do.”

“Of course,” Kit snickered.

Sticks looked at the water then back to Kit.

“I can see writing on these cave walls, can you?” 

“No, because there is none.”

“I can smell time, can you?”

“Time doesn’t smell.” 

“It does. It smells like lavender if you live right.”

Sticks set the brace down gently on the dirt. 

“…and burnt forest if you don’t, and that smell never goes away.  That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

“I’ve had it…” Kit grumbled and turned.  Sticks’ words flew around Kit’s body and looked him in the eye. 

“Sometimes Time has fangs and bites you and breaks your skin like those bats you’re so afraid of.   I came here to free the Sparrow girl and you Kit!”

Kit scraped the cave floor with his sneaker.

 “You’re a Martian.”

Sticks ignored the comment, slipped off the other leg brace then gripped her arm crutches and lifted herself to her feet.

“No more whining.  You’ve used up all your whine cards”

With a worried mind, Kit shined the light on Sticks, then turned the light on the cave wall behind the spring.  To his amazement, the light brought out a myriad of spectacular colors.  He felt his heart soar and for a second he wasn’t afraid but he kept that to himself.

Using all her strength to move forward, Sticks dragged her body and dead weight legs into the spring.  Kit provided the light.  The girl waded in until she was in water to her waist, then she stopped, caught her breath and splashed her face.  She looked into Kit’s light. 

“They kill kids. Kill us all the time.  They do it one small cut at a time, so small we don’t feel them until one day we wake up and there’s a million cuts and we’re dead from the inside out and can’t feel nothing, like the Sparrow girl.  You need to see it Kit and then you need to fight it.  The Sparrow girl is free.  I saw her.”

Kit shined the light on another section of water.

“I don’t see the world as a bad place like you,” Kit said.

“That’s because you’re good.  I read this book once and one of the characters said old gets older but young never gets younger.  That voice inside, where the words come from, that voice never gets old, but you need to protect it or they’ll take it.  They will take it.  I want to read about you someday!”

Kit looked at the girl standing waist high in spring water deep in the heart of Black Dove Cave.

“Is that why you gave yourself that name?  To protect who you are?”

Sticks looked down at her crutches.

“These are my chains, my chains.  Everyone has their own.  Even the birds are confined to the sky.  That voice though.  That voice soars if you let it.”  

Kit sat on the rock. 

“OK, your turn now!” 

Kit shook his head adamantly.

“Not for a million dollars!!”

“You have to.  You have to take my crutches.  They’ll rust.”

Kit sighed, tossed off his sneakers then walked slowly to the edge of the spring and gingerly put his toe in the water.    

“Mother of Muses!” 

“Fight it sissy boy,” Sticks cheered and laughed.

Kit, crying in his heart, waded in, all the while making a sound that made an owl outside turn its head.  He pushed through the water until he was next to Sticks.  He couldn’t keep his smile secret.

“God!” he laughed. 

“Now get behind me,” Sticks ordered.   Kit maneuvered over.

“Put your arms around my waist.” 

Kit froze.

“Oh my God!  I’m not going to kiss you!” 

Kit draped his trembling arms around Sticks.

“Hold me up!” she said, “That’s all you have to do.”

Sticks let go of the arm crutches.  They fell against Kit.  Kit raised the crutches high above the water.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Sticks said blissfully.

Then, all of a sudden, they heard voices; faint voices coming from above.

“Hand me a beer,” one voice said.

Sticks turned and looked at Kit.   

“Cheers to you Cheeks old boy,” a different voice said.

Cheeks?  Kit and Sticks laughed into their hands.

“Oh my God,” Sticks whispered, “Cheeks and Spence are up there.  They don’t even know they’re sitting on a friggin’ cave.”

Kit wanted to laugh but stopped himself.

“Watch this,” he said, then bellowed up in a haunting voice:  


They heard a full can of beer hit the ground.

“Don’t move, don’t move,” Kit whispered, “I’m not done.”

This time he bellowed:


Above, the sound of scurrying feet; the feet of scared boys.

Kit stood still, his eyes marbled over, mesmerized by his own wit.

“My crutches!” Sticks snapped.

Kit handed the crutches to Sticks.

“I ask you to do one thing…” she muttered then carefully slid her arms into the holders and slowly dragged herself out of the water.  Exhausted, she sat on the rock and caught her breath, then she got up and joined Kit who was now on dry ground and standing at the edge of the big, blue watery eye.  Sticks and Kit stood quietly looking into the water.  They waited for the ripples to fade, waited until their reflections were looking back.

Joe Ducato Lives in Utica, NY. Publishing credits include, Fictionweek Literary Review, Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Change Seven, Avalon Literary Journal among others.

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