by Caroline M. Yoachim
The other girls are made of driftwood, but I'm made of bamboo that whistles in the wind. My bamboo makes a hollow thud when the other girls kick pebbles at my legs on our way to school.
"Bamboo isn't wood, it's grass," Sylvia says. She isn't kicking pebbles, and I can't tell if her statement is meant to be an insult or an observation.
Sylvia is the most popular and prettiest of all the girls. She's made of smooth driftwood with smoky quartz eyes. The other girls hang on her every word, and after she mentions my bamboo, they mock me.
"Do you fall over when the wind blows, grass girl?"
"Solid beats hollow."
"Hey grass girl, the monkeys look hungry."
I ignore their taunts. The monkeys only eat fresh shoots and leaves, not the thick woody stems of bamboo that I am made of. Sometimes they nibble at my seaweed hair, but that's no big loss since I have to redo it with fresh seaweed every couple days, anyway.
When we get to school, the other girls leave me alone. They don't want to get in trouble. The teachers dismantle girls who misbehave, usually only for a couple hours but one time for an entire week.
I'm supposed to learn the species name for every variety of willow tree, but instead I daydream about replacing my bamboo with driftwood.
At night, I comb the beach. Eventually I find a nice flat piece to replace my left foot, and swap out the old for the new. I hurl my unwanted bamboo foot into the ocean. It makes an eerie whistle as it flies through the air--a wail of loss, as if the small segments of bamboo are sad they're no longer part of me.
It's hard to walk with one foot wood and one bamboo. I practice on the beach until the moon sets, checking my footprints in the sand to see how badly I'm dragging my heavy new foot. When I go to bed, I'm exhausted.
The next morning I catch up with all the other girls on the path that winds through the bamboo grove and up the hill to our school. Despite my practice last night, I'm limping.
"Nice foot, grass girl," Sylvia says. She's looking at my foot with a thoughtful expression on her face, and I think she maybe means it as a compliment. The other girls are not as kind.