by Erin Francisco
Mrs. Naomi Peck’s hands tugged in short jerks along the leather coating of the steering wheel as she turned onto loose gravel at the end of the Wright family’s driveway. She would have to become accustomed to calling it Miss Wright’s property, as Adelaide Wright was now the only remaining family member of that name. Mrs. Peck had been sent by the Mayall Ladies Guild with a fruit basket and a sympathy card offering condolences for the loss of Adelaide’s brother, who had passed on only a week ago.
Adelaide Wright was a quiet woman who had spent her entire life on the rundown farm now left to her. A first-generation Mayall citizen, Miss Wright never assimilated as well into community life as her brother had. Mrs. Peck remembered the brother, Jefferson Wright, in his younger days: the sharpness of his face, the way he sauntered around the valley hills.
The driveway was a straight and narrow incline that broke from the road at the ninety-degree turn and ascended upward against a mountainous wallpapering of pine trees. The Wright farm was nestled above and behind a forested cape that surrounded the steep driveway. There stood a large oak barn, an unpainted, graying farmhouse, and a partially collapsed yurt sinking into the ground a few hundred feet from the house.
Getting out of the car, Mrs. Peck surveyed the barren yard: no annuals adorning the latticework on the porch, no flowerbeds or gardens or frog ponds of any kind. The yard was sloping and uneven, much like the enormous hill that the farm perched upon. The place looked horribly masculine to Mrs. Peck. It was like the home of an old man that had never had any womanly presence to speak of.
Carrying the fruit basket to the door, Mrs. Peck noticed the wood flooring and support beams of the porch, albeit gray and ugly, were still thick and sturdy, and did not creak once as she walked to the door.
Adelaide Wright answered the door with a look of near-geriatric detachment in her large, soft eyes. She said nothing at first, just stared blankly out into the yard. Mrs. Peck found it odd to ask, “May I come in?” after introducing herself to Miss Wright and explaining the nature of her visit. When told the fruit basket was from the Ladies Guild, Adelaide said only, “How nice.” She led Mrs. Peck into the kitchen and seated her at a card table with matching steel chairs. Mrs. Peck reminded herself not to take Adelaide’s despondency as a personal affront; after all, the woman had just lost her last remaining family tie.
“How are you getting along, Miss Wright? Is anything giving you trouble up here?”
“No, I’m getting along fine,” Adelaide replied.
Adelaide moved methodically around the kitchen, gazing absently through a high window facing the back of the house. From her seat at the table, Mrs. Peck could not see out of the raised window. She imagined a backyard as dull as the one out in front. Adelaide offered a cup of tea to Mrs. Peck, who politely declined as she watched the distracted older woman with diminishing interest.
Mrs. Peck fumbled with her purse, searching feverishly for the sympathy card so that she could quickly leave her telephone number in a gesture of neighborly hospitality, reiterate her condolences, and excuse herself. She was beginning to feel uncomfortable at the unrelenting silence of the grieving Adelaide. Although a good-natured person, Mrs. Peck was unskilled in mannerisms that expressed anything other than conventional congeniality. She was a woman who took pride in her own goodness, but in order to affirm that goodness, she needed candidates to receive her charitable goodwill. Adelaide Wright was a perfect candidate, but her reaction to the visit and fruit basket crushed Mrs. Peck with disappointment. After several moments of searching through the purse, Mrs. Peck could not produce the card.
“I must have left it at home,” she apologized; Adelaide looked entirely unconcerned.
That night, Mrs. Peck hovered about her kitchen table as she sorted attendance lists and receipts from an open briefcase she kept exclusively for the Mayall Ladies Guild. Her husband came in through the side door and began to wash dirt from his hands.
“Finished planting that clematis; take a look and see if it’s what you wanted,” he said.
“I think I’ll be going back up to the Wright place again tomorrow.”
“Hm? Oh, the Ladies Guild. You know, I remember those two as kids. Their dad was a special one himself. I guess apples don’t fall too far from the tree.”
“It’s not just that, I think she needs to get out more now that he’s gone. It isn’t healthy for an old lady to be alone like that.”
“She’s not that much older than we are, Naomi. I remember seeing her brother stalking around the high school wing when I was little; always had that wild hair.”
“Joining the Ladies Guild would be good for her. She doesn’t seem to garden, doesn’t seem to do much, really. No animals, no children. What do you think, Adam?”
“You can let any screwy old biddy into the Ladies Guild if you want.”
Adelaide Wright was four years old when she saw her father butcher chickens for the first time. It was November and already the snow had swallowed up everything; only the pine trees retained a subtle presence on earth, the dark underside of their bows breaking up the coverlet of whiteness. She stood looking out from the side door of the farmhouse at the sliver of yellow light escaping from a slight opening in the barn door. Her father had left minutes before with a pail full of hot water and a rag. As Adelaide struggled to pull on her heavy boots, he told her to stay inside and went out without another word. He was a man of little explanation, and even as young as four, Adelaide understood not to ask him why she could not follow him out. ‘Why’ did her no good. She stood looking out at the crevice of light, her boots on and coat hanging open. The yard was black as pitch: only the light from the barn sliced through the darkness, illuminating a glittering crust of snow. Adelaide crept across the yard to the barn and hugged her body to the door as she peered inside.
In the center aisle, her father gripped a small length of rope that had been tied around a chicken’s feet. The bird had gone limp—hanging upside down, it’s wings spread wide and motionless. Her father swung the bird down onto the flat end of a large stump before his feet with a hatchet wedged into the wood at the edge. In movements swift and unflawed, he clapped one hand over the chicken’s head, covering the eyes and beak with his palm and with the other hand took up the hatchet and brought it down in one firm hack, careful to avoid his hand. Not a moment after the sound of the hatchet echoed like the first crack of thunder through the barn did the bird begin to flap wildly and scratch it’s bound feet at the side of the stump. Her father removed his hand from the head and the body slumped away and crashed, rear-end first, onto the concrete floor. The headless bird attempted to run senselessly around the stump, but the rope around its feet continued to bring it to the ground in a bloody heap. Hatchet still in hand, Adelaide’s father reached for the rope while the chicken lay squabbling on the ground. As he pulled up the rope and the bird began to rise away from the ground, one of the feet slipped loose from the knot and the bird jerked about, dangling by one foot. Blood shook from its neck and splattered over piled straw in the gutters along the aisle and sprayed in thick, uneven lines all over her father’s bare forearms and the front of his already bloodstained shirt. Her father dropped the hatchet and grabbed for the freed foot, pinching the talons together with his fingers and looping them back through the slipknot in the rope. He laid the bird parallel to his thigh and tightened the knots until the rope made little crackling noises against the chicken’s wrinkled ankles. The bird again went limp as it hung upside down, apparently the head did not matter in this position, and he stooped to pick up his hatchet. After hanging the bird by the rope onto the end of a long a nail protruding from a support beam, he walked over to the bucket and with a small brown rag cleaned the blood from the blade.
Adelaide stood outside, unmoving as the fallen snow, and watched as her father cut another length of rope from a large spool sitting on a stack of hay bales. He made two slipknots at either end and stuffed one end of the rope into his back pocket. As he opened the wire door to the chicken coop, an arm wrapped itself around Adelaide’s stomach and a hand clapped over her mouth. Adelaide felt herself pulled away from the door and whirled around. She was met by Jefferson’s narrowed brow and eyes; “You’re not supposed to be outside,” he said and took his hand away from her mouth. They walked clumsily through the snow, his stomach pushed into her back to keep her limp feet from swinging back and knocking him in the shins as he carried her.
Adelaide was not upset over the chickens, perhaps because children do not think of death as a thing with much prolonged significance.
Adelaide and Jefferson Wright were enrolled at the Mayall public school when they were five years old, respectively. Jefferson, being a year older, attended first. Unaccustomed to life beyond the farm, Jefferson was slow to adapt to an atmosphere of other children as well as being kept inside a classroom. Until the public school, Jefferson and Adelaide had grown up almost entirely without other children. Their father had constructed the yurt years ago when he first came to Mayall as a farmhand. He and the children lived in the yurt after he purchased the property and set to work repairing the old farmhouse. Above the valley, the two children had only each other. They played in the woods and fields during the day, and slept side by side at night for warmth inside the Yurt. They relied almost solely upon one another, which pleased their father and allowed him to continue his work in peace about the farm.
Jefferson’s quiet approach to school made him appear slow. The boy would wander aimlessly through the classroom and the schoolyard, watching everything move around him as if he was absent from the world he observed. He was made to repeat a second year of kindergarten with the hope that another year would make him more assertive.
Jefferson’s second year of kindergarten was Adelaide’s first. Although the two of them remained codependent and shy, Jefferson attempted to make acquaintances with other children in the class. Adelaide, however, stayed removed from the other children, and accordingly, they too avoided her.
The Wright siblings were easily recognizable among the children in Mayall. They often dressed unsuitably for the seasons, wearing too many layers of clothing in the warmer months, and too few clothes in the colder. Jefferson’s hair grew long and metallic in its darkness, and Adelaide’s became wily and fuzzy as a bird nest. Her hair matted itself into dreadlocks by the end of the second grade, and at times smell strongly of dried sweat and lanolin. The Wright children’s shabby appearance was due in great part to their father’s neglectful and poor understanding of how to raise his children.
When an older boy took it upon himself to embarrass Adelaide in the schoolyard, dragging her around by her tangled knots of hair, saying she smelled of pig shit, Jefferson flew into a rage and swung mercilessly at the boy’s face. Adelaide was knocked free of the boy’s grip, only see she her tormentor turn on Jefferson and throw him to the ground, kicking at his sides. Adelaide leapt onto the boy’s back, digging her fingernails into the boy’s throat and kicking him in the privates with her heels before a teacher rushed in to break up the fight. The Wright children became increasingly aware of the divide between themselves and their classmates, and treated this disparity in the way their father would have. They carried with them a heavy silence, which only intensified their rough appearance and their dependency upon one another.
One afternoon, Adelaide and Jefferson walked home along the long driveway to the farmhouse. As they went, they would stop to point out sightings of a woodpecker or a red squirrel surprised by their footsteps. It was early fall. As the pine trees held fast to their deep shades of green, the maples and chestnuts began to turn with warm colors seeping through their leaves like amber blood. The entire forest glowed with soft light and the smell was damp and sweet. Jefferson took his sister’s hand as they climbed the hill together.
“This is what you do when you’re in love,” said Jefferson.
“Are you and me in love?” she asked.
“I’m pretty sure, Addie.” He smiled back at her.
The children reached the Yurt and dumped their school bags on the ground, signifying to their father that they had returned from school. The two walked behind the house, and went far into the woods where they had gone to play many times before. They pushed piles of thick, damp leaves together, leaves that had fallen to the earth prematurely and were already beginning to release the sweet and heavy fragrance of rot. They dove into the piles and buried each other underneath them, pulling at each other as they played. As the sun began to set, Adelaide pulled her brother underneath her, touching him all over as he lay still upon the crumpled leaves. They would do this for years to come, exchanging touches, exploring where their bodies lay, understanding that they themselves existed within the world.
As they began their years of high school, Adelaide maintained her distance from other school children. Jefferson, however, began to desire connections beyond the small world he knew. As the luck of nature would have it, Jefferson grew into a lovely young man: tall, with a dark complexion, a strong, well-defined face, and hair long and gleaming.
Mayall remained very much the same as the children grew into their adolescence; the valley remained a wide empty bowl of land, isolated from neighboring townships and far from the center of any large city. Although the Wrights’ earth-soaked appearances were becoming more familiar to those who lived outside of Mayall, they were still atypical of the children in the valley. Some of the Mayall girls took an interest in Jefferson’s quiet personality and handsome features. He began going to sporting matches and town concerts by the creek. Adelaide remained ratty in appearance, her hair falling in thick, fuzzy waves down her back. She was a small girl with a round face, set with dark eyes and a sharp brow, the sharpness of which made people assume, upon looking at her, that she was a vessel of silent rage. But this was not true. Adelaide simply could not understand the people of Mayall. She did not know how to investigate or enter into the lives of other people and so kept her distance. She avoided anything beyond the boarders of her father’s property and maintained that her brother would remain the only person she could ever understand or need.
One night as Adelaide lay restlessly awake, a harsh wind blew over the mountains, rattling the windows of the house. She began counting the seconds between rattles, as if they were the sound of thunder, as if she could estimate a coming bolt of lightning by measuring the distance between the bursts of wind. She rose and walked to the window and gazed out to see a small light emanating from the still standing Yurt beside the house. She crept through the hallway leading to the backdoor. The walls were bright with moonlight, and as she crept, the light seemed to increase, illuminating the skin ofher bare feet to a kind of glow. She imagined herself a ghost walking through the night, searching for something she had known in life and could not keep in death. She wrapped a large sweater around herself and left through the backdoor toward the Yurt.
There in the light of a large kerosene lamp placed in the center of the dirt floor, Jefferson lay on his side, paging through a Sears catalog. He had a writing tablet beside him and every so often he would pause and jot something down upon it, then return his attention to the magazine. Adelaide stood just beside the doorframe, watching her brother’s movements for a moment before she went to him. She walked around behind him and lay down, paralleling her body to his. Without a word, he looked over his shoulder at her and cast a faint smile that Adelaide was certain he gave to no one but her. No matter the day, nor the current tempest of the world, Adelaide could always find this smile in her brother. She looked down to his feet and saw that he was wearing a pair of black leather boots. She stared at them for a long time until Jefferson again looked over his shoulder at her. “There is a lady in Oneonta who will sell you shirts and pants and things for a song. I think I’d like a suit,” he said. Adelaide inched closer to him to look over his shoulder and down onto the paper he had marked up. They had often sheltered each other in this way as children, aligning their bodies together in bed, or nestled in the long wet grasses in early summer. Adelaide reached an arm over her brother and pulled him still closer to her as she gazed at the paper that lay before him. On it he had taken words from descriptions in the catalog and written them in a sequence with words of his own that formed a kind of poem about dead trees and Woody Guthrie. She looked at him as his attentions returned to flipping the pages of the catalog. She watched him take down words and turn pages for a long time until she asked, “Why a suit?”
He stopped perusing the catalog and dragged himself up to sit. He looked at the ground between his knees and then over at the lamp burning in the center of the deserted Yurt. “Well, I got asked to go to this dance at school. And I think I’d like to go.” Adelaide was silent for a while, and she too shifted her gaze from Jefferson’s lamp lit face to the lamp itself, shining like a golden medallion from the center of the room. She began to nuzzle the back of his head with her face, and slid her arm down to his waist, grasping his warm hip with her palm. He lightly brushed her hand away saying, “I’m not cold tonight, Addie.”
Adelaide grew to believe that outside her father’s farm, the world was occupied by people who needed definitive things, people who were constantly let down by the lack of answers to their questions. Something was always wrong, something always at fault. Adelaide knew that she and her brother were a part of their imperfect world; the Wrights were the part of Mayall that did not mirror lives within the valley and thus they were ignored. To have known who and what the Wrights were was to have broken away from the reality pursued by the village and to have ventured into something that was at great odds with the atmosphere of the standing community.
The evening of the dance, Jefferson wore a plain brown suit that he had bought second hand in Oneonta for his Sears catalog poem. Before he left, he had tucked a white mouse ear flower into the buttonhole of his lapel. Jefferson rode away from the farm in the back of a Country Squire station wagon. Another boy from the high school sat behind the wheel in a tuxedo and taxied the full car of boys and girls overstuffed with their nice clothes down the long driveway.
Adelaide sat at the kitchen table, brooding over Jefferson’s absence, while her father cut carrots that fell with a plunk into a pot of water on the stove. As the last carrot chunk plopped into the water, he laid down his knife and stood looking at Adelaide for a minute. She looked up at him, her stomach tightening in what must have been a grip of fear, for he had never laid his eyes directly upon her before that she could remember. Then he turned away and stood at the backdoor for a moment. “I’d like for you to take the truck and go get your brother later.”
She knew that her father would be asleep by the time the dance was over, which was why he had asked, but still, his request was surprising to her. She assumed her father felt indifferent as to where his children went or whether they came home. But nevertheless she was glad to have been given the job of retrieving her brother. Jefferson, after all, was hers. He was the only person whose company she wanted, and she felt herself to be the only person he could need. Adelaide grew excited with thoughts of driving down into the valley that night and retrieving her brother from among the people that did not love and understand him as she did.
At 11 o’clock, Adelaide parked near the side doors of the high school building. The sound of music interrupted by applause echoed through the open doors. She sat behind the wheel of the pickup for a few minutes before she killed the engine and got out. She leaned against the tailgate and folded her arms tightly across her chest; although it was May, the nights were still cool, and a soft breeze swept over her as she waited.
Laughter and a few whoops resounded from the front yard of the school. Around the corner of the building jogged a small group of teenagers along with her brother. Jefferson was smiling, his teeth glimmering in the light of the street lamps in the parking lot. As the group passed by the truck, Adelaide stood up and in a near whisper called her brother’s name. He glanced over his shoulder and looked surprised to see her. He turned to the girl on his arm, speaking to her in a low voice and pushing her on with the others. He jogged over to his sister, a coy smile still on his lips.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” he asked in a calm, distant voice. He sounded as though he was making an effort to be friendly and it left a sourness in Adelaide’s ear.
“I’m here to bring you home,” she said.
He looked back to the others still making their way over to the station wagon.
“You know, I think I want to stay out” he said, “We’re having a really good time. I’ll find a ride home, okay Addie?”
He was breathless as he talked, like the words made him too happy to speak. Still looking after his crowd, he placed a hot hand on his sister’s arm, “I’ll see you later.”
Adelaide stood, watching her brother bound toward the station wagon. He’d treated her like a small speck of light that had caught his attention and then dissipated. He climbed into the backseat of the car while his date grabbed at his hair playfully. Adelaide watched as they passed a joint around. Small strings of curling smoke drifted out of an open window, rising up and up until they vanished. She watched her brother’s silhouette become dimmer and dimmer behind a thickening screen of smoke. The breeze picked up again and Adelaide shivered. She got back into the truck and drove home.
Adelaide and Jefferson Wright graduated from high school that spring along with thirty other students. Adelaide was glad to be finished with the school in Mayall, as she could now devote all of her time to the farm, building up the land, hoping for a surplus at the end of the growing season. Jefferson enlisted in the army along with many other boys from the village. By this time, US forces had been on the ground in Vietnam for almost four years.
The day Jefferson left for training, Adelaide was leaning against the refrigerator, looking at her brother with slanted eyes. He had been dating the girl he had taken to the dance a few months before, and had seen little of his sister or the farm since then. Adelaide was angry, an anger that arose out of abandonment, but she could never force that anger out onto Jefferson. She could never reproach or reject the one who had always held her complete love.
“Addie,” he said her name pleadingly, “Would you do this one last thing for me before I go?”
He smiled and pulled out a kitchen chair. He reached into his pocket, drew out a pair of scissors and sat down. He held the scissors out to her like a peace offering. She grabbed them and walked behind his chair. Taking up the top layer, she looked at the dark, glossy hair, spilling like a waterfall of oil from her fist. She moved her face closer to the hair and inhaled deeply; the smell of hay and clean water trickled through her senses. He sat perfectly still and did not turn around. She held the scissors to the hair and cut slowly, the shortened strands falling into a sleek pattern against his scalp. She worked her way around Jefferson’s head, never stepping in front of him, lifting and snipping away the long smooth layers of hair. Tears crept down her round cheeks. When finished, she laid the scissors on the table and left the room. She sat at the bottom of the stairs, weeping.
Outside a jeep was honking in short blasts and revving the engine after each honk. Adelaide looked up to see the silhouette of her brother in the doorway. He looked down at her for a minute, his short hair unaffected by the breeze blowing through the open door. He looked older and more muscular: unlike Adelaide, unlike their father. Outside, a girl in a sundress waved from the passenger seat as the Jeep honked again.
Adelaide stood to look at her brother and was met with a dark face she had never seen before; his mouth was inverted and his cheeks sagged and crinkled at the sides. She had never seen him cry before. As she felt her own eyes burn with tears, he turned on his heels and let the screen door slam behind him.
The Wright farm glowed in a warm haze in the fall for the next several years, like pears braised with wine. In the spring the air was crisp, the brooks flowed dark with mud and melting snow. In the summer, the fields swayed with young wheat. As time moves on, we see the world differently, with eyes that grow immune to the fine edges of our being, that curve the things so new and unfamiliar into softer objects; things easier to look upon and recognize as our own. The winters at the Wright farm became milder, as winters often do. The earth continued to run in cycles; nature’s moments of harshness and mercy became predictable.
It was late in February when Jefferson Wright walked up the unpaved driveway towards the farm. The snow was thin, a mere a crust of thawing ice, and it broke with small crunching sounds as it compacted under his feet.
His sister had written him every month since his departure, and after four years, he was returning home to her. Shortly after Jefferson had been deployed, his father had begun to wander at random, muttering to himself as he trod aimlessly from end to end of the fields and the road below the house. It was just before the winter that Samuel wandered out at night and was found by neighbors in the morning, drowned in a pond surrounded by large cattails just beginning to dry out and snap off. He had bullied a pathway through the cattails and fallen into the water. Unable to pull himself out of the thick, cold mud, he froze during the night. Jefferson knew of his father’s death, as he had been informed through a letter from Adelaide. He thought of her spending the long winter alone in an empty farmhouse.
It was in letter telling of his father’s death that Jefferson also divined a feeling of inexplicable warmth. He sat in the low light of a Vietnamese sundown, reading his sister’s words over and over again. He felt the warmth press itself into his back, curl around his stomach, pass over his chest. He remembered the feeling of Adelaide’s fingers in his hair as she cut each handful away from his head. He smelled her breath, warm and damp with crying, as though the paper itself spoke the words from her mouth. “I don’t believe in god,” she wrote, “but I am praying for you.”
As Jefferson walked up the drive, he imagined the letters he had received from the girl he had taken to the dance. The first dozen were hopeful and lush with worry and concern; those that followed were more infrequent and shimmered less. Toward the end of his second tour, when only a third of his platoon remained, he received his last letter from this Mayall sweetheart. He read it only once before he threw it into the flames of a burning stilt house.
Reaching the farmhouse at the end of the drive, Jefferson left his pack on the porch and walked straight through the hallway toward the light that shown from the kitchen. At the table sat Adelaide, nursing a large porcelain mug full of tea. She stood as his dark frame entered through the doorway. They stared at each other a long time, her eyes sharp and focused, his wide and long. His face was transformed by a down turned mouth that swallowed his face, long cheeks, and skin that crinkled near his temples. He laid a hand to the wall as he withered to the floor. As Adelaide dropped to him, he draped his arms heavily around her shoulders. He cried into her chest, soaking the neckline of her sweater. She could feel the sweat of his eyebrows on her bare collarbones and they pressed into her with each heaving sob.
Jefferson looked up to Adelaide, tears still snaking paths down his face. He gasped for air, suckling the snot back into his nose, his throat warbling, unable to finish his thought. He muttered indecipherable things, shaking and whining like a hurt animal. She pulled his body close to hers, cradling him in her lap like a child. She bent her face to his mouth and kissed him.
Mrs. Peck adjusted the sleeves of her jacket as she stepped out of her car and navigated her way to the porch steps of Adelaide Wright’s house. She noticed a grouping of wildflowers growing near the corner of the porch: Black-Eyed Susan, Yellow Sweet Clover, Wild Angelica, and Mouse Ear all sprouting up and swaying in the breeze. She smiled at the sight, thinking to herself that nature does indeed take back what people neglect and turns it right. She was still smiling when Miss Wright answered the door wearing an old tunic and muslin skirt so long that it dragged across the unvarnished floor like a drapery. Adelaide greeted Mrs. Peck with a faint smile and asked her in for tea.
In the kitchen Adelaide poured tea into a teacup set before Mrs. Peck at the card table. She set the teapot aside and sat across from her visitor.
“I am so sorry I forgot this the other day, I don’t know where my head was when I left home! But this is for you, Miss Wright, from the Ladies’ Guild.” said Mrs. Peck.
She extended a card across the table. Adelaide took the envelope and laid it calmly beside her own teacup.
“You know,” she began, “the Ladies Guild is always welcoming new members interested in joining. We meet every Thursday at seven-thirty at the Methodist church hall. We always have a wonderful time together!”
Adelaide’s eyes wandered around the kitchen, towards the high window facing the backyard. “Thank you,” was all she said, her voice wavering and sounding a little farther away. She rose, taking the card and holding it against her collarbone as she sauntered over to the window, looking out.
“It’s very beautiful this time of year,” Adelaide wistfully spoke.
“Why yes,” Mrs. Peck agreed immediately, “Nature comes to triumph, doesn’t it?”
Adelaide made no reply. She watched a robin bob down to the earth and pull a long worm from the grass and fly away. Mrs. Peck, discomforted by the silence, stood and forced herself with much courage to go stand beside Adelaide. She laid a gloved hand upon the Adelaide’s shoulder and followed her glance out of the high window.
Behind the house lay a vast expanse of forest stretching up along a hill so tall it seemed to touch the sky. At the edge of the woods lay a large garden sprawling over the earth. Blooming wildflowers, vegetables, vines, and massive leaves twisted around one another, intermingling between trellises. The plants grew in free abundance, creating an Eden, the illusion of perfect nature, as though the garden had sprung up of its own accord upon abandoned land. The breadth of foliage was so great that it consumed the entire backyard, the plants blending into a live and wild sprawl. Chickens stalked about the garden, jabbing their beaks under heavy leaves, pulling up skinny garter snakes and beetles. At the edge of the woods, three crows lay nesting on the ground, silently watching as the chickens moved through the plants, devouring all they found.
Erin Francisco welcomes your comments on “A House Above” at efrancisco09[at]elmira.edu.
photo by Rolands.Lakis