Someone [Repost]

Prompt: Forest

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Plato and I were driving across country. We had nothing else to do, really. Surprisingly, in a world devoid of life everything pretty much worked still. Electric generators still generated electricity, the Internet was still there— I don’t know how, but it was— and gas pumps still pumped gas. Since my dog Plato and I could do what we pleased, I was behind the wheel of a 1961 E-Type Jaguar convertible, red in colour, speeding down the highway in the direction of a mall I remembered visiting with my now-gone family back when we visited the Grand Canyon.

I remembered the town because we were stuck there for about four and a half hours, as we waited in the heat of mid-day for some kind of car part to be couriered. A fuel pump, maybe. In any case we were side-tracked and explored the town as a pack: My mother and father, my two sisters, and me.

There was a water slide near a huge indoor mall. It was one of the biggest malls in the state. It stood on the edge of a forest— a dense, wild, rather dark expanse of land that I remembered because it was such a contrast to all the concrete and glass, the street lamps and oil stains, the harsh sunlight and noise of the town.

My sister Katy had wanted to go hiking in the woods— she was always trying to be contrary— but we all ended up swooshing down the water slide, which was fun because the water was cold, and then going to the mall for hot dogs and Orange Julius, in our damp clothes and wet hair, smelling of chlorine.

That day, in that small town, remains one of my most treasured memories. We all of us were together, truly together, for one of the last times. In the next year my oldest sister Cher would be going away to college, and Katy, bless her, would get pregnant and married and moved out at the age of sixteen. You just never knew what was going to happen.

As Plato and I well knew, since we’d witnessed the end of the world. We tried to look on the bright side: We were going almost 100 miles an hour in a vintage Jag, and Plato loved the rush of air and I put goggles over his eyes and his ears flapped around his head and his tongue was glued by the wind to his jowls. Happy days. Maybe this would be a memory, too.

We camped in the woods behind the mall, in a tent we got from a huge sporting goods outlet in the mall. I made a bonfire, which I learned to do in Boy Scouts, and Plato and I roasted hot dogs and drank gallons of Orange Julius. I told Plato about my sisters, and he listened with his head tilted, as he always did, and just as we were about to crawl into the tent, Plato leapt up and started to bark.

He made a whimpering noise too, and growled some, and then barked again. He didn’t move, as he was well-trained, but he looked at me, barked, whined, and then howled, staring out into the darkness of the forest that surrounded us.

Yes, a shadow moved. It wasn’t the wind, as there was none. It was someone.

Someone!

 


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The Forest

Prompt: Forest

forest mushroom

Our mother said, don’t touch the walls of the tent. So we all touched the walls of the tent. It was canvas, so water started saturating the little finger spots, droplets formed, and the inside of the tent became wet and cold.

So our mother gave us each a plastic bucket, which we hadn’t been able to use on the sandy beach all week because of the rain, and sent us out to the forest across the road to forage for dinner. No mushrooms though, she said. And: “If you don’t find food, you don’t eat.”

She tied on makeshift rain bonnets though gave up on the boots and we wore rubber thongs and our feet got wet.

The rain in the forest sounded like a waterfall; a continuous ruuuussssh of drips and drops, and the forest floor was muddy and our flip-flops kept sucking into the ground and we walked with great effort, looking for berries. Or maybe a dead rabbit? We weren’t certain what edibles were to be found in the forest.

We came across a man, sleeping on his side under a plastic sheet attached to branches secured into the ground. His hands joined in a fist and nestled between his thighs. He wore dark clothes and sunglasses and had a straggly beard. It occurred to us that he might be dead.

We saw a battered wallet peeking out from under a damp grey pillow, and pulled that out. There was ten dollars in it; we took five and put the wallet back.

Drops fell on our faces and stuck to our eyelashes.

We found some deer scat, which we’d learned about in science class. It didn’t gross us out. We didn’t see any deer, though. Perhaps they were taking shelter from the rain, or perhaps the hunters had taken them all down. My mother once fed us venison pretending it was beef, but we knew it wasn’t beef, and wouldn’t eat it.

There was a clearing ahead where the road curved around the woods, and a small grey stucco building stood in a level gravel lot dotted with tufts of grass and moss. The windows were opaque with condensation, rivulets running down and pooling on the soggy ground beneath the eaves. Letters hammered to the frame over the door said “Store”, so we went in to forage for dinner.

There was a wooden bucket of worms, and a glass jar of brass bullets, and a stack of felt cowboy hats, and a counter behind glass with tubs of ice cream underneath it, and we all had a single scoop cone. We all had chocolate. After we ate the ice cream we examined each others’ faces for traces of chocolate, and cleaned off any smears with damp kleenex.

We had enough money left from the five dollars we stole from the sleeping man to buy two boxes of macaroni and cheese, a bag of liquorice whips, which our mother liked, and a coke.

We put the macaroni and cheese, liquorice whips, and pop into the buckets along with one shiny brass bullet which the store owner gave us for free, because he said he was proud of us for not staying inside just because it was raining.

We started to head back to the tent through the forest, but we saw the sleeping man in the distance through some dripping white spruce. He was awake and packing up the shelter, folding the plastic sheeting into an irregular square and stuffing it into a nylon bag.

The rain had subsided to a drizzle, the spit of god.

So instead of going through the forest, we traced the road skirting around it back to the tent, and mother didn’t ask us where we got the money for the macaroni and cheese. She was pleased with the liquorice and said she would share it with us later.

But she didn’t.