curly leaves swish swished between firm dirt and her thin maroon socks, socks casing worn feet with a patchwork of grooves that have touched cotton asphalt carpet wood skin (imagine the various types of bathtubs a fiftytwocountry travelled woman has stepped into) and worn toes thick toenails, no one (she of course never) trims, an arch, arches on each foot, that have flattened, or decided to meet floors after years of combining thumb tacks and broken glass and other sharp things and the dislike of wearing shoes, swish swished, the slight friction of her physical weight, the pull of the earth massaging the bottoms of her feet.
two weak lights split her lank shadow against the lawn from the porch behind, [the number two could represent anything. her two deceased husbands, for instance. she does not remember how either kissed, but one smelled of vanilla and the other was smooth skinned, smoother than hers even. or two could be how many times she has stolen something, the first when she was twelve - a beige hat without a price tag; the second when she was thirtyseven - a book about doberman pinschers because her dobie just had seventeen puppies and she was so panicked that she ran into a book store, grabbed a book whose cover had a brown pinscher's profile and ran back out, no time for talking to people or exchanging values], every step towards the shadow, a further distance from it, every step possible for worms and spiders to die underneath her darkness.
she walked as a lady bug on a human's palm, trailing up certain distances to only turn back again, the way she had done on her eighth birthday when her father installed a diving board at one end of their backyard pool. the pacing nauseated her and she sat on the edge of the flimsiness and dipped her pink toenails in it, the water, the clear deepness, why had she never thought to dive before?, and the constant realization that being an only child meant no one forcing you to do things you really wanted to do, and then finally up again and the dive, the chlorine shake in her nose, the water a warm that crippled the fun, or the reason not to dive again, but she wasn't thinking about that now, she was watching the formation, the fingers of dirt where she had moved or squished the leaves.
it's so soft out here.
each potted plant that outlined the grass, they were like her in the house, except she wasn't in the house now, she was breathing. she could see her breath in whitish streams, the same breath that made her want to smoke cigarettes at fifteen, and the smoke was even more white, never addicted, always wanted to be, twelve in a day, the last staying longest, up to its filter, pinched between dry lips, waiting to be passed to her hand again, or over to the ash tray, or somewhere on the ground. and it was one of the first ways to do it, to be ugly and smelly and secretive about it all, to be like everyone else and act like that was different, and then later to only smoke one, a clove usually, after having dinner with a rarelydoseebutalwayswanttosee friend, or excusing herself from an indoor social/religious/philosophical/politcal conversation, out again where she could suck on the smoke instead of her tongue. but she didn't know every step outside led to this one, here where her right index finger tickled random browning leaves as if they were tiny moles on her own body, posing a question of whether or not they should be removed.
it feels good out here. i shake, but i don't realize i'm shaking.
now swaying randomly, her legs positioned out toes and bended knees, formless but fluid, a closing of the eyes, a next step, and the core of an apple beneath her left foot, her knees bent towards the ground, and her butt against her heels. sunday school prayers were done this way, add folded hands, but no, the apple is more interesting. she remembered that one there - its taste semisweet and throwing it into the yard for the albino squirrel she saw early mornings. she thought of the goods and the bads, one she lost her tooth on in second grade, one from her mother-in-law's kitchen that had a worm (she didn't eat the worm), and the green ones she bought from a man named nunca on a street corner in munich. right shoulder and knee, hers, on the ground, and her oldwomanbody fetuscurling, her nose by the core's stem, and her oldwomanlips opened closed, again in variation, without sound.
how much longer would i have to lay out here to look like you?
at that thought, she dawdled out from the lawn onto the pavement that connected the house door to the driveway, inches from a small beetle crawling. she wished she knew bug language because she wanted to ask where it had been, if her deadleaflittered grass was as pleasant to it as it was to her. she wanted to tell about her dream from last night where she entered a large room, the tables chairs walls floors ceilings - all dark wood, and people she didn't know sitting around in silence, ignoring a child that screamed from its eyes and nose and mouth, and how when she picked up the child, her hand was against its heart, the child's beating blood in her ears. about the sadness when she picked up the receiver on a pay phone in an adjacent room, the line dead, and she had no one to call anyway, and how she never knew if she should have a child before but last night, in that room, she knew. her eyes locked the bug into a circle of sight, its legs pushing against the ground like oars rowing against dry rock, its body becoming the central focus of an otherwise black scene.
About the author:
Melissa usually writes poems, but when she was 20, she wrote this story for a fiction class. She still kinda likes it, and hopes you do too. She lives in Austin, TX with her pussy cat polly jean. This is her first publication.