The Northville Review
an online literary journal
What I Wish I Hadn’t Done

Kristen Elde

Last week in class the assignment was to write about something we wish we hadn’t done, something we would take back if we could. At first I didn’t care about it, I just cared about going to the swamp behind our house. But then Zach the idiot, who smells half like food and half like my really fat dirty uncle’s house, started wiggling around in his chair and making stupid noises and saying he had the best idea out of all of us. That made me forget about the swamp and think about the assignment instead. I remembered that I feel bad about things all the time, and I knew I could write something a lot better than Zach with his messy hair and grubby sweats that made him look poor.

I didn’t though. I can do pretty much everything better than all the kids in my class, it’s just that I was trying to write about the wrong things. I didn’t write about the thing that kept trying to get out. There are two reasons I didn’t write about it. One is that it includes a guy in my class and the other is that I would have been made fun of for the rest of my life.

* * * * *

It happened two years ago when I was eight. It was a weekend day and me and Jason had just got back from the gas station. We used to ride bikes there because they have the best candy and it’s not that far from our house. I can still remember what I bought: some grape Zotz, two things of Sour Patch Kids, and a Dr. Pepper. I ate the Zotz on the way home and the Sour Patch Kids and the pop right after we put our bikes in the ditch in my front yard. I always have to eat mine fast because I like how it feels, like humming in my brain for example. Like always Jason took forever to eat his candy and it made him look even dumber than usual. It made me mad every time and I always had to say something about it. But as long as I had the humming (and some other feelings I can’t explain) I could usually forget about it after a little while.

Jason has orange hair and so many freckles that they run into each other and make him look kind of dirty. He has an older brother named Mike who’s in my sister’s grade. Mike has a good looking face and swears a lot, and these two things together don’t make sense to me. That much swearing also gives me the sick feeling in my stomach. I know where he gets it though, because I’ve been at their house and heard their mom say damn and shit a few times. Once I heard her say fuck and it was to Jason. Basically I feel sorry for Jason and Mike because their parents are just like old kids. Another thing about Mike is that he uses a lot of gel in his spike and it always looks so perfect. I wish I could get mine to look that neat, with all the hairs spaced out evenly, but I wouldn’t want mine to look so greasy.

We decided to go to Scott and Bethany’s. Their house is on our street and sometimes we go there when nothing else sounds good. Scott is a lot younger than us but he has some good Nintendo games and it’s easy to make fun of him. His house is always really clean, too.

It turned out that no one was home. I was starting to get angry again because there wasn’t a next thing and when I looked at Jason’s face from the side while he kicked the door, I saw some brown stuff (chocolate) in the corner of his mouth and this made me feel worse. I should have just gone home to play with my newts but Jason said he had an idea so I didn’t. But I had to tell him about the chocolate in a mean way before I heard the idea, before I could look at him.

Jason said we should go to Terry’s. This sounded like a pretty dumb idea to me because there’s nothing special about Terry or his house or anything that has to do with him. All the other people who live on our street have something that makes me think about them. Two examples are Mandy Green who lives next door and is nice, is in high school, and is our babysitter sometimes, and also the Ringlands who live across the street and are mean to their pets, are not smart, and stink like cigarettes and meat. But Terry just has a wife and is not old or young, so when Jason said we should go over there it didn’t make me feel good or bad or any way at all. I should have just gone home but I don’t think it was possible. Sometimes it’s just impossible to do the other thing.

We walked to Terry’s house which is small and tan with some flowers in the front. There were no cars in the driveway and it was dark inside. Let’s go in the backyard, Jason said, and I said how can we, there’s no gate. So what, said Jason, we’ll climb the fence. After Jason said that I starting feeling better, like I was sleepy and awake at the same time. This is one of my best feelings.

It wasn’t easy to climb that fence because there was nothing much to grab onto. Also it was made of wood and it had rained before so it was wet and our feet kept slipping. Basically we just jumped as high as we could and held on to the top of the fence while we moved our feet really fast on the wood. One of Jason’s shoes fell off and I started laughing so hard I almost fell all the way off. But in about three minutes I made it over the fence, and about three minutes after that Jason did.

During the three minutes when it was just me I looked around and thought I was in the perfect place, because Terry had a koi pond like the one at the Japanese restaurant my family went to when we were on vacation in Hawaii. I was always trying to get my dad to build one in our backyard and I couldn’t believe that all along there was one right here. I walked over to it and watched the orange, silver, and white koi flip around underwater. It surprised me how they would come very close to each other but without ever touching. They reminded me of beautiful airplanes, the way their side fins stuck out and were round, flat, and the same.

There was also a swimming pool with a cover on it and a lot of leaves and branches on the cover, a hammock between two tall trees, and the hugest bird feeder I had ever seen in my life. There were about four birds there.

Then Jason jumped down from the fence and something about it changed everything. I felt too warm even though it was cold outside, and when I looked back at the pond I wanted to yell. I tried looking at the bird feeder and then everything else around but I felt so bored that I thought I might cry. Sometimes that is what happens. Jason looked so stupid with one shoe on and one shoe off and I ended up changing between laughing and getting mad even though I really did not feel like laughing.

I watched him look around and it didn’t take long for him to notice the pool. When he did his big weird green eyes got even bigger and he didn’t seem to notice anything else after that. I knew he was thinking about swimming. I can usually see right into Jason’s brain, it’s just not that hard. He started dragging the cover off and he made the worst excited sounds while he did it. I was still standing by the pond and I imagined Jason doing a cannonball into the pool with all of his clothes and one shoe on. I knew that was exactly how it would happen. I also knew exactly what it would look like when Jason got out of the pool with his shirt sticking to him and his orange hair in his face and his whole body shivering. It would make me sad like looking at a sick animal does and I HATE being sad like that.

I had to find a different next thing. That’s when I saw the lawnmower leaning up against the house. It was a lot newer than my dad’s, with shiny red metal and a white bag attached to the back of it that only had a few grass marks. I ran over to it and told Jason what we should do. For a second he looked confused, probably he was still thinking about swimming, but then he got it. Something that’s the same about me and Jason is that we both have to do certain things at certain times even when we know we’ll feel bad afterwards. The feeling I get before the bad one is like eating about fifty Zotz at the same time but I just wish it lasted longer. For Jason I think it must be like getting a hug from his mom.

Jason came over and we both started pushing the lawnmower to the edge of the pool. I remember that while we were pushing it I looked at Jason’s foot and saw a big red spot on his gross disgusting sock, blood. It made me so angry all of a sudden and at the same time I had the jumpy feeling like there were millions of baby crickets in my blood. Jason counted to three and we lifted the lawnmower up and threw it as hard as we could into the pool. It made a loud splash and right at that time and a little bit before, I got the full feeling that is the best one of all, where it feels like I will never have to worry about next things ever again.

But then for some reason we turned around, and this is the part of the story that makes me wish I could take everything back. I don’t know why we didn’t notice him sooner, I guess because it was dark inside the house like I said, but Terry was standing right on the other side of the glass door just watching. Even though it was dark I could see his face and his eyes and he had a look that was SO SAD that I started crying right away. I remember Jason saying SHIT! and running to the fence but I could not move at all. I had to just stand there and cry. Terry kept standing where he was, he couldn’t move either. The worst part was that I never felt sadder in my whole life, like if all my dead animals had gotten sick and died at the exact same time. The sadness was in my stomach too. The feeling was so bad that I wished I was dead, not dying just already dead.

If I had done the assignment that’s where I would have stopped telling the story, but a few more things also happened.

After a long time Terry came outside and when he did I started feeling half mad and half sad. This made it so that it was hard to know how to act. The mad part of me wanted to spit in Terry’s face and call him a fuckinasshole. The sad part wanted to hug him and tell him that I’d found things to make me think of him. I couldn’t choose one so I started getting madder and I had to run away from him, but before I did I yelled that I really liked his koi pond! He didn’t say anything or maybe he did but I just didn’t hear because I was running so fast through his living room and out the front door. I ran all the way home and when I got there I found my mom and hugged and kissed her and told her I love her. Even though I HATE that I have to act like this, it’s the only way to make my stomach feel better. Another problem is that when I do this she or my dad always knows I’ve done something wrong and if I don’t tell them everything, the stomach feeling will come back.

Me and Jason had to pay for a new lawnmower but since we didn’t get enough allowance, our parents gave Terry the money and we did work in Terry’s yard like raking leaves, sweeping the cement, and stacking wood for example. Actually, Jason mostly did those things and I took care of the birds and fish, feeding them and cleaning their areas. I wanted Terry to know that I had a lot of information about koi so I always had to say something about them whenever I was over there, like how they’re related to goldfish and the first ones were found in China for example. I could tell he was impressed.

I’m not that good of friends with Jason anymore but I am almost always nice to him.

About the author

Kristen Elde lives and writes in Brooklyn. Her words have appeared in online publications such as McSweeneys, The Nervous Breakdown, Pindeldyboz, and Word Riot, in addition to magazines that include BUST, Runner's World, and The Writer.