by Michael Grant Smith
This is where we go when we follow the water. Down it flows — that’s science — and we race it to the ocean. Not quickly enough. The stream dwindles itself into mud that shines and then dulls. I feel as if I can hear the waves wash the rocks, just past where the pastures rise. We were so close this time. We’ll try again another day. Tomorrow’s weather forecast says rain.
When I was about ten and still new to my neighborhood, a couple of older boys often walked with me after school. We’d joke and horse around the way kids do, but they’d punch my arms and back. I complained to my mother about the bullying. She listened and then asked me if there was something in my pocket I could show the boys. I think she meant a small toy or other treasure. I shuffled away, more miserable than ever, and resolved never to leave our farm.
The breeze can’t carry us unless we deep-down believe we are kites. Not of tissue, not wooden sticks, no string of any sort. It’s all in your mind, this ability to be suspended by the wind. Don’t worry about navigation and splintery landings — those thoughts will keep you planted on the ground. Did you know that when you jump off, it pushes the world a measurable amount in the opposite direction? That’s more science for you.
Someone suggested to you that a cat would be a wonderful companion. You knew that the idea works only when there are dozens of the selfish beasts, slinking as they do between stacks and stacks of bundled newspapers. The stink of cat shit, detected at the mailbox two hundred feet away, was what triggered the authorities to break down your kitchen door. You were found seated at a table, its surface buried beneath unread New Yorker magazines, cat-polished cereal bowls, and decks of cards; the place where you hand-tied flies, which is the odd thing because you never fished.
Let’s catch stars tonight. We’ll use the biggest jars we can bear. Stars are easy to capture, like lightning bugs. Celestial objects fly higher in the evening sky than insects do, but move much more slowly. I have five stars in my jar already and I’ve barely begun. I caught one lightning bug, although I let it go.
The last of your collections is leather scraps. It smells the best. When burrowing into the bins, the damp, mulched, maggoty bottom should be avoided. Stay close to the surface and all will be fine. Soak up the leather’s scent of bay leaves, soap, and fresh-sawn softwood. Look, if you were here you could describe it yourself. Someone rolled gray enamel over the windows. Who would paint glass? Nothing inside the shed has withstood blunt daylight in a decade or more. That isn’t completely true — a million billion pinholes pierce the roof and walls. A galaxy waiting to be snared. Those aren’t ponies you’re hearing, it’s the sound of high heel shoes on a tile floor. That’s not the sourness of wet hay and spoiled stall bedding. Keep your observations to yourself, for once.
Michael Grant Smith is at various times a musician, writer, live sound engineer, marketing associate, carpenter, automobile mechanic, and rancher. He wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared in elimae, The Foliate Oak, Literally Stories, and Dime Show Review, and is forthcoming in The Zodiac Review. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati.