Stories

 

 

Eden

First published in Writers in the Know, Issue 10

coming soon

 

 

Ellie’s Not-Boring-Anymore Halloween Costume

 

Every Halloween Ellie wore the same boring costumes.

This year she had a plan.

 

Ellie and Papa bought ribbons, fabric and feathers.

In the attic, Ellie and Mama found a scarf and an old broom handle covered in cobwebs.

At Nana’s house, Ellie brewed a potion of cinnamon and cocoa while Nana painted and sewed.

 

Ellie couldn’t wait to Trick-or-Treat.

At the bottom of the stairs Papa smiled. “She’ll be beautiful.”

Mama knit her brows. “She’ll be fierce.”

“Oh, no, no.” Nana fluttered her hands. “She’ll be tasty.”

Ellie peeked. “Ladies and gentlemen, the first, and only…”

“…Peacock-Pirate-Taco.”

 

 

 

Grandma’s Scissors

First published in Better Than Starbucks, July, 2018

 

Henry found Grandma’s old, heavy scissors in the back of Papa’s desk.

He gathered all the pictures of Grandma.

He carried them to his playhouse where no one else could see.

 

He held the picture from the summer he and Grandma rose early every morning and walked down to the river.

He felt the cool air on his face and Grandma’s warm hand holding his.

He set the picture down.

 

He held the picture from last October when he and Grandma and Papa drove all the way to Texas to visit cousins and aunties and uncles.

He heard the twang of the radio and felt the rumble of the road.

He set the picture down.

 

He held the picture from the morning he and Grandma made enough pancakes, bacon and orange juice to feed a dozen families.

He felt the heat of the griddle and tasted the warm syrup.

He lifted the scissors.

Something moved behind him.

 

“What’ve you got there?” Papa asked.

“Nothing.” Henry slid Grandma’s scissors under his leg. “I heard you and Mama whispering…about Grandma.”

Papa exhaled.

“I know she’s sick.”

Papa squeezed into the playhouse. “We didn’t know how to tell you.”

Henry handed the picture to Papa.

“What’s this for?”

Henry showed Papa the scissors. “I’m cutting her out of the pictures. So we won’t remember. So we won’t be sad.”

 

Papa picked up another picture. “Can I use those?”

Henry gripped the scissors tight.

Papa picked up a different picture.

Henry touched his arm. “Maybe not that one.”

Papa picked up a third picture.

“No, Papa.”

“But you want to forget.”

“Because they make me sad.” Henry touched the scissors’ blade. “And happy.”

Papa put his arm around Henry. “Do you really want to forget her?”

Henry shook his head. “So, it’s okay to remember?”

Papa nodded.

Henry snuggled into Papa’s side. “And it’s okay to be sad?”

Papa hugged Henry. “So, what are we gonna do with these?”

Henry wiggled free. “Stay here.”

He ran into the house. He gathered everything they would need.

 

Late that afternoon he and Papa neared the end of the scrapbook.  “Leave the last page blank,” Henry said.

At the hospital, Henry ran ahead. “Don’t forget the camera,” he shouted over his shoulder. “Grandma and I aren’t done making memories.”

 

 

Carolina’s Treasure

First published in Dime Show Review, August, 2018

Subsequently published in Oracle Fine Arts Review, December, 2019

 

On the Friday before Easter Carolina wrapped the egg in her coat and set it in her backpack. It’s perfect, she thought. They’re going to love it.

She slowly lifted her pack, slipped her arms into the straps, looked both ways and…

…ran for home as fast as she could, wobbling and bobbling and weaving through kids and bikes and trees and adults.

She burst into the house. “Mama, Mama wait until you–”

“Oh, sweetie,” Mama said. She unpinned Jovani’s diaper and plugged her nose. “Come back in a couple minutes.”

Carolina scrunched her face.

She ran next door. “Abuela, look at–”

“Oh, mija,” Abuela mumbled with pins between her lips. “This dress–” A pin dropped into her lap. “Un momento, mija.”

Carolina sighed.

She sprinted across the street. “Tia, Tia, I need to show you–”

“Look at this mess.” Tia pointed at the primos and havoc they’d wreaked. “Come back when they are in bed.”

Carolina frowned.

 

She trudged across the street and tossed her backpack under the tree. She plopped to the ground. She waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, Mama and Abuela and Tia found her.

“We are ready now, mija,” Abuela said. “Show us.”

Carolina scrambled to her feet.

She opened her pack.

She reached in.

And pulled out…

A shattered hardboiled egg.

“I broke it,” Carolina cried. “It was perfect.”

Mama hugged Carolina.

Abuela touched Carolina’s shoulder.

Tia looked at the egg and raised her eyebrows. “Do you remember?” she said to Mama. “When we were little?”

Mama straightened up. “Easter morning…”

Abuela nodded. “Come, mijas. We have work to do.”

 

In Abuela’s kitchen Carolina and Abuela cut up colorful paper.

Mama poked holes in both ends of the eggs.

Tia blew into one side. The egg oozed out the other end.

Carolina and Abuela rinsed and dried the shells.

Mama, Tia and Carolina decorated the empty shells.

Abuela filled them with confetti.

 

After church on Easter Sunday, all the family gathered in Abuela’s yard. After the meal, when her belly was full, Carolina climbed into Abuela’s lap. She leaned close to Abuela’s ear. “Are they just for looking?”

Abuela smiled. She looked at Carolina with sideways eyes. She handed an egg to Mama while whispering to Carolina. “Do you know, mija, some things are made to be broken?” She handed another egg to Tia.

Mama lifted her egg high into the air.

Tia lifted her egg higher still.

Carolina’s eyes got big. “Mama, what are you–”

Mama and Tia crushed the eggs on each other’s heads.

Carolina gasped.

Papa laughed.

The primos cheered.

Carolina inched her hand toward the other eggs.

Abuela nodded.

Carolina picked up eggs and broke them on the heads of Jovani and the primos. Mama and Papa and Tia and Tio grabbed eggs too. Carolina laughed and ran as she and her family shouted and danced and played with eggs that were meant to be broken.

 

 

To Catch a the Leprechaun

First published in The Bangalore Review, October, 2018

 

Genevieve wanted a leprechaun.

She’d never held a leprechaun. She’d never even seen one, not a real live one, but when Papa spoke and when he held her close she knew they must be real.

Mama said, “Genny, dear, there’s no such thing.”

But Papa shook his head and lifted Genny onto his lap. He held her tight with one hand and waved his other arm in a wide arc conjuring a whole new world of fairies and sprites and leprechauns. When Papa spoke, and when he held her close, Genny felt the magic of the leprechauns.

I want that magic all the time, she thought. But how can I catch a leprechaun of my own?

Genny spent the rest of that morning thinking…

And devising…

And designing.

And when she finally made her plan she marched down the stairs.

She looked at Mama with sideways eyes and leaned in close to Papa’s ear. She whispered so Mama wouldn’t hear.

Papa nodded, took Genny’s hand and said, “Let’s go. This might just work.”

 

At the second-hand store Genny found the biggest, brightest bird cage.

Papa asked, “Aren’t the bars too–”

“Trust me, Papa,” Genny said and Papa bought the cage.

 

Back at home Genny set the birdcage on the living room floor. She wrapped one end of a wire around the door. The other end hovered in the middle of the cage.

“Now,” she said, “we need gold.”

Papa opened up his wallet. “Fresh out.” He pulled a penny from his pocket. “Will this do?”

Genny squinted but figured she didn’t have much choice. She didn’t have any gold either. She took the penny and wrapped the free end of the wire around the coin.

From the drawer of odds and ends she grabbed the ball of rubber bands. She tied one to the birdcage door. She stuck a pencil through the bars and poked the coin.

The door didn’t move.

She tied a second and a third rubber band.

She stuck the pencil through the bars and touched the coin again.

The door barely closed.

She tied more rubber bands.

After five rubber bands Papa tilted his head.

After eight rubber bands Papa cleared his throat.

After fourteen rubber bands Papa opened his mouth, but before he could speak Genny held his cheeks. She touched her forehead onto his. “Trust me,” she whispered. “I know what I’m doing.”

“But look.” He touched the pencil to the coin.

The cage door snapped.

The pencil broke.

Papa winced.

“Bath time,” Mama called from the other room.

“Stay here,” Genny said. “Watch for clues. Orange hair, tiny footprints, gold dust.”

“Gold dust?” Papa asked.

Mama entered the living room.

“It looks like glitter,” Genny said, “but it’s really gold.”

“Bath time,” Mama said again.

Genny stood and left the room.

 

During her bath Mama whispered to Genny. And Genny whispered to Mama. And Genny began to wonder if Mama really did believe.

 

After bath Mama gave Genny a gold wrapped chocolate coin. “You know what to do,” Mama said.

Genny crept into the living room. Through the window she saw Papa reading on the porch. She untied the rubber bands and replaced the penny with the chocolate coin. She retied the rubber bands.

She marched to the porch and kissed Papa good night.

“Any luck?” Papa asked.

“Not yet,” Genny said. “But have a little faith.”

Papa nodded his head and kissed her cheek, and Genny bounded off to bed.

 

In the middle of the night Genny heard the cage door snap.

She grabbed her flashlight and tiptoed to the living room.

In the beam of the flashlight she saw the cage. The door was shut, and the coin was gone.

She shined the light on the floor.

No orange hair.

No footprints.

No gold dust.

No leprechaun.

She scanned the living room until she was sure then turned her flashlight off. She slumped onto the couch.

A minute later Papa sat beside her. “We’ll try again,” he said and lifted her onto his lap. “And this time…”

He waved one hand as he talked, telling her of pixies and sprites and leprechauns.

And in the moonlight on the back of his hand she saw the red mark shining bright.

And in the corner of his lips she saw a chocolate smear.

And when he spoke of magic dust and fairy wings and rainbows and gold coins, and when he pulled her close to him she knew she’d caught her leprechaun.

 

 

Come, My Love

First published in Edify Fiction

Coming soon.

 

 

The Sea Star War

First published in Writers in the Know, Issue 5, Summer, 2018

 

Anton removed his hat, smoothed his collar and remembered many years ago, when he was small enough to burrow under Grandfather’s beard and breathe the scent of brine and wood and fires on a frozen beach, hear the call of an angry gull, feel the lashing of a violent sea.

As a child, Anton drank the stories Grandfather told. He swore he would remember. But not all swearing is for the good. Some lessons are best forgot.

“Grandfather,” Anton said, “before I go tell me again about the stars.”

Grandfather cleared his throat, narrowed his eyes and shifted in his seat. “There was a time when I, father and my grandfather before lived by the ocean’s grace, harvesting clams and oysters, enough for our families and a few to sell. Never enough to grow rich.”

“But as I came of age I realized my ancestor’s folly. ‘The sea stars,’ I told my father, ‘are the enemy.  They take what is rightfully ours. We must rid the ocean of the scum. Build a wall or kill them all, something must be done.’”

“But my father shook his head. ‘Do not be greedy,’ he said. But what did he know, the foolish man? I turned my back and shook my fist and rallied confederates to my cause.”

“On the beach and in the church and whispered in the lanes were words of anger and of war. I showed the men of my generation how to pry a star from the rocks, cut it in half and throw it back. We held our bellies as we laughed. ‘The end of our enemy,’ we roared.”

“Your Grandmother closed her eyes and in the quiet times asked me to reconsider. But she was a weak-willed woman. She knew nothing of enemies and war?”

“One year then another passed, but our bellowing had no effect. The sea stars refused to die.”

“’It’s not enough,’ I told my friends. ‘We must do more than cut in half.’ So we cut in thirds and cut in fourths and threw the pieces back.”

“But the stars only increased.”

“‘Do not give up,’ I told my allies. ‘Rid the ocean of the beasts.’ So we cut them further piece by piece, a slice for each arm.”

“But all we did bore little fruit. The oysters and the clams grew sparse until they became less my quest than the killing of the stars.”

“My friends from childhood cursed the sea, and some behind my back cursed me. They rearranged their traitorous minds and renounced the war. So I cursed them back and I laughed when they grew weary and they grew poor. One after another moved away.”

“But the stars remained. I kept my war on their souls, cursed them with every breath. ‘My enemies,’ I roared. ‘I will not stop until every one of you is dead.’”

“The village slowly passed away until only Grandmother and I remained.”

“But every year the stars increased. Every year Grandmother released more of her joy.”

“Before your birth Grandmother passed. She never saw your face, never touched your skin. She never smelled your newborn scent or kissed your cheeks or lips or chin.”

Grandfather paused. He bowed his head. “I will see the end of the stars before I lay my head to rest.”

Anton squeezed his hat and stared at his lap. “But Papa says that will not work. He says you are a crazy man.”

“Crazy, yes,” Grandfather said. “He should be too. What kind of son turns his back as his village fades, watches his father waste away? What kind of son studies books while his mother dies?”

“But Papa says every arm becomes a star.”

Grandfather shifted in his seat.

“Papa says you’re the reason the stars increased. You’re the one who killed the village. You made Grandmother die.”

“Fool,” Grandfather roared. “Spout your lies some other place. Leave at once you wretched boy. I’ll see your face no more.”

The sun set as Anton climbed the hill. He waited, waited through the night until the eastern sky began to glow, until the sun began to rise.

In the hoary dawn he watched Grandfather stumble to the sand, muttered curses on his lips, a jagged knife in his hand. But Grandfather never turned around. Anton never said goodbye.

He crested the hill. He cried. He shook his head and he swore he would not make Grandfather’s mistake.

I’m not like him, Anton thought. I know my enemies. He closed his eyes, pulled tight his coat and shivered deep within his core. He cleared his mind and touched his gun and set off to join the war.

 

 

Yankari

First published in The Promethean, Volume 13, Issue 2, Spring/Summer 2005

Okwi celebrated his ninth birthday at Yankari Game Reserve in north eastern Nigeria.
At his request, his parents packed food, clothes and his younger brother, Yomi,
into their 1977 Mercedes and drove three hours, trying without success to avoid
the potholes that mark Nigeria’s untamed roads. Upon arriving, they discovered
the park in a state of disrepair common to many West-African attractions. It was
not without excitement, however, that Okwi and Yomi witnessed the first water
buffalo, the first bushbuck and the first baboon of their adventure.

Baboons are memorable creatures. They have been known to remove
towels, clothes and wallets while people swim and raid unlocked cabins in search
of a culinary or alcohol-related reward. But it is their almost constant chatter that
is most impressive to many ofYankari ‘s visitors. Their voices, like the click of an
old ceiling fan, the drip of a faulty faucet or hum of a fluorescent light, gradually
fade into the background over time, but for those who are only visiting the
constancy can at times be maddening. So it is true that whether stealing food,
“talking” late into the night or generally terrorizing the guests, baboons are the
most common, the most memorable and often the most unloved wildlife Yankari
has to offer. This fact did not stop the smiles from appearing upon Okwi and
Yomi’s faces when the first baboon was spotted in the distance.

The boys helped their parents unpack the contents of the Mercedes into their
rondel. Visitors to Yankari are not permitted to sleep in tents. The stated purpose
behind this rule is to protect guests from the hazards the baboon population
brings. The unspoken purpose lies in a story that is repeated by children, one
generation to the next. This story is never told in the presence of adults and is
always accompanied by a warning. Having visited three years earlier, Okwi knew
the story. Yomi had never heard the tale.

While they unpacked, the boys debated the sleeping arrangements. As
the oldest, and the one whose birthday was being celebrated, Okwi was confident
in his eventual victory, but allowed his brother to retain the hope of winning.
Having finished unpacking, choosing beds and changing into their swimming
smts the boys joined their father for a swim at Wikki warm springs. With the jungle
reaching down to the water’s edge on one side and white sand underfoot the
warm springs provide adults a chance to relax and children a chance to play. ‘The
twenty minute walk to the springs only adds to the refreshment provided by the
swim. After rinsing off the grime of travel and playing childhood water games the
three of them prepared to return to their ronde! for dinner. It was on this walk, with
their father far ahead, that Okwi began the tale.


There was a boy whose parents sent him to the warm springs one day. His name
was Sunday. While swimming he met two brothers. And they swam, and they
laughed.
While they swam, a guide returned from a day safari. Bako (a man described
by the warden as not quite middle aged, slightly less than handsome and lacking
enough refinement to be considered pleasant) had spent the afternoon leading a
foreign couple through the bush. This couple was one of the lucky few who
witness both elephants and lions on their visit. And so it was with a smile that
Bako sat down at the bar and ordered a beer with the tip he received for his good
fortune . The bartender, a man of indeterminate age and few words, listened to the
guide tell of a pair of lions he had seen not more than three ki to meters from where
they sat. The lions had lazily rested in the shade, barely even stirring as Bako
drove the Land Rover within fifty meters. The foreign woman had even been so
bold as to open her door when the vehicle stopped. The lioness turned her head
to them, lazily opening her eyes. But the slothful reaction of the lions was more
than made up for when Bako lunged across the woman and slammed shut the door.
Not yet ready to relinquish his tale, Bako berated the stupidity of the woman while
drinking the fruits of her generosity.


Okwi slowed his steps and allowed his younger brother to get ahead. When Yomi
turned, Okwi lowered his head and stared through his eyebrows. This is where
Papa cannot hear, he said. And though the baboons above continued their chorus,
Okwi ‘s voice lowered.


 

While Bako drank, Sunday and the two brothers played in the water until the sun,
though not its light, could not be seen. With the sky darkening, the baboons
above began to raise their voices against the coming night. Ignoring the increasing,
and incessant racket, Sunday got out of the water. He had been instructed to
return to his family’s ronde! as soon as it started getting dark. He had never been
to Yankari before, and even though the path was easy to follow, his parents worried
for his safety. The brothers had visited once before. They were familiar with many
of the shortcuts (though they often took longer to reach their destination) and
took advantage of them often. And so it was that the brothers remained in the
water while their new friend got out.

It was not long, however, until the brothers also ended their play. First
one, then a second baboon had decided that the lack of a third human meant the
chance of a successful foray into mischief was greater. The brothers realized they
also would need to get out if they hoped to still have towels, shirts and shoes for
their walk home.

And so the brothers walked up the hill, past trees lining the path,
underneath the watchful, if not mischievous, gaze of hundreds of eyes. But as
they walked the brothers did not notice that the baboons were growing quieter.
And when they reached the top of the hill and looked up they recognized the
silence and their eyes opened wide.


Okwi touched his brother’s shoulder. Are you scared yet? he asked. Yomi looked
up with all the bravado his six years could muster and said he wasn’t scared. Okwi
dropped his voice still lower and went on.


The bartender was not enjoying himself. Having finished over half a gallon of beer
already the once mildly annoying aspects of the guide’s personality were quickly
being magnified. It was during one of the rare pauses in Bako’s self-centered
monologue that the bartender noticed the click of the ceiling fan and the hum of
the fluorescent lights. And it was the recognition of those familiar sounds, without
their constant companion the baboons, that prompted the bartender to look outside.

Sunday was standing in the clearing, around which lie the restaurant, the
cracked tennis courts and the bar. Walking lazily across the far end of the courtyard
was a lioness. Sunday, not more than twenty meters from the door to the bar, was
standing motionless. His eyes followed the lioness as it meandered in the distance.
Sniffing the air, the lioness turned away from the courtyard (and the boy) and
looked down the road leading into the park. The bartender, watching all this,
walked quickly to the phone. He picked it up and called the warden. As the
bartender spoke, Bako overheard the quick words and looked out the window. He
saw the lioness in the distance and noticed the same lighter colored patch of hair
on her right flank that he had noticed earlier in the day. Without turning around he
shouted for the bartender to “Come look at this. One of my lions is out there.” The
lioness turned her head at the noise and paused.

Behind Sunday, the brothers stood frozen in the darkening shadows that
guarded the path. They had seen the lioness look down the road, away from them,
away from Sunday. The brothers, mindful now of the silence, crept quietly into the
foliage that bordered the path. The older brother whispered. Run. Run to the bar.
He was either not heard or ignored. In truth, Sunday was unable to move. He was
rooted to that spot and, try as he might, he was unable to take the first step toward
either the trees or the bar.

When the lioness turned her head, the bartender’s voice stopped. On the
other end of the line, the warden understood the silence and replaced the phone,
picked up his gun and walked out the door. Bako realized quickly the folly of his
act and shrunk into the shadows, away from the window and the fear that permeated
his body.

The lioness, having heard the shout, began to wander in that direction.
Though she was still over one hundred meters away, the brothers began to feel the
small bit of excitement they once felt begin to disappear in the face of their growing
fear.

As the lioness slowly walked, the older of the brothers tried desperately
to will his new friend into action. Before it’s too late, he whispered. Run, please,
run. But it was wise for Sunday to remain still. With short legs he would be no
match for a hungry lioness. He stood. And he waited. He did not move. Looking
closely, you would not have likely seen him breathe. And those who watched were
silent as well. In that moment, with the eyes of a boy, his friends, a bartender and
hundreds of baboons fixed on one lion, the silence encompassed them all.

And so it was, after minutes that seemed like hours, and after the lioness
had wandered within thirty meters of the boy, that the younger of the brothers
could not bear the scene any longer. An emotion, from a place unknown before
this moment, began to rise within him. It moved through his stomach, into his
lungs and up his throat. And when the younger brother’s lips parted it escaped.
Through his grasping hands a small cry filtered out, piercing the quietness. Sunday,
who now stood directly between the brothers and the lioness, heard the sound
and watched as she turned her head and looked directly at him. Fear rose within
him and he lost control of his bladder. And as his shorts darkened, he found the
ability to move that had escaped him for so long. With his first step a change came
over the lioness. No longer was she the disinterested observer. Now she saw her
prey and prepared to pounce.


 

Yomi’s steps quickened. His brother stopped. Okwi had thought long about this
story, how and when to tell it. This was a moment he had seen and he relished it.
If you want to hear the rest we can’t get too close to Papa, he said. The knot in
Yomi ‘s brow deepened as they slowed to barely a shuffle. Okwi took advantage of
the quietness to bring his voice down to a whisper.


From his first movement, Sunday was sprinting. He took one stride and was now
nineteen meters from the bar’s door. He took another and was eighteen meters
away. Another step and then a fourth brought him closer still. The lioness stirred,
the muscles in her legs taut. And at that moment the bartender prayed. And his
prayer must have been answered, because the boy took four more strides and the
lioness remained. With eyes fixed on his every move, the lioness stood her ground,
watching as her prey was now only twelve meters from the door. The lioness had
not moved when Sunday reached the halfway point. And though her muscles
tensed, she stood her ground when Sunday was eight meters and then six meters
from safety. But when his dash had taken him within four meters of the door the
lioness began. While Sunday strode once the lioness covered four times the
distance. Still, when he was only two meters from the door the lioness was still
over thirty meters away. When he reached the door the lioness still had twenty
meters to go. And when he turned the handle, the door held firm. He tried again.
Again, the handle turned but the door held fast. The lioness seemed to pause in
her chase, her head tilting to the side almost in amusement. Sunday turned and, in
an instant, he saw her eyes grow large then narrow just before she leapt. In the
split second between her feet hitting the ground and the final push, the world
paused. And in that pause, the brothers saw her tightened muscles. And in that
pause, the bartender saw her eyes ignite. And in that pause, Sunday felt the lion ‘s
heat.

But like all pauses, the scene resumed. As the lioness left the ground, her
roar filled the air. Like a gunshot, the lioness released a shout to shame every baboon. And with a heaviness the lioness landed upon the boy. In hysterics,
Sunday crumpled to the ground underneath her weight. Blood spilled out, staining
the steps on which he and the lion lay. He screamed in horror as the lion’s body lay
on top of him.

Their eyes closed to the horror, Sunday, the bartender and the brothers
did not see the warden lower his gun from across the courtyard and begin to run.


Okwi looked down at his brother. Yomi’s eyes were barely slits and his fists were
clenched as he tried to hold back his anger and his tears. He ended up ok? Yomi
asked, angry at having cared so much. He began to run, to reach his father but
Okwi caught his arm. Don ‘t go yet, there’s more. And though he could have
whispered still, Okwi spoke aloud once again.


Sunday still cried out when the warden slid him from underneath the fallen lion. He
fought with all he had when the bartender wiped the lion’s blood from his arms, his
body, his face. When his mother and father arrived he resisted their touch. He
would not allow their embrace. He spent the night in a frenzy. For in his mind, the
lion lay above him. Its weight pressing against him. Its heat scorching his body.
Its blood mixing with his own, spilling onto the ground. And every touch and
every sound and every sight took him back to that moment.


This is the story Okwi told his brother. And like his brother, Yomi felt little
peace when the story ended. Okwi, being the older of the two, felt an obligation to
bravery, though even he was shaken by the tale. And though the story ended
somewhat well, neither boy was content.

Far behind their father now, the boys reached the top of the hill. The bar
was on their left as they exited the trees. Lost in their thoughts, encompassed by
their fears, with the sun setting quickly, the boys walked on, unaware of the
stillness in the air.

 

One Day In October 

First published in The Promethean, Volume 13, Issue 1, Fall/Winter 2004-05

The platform on which they ride is made of wood. Bales of hay form four rows on
which countless seats had been taken. Through puddles and mud, the ruts they
follow take them slowly back to their waiting car. It is October and it is cold, yet
they are aware only subconsciously of the briskness in the air, of the chill that fills
their lungs. Their visit has not resulted in a pumpkin but that was never their
intention. They came with nothing, and with nothing in their hands they have
planned to return.
The drive to Sauvie’s Island had been pleasant. St. John’s bridge is always a
beautiful sight, and the myriad colors clinging as Jong as possible to almost bare
branches lent color to a gray-filled sky. Calm were the clouds though a steady
wind blew their way. They parked, got out and weaved their way through cars and
puddles and gates. And around children, enthusiastically leading parents,
reminiscent of their own youth.

Climbing aboard the trailer and taking their seats, they noticed families on this
clear late October day. Two boys leaned precariously close to the back of the
trailer, daring each other with their eyes. In their minds, a mother and father still
clung to their young daughters as the platform swayed back and forth. And they
rode, content to let the path lead them where it will.

With others so close at hand, conversation had been brief. At the far field they
moved beyond the crowd and found a place of quiet. They searched for pumpkins
that reminded them of professors they once had and friends that they had known.
Amid all that was misshapen, they were calm. Within the cold, the mud and the
crowd, they let fall their boundaries. And in their quietness, in that not quite
perfect field, they found their peace.

And then they returned. While others climbed aboard and sat on bales of hay,
they waited. They waited, and then they took their seats. They faced each other
on this uncertain path.

And now, as the words and laughter of others fill their ears they allow their silent
content to draw them close. The tractor dips within a rut and the trailer loosens
their balance. He touches her knee. She holds his hand. They ride in silence as,
once again, fate has changed their plans.