“Marshmallow Trees”

(This is fairly recent considering the ancient stuff I have posted on here. It was probably written somewhere around 2010. For whatever reason, I remember specifics about the reason for the title, but I did not remember how complete (or close to complete) the story really is. There are a few things I wanted to change, and their were a few minor spiff-ups accomplished, but the overall tone and the banter between the two characters made me content with how it is written right now. It was nice to revisit a piece that I hadn’t looked at in, at least, 5 years. I have always had trouble being satisfied with the endings in many of my stories. I think this is one of the reasons why many of my collection currently have no endings. Well…that and procrastination, distraction, etc. It happens. Anyways, feel free to let me know how you feel about the ending. Enjoy!)

 

Frost crisply crackled under Bill’s boots as he trudged across the harvested cornfield. It had been fifteen years since he had held a gun, let alone used one to hunt quail. Steven talked him into it and Bill figured it was like riding a bike. The field, which was unleveled from a recent harvest, felt awkward under his feet. Bill’s right ankle was aching from an earlier twist / fall at the beginning of the morning, but he didn’t want to show he was hurt; Steven would give him shit about being old and out of shape.

Look up. Do you see that?

What is it?

Marshmallow, I think.

I didn’t think marshmallow was a tree. I think it is a plant

Nah.

I think so.

Nah.

Ok.

Why would you way that?

Just ‘cause.

There was a slight breeze that split the branches and leaves that Bill and Steven were looking at. It wasn’t anything that could be heard, but Bill could feel his skin goose-pimple up.

When did you get so goddamn smart?

When I realized that I could be. You helped me feel good about myself.

I did?

You did.

How in the fuck did I do that? I can’t even make myself feel good.

Well, you do a good job making others feel important. Maybe you should feel good about yourself for that gift.

Maybe. I want something a little more that that though.

Like what?

Being cool.

You are.

Not really.

Why are you so against yourself?

I have been this way since a kid.

That doesn’t mean that you have to remain that way now.

Old habits and mindsets are hard to break.

Ok. Well, you are the only one that can change your mind.

Bullshit.

Huh?

Bullshit. There are things out there that can change one’s mind.

Like?

Pills.

Pills? You want pills? You wanna be a robot?

I don’t know. I probably couldn’t afford them nor do I have the connivance skills to win a quack for some samples. But…yeah! Yeah I want ‘em. I want to be a goddamn fucking robot, motherfucker! I want to be a Robocop motherfucker.

Why? Wouldn’t it suck to be stupid and controlled? You should read that Ballard story, — what was it called?? – “The Subliminal Man,” I think. It is about these big fucking billboards that stretch for miles on end and are placed everywhere, I mean FUCKING E-V-E-R-Y-WHERE!. Anyway…these signs control people’s minds. For example, if the sign started blinking “You must buy Rolaids” everybody would go buy fucking Rolaids no matter how many Rolaids they already had at home. Can you believe that? I mean, somebody…some really sick motherfucker with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or some shit like that, could be stockpiling Rolaids in his den, yet when these signs would blink “Buy Rolaids,” his ass would be back in Targets buying Rolaids.

Target.

Hmmm?

Tar-GET, not TargetS

What are you talkin’ about?

You say the names of many stores in plural. Why do you do that?

You are a nit-picking motherfucker, you know that Billy boy. How’s the ankle?

Not bad. I just gave it a little twist. It’s cool.

Ok. You sure? I figure that musta hurt like fucking shit man. I haven’t seen someone actually fall due to a “little twist,” but weirder things have happened. Oh well.

Could have fucked me up, but I guess I am just a bad motherfucker. There is really no other excuse.

 

Bill stopped as he heard some leaves rustling nearby. He turned around to his right, slowly, and witnessed a fox creeping into nearby brush. The fox was old or sick because one rarely sees such an elusive animal, especially with the amount of banter and illicit language used between the two men, in the daytime.

He could see its eyes; it knew Bill knew it was there. At one point, it was so engaging to be eye to eye with this phenom, that Bill felt a strange sense of ease sweep over him. It was one of those experiences, those moments of epiphany that one can never really explain because it has to be felt, lived, known. Truly known.

Bill tried not to move. To lose this feeling would have been tragic. The fox eyes glowed mysteriously subtle green/blue. Like looking at water in a swimming pool. So beautiful were the eyes, he could see, what seemed like, tiny prisms of red within cornea. Glorious colors pulling him in like a soft-tractor beam.

 

I think tomorrow would be a good day to get it checked out.

 

Bill was pulled back from his trance. It seemed like he had been looking for an hour, studying intricacies, feeling one with another soul, utopia. It had only been a few minutes. He whispered:

Fuck man.

Bill turned around to the rustling of leaves again to only find leaves. No fox could be seen. It was over. The moment was gone.

 

What?

Fox.

A fox?

Yeah. A pretty cool one.

Yeah?

Yeah.

Foxes are cool.

Is that all you got?

What do you mean?

Foxes are cool?

Yeah, man.

No fucking shit, man. That is stupid.

Why?

You are stupid.

You just got done saying I was smart a few minutes ago.

Minutes?

Yeah. We haven’t been here that long.

I know.

 

Bill looked down at his left boot. A rock was lodged in the new space between his sole and the leather. He knew because of the slight pressure against his second toe. It wasn’t a small rock but it had a jagged point that lodged itself into the front just enough to feel discomfort but still walk on. Leaning down to pull it out, he noticed the tip of a tail through the rock ledge ahead. While his left hand grabbed the tip of the rock, his right eyes watched the tail slightly sway, like a cat watching a toy, back and forth, left and right, like the pocket-watch of a stereotypical hypnotist.

 

Bill…?

 

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

The tranquil motion of the tail was serene.

A pocket watch swaying back and forth.

Snake like.

Bill…?

 

Black and red and white. Against the gray ground, cracked, moisture inside the lip of the crack, slightly changing the color a brownish gray. The tale clashed in color to the dulls of the ground, catching Bill’s attention just enough to make it the center of his universe at that moment.


(12/12/19)

He described himself as “a quiet cool.”

“I don’t like talking, especially about me,” Nathan told a few people at his first AA meeting.

“It’s not about LIKING anything,” Harold yelled from across the room. “Did you LIKE coming here?”

“No.

“But you came anyways, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then who gives a Goddamn about what you like?”

Harold, a “retired” wino with more years of sobriety than Nathan had been alive, never pulled any punches.

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