The trees began to spread thin with horizon as James approached the edge that lit out overlooking the hollow below.
The incline from the edge was a sharp sloping composed of sand, dipping down into the valley and then flaring up again into an oblique dune to the right, the equivalent of an ant-mound, but human sized.
This hill was a most surprising thing to see, coming out of the typical Northern European forest, all green and underbrush. The dune looked as if it had been pitched there by some supernatural force, a palmful of sand dumped here and forgotten by a giant or some deity; at least this was how the boys had explained it to each other when he had visited with Jeremy, back when the two boys were more friendly. Aside from the dune, which was the most immediately noticeable thing as it was so out of place, there lay the flat gnarled grass plain making up the floor of the lower hollow, with little isolated brusts of green actual grass and patches of brush, the rest of it sickly and barely budding out of the ground.
There was a small bog-like lagoon to the far side of the valley that rubbed up against the line of trees circling the glen, the surface was of a mutant greenblue, blooming out in widening circles in the light rain and the frog barks. The water was surrounded by dense thickets (dense though not very deep) on three sides, while the side he was facing presently was clear of brush, presenting an unencumbered view of the wet. At the edge of the water on this side there stood a couple, the both of them standing there, at the edge of the water, long clad in dark Sunday garments.
He, holding an umbrella over her head, shielding her from the spitting rain; she, with her arms in front of her, both of them obscured by the distance and high angle from which James observed.
He wondered who, besides him, would be standing out here in the forest in the rain; they who had been ready enough to bring along an umbrella to look at a sad pool of algae, dressed in their best clothes. He could not identify them as anyone he knew from the town as he squinted at their backs from afar, so he began down the incline to gain the plain.
As he started descending he used the various broad tree roots that were laid naked by the sudden sloping of the hill to serve him as stepping stairs downward. Their knotty protrusions helped him for the first twenty steps down, but then disappeared, nothing but sand now, he had to adapt a different stratagem, namely walking at a backwards leaning angle and more so with the heels and sides of his feet. He took to it slowly, but quickly quick gravity played its hand and he was moving more rapidly than he would like, that is, until some ill movement in the slippage of sand sent him down on his right rear hip, still sliding a little bit after the initial impact. No harm done though, if you discount the neat little clayish stain that was impressed upon his right buttock, which he did immediately, while brushing at it with his right forearm to no immediate avail. Having composed himself thusly, and already dirty in spite of (or perhaps because of) his precaution, he took a more bold approach to the remaining descent, jog-sliding his way down into the hollow, his momentum carrying him, fully upright, thirty paces out into what there was of the grass.
He was already past the dune which was on his right (and now on his behind right, mirroring the stain on his trousers), and he transitioned from his running into a brisk walk, hard on the heels of the stationary figures that were planted bog-side.
They seemed to have been there for a long time, mostly motionless, with slight inclinations of their heads, slow and even, so that it was almost imperceptible. They appeared to be speaking. He wondered at what they could be talking about, and at such length as it seemed there would never be a pause or respite, but he did not dare approach close enough to overhear them, as he had gotten quite close already and still could not decipher a word. It was possible that he would have had to have been within arm’s reach of the pair to make out any sound, discernable or no.
So rather than the direct approach, which really wasn’t offered him as their backs were to him and their fronts to the water, James decided to practice at his stealth, or stalking, or whatever it could be called when he circled round their party and then around the brush-blocked sides of the water, observing them all the while. He achieved very little by this, as he could barely see the couple for all the flora blocking his view, and without gaining anything except a bit more exercise he had circumnavigated the lagoon, giving him a clear view of them again as he emerged to their right, about a hundred paces away.
It was a curious portrait and he wanted to lie down and look on. Distancing himself further he sat down in a smaller clump of sand and set to fixing the image in his mind so that he could speculate upon their conversation later, alone in his bedroom, inventing various dialogues for them to have been steering through. At present he was too involved in observing them to conjure any guess of what it was they were discussing, and no motion, no body language to help clue him either. But no motion is a kind of body language, especially in a situation like this. It is not as if they are asleep; they are standing in a hollow, in the middle of the forest, beside a pool of water, in the rain. The entire time he had been circling and covertly staring at them (rather obviously though, in fact) they had failed to note or acknowledge his presence at all. Were they ignoring him or just actually oblivious? He toyed with the idea of tossing a stone or a stick into the water near where they stood, to see if they would react, but he decided against such action, as, if they reacted (or not) he could not figure out what he would do then in response. So, they stood undisturbed, as they were before he had arrived, and he sat nearby observing them, unduly disturbed by their statuesque appearance. Perhaps they are grieving. His mind ran with the possibilities: For what?
A random black stray ran across the field, stopping twenty strides away to stare at him, and then disappeared into the woods on the opposite side.
James had been so preoccupied with his curiosity about the couple that he had failed to notice that there was a young man sitting on the sand dune, about half way up, on the side facing the water hole. It was only when he followed the dog’s flight that he chanced to see him sitting there. He was stretched out supine, his upper half propped up by his elbows, lazily looking over towards where the dog had appeared. The stranger and James were no more than twenty-five paces apart (albeit that the young man was somewhat elevated as well). James did not recognized him from the town either, and since he (the young man on the sand) looked at him, giving no sign of recognition, but not offering a greeting nor looking away, James did not offer a greeting either and rather promptly did look away, slightly to the left, avoiding the stranger’s stare. The man had a rather dirty face with a small, skin-colored bandage on his left cheek under his eyelid. He wore casual clothes and seemingly had nothing else with him; empty handed, he began to whistle. James stole another look in his direction and continued to watch as the man laid his head back and covered his eyes with his folded hands. Laying prone on a sand dune in the forest, in the rain, whistling; perhaps he was with the other two.
My Yard of ConcreteThe twinned mineral silos loomed up in the teal and tulip-yellow shades of the pole lamps’ light, stenciled coloring on their sides spelling out concrete and depicting the company’s logo—a pyramid—all of which was in some measure obscured by the sediment refuse which uniformly coated the air and the area thereabouts, making everything appear more ancient than what actually could be, caking all in ash-like trappings of dust. Long thin aluminum slats were crossed within chain-links, blocking visibility of the yard from the outside and fencing the perimeter. The topmost sections of fencepost were inward slanting, the kind made as perches for razor wire, and in the wire’s absence the denuded poles looked as if they were a series of arched arms extending up toward the fluxing sky. The barrier was mounted on an incline of concrete that rose away from street level at a forty-five degree angle and upward five feet to where it planated and provided a base for the works within. As a result of the yard’s operations the concrete foundation had developed a powdered, blank coloration on top of the pure company yellow it had originally been painted. Within ten minutes of startup production and the first unloading of concrete meal spill-forming its anthill deposit, the entire lot had altered, the wind distributing a veil of residue and cloaking the yard’s initial luster. Thereafter the base had always remained a dull, chalk-shaded layer that could register footprints, the sliding progression of which—in this instance—described the path taken by Ursula and Jay. Tennis shoe tracks went back behind shrubbery that fronted a section of the cyclone fence. Through poor maintenance some of the metallic blinders there were no longer bound in place—stripped away by storm winds or whatever other of god’s causes it could be—providing the pair with a view of the insides, a partial look upon the concrete manufactory.
broadleaf suspension over
the invisible worm pit,
they nibbling gnashing
at the fingertips of construction castles,
remote quarries, bitsy rock mazes
this splintery monkey gymnasium
turned gasoline-ring cat sanctuary and weeds
held its blossoms precariously, and drop
imperfect circles, they were smashed
to meal brown sauce
there would be some picnicking
in the afternoons, she would do
it up proper:
peanut butter jam and granola sprinkles
portioned off in toasted four quarters
with sugared waters and a mess of desserts;
the insects and we would go wild
over the sticky banquet laid on sheets.
traffic, tractors screamed the score
and we spilled bubbling with laughter
at the hilarity of us
digesting the afternoon