Saturday, 6 June 2020

'In the house, it grows' by Evan James Sheldon

The family is in different rooms, speaking only in yelled phrases muffled by walls, when the tree begins to grow out of the living room rug. 

It isn’t its own tree, made of straining photosynthetic cells, but rather an extension of the rug, something the family owns together, a rustic blue with creamy starbursts the father found entrancing when they went rug shopping so long ago. The father has grown to hate the rug and the necessary steps they’ve taken to make sure it doesn’t stand out against the rest of the décor. Now everything stands out, all of it garish.

When the boy discovers the tree he gathers the mother, making a joke about the kind of fruit it would bear. He’d once been in a crabapple fight with another boy he didn’t know, a chance encounter, a quickly learned violence, and now he wishes, those thrown crabapples had been made of the thick, worn-soft fibers of the rug.

When the mother hears her son’s joke, she tickles him and begins to name all different kinds of fruit borne from unlikely trees: ghost trees and ghost fruit, engine trees and engine fruit, song trees and song fruit, and more. And the father, hearing them laugh, comes out of the bathroom that has become his refuge, and he cooks them all breakfast. He uses odd bits from various items they have on hand, thinking himself creative, hoping to join in their laughter and wonder. He whistles an old song about Kansas City and crazy little woman, the mother doesn’t much care for, while he works with spatulas and cast iron and jarred bacon grease.

He sets the food down for the mother and the boy, and the boy makes a face at his odd creation. The father says he should try it at least, the boy might be surprised. The mother says not to push the boy if he doesn’t want to eat, her mother did that when she was growing up and she still resents her for it. And the father asks why she is bringing up her mother when they are just trying to have a nice time, and the boy pushes his plate just a bit further from himself, and the mother shakes her head once and goes back to their room, her room now, and the father wants to break something but he isn’t that kind of man so he takes the plate from the boy, sets it on the counter, perhaps harder than necessary, and returns to the bathroom, muttering about plums and flour and salt. The boy thinks that this is his fault, so he leaves for his room and climbs under the covers on his bed, shielding himself from the world and the world from himself.

No one yells through the walls this time; it is quiet in the house, everyone in their own room, so no one sees when the leaves on the rug tree begin to fall, a gentle star shower.

2 comments:

  1. This is so lovely and powerful. The last image is perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, that second last paragraph is so powerful. So much in there. Beautifully done.

    ReplyDelete

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