Maggie Hellwig is a w Read more [...]
On the day I was born, all the apples from the tree out back fell to the ground. It was a parched season, arriving thirsty. From the blood of my mother’s labor, I emerged with sod dangling from my brow. My roots were pulled and cut. My face enclosed, caked in dirt; but my eyes were open, dewy and light brown. At the ends of my leafy fingers were wrinkled thistles, prickling my mother’s arms. My stem was all wiry with no muscle. My newborn spikes of hair were protected by the milkweed pod of the prairie.
‘The thing about milkweed…’ my mother explained years later, ‘it is rough and bland on the outside, but all silk, juices, and seeds on the inside.’ She told me that if you throw those seeds all over the land the milkweed will multiply.
She said, ‘The seed makes love with the wind.’
I remember my father running the water warm, dutifully checking its temperature with his smallest finger. He washed me in a basin, my pods first; when the water hit them, the shells opened slowly. Silk strands peeked out. He plucked the pods from my brow, one by one. Each pluck pulled skin from my scalp, a raw burn exposed to the air. He was hesitant at first, removing the rough pods slowly, but then – finding it a tedious task – he gathered them all at once in his gigantic hands and pulled. All of my hair curled upward, covered in milk and blood. The oxygen and water stung. His hands fumbled and shook as he held me.
The piercing suds ran over my skin. As my body absorbed the water, my thistles softened out to fingers. Sod fell about the basin. My flesh expanded and cooled. Energy flowed through my veins, up to my head and down to my toes, until finally I could feel a faint thudding in my chest. I opened my mouth to catch some water. It flowed down my throat, spreading a cool rush through my torso. Small muscles rounded beneath my skin. My body was vulnerable to this air. I felt first a small tear drop from my eye and a wretched ache falling down my chest. I opened my mouth, all dry, and howled for comfort from the cold hard air.
My father lifted me from the basin, and wrapped me in a rough cotton towel. He returned me to my mother, her arms steadily held my wobbly head and tiny limbs.
For years my mother told me that I had no father; a man was as unreliable as the weather. She would say, ‘One day he’s all calm and warm, the next a tornado, and sometimes he washes away with the rain.’ I would ask her who my father was. Her answer was always the same: ‘I made love with the wind.’
I would watch her as she lied, her face pointed to fact. But I knew, as I always knew, that my father was the one who held me first; a man with fear in his eyes and milkweed pods in his hands.
Time moved forward, sharp as an arrow. By the time I knew what sharp meant, what moving forward implied, I was already asking questions.
I asked my land:
Do you dream of being something else?
Something other than grass, than a tree?
You lie flat, with nothing to hide. But I learned that somewhere the land rises and falls; the clouds bounce up and down amongst mountains. The rise and descent block vision, even block out the sun.
Do you dream of climbing up?
Of falling down?
You have such rich brown sod. It crumbles stale in the winter, and drinks in the sun through summer. But somewhere I know the soil is red, a thick paste that won’t wash out. Elsewhere the dirt is black and mixed with tiny rocks.
Do you wish to stick instead of crumble,
or to stain instead of wash clean?
You are made of both land and water. And yet, somewhere there is neither lake nor grass, but there’s an ocean. An ocean is violent. It is cold. It is salt and water. The ocean licks the rocks and ground. It wears landscape down to softness.
I asked my land:
Do you dream of churning?
Of wet and brine?
I felt a breeze. It hummed the secrets of my land, unfolding in a history of stories. My land became its own entity: the prairie. It said to me:
‘I am no mountain, no mud, no ocean.
My seasons are unfolding and constant,
they hold life and death,
plant and animal.
I remember everything.’
I sat in the grass and saw for the first time.
I beheld the microcosms of ants and beetles hustling on the ground. The nocturnal striped squirrel and badger sleeping below the earth, curled in their dens, heartbeats thudding against the earth. Their tiny workmen’s paws and dotted eyes resting for the day. A solitary pocket gopher was gnawing at the root of the short green sedge. I spotted the shy meadowlark, singing. His dandelion yellow chest and black bib were puffed out for the afternoon sun. He glanced at me for a moment, embarrassed to be caught in such reckless abandon, and flew away when I dared to blink. The sun against the Indian grass blinded my eyes to slits. The waves of amber blew silent in the wind. Beneath the tall plants all animals remained protected. The purple blazing star flowers were laced with dew, from which a monarch gathered greedily.
I found, when I closed my eyes, I could hear the stories.
There is a story about three French men:
One French man came to this land in winter,
trod over puddles and fallen thistles.
Dried milkweed pricked his fingers.
He wrote back to his king,
‘There is nothing to see here.
It is dead; nothing but sorrowful land for miles.’
He neglected to see:
on a grey day the land is a weeping woman,
her eyes swollen with tears,
her will lies flat on the ground.
A second French man came to this land in summer.
He dove into the sea of green and yellow stalks.
For a mile he swam, but never found shore.
He stood enveloped in vegetation.
To his king, he wrote:
‘This land is a terror. I am lost.’
He failed to notice the color:
on a bright day the land stands as a goddess,
she holds a man in gold palms,
she hides him from the rest of the world.
A third French man came in autumn.
He stood before the land with new eyes: trembling, electric.
‘The ground has risen to meet the sky.’
He saw the land,
her soft curve and her frailty,
millennia of storage and life.
He called her belles preries.
He called her beautiful meadows with scattered trees.
He called her the prairie.
When I was eight years old, a girl hit me with a rock in the schoolyard.
I could hear her and her friends whispering during lunch time. They would look at me, then back to each other, then back at me. I waited for the day one of them would speak to me, but it never happened.
And so I approached their circle one afternoon. Just outside of it I asked them why they always whispered about me. Still, they did not acknowledge me. They glanced at one another with sharp smiles on their faces. A girl, with blonde straight hair, began to laugh. The rest followed in an orchestra of high squeals. I looked from face to face for some recognition, some confirmation, but they all stood: ignoring me and laughing.
I reached my arms into the circle and dove at the girl. She put her hands out to stop me, but I went for her hair and pulled it down. The girl grabbed at my curls, pulling much harder, trying to uproot them. I put my hands over hers, digging my sharp fingers into her baby fat digits. We stood like that for a long time. I remember it without sound, but I can still see her clearly shouting at me. Her face was twisted and red.
She pushed me to the concrete. I fell hard on my back, the breath knocked from my chest. I wheezed for oxygen until the air came back with a heave. I coughed and coughed, shaky breaths in between. She sat on top of my stomach, locking her feet around and under to pin me down. I webbed my fingers over my eyes. She had enough time to hit me with a rock before the teacher grabbed her.
Later, my mother washed the blood out of my curls. The tender tug stung. ‘What did that girl ever do to you?’ she asked.
I shook my head. There was still some soil underneath my fingernails. In the bathroom light, they looked the same: my skin and the granules of earth. I was not sure what it meant to be one of them. I did not know how to be something other than myself, even though that’s exactly what they wanted from me.
The first time my mother asked me ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ the answer was simple, ‘I want to touch the sky.’
She shook her head as if I spoke a different language. I knew that look and that head shake. A bird would fly into our closed window on a sunny day. There would be a loud thud. I’d run out to see if the bird was injured. I would even make a box for the bewildered bird – for it to heal in after a collision. I’d carefully lift it up from the grass and tuck it away to rest. I would come Into the house, holding the bird box with care. My mother would give her look and shake her head, ‘They never learn.’
She didn’t speak of my future plans for a few days, but I could tell when she was thinking about it. I could feel her while I sat by the windows to drink in the sunlight, or when I drifted back into the house, bees and beetles trailing in after me; I felt her thinking.
When she asked me again, I said the same thing, ‘I want to touch the sky.’
She sat down next to me with a piece of paper and a pen. She wrote words on the paper.
Farmer. Botanist. Pilot. Astronomer. Geologist. Doctor.
She told me these were the kinds of things I could be; the kinds of things most people became. She told me that I reminded her of a boy she once knew. ‘He told me that he wanted to harness the wind.’ As a man he became a meteorologist. ‘We all have to grow up sometime.’
When I looked at the words on the sheet, none of them fit. What did it mean, after all, to be a farmer or a pilot? The names sat flat and stale. Growing up seemed like a very dull business, unless it meant growing so tall that I could touch the sun. I looked down at my short little legs and sighed. It was simple, a thing like touching the sky. It was supposed to be simple.
Tobias sat next to me during lunch. We were ten. He asked my name.
I didn’t answer. I remember him looking at me intently, like he was waiting for lightning after thunder. I had seen Tobias every day since I began school. To me, he looked like a winter lake. His skin was pale enough to be ice, and his eyes were as blue as the shallow surface of frozen water. His hair was almost black, tangled seaweed. He didn’t speak often; he was always with the others. He sat with them in class, he threw the ball with the other boys, he listened to the girls. I didn’t know why he was talking to me. As he sat down, I concentrated straight down and avoided eye contact.
‘What’s your name?’ he asked me. I didn’t answer, but began watching an ant as it scrambled along the wooden table. It was looking for good crumbs, no doubt, to bring to its queen.
‘Why don’t you tell me your name?’
The ant hoisted up a giant piece of bread onto its back and began waddling off. I wondered why Tobias cared about my name. He would go back to playing with the others soon enough anyway. ‘Because it doesn’t matter.’
Normally people don’t understand a request to be left alone. But I knew, the way I know some things, that he did. He just didn’t want to give in.
‘You’re always eating by yourself,’ he added.
I reached into my wrinkled paper lunch bag and pulled out the apple slices my mother had cut for me. I handed him a piece. He took it from me quietly, with his icicle hands, and put it in his mouth. He unlocked his tin lunch box to fish out a few purple grapes. He held them out in exchange.
While he munched his apples into mush, he began to ask questions.
‘Why are you always alone?’
‘I like it that way.’
He looked at me, expecting more. I ate the grapes he had handed me.
‘Do you like anything? Playing ball? Climbing trees?’
‘I like the prairie. I spend a lot of time there.’
‘Oh,’ he found a subject. ‘Do you know a lot about the prairie? I’ve always wondered which direction a compass plant faces. Other things too…’
‘The leaves,’ I told him, ‘point north and south. And the stem twists upward toward the sun.’
He looked over at the rest of the kids. One of the girls was trying to wave him over with a slender-armed gesture. I told him he should go and he paused for a second. But, without answering, he turned back toward me and continued unpacking his lunch. The grapes, a sandwich, and cold beet soup.
There is a story about a group of Native American women:
Trees had begun to sprout up where they were not wanted.
‘Our crops cannot grow in forests,’ they had said.
They had found, when seeding season began,
there were more trees growing amongst the land in clusters.
They chose to harness the land with fire.
The Native American women found a routine.
They sent one woman each year to set a brush fire to the field.
The air would have to be dry enough to crack the skin,
and the wind would have to be strong enough to spread the flame.
The soil on these days would be so raw that no moisture would sink in,
no rainfall could penetrate.
Several women lost their smooth complexion, and occasionally their life, to setting the land afire, but it was considered an honor.
Long after the tribes dwindled and hid from the eastern settlers,
there remained rumors of women setting the land alight.
A settler would swear they saw a woman with a burning bundle of sticks,
her face highlighted in red flames.
The Native Americans, they called fire sce-tay.
This also, so it is said, was their word for prairie.
In early spring, tornado season, I was the tallest thing in the prairie for the most part. I could see a vertical tree trunk in the distance, no taller than my thumbnail. My mother was wary of the land in spring. ‘Lightning and tornado tunnels will blast whatever is tallest to bits,’ she told me.
I had yet to return home since morning and the air had been still. As the afternoon wore on, our tin wind chime began to clatter. My mother looked out at the sky, and sat by the window, waiting. The sky became dark and rain beat on the tin roof. A bolt cut the sky in half and lit up the outside for a moment. She counted to three before the sound crashed down around the house, vibrating the windows and the bookshelves. My mother winced. ‘Too close,’ she had told me later, ‘too close.’
When the storm began, I was sitting on a cushion of dried sedges in the prairie, waiting for the striped squirrel to emerge. For him, dusk was morning. He lived by my favorite tree, a giant oak. I sat at a comfortable distance from it, so as not to frighten him. The sun had already begun its descent down into the west, but the squirrel remained below ground.
The rain started and I looked up at the sky. To my north stood the trees, and past them, my home. In the distance, the sky was cloudy and calm. But to my south, the prairie was covered by fast-approaching dark skies. I tried to identify the color, but all I could see was an open palette, layering up endlessly into the sky. The first row of clouds was dark grey, melting off into black. Amongst the black, the clouds opened into holes and through the gaps I could see green. Masses of dark green clouds boiling fast on the horizon.
The oak tree began to dance. Its branches slapped up and down in a frenzy, its leaves rattled. What if the squirrel came out? Who would protect him? The Indian grass was being beaten over by wind, plants could be ripped from the earth.
Rain poured down in torrents. I hovered over a compass plant, shielding it. Thunder rolled over the field. My heart banged against my ribs. I searched the sky for three seconds and then lightning climbed down faster than I could recognize. By the time I realized what had happened, smoke rose from the branches of the oak. I wanted to stay, to make sure the squirrel had not been harmed, but the lightning was too close. I was next.
The thunder roared again. I got to my feet and began to run toward the house. My curls dripped. Clothes plastered wet to my body, my feet sunk into mud. I could feel tears brimming my eyes. Blind, I broke into a sprint and flew through the trees and into my backyard. I did not look south until I had reached my house.
I scrambled to the doorway, soaked to my muscles. There stood my mother, a towel ready in her hand. Her face was twisted and stern, and she quietly wrapped the towel around me. ‘We’re going to the cellar,’ she said, ‘till this storm blows overhead.’
She opened the small cellar door and we slipped downward. I thought of the squirrel and the tree. I buried my face in my mother’s chest and cried the entire night through. Seated in the dark with my mother, balled into her arms, I could hear the wind howling above us. Hail, the size of my fist, pelted down into the roof. I could barely stand the incessant beat.
On the day I was born, my father went out back to pick apples. He told my mother that they could make applesauce. My mother held me in her arms, she sang me a song while the breeze knocked on the windows. It was a bitter day, but the sun shone brightly on my wrinkled face. I was busy adjusting, she told me later, by crying and waggling about. ‘This world forces us to adjust,’ she said. ‘Things happen in this world and we decide how to react. It’s what defines us.’
Once I stopped fussing, and began sleeping soundly against her, everything was quiet. The breeze stopped knocking on the windows. My mother told me she could hear my little heart beating, trying to catch up with the rest of the world. She held me and both of us slept until nightfall.
When we woke it was dark and we were alone. She hobbled with difficulty, carrying me out back, lantern in hand. By the apple tree sat a full basket, but there was no father. She held me close to her while she balanced the basket against her hip. She took her time to walk back inside. In the morning, we began making applesauce.
Throughout my life, my mother would replace lies with gentle falsehoods. When I asked her where my father went, her answer was always the same, ‘He had to go adjust.’
Come morning, the storm had passed. My mother woke me by pressing her hand to my forehead. She was shocked, perhaps, that I had no fever. We went upstairs. The first hint of sunlight pierced my eyes, and I had to shield them. This is why striped squirrels only come out at night, I thought.
The house had suffered minor damage. On the front porch the wind chime had been ripped from its strings, flung in pieces across the grass. Our bench had been tossed by the wind. The window in the kitchen, shattered by hail. The roof bore dents, as if a thousand tiny fists had punched down into it.
My mother handed me the wind chime pieces, as a project to fix. She left to go order new window glass from town. As she left the house, I looked at the tin tunnels rolling about in my hand, and could only think about the little squirrel I had abandoned.
I slipped out, just for a little while. All was quiet. The animals stayed hidden, still shivering in their dens. All except for an elk, who sniffed carefully along the stream. He raised his head to see me. As if pointing, he looked to the oak tree in the distance. The lightning had split it in two. Halfway down its center, the tree trunk had been parted.
There was no sign of the striped squirrel. I hoped for the best, I hoped he had only moved to a different home.
I dreamt one night that I was still a milkweed plant, matured in the autumn. My stem had grown as high as it could, reaching toward the sky. Yet I could still hear my fibers aching to grow further. My leaves had begun to dry and curl, but still held a tinge of summer green toward their center. The thick shell of pod guarded my silk from the wind and rain. The silks folded inside of me, safe and subtle. I stood stoic and sturdy from the ground. My roots expanded in the soil; a delicate web of warmth.
A young man approached me, his face I could not see, and he rubbed his finger against my pod – a head scratch, comforting and soothing. But then he held it in between his fingers and pressed inward. I felt a split at the tip of my brow, a searing blindness, unbelievable pain. All went white.
From within my pod, blood ran over his large fingers. He reached in and pulled out silk. My insides were separated. One layer of consciousness split from another. Sight followed the scattered parts, the dissected body. My soul heard the crack of splinters, spreading out in layers between his fingers. Smell returned to the soil, taken in by it, planted for rebirth.
As I woke, all parts of my body joined back together into one giant jolt. I sat up in my bed, touching my head to make sure it hadn’t been split in two. I patted my chest: my insides were still inside. But I remained human. For roots I had feet, separate from the ground. For leaves, my hands to use as tools. My feeble stomach churned with slight hunger.
In my twelfth year, I watched all summer as a family of meadowlarks multiplied. The female had swooped down to the singing male, impressed by his yellow chest and ability to belt out the lengthiest of songs. Even in the dawn of my own bedroom, I could hear him singing. They settled in the split tree. The female carefully gathered sticks every day and added them to their comfy den.
Once the baby birds arrived, I watched the female dive to gather worms and beetles for them. But there was no sight of the male. For a week I watched the new family, waiting for the father to return. Then, one day, by the oak tree, I found something prehistoric-looking. It was pink, bone, shaped like a curled-up and dried-out slug. I took a stick to poke at it, turn it over. Two little bird claws and muscles for wings stuck up into the air.
My hands shook as I picked up the dead baby bird. The mother was out, no doubt, finding food. But it was anger, furious anger, that I felt toward this disappearing father. Where had he been? If he could have mustered up the strength to just stay, to be present, perhaps the baby wouldn’t have fallen from its nest.
I walked straight into my house. My mother couldn’t help but glare at the mud I had stomped into the living room. ‘Why can’t you take your boots off?’ She sat up straight in her chair. I trudged the mud across the floor and held my hands out to her, the naked baby cold for her to see.
‘Where is he?’ I asked.
She knew in the way that mothers know, in the way that they always know, I was not talking about the dead baby bird in my hands. She found my bird box and carefully we put the baby inside of it. She led me out back to the apple tree with a shovel and we dug a hole one foot deep.
I watched her as she silently put the box at the bottom of the hole. I waited for her to say something, anything. Instead, my mother sat on the damp ground and began to cry.
At least, I had thought, this was a response.
One day, I learned what the word ‘property’ meant.
I reached the prairie late afternoon on a Friday, and heard the sound of a distracting rumble. The noise covered the sound of birds, the sound of wind, even the sound of my feet crunching the grass. I took the long trail; it wrapped around the oak tree, the meadowlark family, down along the stream and into a dip in the land. On the other side of the stream I saw the machine, clawing its way through the Indian grass.
I sat down by the stream to watch it. A man sat on top of the machine, steering it with a wheel, contentment smeared across his face. The plow appeared to have thousands of little legs and millions of little claws, eating the ground as it moved forward. I could see where it had been, stalks crumbled and halved to reveal naked soil. A vein in my neck began to twitch.
Below the ground, millions of tunnels and routes for field mice, for squirrels, for badgers and gophers, were being exposed. Did he know?
I lurched forward into the stream and waded across it, onto the dip in the land, marched my wet shoes and legs up closer to the plow. The man saw me out of the corner of his eye and pulled the break. The gears crumbled to a halt, below them I could hear one last stalk slowly being ripped in half.
I asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ He was clearing out more room for crops, for his farm. He pointed back to a tiny house in the distance. ‘Why here? Why on my land?’
He straightened up his spine and let out a loud laugh. ‘This here is my property, young lady. I can do with it as I please. Now, get on home.’ Then, without hesitation, he revved the plow up and began the grinding again.
I stood and watched him for a few minutes. I had heard the word before – property. But I never knew what it meant.
I asked my land,
What is ownership?
Is it for a man with paperwork?
A girl who watches birds?
The animal who resides in the Indian grass?
I sat by the oak tree and closed my eyes.
Who owns you?
I felt the roots of the tree wrap around my fingers,
glide around my ankles.
I lay back and imagined:
The roots took hold of me and pulled me down
into the musk of the earth.
My hair extended into dens
and underground tunnels.
My ears heard the thud,
and scampering of little feet.
My eyes became black, filled with sod.
I curled into a ball, hearing the drum of the earth, holding onto the tree’s enormous roots, and answered for myself.
But, when I saw the dusk encroaching,
I knew it was time to stop imagining.
It was time to go back to the house.
Tobias and I had known each other for nearly four years, until…
He had been sitting beside me in class, looking at me. I could feel his blue eyes freezing my cheek. Every time I glanced at him he looked back to the teacher, and so I would direct my attention back to my notes. Toward the end of class, right as the lunch bell was preparing to sound, he locked eyes with me.
The bell rang.
It wasn’t a spoken decision; we locked fingers and began walking away from the school. We walked into the woods and toward my land. His thumb rubbed against my hand. I let go, confused. I wondered why friends would stroke hands. I wondered when hand-holding became something different. He didn’t seem to mind my letting go, so I continued to walk through the trees until we reached the prairie.
We were looking over the field. Tobias’s fingers reached out to touch my arm, sending a small tickling shiver up my spine. I turned to him, confused, and he pressed his lips against mine. They were cold as I had imagined, and his icy hands immediately locked into my curls. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I tried to kiss him back for a moment. Slowly, he walked me backwards until I was leaning against a tree. I pulled my face away from his and squeezed out from between him and the tree.
‘Can’t we just watch?’ I asked, pointing at the land.
He slid his hands into his pockets and nodded. In front of us the wind ripped through the grass. The midday light shone on the underbellies of the blades, they glistened. The wind made a low-pitched sound of a hum; it slowly grew louder as the blades blew round in circles and different patterns. The flowers were bent to the ground in surrender before the last howl of wind made its crescendo. The impact was so deafening and powerful that even the sky seemed to unsettle.
The sound of the plow began to seer through the background.
He listened, and nodded. ‘That’s my father’s plow.’ He told me that his father owned that farm. He had lived there since Tobias’s mother got remarried. He told me it was almost time for corn growing season, and his father was trying to make more money.
I stared at him for a moment, speechless, and then ran at him. I pushed him to the ground and slapped him across the face, took soil in my hand and pushed it deep into his mouth, rubbed it into his eyes. I pounded the ground by his head with my fist and wailed. He reached up, and grabbed my arms, holding me still and firm, and rolled my body off of his.
I lay next to him on the ground, trying to catch my breath. He sat up, coughing out dirt.
‘What is wrong with you?’ he bellowed. His face was smudged with brown.
Instead of responding, I let out a heave and stared up at the sky. I needed to calm down: I heard the short-eared owl cooing in the tree; his sharp yellow eyes had opened, alert, for the evening. I closed my eyes to listen to the commencing hum of cicadas. In the distance, the plow still rumbled.
Tobias stood up, brushed himself off, and left me in the woods.
In matter of weeks, all the earth beyond the stream had been leveled. Every day I could hear and watch Tobias’s father planting.
‘You can’t just expect the world to stop changing. You’re not a child anymore,’ my mother told me.
On the day I tried to go away, my mother was out picking apples from the apple tree. I took the shovel from the porch and left her busy at work. The cicadas were already starting to sing their song while I dug into the ground. The meadowlark watched me intently while I heaved up tiny mounds of dirt one at a time. My arms began to ache and I ignored the throb, wiping sweat away from my face. I had no concept of time. The cicada song grew and the land was growing dark. I wasn’t sure how far a foot was, how far six feet was, how far a meter was, but I kept digging and wiping. Droplets of sweat fell into the hole. I dug until my arms were numb, until I could no longer lift them higher than my hips. I put the shovel down and climbed into the ditch.
The earth began piling on top of me, one slow heap at a time, until I was weighted down to rest. The sleep started at my toes. A tingling spread slowly from my feet, through my calves and thighs, up to my belly. My muscles relaxed and smoothed out, melted down until I could not feel them. The hair around my head lost its itch and my curls gathered in close to my scalp. My eyes, closed or opened, I could not feel. I grew inward, balling into one small being. Around me, a hard shell began to form. The earth made room for me and held me. All noise, all light, all sight, became obsolete. Black accompanied me inside my seed.
And I was warm. I was safe.
I felt a rustle beside my face and opened my eyes; a striped squirrel. He sniffed the side of my face and the inside of my ear, his cold nose and warm breath had brought me back. I was still in my hole, still whole, still legs and arms, curls and nails. For the third time in my life, I felt tears fall from my eyes. A slight chill swelled over the black night. The trees above began to rustle and I felt a rain droplet on my hand.
I turned my head and looked at the squirrel. He searched my face, then he plucked at my curls and chattered. I closed my human eyes again and felt his preening against my tender scalp. He was telling me about his day.
I asked him, ‘What happened?’
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