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Turning into an Orange -- creative nonfiction by Anna Callender

The lunch line is barely moving. Freshmen who know it isn’t their lunch period yet shoulder past seniors who roll their eyes, already anticipating the day they get to leave these lines behind. 

I scuff my sneakers along the linoleum floor, tuning out the familiar cacophony of the cafeteria.  

I look up, trying to gauge the amount of time it will take to reach the counter.  

That’s when I notice who’s standing in front of me.  

It’s Dragon. They’re a senior — two years above my grade — and easily the coolest person in the entire school. We’ve been in theater together before, but I rarely see them outside of productions. 

Should I talk to them? We’re both just standing in line; they don’t have anything else to do.   

I try to catch Dragon’s eye, but their gaze remains glued to their phone. I look away, feeling silly for trying. Never mind. It’s not like they would want to talk to me anywa- 

“Hey,” Dragon says, glancing up with a smile. 

All I can do is smile back in a way that I hope doesn’t look stupid. “Hey.” 

We just stand there for a moment, each waiting for the other to say something first. I fidget with a loose string on my hoodie.  

Despite being one of the coolest people I know, Dragon is every bit as awkward as I am.

Honestly, it’s kind of a relief. Still, it means that what little discussion we do have is often… how do I put it? Strange?  

“Anything huge happening in your life?” Dragon asks, clearly grasping for something to say.  

“Uhh, no. Nothing in particular. What about you?” 

“Well, I’m reading a really good book,” they reply.  

I nod. A good book definitely qualifies as a major life event. I ask them what it is, but don’t recognize the title.  

We lapse back into silence.  

The line is finally moving, and I can see the lunch counter approaching. For once, I’m almost disappointed. The rare opportunity to talk to someone I admire is all but gone.  

I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. 

“I got to draw a frog yesterday that’s turning into an orange.” 

Dragon turns towards me with a look of utter bewilderment.  

“What?”  

“It was for art class—we were doing a metamorphosis project, and I drew a frog that turns into an orange,” I clarify. 

Oh! I thought you said, ‘I started my day off wrong yesterday by turning into an orange.’”   

This catches me so off guard that I can’t suppress a guffaw of laughter. 

I turn towards Dragon. “Now that would make a good first line of a book.”  

As I walk towards my lunch table, I think about that sentence. It was undeniably weird- like the whole conversation- but it’s not every day you talk to someone who will accept everything you say. Someone who will add their own strange ideas, and before either of you know it, you’ve created something unexpected and beautiful.  

What the world needs is more people like Dragon.  

What the world needs is a little more weirdness.  

 

 

Anna Callender is a high school junior living in Virginia. They have been published in local magazines, and one of their dreams is to write a book. When not writing, Anna enjoys taking long walks, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and drinking lots of tea.


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