Sunlight like yellow silk filters through the maple’s bare branches. Our summer fawns have turned tawny and wary, gathered at the far edge of the ash-colored field. The light is so fragile now. Remember the gold-throated lily? When these black trees hid inside July and swayed with their whole bodies? We ran out of time. After school, black walnuts fall onto leaves shaped like feathers, hands, tears. One blade of grass bends under the weight of a spider, as it climbs to the tip. My heart feels like that.
Rain pricked my face through the screen door & I knew it dripped down the back of your T-shirt. A neighborhood dog crooned. Still, I pushed you into that dark wet after our ritual hug against the peeling doorframe & then those words next to my last name. I pushed you out, turned on the outside light, & said go home instead of I love you, too. It wouldn’t be right to believe a whiskeyed tongue. The beagle kept howling—the heckler. To take your keys & put you up on my sofa for a night didn’t seem safe after those words—afraid to throw friendship at fire. I pushed you out on slick stones in shiny grass. My family name was a prayer on your raspberry-stem lips. I felt whole when you said it. I never told you that. You were the first I told I was engaged. You came to our wedding. Years later, I still hadn’t told you when you died in a car wreck on a different rainy night. Had someone else pushed you out in the slippery dark? Did a hound howl a warning before you said you loved her, [last name]?
The land was grass in all directions grass and mesquite trees grass that hid Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes. One summer we gathered them all in a triumphant bundle of blue and white, red and orange. Our faces streaked with red Texas clay we proudly presented the fruits of our harvest to our mother.
She cried. She cried over the blooms through a smile. She smiled because we loved her, she cried because we broke the cycle of flower from seed to root and they would never grow again. Her laugh lines crinkled with sorrow as she gave us instructions on drying and extracting their ink.
Thirteen magical acres of space imprisoned the small house inside miles of waving grass. Wispy salt-and-pepper hair pulled under a scarf, she dug her paint-stained fingers into red soil and coaxed her dream garden into life, a half-acre wide with melons, strawberries, zucchini, corn.
In her mind’s eye the artist sketched out her farm: chickens, horses and goats.
Her best friend died in the middle of the night we picked up the pretty girl I had grown up with, played with, fought with. I was sad my friend had lost her mom I didn’t see my mother’s best friend had left the earth. Her confident, the woman she walked with, shared trauma, everyday-ness gone.
She had watched her friend glow translucent as cancer ate her brain. She disappeared into the tall grass where my mother could not follow. We never knew - a mother hides her pain.
Her fingers bled charcoal, brightly colored chalk, and silence as she watched her children grow.
Then came the day cancer took my mother by the hand and led her where I could not follow. My confidante walked into the tall grass until she vanished obscured by the thorns of the mesquite. Her beauty swallowed by the land that had long ago staked a claim on her soul.
It swallowed us all, grassy farmland dotted with mesquite trees and tears a broken cycle hearts pulled out by the root unable to go to seed.
People mill around, wait for the start of the show.
Two guys stand in the row above me, discuss gazpacho in near-orgasmic terms. One has an upside-down cross hung from the ring in his nose, his jacket a paean to Satan, his demeanor the easy comfort of one who rules many with benign power.
His friend is a small, mousy sort, with horn-rimmed glasses. A smattering of acne peppers his face. He will grow up, go to college, get a job, forget this concert. The shirt he wears will be thrown away or given to the Salvation Army.
Outside, the concession stand has run out of hot dogs. A man bites into his own hand, chews. A jet of blood stains his mustache. He smiles, picks up the mustard.
A bevy of plastic sirens roves over the arena, call would-be sailors in tuneless voices. The pair of glasses behind me roves over blackclad breasts as a trio of them walk down the stairs, through the arch to the concessions.
The mustachioed gourmet regurgitates maggots from his dead flesh—no, just sauerkraut. Perhaps he should have used ketchup instead. He goes back to his seat.
Some in the first row begin to wonder if the band has yet entered the arena.
I wish the machete stayed buried in the monster. I wish the monster stayed buried in the lake. I wish I could rewind the movie and let the girl recover: her prom night, her friends, her clothes, her bucketful of optimism in those first fifteen minutes. Sometimes, after the credits, a hand ejects from the grave and latches on. The girl kicks and kicks and kicks. The audience may argue it’s a dream sequence. It isn’t. She will use therapy and capsules and razors to remove the unsightly feature, but the insistent fingers remain. She will learn to wear wide leg pants to hide her new anklet. Her friends will call it a statement. In the winter, she will tuck the dead appendage into the plush mouth of an Ugg boot. With its rampant short shorts and flip flops, she will resent summer. She will try frolicking on the beach with her dead, purple pet flailing, and the boys will laugh and laugh and laugh. Sometimes the hand seizes the happy ending, and the girl struggles until the screen goes black.
FLASH GLASS: A MONTHLY PUBLICATION OF FLASH FICTION, PROSE POETRY, & MICRO ESSAYS