Arasmus

Whitethorn

Posted in Short Story by Arasmus on June 25, 2010

It didn’t rain for three months in the summer of nineteen eighty four.

“This is how the Romans built drains,” he said.

His hands were leathery and he smelled like history. I smelled it again in the Cathedral at Rouen. They too were our people. He handled a large rectangular cuboid shaped stone. An igneous rock, with crystals glistening in the sunlight. His biceps flexed as he held it. Sinews. It made a sound as it hit the side wall of the long drain that stretched across the landscape like a scar. Schtumpf! The Romans never reached here. Then we came.

“One like that on either side, and then a flagstone across the top. Before the cement pipes, that’s how they did it. And it’s still useful when you come to a bend, a rock that can’t be destroyed or a whitethorn tree.”

You can’t cut a whitethorn tree. They are protected by legend, the love of the local people. Hunched heads over warm jars of hot sweet tea whispered stories about those that had cut them. It was how the people of the Goddess Dana got home at night. That’s what they used to say. The light bark caught the moonlight.

He moved forward two or three feet and repeated the process. Schtumpf! Gradually, under the golden sunlight, a secret underground waterway snaked through the heather.

“Layer pebbles, then small rocks and then bigger rocks and then topsoil. Then seed it and where once there was wilderness, you’ll have rich blue grass. Then milk. Then beef.

There was not a single cloud in the sky. A curlew flew over head. He bent back to look up at the small shadow cross in blue.

“She’s free. I’ve never seen a pair. I suppose there has to be another.”

Rain. Several cars were lined up at the traffic light. I sat in the passenger seat and stared vacantly at the glowing hue of their brake-lights. I would need a new grey pants for my uniform. School was starting again in a week. The last two years. Time to get serious. A large concrete block of apartments, some 13 stories tall. Entire families lived in each of those, supposedly. Why? A Citroen pulled-in to the side of road to get out of the way of traffic.

“They had great engineering, ahead of their time, but it meant no one could fix them.”

Airport. Just like Columbus. Ferdie and Isob. I was surprised that the yellow taxi-cabs looked just like the ones in the movies.

“What number on Madison?”

“1376. Thank you.”

Everything smells different. I might be inside a television. That strange feeling of knowing something you don’t, and how to talk to people you’ve never met before. You couldn’t get lost here if you tried. Everything is sign-posted. Highway. Faucet. Garbage.

“And you have a beautiful view of the city from here.”

“Thank you.”

The tea was weak. Have I ever been this high?

When the wind blows through blue grass it turns silver in the moonlight.

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