by Marjean Harris
She didn’t fully understand why they had moved and now lived in a basement. But she did know that her mother was going to school to be a nurse, there was a nice grandma-like lady living upstairs, and she got to go across the street to the museum prairie. She was afraid to go to the deep woods beyond, but she loved the tall thick grass and flowers. No other kids went there, although there were kids around in the neighborhood. There was that boy who lived on the corner in the big house. She thought he must be rich, and she knew he had a father because they played out in the yard sometimes.
It was scary to be at a new school. Sometimes she wanted friends, but she felt kind of mixed up about it. Most of the time, she didn’t look at anyone and just stayed behind her long curtain of dark brown hair. As soon as she got home from school, she put some Ritz crackers and vanilla wafers into a baggie, dug out leftover celery sticks and an apple core from her lunch sack, picked up her book, and headed across the street. She always made sure there were no cars coming and even more importantly to her, no other kids or even grownups around.
She made her own path deep into the quiet grayish brown tall grass. Golden bees and orange butterflies hid against the yellow clumps of flowers. The pokey leaves and sticky spider webs did not deter her. She had tripped a couple of times over long grass and dried-out stems lying flat on the ground. Soon the prairie enveloped her and she made it her own.
There was now a special place for her in the middle of great falling sunflowers, crisscrossed and tangled into a canopy. Inside there was soft darkness with shifting spots of light. Wispy brushes atop tall grass waved lazily. Down below were rusty pointy stars and drying flowers turning to dust. The sky blue above held floaty puff clouds and sometimes a blackbird, hanging up high, wings beating against the wind.
Settling and munching salty and sweet, she listened to the hazy heat. Raspy droning filled the air, soft and then so loud it hurt her ears. She thought the choir was made up of crickets and the green jumpy bugs with fairy wings. There were also grasshoppers, nervously catapulting around. She imagined they were tiny flying dinosaurs with their scaly plates and big eyes.
She was surrounded by an aroma that smelled like bread toasting and mud all at the same time. If she put her face close to the grassy mat and dug with her finger, she could feel the cool earth below. There were narrow bumpy tunnels veering off here and there. The tops of the tunnels were soft, and she was careful to not disturb the creatures burrowing below. Eventually, she fell into her book, ending in a warm sleepy dream.
When her mother called her name, she sat up. Carefully offering the celery sticks and apple core into the black spotted green leaves and withering brown stems around her, she took in return a tiny bouquet of fragile white daisies, dark berries, and a cluster of pink.