Cardboard Spaceships | Teen Ink

Cardboard Spaceships MAG

May 25, 2013
By ChloeMarina BRONZE, Pullman, Washington
ChloeMarina BRONZE, Pullman, Washington
4 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Grace waved her hand in front of her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes. Her sweater sleeves came halfway down her hands. Her black nail polish was chipped, her nails were bitten far above where they should have ended, and one of her knuckles had a cut that looked half healed.

She coughed and laughed, blowing smoke. Samuel smiled, his attention drawn from the hands he'd been fixated on. “Hey,” she said softly, “you come back to earth yet?”

“Yeah, sorry.” He grinned, ducking his head so his dark hair fell into his face.

“Stop just checking out, okay? It gets lonely here in the real world,” she said, pushing him a bit.

They were leaning against a wall that wasn't attached to anything; no one was sure if it had ever been. It simply stood in an empty field. Its uselessness and proximity to the local high school gave “The Wall,” a purpose. It was the smokers' wall.

Grace flicked some ash onto the ground. A still-burning ember landed on the toe of her boot. Samuel brushed it off gently with his toe. Grace dangled her cigarette precariously between her fingers and sank to the ground. She wrapped her arms around her knees, hugging them to her chest.

Samuel nudged her with his shoe. “You all right?” he asked.

“Yeah, just tired. It's been a really long day.”

“It's ten in the morning.”

“My point holds.”

“No, no it doesn't.”

“A long week, then.”

“I'll give you that.” He sank to the ground next to her, picking up a stick and doodling in the dirt.

She looked over. “Whatcha drawin' there, Sammy?”



“We should get a spaceship.” Samuel threw his stick as far as he could into the field. “We could just, y'know, spaceship!”

“Where're we going to get one?”

“Albertson's,” he said definitively.

“Yeah? Albertson's? That's where we're getting our spaceship?” Grace let out a laugh.

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

She thought for a moment, then said, completely deadpan, “Staples.”

“Okay, then. We shall buy our spaceship at Staples.”

“Okay, then,” Grace said, putting her chin on her arms.

They sat in silence, Samuel thinking of their spaceship and Grace thinking of how the drawing in the dirt looked nothing like a spaceship. Samuel saw the dull gray metal and foot-thick windows, and Grace saw a Jackson Pollock.

He frowned and brushed the sketch away with his hand. Grace looked up. “Not a spaceship?”

“Definitely not,” he confirmed.

“But we're getting one, right?”

“Yes. From Staples. A classic gray one, and we're going to see the stars.”

“I'd like that, Sammy.”

They fell back into silence. It wasn't an awkward silence, as often happened when one of them was with someone else, but a silence that only occurs when two people who've known each other forever don't need words to speak. They sat, attempting not to think. Samuel succeeded, as he always did. He looked out over the field, a king regarding his kingdom, his mind completely void of thought.

Grace had a harder time. Her mind raced. It raced over when she'd need to start packing for her flight back to school, it raced over the papers she should have been writing, it raced over how much longer she'd be able to stave off the inevitable blow-out fight with her father. And it raced over why she and Samuel weren't talking about what happened the last time they were together. Somehow, though, amid all the racing, her mind found its way back to high school.

She turned to Samuel. “A ‘stone's throw' is a weird unit of measurement. Like, how far is a ‘stone's throw,' really? D'you think The Wall is a stone's throw from the high school?”

“You want to find out, don't you?” He sighed. “Find some rocks.”

Grace made a pouch out of her sweater and filled it with all the stones she could find. Then they clambered on top of The Wall. He sat with his legs dangling over the side while Grace attempted to contort herself into criss-cross-applesauce with a sweater full of rocks. Once she managed to stabilize herself, she grabbed a rock and gave one to Samuel.



The two alumni unleashed a volley of stones against their old high school, proving that The Wall was, indeed, a stone's throw away.

“Did that make you feel better?” he asked.

“No. But it was fun, wasn't it?”

“A little.” He thought for a moment and then quietly asked, “How's your family been, Grace?”

She turned to him suddenly. “Since when do you call me Grace?”

“Since the last time you asked me.”

“Oh. Not great. When I left for college, I thought I could wash my hands of them, but then up comes something like Thanksgiving and here I am. You've heard it all before. I just needed to get out of the house,” she said. “Thanks for meeting me here.”

“Wouldn't miss it for the world, my dear.”

“How're things with your, umm, mom?”

Samuel grabbed a rock, leaned back slightly, and threw it as far as he could. They watched it fly in the direction of their old high school. It landed on the roof of the science block with a plink.

“That good, huh?”

“Family, Grace,” he said.

“I get that. I'm twenty, but every time I come back to this damn little town it's like I'm five again. I hate it. Tell me about how things are, though. Any new arguments?”

He sighed. “She's not fond of my, ah … career path. For some reason she expected more of me than a vaguely employed artist in New York City. But let's not waste our time together talking about familial grievances.”

“Okay.” Grace jumped off the wall. “It's getting cold. Let's go for a walk.”

As they walked, Samuel thought back to when they were children. Back when they still lived in town, when their game of choice had been tag or playing pretend. They'd always had a cardboard box. They never questioned where the boxes came from. They just knew that they'd always have one.

That cardboard box went through all the classic structures. It had been a fearsome pirate ship, sailing through the rough seas of the field on which they now walked. It had been a castle under siege, where they'd been knights, feared across the kingdom for their brave deeds. Their cardboard box had been a spaceship, flying through the stars at warp speed. They'd existed in their own little world in the stratosphere in that cardboard spaceship. When Grace's dad screamed at her, or when Samuel's mother came home raving drunk, they'd end up there. In that field. In the cardboard box.

As they grew older, they never really grew apart, but the closeness they had shared slipped slightly over time. Grace began to have other friends, then boyfriends and girlfriends. Samuel just had Grace. He got pushed off to the periphery of her new life, never quite gone but never really there.

Samuel had always gone back to the spaceship. Whenever things got bad he'd fly away on some adventure. Despite everything, though – through middle school and high school, through dances and finals – Grace and Samuel remained a set.

They walked, nearly silent, side by side, shoulders touching. They were out of the field now, on a sidewalk, walking in the direction of the center of town. They were walking much closer to each other than was necessary. The cold justified it. Even though the walk had no direction or purpose, there was a definite place they were heading.

As Samuel thought about their shared past, Grace, too, went back to the “good old days,” though her memory was of a more recent past.

The last day they had seen each other was graduation a year and a half ago. At three, after the ceremony, they went off alone. Still in their caps and gowns, they walked downtown. Grace remembered feeling a sense of emptiness. She had thought everything would be different, that she would graduate and discover the meaning of life. She hadn't. The only thing she had discovered was she no longer had any idea what she wanted to do with her life. Samuel had felt, for better or worse, no change.

They had walked to Safeway and bought a bag of doughnuts, a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew, and a pack of cigarettes for Grace. As they watched all the money they had transform into one grocery bag of food, Samuel said, “We really do have it all, don't we, Gracie?”

“Rich as kings, Sammy, and don't call me Gracie.”

“Whatever you say, Gracie.” Grace smiled behind the hand she had put to her mouth.

“Let's go around behind, yeah?”

“Yeah, okay.” Samuel grabbed the bag and followed her. In the alley between Safeway and La Baguette there was a dilapidated couch that they dropped their food on. Grace sat on one of the lumpy plaid cushions and the couch groaned. Samuel sat on the other side and sank down almost six inches. They sighed in unison, looked at each other, and laughed.

“Toss me the doughnuts,” Samuel said. He caught the bag in one hand and opened it with his teeth.

“Gross.” Grace laughed. “Give me one.” Samuel picked out a miniature powdered doughnut, licked all along the side of the doughnut, and handed it to her.

“A-hole,” she said, taking it between her thumb and index finger.

“You know you love me.”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, her mouth full. She licked the powder from her fingers. “Ew, tastes like Sammy spit.”

“You're welcome.”

“So. We're graduates. Officially real people. Our future, which they've been talking about for the last four years, is officially happening to us,” Grace said blandly.

“Yeah. Feel any different?” Samuel dug out another doughnut and popped it into his mouth.

“Oh, yeah. I'm a whole new girl, I'm thinking of joining the Marines and becoming the best military tactician the world has ever known.”

“Yeah, me nei– wait, what?”

“Joking, Sammy. Nothing's changed.”

“I wouldn't say nothing's changed. I think that the store's finally stopped trying to keep that dumpster locked.”

“Do you know what, Samuel Winters? I think you're right. They've finally given in to the masses who don't want to pay for garbage pick-up.” Grace had tossed a doughnut into the air, tried to get her mouth underneath it, but missed. It hit her forehead and bounced into her lap. She grabbed it and shoved it into her mouth whole.

“Yeah. I wish things felt different,” Samuel said, and leaned heavily into the scratchy embrace of the couch.

“Me too.” Grace sighed. They sat there in silence for five more minutes. Or maybe ten, Grace thought. Everything leading up to what happened next was kind of a blur in her memory. They could have sat there for twenty seconds, or they could have sat there for an hour. All she could remember was when she and Samuel turned toward each other. They looked at each other for less than a second before leaning in, until she was sure he could almost taste the smoke on her lips. Grace remembered knowing that even as the kiss happened it was not a thing she should be doing. She had, at the time, a boyfriend whom, if she didn't love, she at least didn't want to hurt. The kiss was brief and chaste, over almost as soon as it started.

If that same kiss had been between two other people, it would have meant nothing. But because it happened to Samuel and Grace it meant a great deal. It meant a lot of things that neither of them were willing or able to voice.

“S**t,” Grace breathed as soon as their lips parted, “That shouldn't have happened. I should … I mean … I have to go.” She tried to get off the couch and tripped over her leg. She stood quickly and brushed the doughnut powder from her black gown. Grace frantically searched through the grocery bag and grabbed her cigarettes. She lifted the hem of her gown and thrust the pack into her back pocket. She turned and said, still walking, “I'll see you around, yeah? Okay. Bye.”

“Bye,” Samuel said, bewildered. Grace didn't look back.

• • •

“Where are we going?” Samuel asked again.

“What? Oh, I don't know. Where are we going?”

“I don't know, Grace,” Samuel said slowly. “Where do you want to be going?”

“Let's just keep walking. See where the winds of fate take us, and other such things.”


“How goes the whole New York City artist thing?” she asked.

Samuel sighed loudly.

“That good, eh?”

“Yeah. There are too many of us dropouts. I'm not completely unemployed, though,” he said, as if trying to convince himself. “I've got a job at Whole Foods.”

“I'm sorry. I know how much you wanted to make it as a painter.”

“Thanks,” Samuel said as they walked down the hill, giant dead leaves crunching under their feet. “College. How is that noise?”

“Y'know, the courses are hard, the people are easy. It's not helping me toward a career in any way. All that good scholarly stuff that makes up the college experience.” Grace's unceremoniously kicked at the leaves.

“That's nice,” Samuel said, sarcastically.

“Yeah, real nice.”

They were at the Safeway plaza now. “Around back?” Grace asked, the last time they had spoken fresh in her mind.

“Yeah, I've got no money. Less than before, somehow ….” Samuel said, carefully sidestepping mentioning what had happened before.

They walked across the parking lot, avoiding the patches of black ice. They made their way to the side of the store with its graffiti-riddled white wall.

“Huh. It's still here,” she said.

“Of course it is,” Samuel said, flopping down onto the couch. “I imagine this thing's been here for at least twenty years. It'll probably be here another twenty.”

Grace sank down on the couch too – the same side she'd been on last time – and the cushion let out a tired puff of dust. “It's been here so long I figured someone would have thrown it out by now.” She stretched her legs out and rested her feet in Samuel's lap.

“Maybe someone doesn't want to let go of it so quickly,” he said quietly. Grace withdrew her feet.

“Listen, about what happened,” she started.

“No. I mean, can we not? We already burned that bridge. Let's just let it stay in the past, okay?” he said, suddenly becoming very interested in his hands.

“Yeah. Yeah. Okay.” Grace thought for a moment. “No, actually, not okay. You don't want to talk about it? Fine. That's your issue. But it did happen, so you at least have to listen to what I have to say.” She paused, then taking his silence as agreement, continued.

“I don't know why it happened. It shouldn't have happened. But I'm sorry I left you here. It was childish of me to just walk away. I'm sorry I made you pay for my cigarettes, and I'm sorry you kissed me. Don't even try to deny it. You were the one who kissed me. The point is, it happened and we should just move past it because it was a mistake we made in high school, and we should be grateful it can't talk like some other people's high school mistakes, and it's not happening again, okay?” Grace moved very quickly through the last part of her speech, talking to the hands she twisted in her lap.

“Right. Yeah. Mistake. Not happening again. Okay. I got it.” Samuel was studying her face with intense concentration. “I'm sorry, Gracie.”

“Don't call me – right. Thanks.” Grace said, still refusing to look at him. Samuel rose from the couch.

“I should go,” he said. “My mother probably needs help with Thanksgiving dinner. I don't think she would appreciate me flaking.”

“Yeah, of course, go ahead,” Grace said, not breaking eye contact with the dumpster in front of her. There were five cardboard boxes leaning on it.

“I'll see you around, I guess,” Samuel said soberly, turning to walk away. Grace said nothing as he walked down the alley, in the opposite direction from his house.

“Wait,” she said finally, getting up with difficulty. Samuel kept walking. “Sammy, wait. Stop.” She ran after him, short red hair flopping in her eyes as she tripped on the alley's potholes.

“Samuel. Please.” She stopped in the middle of the alley and stood her ground as Samuel turned. She walked up to him and simply stood on the edge of his personal space.

“I'm really sorry about this,” Grace murmured, tilting her face up and wrapping her arms around his neck. It was a proper kiss this time. A long kiss. A kiss far beyond one that would have woken Sleeping Beauty. A good kiss.

“No,” Samuel said sternly, breaking away. He put his hands on her shoulders and held her at arms length. “Not again. I'm going to go home, and you're going to go home, and we're going to stay in contact and hear meaningless details about each other's lives and This. Didn't. Just. Happen,” he said, dropping his arms.

“But it did,” Grace said tilting her head and smiling at him.

“No. It didn't. Good-bye, Gracie. I'll e-mail you.”

“Good-bye, Samuel,” said Grace, as she watched her best friend walk the wrong direction down the alley.

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This article has 4 comments.

Larkin SILVER said...
on Nov. 24 2014 at 10:09 pm
Larkin SILVER, Santa Rosa, California
9 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Our remedies oft in ourself do lie, which we ascribe to heaven."
-William Shakespeare

Wow. This is really well written- wonderful word choice, discriptiveness, and character developement. Such great stuff... 

on Nov. 6 2014 at 8:27 am
GirlGenius SILVER, Oakland, New Jersey
7 articles 0 photos 62 comments

Favorite Quote:
The question for today is* : If you could solve any world crisis right now, what would it be?
(*-GirlGenius's favorite quote)

Great! This is what a good writer should write. Keep it up!

on Jun. 15 2013 at 2:46 pm
LexusMarie PLATINUM, Las Cruces, New Mexico
27 articles 0 photos 423 comments

Favorite Quote:
The more control you have over yourself, the less control others have over you.

Hey there! I LOVED this! I thought it was wonderfully written! You did a great job with vocabulary, descriptions, emotions, dialogue, everything. I enjoyed the characters, learning about their past together. Learning about their dreams. Learning about their romance. I loved the buil-up to the end. The ending was my favorite. You earned the check-mark. You are a great writer!