Milo, the kitten who took up residence in the storm drains of our quiet suburb, slinked through the fence posts after the grayed wood slats began to rot. His kingdom began and ended in the one ripe corner where our dogwood tree and my brother’s construction daydreams took root. My sister and I would lay down, summer rain-wet grass and long matted hair brushing on our backs, Milo on our chests. His mewling mingled with the sound of wind rushing through the ankle-high grass our father always said he would cut. When our father fixed the loose board to appease our mother who feared scratches and sickness and sneezing, we heard Milo pawing, whining, trying to get in again. I could picture the soft wood peeling away, clinging to his young claws. The pawing eventually ceased, and with it went the mewling and crisp afternoons spent in patchy sunlight. Sometimes I think I hear him at my door at night, pleading. In the dream,
I can never get the door open before his crying stops.
Brown Sugar Rabbit
When my mother spies ragged edges on the leaves of her zinnias and black-eyed Susans, she clicks her tongue. “Rabbits,” she mutters the word under her breath when she thinks I’m not listening.
That summer, I sit crossed-legged in the backyard from the time swim practice ends until I cannot stand the mosquitos and it becomes too dark to read my copy of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I do not catch glimpse of a rabbit until it is time for Eustace and Lucy and Edmund to return to Earth and my mother has asked me if I need pencils for school this year. The sun has hidden itself behind the gray slats of the fence, and I have closed my book when the grass rustles. He is the color of the brown sugar my mother uses when she bakes. I imagine if I touch him, he will crumble just the same.
When he takes one step forward and settles into the grass, I reach out my hand. His nose twitches once and then he is gone, bolted back to burrow under the hedges.
I lie on my back and let the mosquitoes suck on my outstretched legs and arms.
I think maybe if I lay very still, maybe even fall asleep, I will wake up nose to nose with my brown sugar rabbit.
The Tomato Plants
The tomatoes mirrored the shape of my six-year old fist – firm in some places, more lumpy in others. Cupped in my palms, I pricked the taught skin with one small thumbnail and lapped up the dribbling juice that dribbled out. The vines that twined around the post were skinny and fragile, clingy but limp – much like I felt in my eight-year old frame. I caressed the dirt, relished the grime taking up residence under my nails.
My brother took a shovel to the pot I had painted with my name. I saw the vines strung out like emaciated corpses. I saw the pulp, thick in some places, runny in others, smeared across the brick like the entrails of a rabbit. My mother grew impatient when after two days I was still inconsolable, still carrying around shards of my polka dot Garden Center pot.
“Grow another,” she said. And I tried. But it was as though my thumbs had turned black, not from contact with the earth, but from the knowledge that things could die.
Author Bio: Maggie Smith completed her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Environmental Studies at the University of Mississippi this past May. She is a bookseller at the famed Square Books in Oxford, MS and is fascinated by how environment and sense of place shapes one’s understanding of the world. Her publication with Flyway marks her debut as a published writer.