Earth Day

Submitted into Contest #103 in response to: Write about a character looking for a sign.... view prompt

4 comments

Friendship

“You sure it’s the best day for it? It’s chucking it down out there.” She warns.

“It’s the perfect day for it.” I repeat his words like an echo.

She was right, the trail is completely flooded.

Water gushes down the side of the mountain, forming small streams that meet my path at every step, filling my boots with water. He would have loved to be soaking wet right now. He loved the smell of the wet forest. The feel of chilly, humid air on his skin. When he had described it, it did sound kind of magical.

But right now, I’m just cold.

Jogging keeps you warm, right?

I run, and I run, and I feel – elated. It feels like I’m moving coyote-fast as the rain falls straight down all around me. I am the only thing moving in an expanse of static trees and rocks and bush. Only, those trees aren’t static, are they? With a soft focus, I see the leaves sway side-to-side in figure eights. Like the trees are dancing.

***

The quarterly office party is looking dead. I glance over at him and he’s taken over the aux cord with a childish grin on his face. We lock eyes as I hear the opening to “Mr. Brightside” playing three times as loudly as the previous song. He’s miming a lasso, so I reluctantly stroll toward the centre of the conference room. He comes toward me jumping up and down like he’s at a concert, the kind of jumping you only see when you’re in the first three rows. Within thirty seconds, the entire room is jumping up and down like they’re at a concert in the first three rows. He has that energy.

***

SHIT. Focus, remember? So that you don’t end up in the mud? Okay, one foot flat, aaaand we’re up. Forest. Walking. I can do this. He’d have loved this. Especially the part where I fall face first into the flat ground I tripped on.

What was that?! I spin around. No one. I look down to find a violent scrap between… chipmunks? Since when were chipmunks that aggressive?

***

“It just seems like when we hang out with them, you don’t really want to be there.” He tells me.

“Sorry I’m not ALL HIGH ENERGY like you ALL THE TIME.”

“It’s not ‘ALL THE TIME,’ just whenever we hang out with my college friends.”

“Maybe I don’t really want to hang out with your new friends.” I’m callous.

“Seriously?! I don’t have to invite you, I am just trying to keep you in my life, sue me, fuck.” He’s yelling.

“Fuck off. Don’t pity me, it’s annoying.”

“I don’t pity you. I love you.” He’s looking me dead in the eyes.

No, not dead. He’s full of life.

“You’re actually the worst. I love you too, loser.”

***

He could aggravate me so much. Maybe those chipmunks were just best friends, too. That’s a lot of blood, though.

It always seemed like I had more animal encounters when he was around. Like they were drawn to him. Can’t say I’ve seen a bear in the last year.

It’s been a year.

The rain’s gone and yeah, okay, I GET IT. The air smells amazing. The beauty after a torrential downpour in a hundreds-years-old forest is indescribable. I mean, look at this mushroom. It’s perfect. These tiny droplets of water on its glossy skin don’t even look real. Is it called skin? The red part?

Sparkles. Those are, they’re not, spores? I get close. I see spores falling near the mushroom cap, glistening in the light. Individual spores falling... upward? I follow their motion to the red cap. The red cap that now has white polka dots.

***

“Last one.” He smirks as he paints the final white circle.

“What the hell is this?”

“An Earth Day present! Your mailbox has been recycled into a mushroom.”

“It’s not Earth Day.”

“I don’t think anyone knows when it is, anyway?” He shrugs. He’s not just brought a paintbrush. He’s holding a palette. For one colour. And that’s a beret on his head.

Didn’t get past the painted moustache on my first take.

“My mom is gonna kill me.”

“It’s possible, but that’s not what your present’s for. You’re SUPPOSED to get positive vibes on your walk to check the mail. Right before you get all antsy about college app responses. You know, forest serenity and all that.”

He knows I’ve been anxious. A relief like a warm hug passes over me, and I want to say that I feel his sincerity in my heart.

But people don’t really say that to their friends. So I just say, “thanks.”

I hope he knew what that meant.

***

That’s a fern. A green fern. A very definitely green fern and not a bright red mushroom. Did I move? It was here somewhere, right? I probably zoned out for a minute. Sometimes that’s the point of these walks. To get a bit lost, and remember how much he loved to get lost in this forest when we were kids.

I take a side trail. Or, an overgrown path that looks bushwhacked by a deer. Maybe I’d see one if he was here right now. But he’s not. So, no deer.

I can still feel him, though. Out here, every day.

I freeze in my tracks.

Big bear. Big, big bear. But, we shouldn’t have grizzlies on this mountain.

I slowly, awkwardly, look down and start to back away. Only before I get more than three steps, the bear nonchalantly lowers itself to all fours, and walks away.

I collapse under a cedar, shocked. For fuck’s sa– wait. The moss on that cedar. Does it look like, letters? No. Except, it does. I don’t understand. And maybe I don’t have to. And maybe someone just had fun with an art project or maybe I’m losing my mind but my heart hurts when I read

“Happy Earth Day”

July 16, 2021 18:59

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4 comments

Charlie Murphy
16:18 Jul 24, 2021

This feels disconnected. I understand they're lovers and she got a gift, but everything else feels disconnected. Maybe it's me, But, great job, anyway!

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Hugh Thakkar
19:35 Jul 24, 2021

Thanks for your comment, Charlie. Any specific areas or aspects you're referring to that read as disconnected? My aim was to represent a consciousness unfocused with loss in the forest scenes, grounded only by the flashbacks we see triggered by this mental haze. If those transitions can be more cohesive, I'd appreciate your feedback! p.s. In writing, I imagined a friendship, but the relationship between our MC and him is ambiguous and open to your interpretation!

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Charlie Murphy
22:14 Jul 24, 2021

Oh! Stream of consciousness! That makes sense. Thanks for clearing it up. Can you read my story?

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Hugh Thakkar
20:02 Jul 27, 2021

Sure, I'll take a look :)

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