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Today's Story by Greta Igl

I opened my mouth and choked on hair and something acrid. His weight pressed on me, heavier and heavier.

The Flight of Seeds

We flew over the hills, our hair strewn around us like gold halos, as Cissy’s wheezing station wagon chewed up the black taffy road. Black and white cows watched our passing with cud-chewing indifference, their heads barely swiveling as we moved past. The world was a blur; we tumbled through it.

Cissy shook her head and moaned.

“Why aren’t they coming?” She clung to the wheel, her long, bare leg jammed up against mine. Her blonde hair stuck to my damp face, long webby strands I couldn’t untangle from.

“I don’t know,” I told her.

I was crying, but I wasn’t sure why. I wanted to see Bobby. I burned with the need of it. My heart tripped over its cadence, then collapsed. I pushed through a veil and there he was again, just like I’d never even left, waiting by the ferris wheel, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans.

“You’re here.” He smiled, dimple pushed into his cheek, eyes melty as he took my hand.

I rested my head on his shoulder, neck oddly bent and listened as the car rocked and creaked on its bolts. Hamburger smoke billowed from a tiny concession wagon at our feet. Bobby sang a soft song, his voice crackling, as we flew through the clouds.

Then the smoke swirled around us (or was it clouds?) and my eyes burned and everything blazed so very hot. Sharp tar tang pierced through the burned smell of roasting meat. The fields turned orange and shimmered like a curtain. Bobby reached a hand toward me, then lurched backwards, away.

“Don’t go, Carolee,” he said. I reached out for him, but our hands missed and I caught nothing.

We flew over the golden hills. White and yellow daisies blinked and swayed under the hot sun. Down in a low area, a stand of cattails dried in the cracked mud, their brown heads faded and patched with cottony seeds. And my eyes clouded over as I thought of Bobby on the ferris wheel, of the way our forearms pressed, skin touching as it rested on the gate. He’d turned his hand palm up and I’d slipped my hand into his, fingers intertwining. He’d pulled my arm to him and pressed a kiss to my burning temple. Then the ride lurched and we rose into the sky, my heart soaring with it. Potter’s Lake glittered like a fistful of diamonds in the distance. Bobby pressed my head onto his shoulder, his hand warm on my hair.

“We’ll get cotton candy after this,” he said, “then take a walk in the woods.” He smelled like hamburgers and soap from the shower.

My heart skittered as I thought of breathing in his warm skin.

From somewhere, a cow lowed, a deep sound resonant with misery. The heat was intolerable, but I couldn’t escape it. Something crackled all around me, but Cissy’s hair blanketed my face.

I saw Bobby over me, our bodies pressed inch-for-inch as we lay under the weeping branches of a bridal veil. The ground was cool and damp in the way of hidden places. Bobby’s curls were tangled from my hands running through them. He brushed hair from my face with a flickering hand.

“I love you, Carolee,” he said, eyes feverish. “You know I love you.”

His hardness pressed against me. My own softness quivered. My throat clogged. Fear spiraled through me.

“I…I can’t.”

His face fell and his disappointment seared me. I reached a hand toward him—Bobby?—but he rolled away.

“Please,” he said. “Please. Just go.”

I scrambled from the bush, small branches tearing at my hair, my bare arms.

“The hell with him,” Cissy said, as we marched to the car.

Dandelion seeds floated past us like snow. I put my arm out the window and rode the wind waves up and down as the station wagon flew over the hills. We drove past prickly purple coneflowers, past red and white barns, past endless torpid cows. In the distance, a baler churned out huge cylinders of hay.

I thought of Bobby, of the day I’d imagined, of corn dogs and taffy and holding hands. We’d go on rides. I’d squelch my fear. We’d go to the woods and, finally, I’d be his and he, mine. But, everything had changed.

“I think we’re lost,” Cissy said, turning to look at me.

A cow stepped into the road.

The car slid sideways with a screech. The dandelion seeds moved past in slow motion. I splayed my fingers to catch them, but they floated through my open hand, then the world flipped to gold grass. I felt Bobby’s love for me, running warm down my face. I saw him, smiling down at me.

“I love you, Carolee. You know I do.” His fingers held my cold hand.

I opened my mouth and choked on hair and something acrid.

His weight pressed on me, heavier and heavier. The orange sky haloed his messy curls. He held my hand in his burning hot one. Fire seared my lungs. Bobby’s fingers slipped from mine. I clutched nothing but dry, golden grass.

I closed my eyes and drifted with the seeds.


Greta Igl has been published by numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Every Day Fiction, Boston Literary Magazine, and Word Riot. Her short story, “In Limbo” was nominated for the 2009 storySouth Million Writers award. She is currently at work on her novel, Jamieson’s Folly.


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