I am participating in the “Story a Day in May” challenge (see http://StoryADay.org for more details). The goal is to write a complete story each day. Today’s piece actually meets two challenges: not only does it count as my Story a Day, but a second challenge which was “Take a poem or story and rewrite it as a story or poem, and post the two together.” So, I did.
her hands smell
of gasoline she touches
my face — I hear the cicadas
every secret in her
ear before I’m ready
to confess the heat
makes me crazy
in love and she
“I told you it would be worth it,” I panted, dragging the back of my sweaty hand across my sweaty forehead. I pointed back down the hill the way we had come, sweeping the sky from side to side. “See? Suisun. Fairfield. Lagoon Valley. Vacaville. You can see all of it from up here. A hundred miles, easy.”
She turned and stuck her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, studying the panorama quietly. “Okay, fine,” she gave in and smiled, “you’re right: it’s beautiful. You still owe me new jeans, though.”
“That’s totally worth it, too,” I said, grinning, still trying to catch my breath from the hike to the top of the hill. “I knew you’d like it.” How was she not out of breath, like me? I sat down to rest, and motioned for her to join me. Instead, she smiled and turned back to the view.
I laid back into the tall, dry grass and let my eyes close against the sun. It was August. Three weeks ago, it had rained; a good summer downpour that had drenched trees and soaked into the soil. Already, the hills had long forgotten the storm and missed the moisture: we’d passed wooden sign at the bottom of the trail that quietly declared, in old yellow letters, “Oak Ridge Trail — Today’s Fire Danger: High.” I wasn’t sure the sign had ever been changed, but for today, at least, it was correct.
The crunching of grass close by told me she had walked over to me. I realized for the first time the cicadas—everywhere and nowhere at once—were so loud that I hadn’t even hear her approaching until she was next to me. I smiled without opening my eyes as I felt her sit near me, so near I was sure I could distinguish her heat from the heat of the dry hill underneath me.
“Lay down by me. It’s great. We could just stay here forever,” I said. She didn’t answer, and so, shielding my face from the bright sun with my hand, I opened my eyes and looked up at her. She sitting with her back downhill, so that she was facing me. The sun behind her turned her head into a silhouette, so I couldn’t see her eyes. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing,” she said. I sat up halfway and leaned on one arm. Looking down at her crossed legs, I put out one finger and traced the frayed tear on her calf where her jeans had caught on the barbed wire fence. Crossing through it had been the only way to get up here.
“Sorry about that. I really will get you some new jeans.” I smiled. She smiled. Definitely worth it.
She reached toward my cheek. I let her soft hand touch my face. It smelled sweetly of gasoline, and I thought of roses and perfume and soap operas and everything feminine I could imagine wrapped up in that smell.
“I’m so content,” she sometime said, maybe once, maybe twice; the lazy droning of the cicadas faded her words into their sound and echoed it back to me. I could hear them whispering through the weeds, buzzing softly of pink curtains and bubble baths and—
“I love you,” I said. Suddenly; sincerely. “I love you, August.”
She kept her hand on my face and giggled. “What are you talking about?” she said through a grin.
I closed my eyes.
“I love you,” I said again, and believed it.