by Jennifer Stevenson
Rob and Maisie met with Eddie in the attic nursery. Rob had his string and Ed had his penknife. Maisie brought sandwiches left from tea. Down they went into the meadow. Maisie led them to the tree where she had last seen where baby bunnies capered and tumbled by comet-light.
Meadow fragrance burned like summer, filled their nostrils, filled their heads: grasses and sweet mud, daisies and bindweed. Longest day of the year, lots to do.
First they ate and then they dug and Eddie found the treasure first: old tin cigar box full of old secrets. Rob took the pieces out, squealing glee. This is sun and this is moon, they named the marbles one by one. Maisie fed ants. The boys set their armies under the sassafras in the shade.
Maisie put her favorite marble down beside the other two. Look, it’s the earth. And here comes the comet. Rob brought a thistlehead screaming down. On their stomachs in the grass, they mapped its stern trajectory. Comets don’t hit you all in one place. They do if you skip them like skipping stones.
Rob poured water on the ground and Maisie warmed it with her glass. Ed piled up seeds for bunnies, and Rob made jungle gyms for the ants out of grass.
All the world had disappeared into the meadow’s distant sounds: black crickets creaking, katydids clacking, Dad nailing railroad ties to the roof.
Rob had made the best game, so they circled round it, thinking hard. Maisie set grass walls, Ed laid the crumbs, and Rob kept his eyes on the marching ants. Make a spiral. Look, they like it. It’s the breadcrumbs with the jam. Hum on the grass blade. Don’t touch the marbles. Mom shrieking, panic-struck, Kids, come home.
Infinite sky, sun-roasted grass, sun-warmed mud on faded jeans; this was the soul of the height of summer sliding toward summer’s eve and bedtime. Eddie took his favorite marble, spat and rubbed it carefully. Green and blue swirled, a-gleam in the sunset, went in the box, and was buried deep.
Venus sharpened in the sky. The pink went green and indigo. A sliver-moon grew bright, cupped a fading streak like a comet, receding fast. Smells of roasted grass went cold. Hot beans and weenies called them home. One had a bath, and two ate their supper, three in the nursery, fast asleep.
“Comet Summer” was originally published in Breaking Waves, An Anthology for Gulf Coast Relief (Tiffany Trent and Phyllis Irene Radford, eds.), Book View Café 2010. Copyright by Jennifer Stevenson, all rights reserved.
Jennifer Stevenson has been a nature geek from the egg. On her website she enthuses about cicadas. In her novel Trash Sex Magic she rhapsodizes about mud and catfish. In front of her house, she makes a public idiot of herself by talking to crows. They do talk back. Jennifer has a deep faith that the combined will of life on Earth can engineer survival of just about anything, somehow, in some way. Don’t tell.