When to Feed the Animals

The day seemed not to notice her. The Sun made no slight dimming and brightening to announce her release into the world. The winds did not gather about and spin her in-stride as she ran through the bluegrass and rye of the great green field across the street from her home. The sky remained soaked in the same clear Azure she knew.

But someone was taking note as Emmie neared the little wood at the center of the park.

Emmie walked. Sometimes skipped a step or two. Sometimes bent to retrieve a likely stick along the woodchip path meandering to the foot bridge. She bounded up the bridge’s two rough-hewn, worn to gray, pine-board stairs.

Often it was little more than a gully, but today the stream ran strong, which was why Emmie was there. She toed the bottom crosspiece of the bridge’s picket fence and hooked her arms around the crowning crosspiece and pitched the stick up-river. Then she unhooked her arms, jumped down and darted to the downriver railing. She hung from her armpits, waiting.

The stick arrived – neither pausing to accept praise nor express its thanks – and continued navigating the fickle currents until Emmie could no longer track it.

This she did again.

And again until she was out of sticks, which arrived just as she wearied of playing. As if the sticks’ counsel had been sought in the devising of the game.

And her armpits hurt, too.

She leapt off the bridge and sometimes running sometimes skipping all times singing continued down the woodchip path. It traced a wobbly U through the little woods so that when she reemerged into the sunlight she would be facing home.


Emmie finally noticed who had been watching her. She had been standing near the bridge while Emmie played. She didn’t need to hide to be invisible; she could will it. She stepped from the shadows, muscles tracing sinuous grace, to stand in the woodchip path blocking Emmie’s way.

“Now what will you do,” asked the grey wolf. Continue reading

Walking Backward

Emmie hung from the railing by her armpits, watching her twig navigate the listless currents of the stream. Four of its predecessors had snagged themselves on a mat of branches by a Y in the stream.

“Come on. Come on.”

The twig caught itself in the tangle. Emmie sighed. Then she looked up. Someone was singing.

The light voice rose and fell amidst the breathing cadence of the woods. She tossed her fist of twigs over the railing and ran off the bridge following the stream, sometimes retreating to the woodchip path when the underbrush became too thick.

The woods were attached to the great green field across street from her home, and all of it resided within a large municipal park. A row of houses bordered the woods’ eastern edge; a branch of the stream flowed behind their back yards. Emmie stood on its embankment and peered into one of these backyards.

A girl about her age was idling on a swingset facing her house, singing.

The girl didn’t know all the lyrics. When she came to a line she couldn’t recall she half mumbled/half hurried past it. Continue reading

The Abandoned Farmhouse

Not so long ago an abandoned farmhouse was struck by lightning and caught fire. It burned through the night and into the next day. When the firefighters finally inspected it only embers smoldered in the rubble. The massive oak crossbeam supporting the roof had cracked and buckled causing the roof to collapse to the second floor. The second floor and roof crashed to the first floor which in turn caved-in to the cellar.

The lieutenant of the crew frowned at the wreckage. The corkscrewed and splintered bones of the old house were heaped in a pile nearly reaching ground level. It looked like a knot of prehistoric snakes spaded up from the center of the earth. He ordered a thorough soaking.

The lieutenant studied what remained of the second story. To his surprise a lolling section of roof rode atop the two walls still standing. It was balanced as if someone with too much time and not enough ambition had leaned two playing cards together and poised a third one just so.

He ordered his crew away from the area. The roof was going to follow the rest of the old house before long.

But it didn’t. The roof maintained its improbable poise.

Over the next few weeks village and township inspectors frowned at the blackened walls and shredded roof. Knocking it down would’ve been prudent. Having the other guy pay for it, wiser still. And so the farmhouse stayed.

The land it now teetered upon hosted a working replica of a nineteenth century farm. It backed to the small woods that were next to the great green field that was attached to the municipal park across the street from Emmie’s home. Emmie visited the farm whenever she could. She loved holding the chicks, petting Bonnie and Babe on their wide muzzles, watching the turkeys chase each other and laughing at the pigs as they rolled in the mud.

Even before the fire Emmie was fascinated by the abandoned farmhouse. She dedicated a minute or so every few visits to walking off the foot path leading to the new farmhouse, high-stepping-it through the brush choking an overgrown side path to stand in the abandoned farmhouse’s shadow.

When she came upon the farmhouse this time the devastation startled her. She shifted her eyes back and across the wreckage trying to figure out a how come. Her gaze settled on the juncture of roof and walls. She considered the bowed walls and crumpled roof magnificent. They appeared ready to keel over that second, but also like they had been set there by Druids a thousand years earlier. Both at the same time.

An iridescent flash at the crux of roof and wall caught her attention. A bird bobbed in and out of that delicate space and then flew away. Emmie watched as it graced the invisible currents between Here and There. He returned with a scrap from the woods where Emmie liked to idle. He flew to the crux of wall and roof, again bobbing in and out of view. Emmie sidled to her right, angling backward to get a better look. Continue reading

A Piece of Laughter

Esmeralda did not relish the doing of the homework.

She did, however, relish the ceasing of the badgering. And she came to appreciate how the badgering would cease upon the completing of the homework. But the appreciating of the doing of the homework? No.

Nor the getting of the smarter. What was to relish? She didn’t feel smarter. Did not feel like a different Emmie. But the ceasing of the badgering (as well as the ceasing of the “I’m very disappointed in you, Emmie-ing;” and the “sitting right there until it is finished, Emmie-ing”) she relished.

This homework assignment jabbed more needles into her rising balloon of swing-setting, hamstering, play with Lucy-ing, and laughtering than previous homework assignments.

She had to write a poem. Continue reading

Emmie and the Magic Acorn

Emmie walked up the path through the great green field across the street from her house to the friendly woods with the creek winding through them – and the creaky bridge over it – to play Poohsticks.  They were the scary woods at night, but that is a different story.


Emmie stopped.

“Psst. Oh-vuh he-uh.”

“What,” Emmie asked to nowhere.

“Over here.  Look up.”

A crow perched on the lower branch of an Oak tree, shielded by drooping leaves.

“That’s a nice shirt you got thay-uh. What’d’ya want fuh it?”

“Excuse me?”  Asked Esmeralda. Continue reading