I stepped on a red mulberry leaf. “Ta-da” it’d crunched. We understood the alchemy of outside then, when we were kids. I enjoy outside now but have never been an outdoorsman. I saw the same honeysuckle bushes. I remembered how they sucked us out of ourselves as we sucked on them—the sweetness lulling us into spirits of a field we’d played football in; the field where the girls were tougher than the boys. I’d learned what death was there. Even if it’d been twenty-years later. The sycamore trees caught us, our laughter. They’d caught us and trapped us in their base and roots. They screamed back at me when I’d seen them again. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, Papa used to say before he went back to the dust from which he came. We’d picked the shells from our silver capped and cavitied teeth as the pecans ate us. Nothing from childhood keeps its majesty through the years. The white laurel bushes saw to that. Cameras they are, unpulled weeds and fireflies and ant beds. Experience had no place there. An adult life lived had no place there. It’d taken us from ourselves—all of outdoors. Some men had driven by and thrown a bag of dum dum suckers out the window of their car and yelled something as they drove off to the stop sign. The city was dead. It was gone; rural being but an urban legend in a new millennium. And that was The Pledge—grass that’d made us itch when we’d rolled in it too long. And that was The Turn—that we were stuck there, that our true core as people were stuck there yelling from laughter and summertime freedom with mouths full of missing teeth. Outside is where children are children and not small adults being taught the intricacies of a decent adulthood. We’d been sucked in. Mother nature never intended for us to make it out of tall grass or divorce or mosquitos or having children or dodging bumble bees or alcoholism or tree bark that’d grown back after we’d bet each other’s baseball cards on who could put a larger dent in Ms. Grady’s Maple tree or surviving prison stints or coming back to the field of Before Adulthood while they finished pouring cement over everything and put up the sign: Coming Soon—Greensburg Outlet Mall. I like being outside but I’m not an outdoorsman. And there was The Prestige. Then we saw the magic of a lively wasteland, of a utopia for small kids—for little people. We understood the alchemy of outside then, as children. Then we saw it. Now we don’t.
Flash Fiction by Christopher Major
Christopher Major is a Southern writer looking to deconstruct gender, class, and race in his work. When he isn’t writing he’s daydreaming.