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Avery James

Mama tells him to be back by 6:15 to wash up for dinner. He’s not sure of the time when he leaves.

Today he takes a new route to the clearing a mile behind his house. Sun warms his back as he travels beside the cement path. He claims dead, wild things as he walks.

In the distance down a hill, a woman stands petrified in wood, arms outstretched, fingers splitting to brown, slender wands. Pale petals erupt from fingertips like magic. Her trunk swells to hips, tapers to thighs to calves to ankles and finally to roots unseen in the soil. He leaves the hard trail behind for a closer look. A fat, green bundle leans against her ankles. He claims it with dimpled hands.

Every night before bed, Mama reads him Greek history. Where gods become men and men become monsters and women become trees. This, in his hand, must be her heart— lightly-furred with a thick vein dried brown with old blood.

Perseus took a woman’s head. Jason took a woman’s world. He wonders, wandering further, if this makes him hero.

That night as everyone shares their day’s stories around the table, he announces he’s slain a dryad. He holds out his prize for his family to see.

“Silly boy,” Papa says. “Don’t you know a magnolia pod from a fairytale?”

And everyone laughs.

“Oh,” he said.

Air and time squeezed life out of that drying, gaping thing. Over the next week, it cracked and bled red seeds across his toy chest. He was no hero.

Mama told him to be back by 6:15 to wash up for dinner. He left at 5:47.

He went to where the man-made trail overlooked everything Other. His shadow told time beneath the sun. He set the darkened knot atop the hill. Watched it roll back to its roots.

Fall, 2016 Issue

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