Karen swore the susurration followed her as she walked along the
cornfield. It seemed to come only from the section right next to her,
as though her energy were bouncing off the stalks. She thought she
could actually feel the energy hitting her, but maybe it was just her
imagination. When such things happened to her, no one else felt it,
and everyone so far in her life blamed it on her imagination, ergo
her conclusion here. Karen walked on, a bit jittery until the land
opened up onto a meadow.
Deep inside the cornstalks, warnings leapt out as the human passed, with the universal understanding of plants that when their buds came to fruition, they would be raped and pillaged, often by the big monsters the humans employed. For now, they could only deflect the human energy, whispering to each other—a human is near; our time is coming.
Thomas towered over his seated mother, yelling—She had a cookie at
school and you gave her a cookie in your home; you know I don’t
allow her cookies! As he raged on, Susi’s nana stared, wide-eyed,
unblinking, waiting for it to be over. Susi told her father of every
cookie. She never shared with her nana the punishment at home for
each cookie, ten minutes in her little chair inside the coat closet.
Immediately after Thomas’ departure, Nana offered Susi a cookie and
told her not to tell dad.
Today I’m a ghost sister of a girl destined to become a
taxidermist. Yesterday I was a fox spirit assisting a Chinese girl
left behind by her mother. Previously, I’ve been the autistic son
of a robot, the little sister kidnapped in 16th century
Huguenot France, a child turned into a devil elf by an evil santa,
and a baby born blue in Appalachia, Kentucky, amongst others. Always
the sidekick, never the main character. If only I could get out of
Every evening, Eule slipped gently from the hologram of herself at the entrance to the library, through the thick walls that spoke of multitudes of events, to her beloved books. First to the classics for which her heart had burned from their beginnings. Then on to the newest, soaring through the stacks, absorbing the latest tales from modernity. If any human ever, in her centuries of guarding the library entrance, thought to ask of her what was inside, she could have told them exactly, but that would take centuries.
I’m the best wife—Sarah told her mother—I take good care of Stanley, like you took good care of me. We learn the best techniques from our parents, darling—her mother responded—I’m glad you were paying attention. Sarah hung up with a smile, reminiscing on all the hospital trips, treatments, and medications throughout her childhood. As a result, she was a healthy adult, healthier than Stanley, who suffered chronic neck, back, and knee pain, not to mention the migraines and heel issues. Before he came home, she went to her closet and pulled down the shoe box that held the Flat Stanley her son had sent out for adventure as a school project. The idea had hit her when it was eventually returned. She pushed it down farther onto the leaf’s thorns. Stanley would need extra attention tonight. Sarah would baby him with a back rub, forehead kisses, and a special dinner brought to him in his chair. She was such a good wife.
a parasite, ya know—Len said
as he twirled his finger
around, indicating the wisteria dripping from the pergola.
I hadn’t known. What’s
more, I didn’t want to know. Len loved to enlighten me, especially
when he could destroy notions of
things I loved. I nodded, unimpressed. Parasite
indeed. I imagined that beetle that infiltrated spiders and took
control as they ate the spider from within its own body. If one
crawled into Len, it could commandeer a larger life form, eating on
him for an excessively longer
amount of time. I wondered how long Len would be in control of
himself if this happened—a day, a week, a month. It’s a tiny
beetle in comparison to a human.
I believe you can eat the
blossoms—I told him and started picking some
for (his) dinner. They
were prettier than
expected on the salad. Len didn’t notice that I took very few
blossoms, and that I didn’t actually eat even those. After three
long days, I asked if he was okay. He looked at me funny and asked
why. I shrugged. Then I looked up wisteria on my phone. The blossoms
are edible. Len’s right. I really should pay more attention to what
Anniversary!” Rich leaned down and gave Barb a kiss as he handed
her a dozen yellow roses.
“Oh, honey, they’re beautiful. Thank you.” She beamed
back at him.
After he went downstairs to his home office, I asked her how many
years. She told me thirty. Later that night, he gave her a 3-carat
diamond ring, one carat for each decade of their marriage. It was
obnoxious, but the roses were gorgeous. As Barb’s personal home
health aide, I was often witness to the couple’s relationship
interactions. Today I would become privy to a secret.
“Would you please put them in a vase and set them in my
office?” Her office was a small room off the kitchen that she
“But you won’t see them in there. Don’t you want them in
the kitchen or living room?”
She leaned toward me from her wheelchair and stage whispered, “I
“What?” I was astonished. She’d seemed genuinely pleased
to receive them. “I figured it must be your favorite color since
men usually give red roses.”
Barb sighed and sat back. “He gave me yellow roses on our first
anniversary. We were newly married, so I didn’t want to hurt his
feelings. I gushed over them, and he forever believes they’re my
“Why don’t you tell him otherwise?”
“It’s too late.”
I put them in a vase and set them in her office, drawing in their
scent deeply before leaving.
He looked exactly the same as the day he left, in his favorite green striped shirt and cargo shorts bulging with plastic dinosaurs. It had to be a hallucination, but I didn’t care. I knelt and hugged my ten-year-old son who should have been twenty. The door hit me on the way down. I hugged him so tightly, wanting to never let go again. Footsteps came up behind me. Hal pulled the door open, and a gasp escaped him. Terry–he whispered–Terry. Hi Dad–said the forever little boy.
Over the next few weeks, Terry told various stories of his whereabouts, none that made sense, except perhaps the few time travel tales. But who believes in time travel? At the end of Summer, Terry announced that he must leave again, that he wasn’t really supposed to have come home. Though he hadn’t seem to have aged, even over the Summer while he was in our sights at all times, he appeared to have the wisdom of an old soul. We let him go. We had to. He promised to visit us again, but we might not remember him then. Yes, he would likely still appear to be a ten-year-old boy. There were no answers to our real questions.
Yellow air dusted everyone who dared go outside. We all looked sickly, most of us miserable. Sneezes caused the powdery tree sperm to be flung off as a wet dog shakes off the water. Snorfling followed, a disgusting, yet necessary action. The spores lingered throughout summer. Hearts clenched.