Back to Earth

The old man placed his walker and took a step. Dirt gathered around the edges of the metal and, with the strength left from living for 87 years, he lifted the walker and took another step. He swung his body around and fell into the wooden chair. It sat low enough to the ground that he could grab the ends of the grass, running his hands across the top of the green, the tips of the blades playing in his fingerprints.

The chair was under a maple tree and a leaf with orange tips fell onto his lap. Summer keeps ending earlier and earlier, he thought. Wasn’t it only July? It might be August. It doesn’t really matter.

He looked up to the tree, trying to pick the sky out through the branches. The leaves were moving but he didn’t feel any wind. He realized the grass, that his fingertips could barely touch, was now skimming the edges of his wrist. He went to pull up his arms but grass latched on, refusing to return the pale arms, the pressure of the pulling making his waxy skin the color of a moon jelly.

He went to sit up but the fibers of his flannel shirt pooled into the pores of the wood.

Roots slowly creeped out of the dirt and intertwined with his leather boot laces, peaked into the cuff of his jeans, and weaved through the hairs on his legs as the roots creep up his calves then knees then thighs.

He looked up and the leaves moved faster. The branches trembled as they reached closer to him. The leaves brushed against his head, his shoulder, his waist feeling the grooves on his cheeks, the creases in his shirt, like a blind man getting to know his companion. The branches loop under his armpits, twirled around his arms and met up with the ends of the grass. The latched together like holding hands.

And the grass overtook him and the branches overtook him and the roots and the dirt and the earth overtook him.

Under the pressure of nature his breath quickened and his pupils darted to the edges of his eyes as he search for his walker. He went to scream, to ask for help but he didn’t  He unclenched his fists and slowed his breathing and relaxed into the embrace of the earth.

He couldn’t feel his legs or the pains in his knees. He couldn’t feel his torso or the rolling in his stomach. He couldn’t see a thing but the darkness could never be blurry if he wasn’t wearing his glasses.

Thank you, he said. And he took a breath and his lungs filled with soil.


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