The Cul-de-sac Kids by Jennifer Todhunter

The cul-de-sac kids stick thumbtacks into the soles of their feet to measure their calluses and nobody even flinches. They send Morse-code-like messages to one another from their bedroom windows with flashlights; one long beam means meet at Sarah’s, two short pulses means Bobby’s, strobe-light waving means Dave’s dad is beating him down again, meet at the beach, and Eli always snags a few beers which they sit around sipping, talk about how they’ll fuck Dave’s dad up when they’re bigger and stronger and have a car they can speed away in, but they don’t mean any of those things, not yet.

The cul-de-sac kids shit in ditches and dare each other to eat it.

The cul-de-sac kids can’t save Bobby from himself after his mum dies.

The cul-de-sac kids love rain, every single one of them, mostly because it reminds them of the hours they’ve spent together outside, but they’ll tell you it’s the sound of the drops striking their windows that they love the most, like the rocks they throw to wake each other when they can’t sleep.

After a storm, the cul-de-sac kids run through the forest. They look for fallen-tree-stump forts, root bases reaching toward the sky for shelter or a screen from Dave’s dad should he ever hunt them down, but he hasn’t, not yet.

Sarah always brings food wrapped like a baby in a blanket and everybody wonders where she gets it from because they all know her parents don’t have two nickels to rub together but they don’t really care, they’re just happy it’s there. Eli gets first dibs because he rarely eats at home, at least that’s what everybody assumes, because his ribs jut out like knives when he takes his shirt off after saving Sarah from drowning at the canyon, and all he wants to do is kiss her after that but she’s still dying for Bobby.

Bobby used to bring bread baked by his mum, sourdough bread, that the cul-de-sac kids squished freshly-picked blackberries into, and they’d laugh at each other’s purple moustaches when they were done. 

The cul-de-sac kids pull wings off flying ants, keep them in tiny jam jars they line up in the entryway of their forts.

The cul-de-sac kids climb trees to their tippy-tops, sit and watch who’s letting who through the back door.

Sarah gives Bobby a blowjob and he cries when he finishes and she’ll always wonder if he was crying for himself or for her or for his mum.

A chocolatier buys the empty lot on the corner and the cul-de-sac kids break into the under-construction zone every night, bring their Ouija board and freak the shit out of each other with ghost stories, particularly now that Bobby is gone, particularly now that nobody knows where he went.

Eli tells Sarah he heard Bobby is in the psych ward on twelfth, where people peel themselves like oranges and Sarah tells Eli to fuck off but kisses him later when he walks her home because he just seems so damn hungry.

The cul-de-sac kids clip playing cards to BMX bikes they liberate from the private school across town and they pedal around the neighbourhood like they’re going to take off, the tick-tick-ticking echoing off the boarded-up windows of the abandoned house down the street, the one with the turquoise rocking chair rotting under the willow tree.

The cul-de-sac kids rescue jellyfish baking on the beach every morning, throw them back into the frothing waves.

The cul-de-sac kids would give anything for a cold glass of Quik and a game of Operation.

The cul-de-sac kids lie in the middle of the cul-de-sac and watch the moon, the stars, the dark. Eli traces the constellations in the gravel between their feet, says, this is the Little Dipper, this is Cassiopeia, this is the Three Sister’s, and the cul-de-sac kids hang onto the hope that there’s something bigger out there for them, something they haven’t found, not yet.

JENNIFER TODHUNTER — Jennifer’s stories have appeared in The Forge, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Her work has been selected for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and Wigleaf´s Top 50 Very Short Fictions. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pidgeonholes and founder of Trash Mag. Find her at or @JenTod_.

Art by DAEGAN LUNSFORD — Daegan is a multidisciplinary artist living in Canada. He currently works in gouache and egg tempera, as well as many other unconventional mediums. His artwork focuses on delight, nostalgia and Americana.