Tiny Little Center

There are bugs out here, she thought.

The bugs are biting my legs.

My legs are in wet grass.

The rain has stopped, but the dark clouds loom.

The air has cooled and is easier to breathe than this morning when it nearly choked in my throat.

The sun off the river is diminishing in the roiling clouds.

Clouds are water condensing and molecules and

Oh, I forgot again.

What is it that makes clouds? she thought.

She was pretty sure she knew. That the answer was in her head science was in her head like everything else. She learned it in school. But she had learned so much in school and then more after. So many layers upon layers that oh and then she thought of science again and decided maybe her brain worked like rings of a tree. Maybe if one were to hinge open the top of her head one would be able to look inside and see, there! nestled into the very center, the first things she learned about her world. Science yes but also walking and talking and seeing and laughing and that the letter 'k' is silent in 'knife' and isn't that silly, all this and more in the very center, protected all these years but growing smaller from the pressure of around it, the other darker rings. These not the light green of a new sapling but maybe the weathered dun of a porch railing on a house by a lake, rings that look not so innocent, rings from lessons learned when knowledge wasn't new but rather a chore or even worse knowledge borne out of pain or regret or terrible error. So the knowledge of what makes clouds and wind and tides and the colors at sunset and which dinosaur lived when and did what to whom, all of that fresh and youthful knowledge about the world was forced gradually to the middle of her brain where it smushed up against the phone number of her best friend from elementary school and the combination to her gym locker and the time when her sister at the age of 5 accidentally drank beer because her tamales were too hot and there was nothing else within arm's reach oh that was funny but why did she think of that now when the issue was clouds? Hmm.

Then returning to the sky she thought, those clouds, however they got there, are actually pretty cool.

She remembered learning about cumulus and cirrus and nimbus and for a split second tried to put a name to the rampling gray but

A funny thought struck her, then, and it was

What if no one had ever taught me what made clouds?

Would they frighten me?


Would I think they were magical?



She couldn't think of the last time she found something wondrous.

And so with the tiny little center of her brain she thought of bugs.

She focused on their tiny mouths and their compound eyes and their delicate antennae and their remarkable wings, thin but unyielding the way they beat furiously against the wind and rain, evading predators and finding mates for life and travelling for miles, those miles being relative to their size of course, never waning for a second in trying to live every instant of their what is it? days? hours? minutes? to the fullest before they breathe or do they breathe? their very last bug breath and collapse to earth.

Perhaps these bugs are noble creatures, wondrous after all, she thought.

But they choose to spend those precious, fragile moments biting my legs.

These bugs are stupid, she decided.

And then the rain began.

And so she and the bugs fled, each seeking their own sort of shelter against the wasted day.

About the author:

whitney pastorek would be unable to deny that 'orange' is one of her top three favorite colors.