Robby unearths the small green stone from beneath a tough-packed hump of brown dirt in his backyard. When he brushes the mud from its uneven sides, it sparkles in the sun.
“Alien stone,” he says, his eyes lighting up.
He spends the afternoon cleaning the gem, wrapping it in wire, and suspending it from a cord. He wears his new necklace everywhere: to school, to church, to the grocery store, soccer practice and sleep. With the alien stone around his neck, he runs faster at practice, jumps higher. He closes his eyes during class, and his ears hum and he’s sure he can hear what the kids around him are thinking.
“That’s so cool,” he whispers to himself.
Yet the other kids at school don’t think Robby’s alien stone, as he calls it, is “cool” at all.
“What’s with the necklace, Robby?”
“He thinks it’s from outer space!”
Their laughter spins around him.
“You think the earth is flat, too?”
“He goes to church. Those MF-ers believe anything.”
“What? You gonna cry, little Martian boy?”
Robby ignores them, at first, and lies in bed at night imagining the distant places his stone might have dropped from. Nebulas with spinning tails. Planets with blue dirt and a pink atmosphere. He wakes up early to scribble these dreams into the back of his notebooks.
But the ridicule continues.
“Martian boy! Martian boy! Why are you so weird?” A sing-song chant catches on in the hallways when he passes, echoes through the bathroom as he huddles in a stall.
They roll their eyes. “He doesn’t even like video games or TicTok or anything.”
“What a freak.”
The chant begins to play in his head at night. Martian boy. Martian boy. Why are you so weird? He stops dreaming his dreams, stops rising early to scribble in his notebooks. One night he finally slips the homemade necklace up over his head and drops it into the wastebasket beside his desk.
Martian boy. Martian boy. Don’t ever be so weird.
©️ 2021 Katie Baker