The Field, A Religion
They parked the camper in the field behind the house, a house not their
house except that it used to be. The field remained their field because
it was land, fertile land, and the garden flourished maniacally despite
the new owners of the house who appeared to have forgotten that the
house sat on land. The old wire fence was overgrown with bursts of
purple loosestrife and Ravennagrass, and deep inside the unkempt plots,
lived squash as big and naked as babies. The family living in the
camper spoke of the garden that hadn't been cared for as "the pool,"
pretending it into some other existence, twisting green into blue and
earth into water.
The new family, all four of them, stared at the old family through the
kitchen window, and the old family, all four of them, stared back
through compact trailer windows that framed each face like a
photograph. The lights in the house were amber, but less so than the
candle lights in the camper, and the family in the camper were proud of
their flickering lights, darker and richer than the eco-friendly light
bulbs illuminating their old home from within.
Both mothers thought to say hello, to walk through the overgrown grass
with skirt fabric bunched in a fist, to knock, one, two, five times,
maybe four. Both fathers thought to leave a note, different notes, that
would begin with a description of the neighborhood cat, which belonged
to no one, and they would sign their respective notes, with kind
The old family had boys and the new family had girls, and the girls
could see that the boys were attractive in a lanky, adolescent way that
would in three years time fill out and offer the girls something broad
and sturdy and worth leaning into. The boys thought one of the two
girls was pretty, the way she danced her legs in bendy postures, but
the other girl had wide knees and a flat face, though they did not
watch her less because of it.
In daylight, the daughters tumbled in the grass behind their house, and
they played a game that involved keeping a beach ball aloft in the air.
In the dark, the sons sprinted from one side of the field to the other,
racing until their knees bled from rocks that imbedded in their skin
when their feet tangled behind them.
A month went by and then it was the old mother's birthday, and there
was a modest party behind the camper with newspaper confetti and ginger
ale. The new family wasn't invited, but the next day, the less pretty
sister left oatmeal cookies on a paper plate and had stuck a Post-it to
the rim that read: I hope it isn't over. There was much discussion in
the camper that night as to what she meant by "it," and whether "it"
was as insignificant as a middle-aged woman's birthday party or as
monumental as existence.
There was no great marriage of these families into a single unit. Nor
was there ever a confrontation in which tomatoes were flung as weapons
or ambulance sirens sung out like whale calls from the cold Atlantic.
One night the fathers switched places, and the mothers tried to fit
themselves against the foreign men in their beds, and both mothers
curdled beneath the covers until they cloaked their strange men from
One night, a different night, the boys broke into their old home and
escaped out the front door when they couldn't smell themselves having
lived there anymore. All four children rode the bus to school, and they
each claimed a window in a separate vinyl seat.
In time, the field grass swallowed the camper wheels whole,
camouflaging black inside of a tall, green wall, and the house across
the field required better insulation and a more substantial roof.
In time, each family found the plight of the other disconcerting.
In time, the families learned to revere and resent the space between, a
space both ancient and visionary, where the model of what had once been
and what would never be melted like hot metal and cooled and reformed
and melted again, molten and steel, until it was some kind of god.
Rosie Forrest lives in Nashville. Her collection, GHOST BOX EVOLUTION IN CADILLAC, MICHIGAN, was selected by Pamela Painter
as the winner of Rose Metal Press' 9th annual Short Short Chapbook Contest and will be published this summer.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
of Thiago Fonseca.
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