This week’s story read by Joe McHugh.
Listen to it here.
Read it after the break.
The wind blew leaves and dust up the steps of the church, making it seem especially obstinate as people trickled out. A woman and her nephew in color matched outfits were starting the walk home. The wrought iron fences of the churchyard were overtaken by roughly squared shrubs. They made their way across slabs of concrete stained with the chlorophyll outlines of years of dead leaves being trod into them.
With one hand being gripped firm by his aunt, the boy plunged his free arm into the bushes alongside him. There was a sudden flood of bristling noise as the boy was dragged through the green mass. His arm ran across leaves and twigs and branches, sending echoes and motion throughout the entirety of the bush. Brown dry leaves were knocked loose, twigs snapped on his sleeve cuffs, and at the base of the plant, there was the sharp noise of a rat or mouse or bird making its escape.
“Don’t do that.” the Aunt said, tugging at the hand of his she had. “You’ll tear your jacket.”
There was a minor grip of admonishment as she momentarily steered their little procession away from the bush to punctuate the order.
When their course had corrected, given the relative narrow and straight nature of the sidewalk, the boy dragged his free hand across the plant’s illusory surface. It was no single green object to him; it was a porous cave system of textures and components of differing properties. It was an ecosystem, home to spiderwebs, home to spiders, which fed on flies. It drew vitality from the soil and air and rain. He had learned this in school, but sensing it in this way, he knew it.
He was tugged away.
“What did I tell you?”
He tried to pull away from his aunt but her fingers were locked around his wrist. He tried logic.
“I can’t tear my jacket if it’s just my hand in there.” he said.
“A bee could fly up your sleeve and sting you a hundred times.” she said.
“What if I take my jacket off?”
“It’s cold, you could get pneumonia and shrivel up and die.”
His free arm went limp, feeling wisps of chill circle his fingers. She might be telling the truth, even if bees can only sting you once. Regardless, he had decided to go quiet and keep his eyes locked downwards until they got home. His aunt always seemed to take this reaction as a victory, which made it a gesture of humility more than anything.
They turned a corner, abruptly, and the boy was edged into the bush. His aunt’s grip tightened, reflexively pulling him away from the bush, solely to keep him from falling into it.
“Watch what you’re doing.” she said.
“I was!” he said.
This was more true than the bee stings or pneumonia. He’d torn off a small cluster of twigs and placed it in his pocket. He hoped that even after he was caught and the branch thrown out that the chlorophyll scent would remain.