Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Sunflower Story

Jesse S. Mitchell

from the book, Simon
available here and here

and read the review in "Prick of the Spindle' by Wilna Panagos here

Nothing really quite captures the quiet of life, the soundless expanse of undisturbed air that surrounds, the brief breezy notes that flutter nearly unnoticed past unappreciative ears.  There are not proper words to describe it and there are not proper shapes or images to illustrate it.  No songs or stories or murals, novels or films that bring it close.  The truth is, everywhere is exceedingly quiet and beneath the quiet, carefully concealed, is everything…all the noises and colors and living creatures.  A super still surface of sound, a glassy still surface like water.  Touch it and it makes ripples, hit it and it makes splashes, jump in and it makes a reverberation, a crash, a hum…echoes riding outward toward the ends of the Earth, past the limits of sight, round Planets, cosmos, cold dying stars and bending, blending refracted light, and comes back and thuds hard against the side of your head with a distinct ring.
Simon is about to make a ripple.  Sitting on his crisscrossed legs and barefoot in the dry, brown, cracked, over-tall grass, he looks to his left and counts the copper pipes stacked up in a haphazard pyramid. They are collecting heat and reflecting light.  He has just finished digging deep into the awful, dusty, hard ground.  A perfectly round hole, sides steep.  Inside the hole he piled little rocks and gravel.  He mixed up rock powder, dirt and water.  He made a deep red paste and filled the hole flush and let it dry…mostly.  Before it could set forever he grabbed the longest copper pipe and jabbed it hard into the mixture.  He twisted it and put direct pressure on the top, driving it in deeper.  He wiped off his hands and stood up, admired the dark green-red patina on the surface of all the different lengths of pipe…every one a slightly different color, a slightly different size, but he would make them fit together.
Behind him he could hear noises, animal sounds coming from far down the tree, vine and moss covered/infested old abandoned lane.  There once were houses down that way, stores, buildings…nothing now but green overgrown nature and a sprinkling of yellow reflective eyes and feral sounds…enough to drive a young boy’s imagination crazy.  He never went down that way.  He wasn’t allowed and he had no desire anyway.  Life had taken over.  It was frightening, especially when you remember just what life can do.
He screwed a long thin pipe onto the one he had planted in the ground, and then another and another, using the longest and thinnest at first.  The fine yellow dust of the lower Midwest/upper South flooded into his mouth and choked him.  It collected in the corners of his eyes and under his ragged fingernails.  He pinched himself screwing and screwing and banging pipes together and instinctively put the offended digit in his mouth.  The grit felt like sandpaper and tasted like sawdust and alluvium.  He swatted at time-traveling insects that could pop in and out of existence with every swipe of his exasperated hands.  He had bites up and down his back, patches of sweat and purple-brown leg bruises.
It wasn’t long before the pipes reached high into the sky and Simon had to retreat to a little goat shed to retrieve a rickety ladder.  The ladder was missing most of the upper rungs.  Simon broke off pieces of dead and dying tree branches that littered the sides of the tan-brown field and carefully jammed them into the slots that once held the perfectly manufactured ladder rungs.  He tested them with his hands, putting pressure on each one until he felt safe.  He climbed the ladder, a bundle of extremely hot and bulky pipes under his right arm, reached the top and laid the pile gingerly at the top of the ladder.  He vigilantly and artfully began making two divergent lines of tubes, one going right and one going left.  He climbed up another step and then another and finally he stood teetering at the very top.  He wavered in the air, waiting to regain complete balance.  He looked around and watched clouds go slowly by, listened to birds, some singing, some screeching.  Looking down he thought he saw a snake.  Nervously he waited…just a stick.  He connected the two sets of pipes at the top, bent and shaped the whole construction and fashioned it into a circle, then climbed down again.
Walking slowly beneath the trees, he collected leaves, only the biggest and best and only the triangle shaped ones and only if they had a long stem still attached.  He filled his turned up shirt with them and climbed back up the ladder.  He pulled out a leaf at a time and weaved it delicately around the joints of the pipes.  Only around the joints at first but then everywhere, he weaved the leaves together and to the whole circular structure.
Finally he was out of leaves and he was out of pipes and the whole thing was done and he climbed down.  He stood in front of the figure and watched.  He waited.  He stood there for barely a fraction of a second (but it felt like a lifetime) when at last a tiny glow began to emanate out of the very center of the circle, slowly at first, but soon it grew and everywhere was bathed in bright yellow golden light.   The circle blazed like a star.  Simon stood in the light and cast no shadow.  Everywhere was brilliant again.  Everywhere was ignited again. Simon picked up a handful of the dust.
And this is how Simon restarted the sun.
And this is how Simon made his splash.

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