(This is an original piece written for IndiesUnlimited.com‘s Weekly Flash Fiction Contest. The prompt was Dung.)
The shade of the maple tree consoles me at the edge of field and forest where I stand toe-to-toe with a sign that reads “PLEASE DISPOSE OF HORSE MANURE HERE.”
The surrounding land reminds me of my Aunt’s old farm. I’d hear her boast to the family, “such a nice boy,” over the cringing and slamming of the screen door behind me. Past the peeling house and rickety barn; beyond the horses and corn crops, springing from the flat land, was a lively and enchanted forest. Chiseled live oaks and wise old pines stood and guarded it faithfully.
Adults rambled bored in the farmhouse while I cleared the brush, peering into the woodland as if drawing a curtain to survey my audience. I abandoned the field and all-knowing hot sun as a shy and nice boy. I entered as Robin Hood, encouraged by the kind clapping of the river on the banks; and the enthusiastic stirs of dazzled branches. And there I shined in the spotlights piercing through the trees.
I’d forgotten the memory until now.
I inhale but the breath is spoiled by dung. The stench lunges to the back of my throat, demanding my attention to the sour task at hand with a hacking cough. I stand at the edge of field and forest but I cannot draw the curtain.
This will have to do.
I bury what I came to bury along with that distant memory beneath the sickening mound of manure, bidding the curtain forevermore shut.