Xeriscape

“If everyone waters their lawn, and pours chemicals on it to keep the grass growing, and green, is there something wrong?” Jake knew the answer. Everything was wrong. Everything about the world he lived in was wrong. A lawn wasn’t supposed to look like a putting green on a golf course. Not in his neighborhood. Not in his city. Not in his state. “This ain’t no rain forest.”

Jake knew the water supply was not infinite, it would run out. And then what would people do. mow the sand their lawn turned into? He wasn’t going to play the lawn game, that was for his neighbors. The children. The people who refused to grow up. Who wanted the value of their homes to go up and up, year after year, forever.

He didn’t water his lawn. Ever. He put stone walkways through his yard, not brick, not paved. Stone. Plain rocks that could be found everywhere. “It’s outdoors, you should wear shoes to protect your feet. Or flip-flops, or sandals.

He didn’t spread grass seed, or fertilizer on his lawn. No weed killers, no insecticides. Let the bugs, worms, and weeds do what they wished. The neighbors worried about mice, moles, snakes, lizards, turtles, rabbits. Not Jake. If they liked his yard, he was OK with that. Let them escape the chemical nightmares of the neighbors.

Jake picked natural ground covers for the area. Sparse grasses of all kinds, vines, bushes, trees. He even had natural, wild Vinca growing in his backyard. A natural ground cover, he hadn’t planted it. So, while the neighbors spent oceans of time and money, and poured thousands of gallons of water on their lawns, he enjoyed to Vinca blossoms in his backyard.

He had other wildflowers growing in his backyard. There were bugbane, buttonweed, white clover, and maybe even some primrose. His neighbors didn’t have any wildflowers of any kind. They had tulips, and daffodils, roses, begonias, petunias. All the flowers the hardware store sold. None of them native to the area. Except maybe for the azaleas.

“I wish buttercups would grow back there.”

Jake mowed his lawn, like everyone in the neighborhood. But, he didn’t have to mow it every week. And he never caught the grass, and put it in clear plastic bags for the trash people to pick up every week. He mulched his grass cuttings, let them stay in his yard, let them turn back into dirt. The mulch helped his lawn hold water from the dew each morning. It protected the roots of the grasses from the heat of the sun. “I wonder why I’m the only one doing this?”

He knew the neighbors wished his yard looked like theirs. With the same kind of grass, the same color of green. The same sculpted flower beds. It didn’t. And he didn’t want it to. Jake wished his neighbors would xeriscape their lawns. It was the natural thing to do.


It’s April 29th, the 25th day of the A to Z Challenge 2015. This is the 24th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April for the challenge. This one’s for the letter X. Tomorrow brings the letters Y and Z. I wonder what I’ll write for them.

#MWBB Week 2.42 – Ishq Love and the Veil

It would be sunrise in twenty minutes. It was time to set up my tent and prepare for another day of survival in a virtual oven. I dropped my backpack, pulled out my tiny tent, an a-frame tent, with lightweight aluminum poles, not fiberglass. The aluminum worked better for me. Made the tent easier to set up.

After my tent was ready, I grabbed my camera from the pack, then tossed the pack in the tent, sleeping bag and all. Soon, I’d have to hide inside for what would feel like endless hours. I adjusted the rain fly to block as much sand as possible. I knew it would be as much as twenty degrees cooler in the tent than outside.

It was day six of ten. I’d planned my trip for a year. A year of physical torture, walking miles in the heat of summer, learning to find water where I could, learning to set up water capture netting. Learning to eat what I could find. How to live off the desert. I’d even had to spend three days and nights in Death Valley solo to earn the right for my trip.

I walked along the netting. I’d set it up at the first sign of fog. You can taste the water in the air. I threw the netting up, and prayed I’d catch enough water to fill a glass or two. Enough to get through the next day.

I’d reversed the entire schedule. Walk at night, hide in the tent during the day. During the night I needed less water. At night it was cold as hell, but in a jacket, hauling 50 pounds of gear, I burned enough energy the cold didn’t bother me so much. And it certainly beat walking beneath a sun that could fry an egg in minutes on sand that could melt car tires.

Yeah. I know. “Why would anyone want to cross the desert?” You ask, ‘cause you ain’t me. You don’t know what I go through, working five days a week, in a job that’s trying to kill my soul. You don’t know what it’s like when you can’t say what you feel, what you think, because what you feel and think are wrong, and you’ll get told again, “You can’t be that way.” Or, “That’s wrong! You’re wrong!”

Daily life kills me. One bit at a time. One thread at a time, my rope frays away. Until I have no choice and have to escape. I have to escape everything. Phones. Radios. TV. News papers. The internet. The civilized world we’ve made. I have to escape it all.

This year, I escaped to the desert. Where no one could reach me. No one could tell me what to feel. What to think. How to live. In the desert, I was alone. All the voices that haunted me every day were gone. All the rights and wrongs were gone. All the good and evil, gone. All that mattered was survival. All that mattered was my next breath, my next heartbeat, my next swallow of water, my next meal. All the lies, the myths, the artificial things made by mortal men, fell away. The veil of civilization was cast aside.

And I was free.

And I was alive.

Once I knew the net was right, and was collecting what water it could from the ground fog, I turned Eastward, and waited. Soon, the sun would rise. And the colors of the world would come to life once more. The black sky, and black sand would light up with color. Golds, reds, oranges, pinks, yellows. High, thin, wispy, pink and orange cirrus clouds painted against a pale pink sky.

It was stunning. Just like life, without that veil we hide it behind.

628 Words
@LurchMunster


This is my entry for Year 2, Week 42 (Week 2.42) of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. This week the prompt is the song, “Ishq Love and the Veil” by Niyaz. Please, go read the other stories in the challenge.

#MondayMixer : In The Badlands

In two days all Sir Reston had seen was  dirt, rocks, boulders, barren hills and mountains, strange, giant potholes and scruffy brush. There were no people, buildings, homes, roads, trails, or even trees anywhere.

At least they left him his bilbo when they dumped him in the middle of the prosaic badlands of South Dakota with no food, and no water. He’d set his shirt on some rocks the first night, so it could collect dew. He’d managed to wring out a couple of swallows of water from his shirt, but it wasn’t enough. He needed to find more water. Soon.

He swore, if he found water, and survived, he would find the people who left him in the badlands. And he would make them pay for what they’d done to him. But first, he had to find water in the badlands. He had to survive to get his revenge.

150 Words
@LurchMunster


I wrote this little ditty for Jeffery Hollar‘s weekly Monday Mixer flash fiction challenge. Please, go read all the other entries in this week’s challenge. They are all well crafted.

#55WordChallenge : The Fence, Part 11

The cabin’s interior was spartan, old, and unkempt. Mold and vines grew on all the surfaces. She explained, “This is a transfer station.”

“Who are you?”

“You’ll figure it out.” She opened a panel on the wall and pulled out two bottles of water. “Here.” As we drank the water she said, “Now, we wait.”

55 words
@LurchMunster


This is the 11th part of the serial story I’m working on for Lisa McCourt Hollar‘s weekly #55WordChallenge flash fiction challenge. Please, go read all the other entries in the challenge this week. It’s flat amazing what gifted writers can say in just 55 words.

#MidWeekBluesBuster 12 : Sea Of Love

I sat on my towel, on the sand, watching the calm, blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Feeling the soft breeze flowing from the Gulf to the shore in the early morning, while the ground was still colder than the water.

I closed my eyes, and felt what little hair I had left moving in that breeze. I felt the sunshine on my face. I listened to the quiet, calm surf of the Gulf. I’d told her, once, it was like the Gulf was a giant swimming pool, with calm water, and peaceful waves.

Sitting there, it was like I could reach out, take her hand, feel her fingers interlace through mine, feel the warmth of her skin, the delicate, graceful lines of each finger. It was, of course, nothing more than a memory. I’d never see her again, at least, not in this world. No one would ever see her again.

She was gone. Beyond the veil of life. Where I couldn’t yet follow. Where I couldn’t yet reach.

But every year I returned to the Gulf. To her favorite strip of sand. She’d always loved it there. I used to watch her get up before the sun, spray herself down with insect repellent, and walk out to the shore in her swimsuit, barefoot, with nothing but an old Wal-Mart shopping bag.

I used to follow her out, taking a long, two-hour walk on the shore. I always saw her as I walked out and back. She’d be there, up to her ankles in the Gulf’s waters, peering into the sand, looking for shells. And I always loved to watch her. Such a simple thing, searching for shells at the beach. Most people would ignore her.

They never saw what I saw. The brilliant blue light shining in her eyes. A light that I could never see enough. A light connected to my heart. The gentle smile on her face that said everything in the world was OK. That made me feel alive.

Sitting on the sand every year, I always wished I could see her one more time. Watch her searching for shells, with her eyes so very much alive, and he smile driving away all the hurt and pain of the world.

I couldn’t. I knew that. She was gone.

All I could do was sit on the sand. And remember.

All the times we’d visited the Gulf. All the times I’d walked along the water’s edge with her, holding her hand in mine. All the times the world just went away, and left me alone with her. Happy. Every year I took long walks by the water. Watching the clouds and the calm, relaxing waves. Remembering the days my heart was still alive. The days my soul still cared for life.

Remembering her.

471 Words
@LurchMunster


Trying Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge again. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.

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#FSF : Delicate

Imagine our surprise when the delicate flower of the office, Amanda, showed up at my house for the Super Bowl Party, wearing denim jeans, a pair of old Nikes, a copy of Ray Lewis’s Baltimore Ravens jersey, Ravens purple nail polish on her fingernails, Ravens purple stripes in her platinum blond hair, and Ravens purple stripes beneath her eyes. She was carrying a six pack of Mike’s Hard Winter Blackberry, which was a good match for Ravens purple, a giant bag of Doritos Jacked Smoky Chipotle BBQ chips, and a tub of Tostitos Hot Chunky salsa. “Go Ravens!” she screamed as she walked in, heading straight for my sofa and my big screen TV, plunking everything down on the coffee table, and wedging herself between two of the guys on the sofa, which the guys didn’t mind at all.
Lemme tell ya, delicate had nothing to do with that girl watching the Super Bowl game that day, the way she hissed like some angry, wet cat whenever the Niners scored, and cheered and chugged Mikes like it was water when the Ravens scored, nothing at all. Me and the boys had so much fun watching her, we plum forgot about the game, and wound up inviting her to come over and watch all the games in the next NFL season.


Here’s my third attempt at Lillie McFerrin‘s weekly flash fiction challenge, Five Sentence Fiction. This week, the prompt is Delicate.

Please, go read all the other entries to this week’s Five Sentence Fiction. It’s amazing what creative people can do with just five sentences.

#VisDare 4 – Stairs

I’d seen the stairs countless times. No one knew where they went. We only knew those that climbed the stairs never came back.

Our lights were our sun, they defined our days. We worked when they were on, we slept when they were off. There was no sun, no sky, no clouds. Only stone walls and rock ceilings everywhere. Our open spaces were our green houses and animal farms. Our water came from aquifers, and we only used what we needed for the farms, and ourselves. This was how things had always been.

But the stairs were always there, tugging me toward them. Until the day I started climbing. I climbed for endless hours until I saw a bright light ahead of me. It drew me in, like a candle draws a moth. I climbed out of the only world I’d ever known, into the light of day.

150 Words
@LurchMunster


This piece marks my first attempt at Angela Goff’s Visual Dare, a weekly flash fiction challenge. It was fun, and I will try it again. Please read the other entries in this week’s Visual Dare challenge.

#12DaysBop : Day 8 – It’s Only Water. Nothing More.

It’s day 8 of Stacy Hoyt’s 12 Days Of Christmas Blog Hop. Today, the prompt is seas…


They say the ocean doesn’t care for anyone, anywhere. Like the land, the sky, the rocks, it simply is. That without the animals and plants living in its depths, the ocean is just water. Cold. Unfeeling. And uncaring. Only water. Nothing more.

They say people see what they want to see. They have given the ocean a personality. A name. And a behavior. Calling it the harsh mistress of the sea. A dangerous place that’s taken countless lives. A graveyard for ships through the centuries.

But I know when I walk upon the sand, down by the water’s edge, it hears every whisper, every voice. It hears laughter and tears both. It knows, and it hears. How else would it know when to make a wish come true?

Like when its waves form fractured mirrors, reflecting the sunlight, like the sun was striking diamonds floating on the surface of the sea. Or when it rests just calm enough so you can see the dolphins as they swim along the beach. Like when the crashing of the waves upon the shore can soothe the aching of your heart, and calm your fears, so you can sleep at night.

Like now. As I stand here. By the water’s edge, as the sun slowly inches into sight far to the East. Its light melting away the blackness of the night, and bring back to life, the colors of the world. As if it’s reminding me there’s always hope. Dawn always comes. And life moves on.

I think I’ll stand here for a time. And reach out with my heart. And let the power of the ocean heal the wounds deep in my soul.


Please go enjoy the rest of the stories in the blog hop. There are some really gifted writers out there. It’s well worth reading their work. You can find the other entries here:

The 12 Days Of Christmas Blog Hop, Day 8 – The Gift Of Seas

Fairies : For Rose (Part 6)

Sword slept in on the fifth day of his journey. He didn’t mean to. But he was so exhausted he couldn’t help it. By the time he woke the day was half gone. When he woke up, he found he was surrounded by birds and squirrels.

One of the squirrels had a rose stem in its mouth. With a beautiful yellow rose bloom on it. The bloom had bright red edges on each petal. The squirrel walked up to Sword, and put the rose in his lap. Then he squeaked several times, and walked back where he’d come from. At that point, Mystica popped out of nowhere, and said, “It’s from Rose. She sent her friends to check on you.”

“Mystica?”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not really here. I’m just communicating. Figured I’d say good afternoon, and tell you what was going on.”

Sword smiled, and shook his head. “I’m just tired.” At which point his stomach growled, and he added, “And hungry.”

“Obviously,” Mystica smiled. And up walked several squirrels, making a small pile of nuts in front of Sword. “The squirrels told Rose they’d make sure you ate something.”

Sword looked at the nuts. Acorns. Walnuts. Pecans. Pine nuts. All kinds of nuts. He looked at the squirrels, “Thank you, my friends.”

“Well,” Mystica spoke, “I’ll be going now. You just follow the birds. They’ll guide you down the shortest path to get here. And they’ll make sure you find plenty to eat.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” Mystica smiled. “Rose asked them to.” And with that, the image of Mystica was gone.

Sword looked at the nuts, wondering how to open some them. It was like the squirrels could read his mind. One picked up two nuts, and cracked them together. Sword watched as the shells on the nuts cracked, and the squirrel was able to pull the nuts out.

“So. I’m having nuts for breakfast today,” he shook his head, and smiled. “Mom won’t ever believe this one.” And he sat there, with the squirrels, cracking nuts open and eating them. And every time he had problems opening up a nut, the squirrels would show him how. It was actually a lot of fun. And by the time the nuts were gone, he was laughing, and smiling, with a couple of squirrels in his lap, and one on each shoulder.

When he was ready to resume his journey, he said good-bye to his squirrel friends, shaking hands with each of them, and watching as they disappeared into the trees. He couldn’t help but smile. “It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

A couple of sparrows landed at his feet, and flapped their wings. Then they flew off toward the West, and a couple of red-winged blackbirds flew to his feet. They also flew toward the west. And Sword realized the birds were saying, “Follow us.”

So he did just that. Moving from tree to tree, following the birds. Always there were birds that flew from the tree he was in, to the next tree he should move to. Sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, robins, bluejays, and even a few cardinals. Sword watched them all. He’d never realized how pretty birds were. He’d never studied the grace they moved with. And he had so much fun following them, watching them, listening to them sing.

When he got thirsty, he stopped, and declared he needed water to drink. And the birds showed him where the closest water was. Sometimes, to his surprise, the water was in the leaves of the trees. Sometimes, in little puddles in small indentations where limbs branched off from the tree trunk. He found he didn’t have to go down to the ground to find a drink.

The birds also showed him where nuts, and berries were up in the trees. And they watched him as he ate. He watched the birds too, and was surprised by how much they ate. The birds ate all the time. It was like they were born to eat. He never knew birds ate so much. But when he thought about it a bit, it made sense. The way the birds were always moving. Always flying around. They had to use a lot of energy. They would get hungry. And so, they would eat. All the time.

And every time he stopped to eat or drink, the birds would sing songs to him. Sometimes, a cardinal would even land on one of his shoulders, and just sing up a storm. And the songs always felt happy, making Sword smile as he ate.

As the sun started to set, the birds led him to a bigger tree. And he was surprised to find a set of branches that had formed a little flat floor. No other word applied. And there was a pile of leaves that could act as a pillow for his head to rest on. And a big pile of nuts and berries for him to eat.

He knew the floor was Mystica’s work. She’d spoken to the trees, and used her white magic to give him a place to sleep.

That night, Sword slept very well indeed. Thanks to the birds and squirrels, he wasn’t nearly as hungry as he’d been when he woke up. And having a flat surface to sleep on, and a pillow. As tired as he was, how could he not like sleeping on those.

And as he slept that night, he swore he could hear flute music. Beautiful flute music. Playing a tune he’d never heard. One that made him feel safe. And welcome. And loved. One that reminded him of friends he hadn’t seen in months.

Sword slept with a smile on his face that night. And dreamed sitting by the edge of the lake, with Rose. Holding her hand. And he knew that on the 6th day of his journey, he’d reach the lake. And maybe make that dream come true.

Fairies : For Rose (Part 3)

On the first night of his journey, Scream found he didn’t sleep well at all. He kept waking up, afraid he would fall out of the tree. So, with the coming of the dawn, he decided he should find a good vine he could use as a rope, to hold himself in place while he slept at night. Or, he had to learn to sleep on the ground, which his mother had suggested he not do. He also noticed that he slept bent at funny angles, so he was stiff, and sore when he woke up. And sleeping in a tree, he felt as if his body had tried to conform to the shape of the tree. It took a while for the pattern of the tree bark to fade from his skin that morning.

He concluded the journey would be a bit more difficult than he’d expected. But, that was OK. Rose and her sisters would be there at the end of his journey. He’d spend some time with them, and have fun.

He continued to move from tree to tree. The trees continued to grow taller. And the woodland changed into a forest. There was no clear line or marker. But somehow, Scream knew he’d reached the edge of the Northern Forest.

He saw several wolves that day. It amazed him how silently something the size of a wolf could move through the forest. Along the ground. Through the brush, the fallen tree limbs, and the dead leaves along the ground. From his perch high above the ground, he watched each wolf he encountered. He even followed one for a time. The wolves were not just silent. They were very quick. Able to cover large distances easily, and rapidly. And they did not tire easily.

Scream also saw an eagle. And several hawks. The eagle was majestic. The way it rode the air currents, its wings extended, catching the wind and gliding along. He saw the eagle’s tail feathers adjusting to keep its flight level. He decided that one day, he would learn to soar through the sky, effortlessly, like that eagle. Riding the wind, and not endlessly flapping his wings to just stay aloft.

The hawks flew in much the same way. But they flew lower, closer to the ground. And they used their wings more frequently. Scream was surprised to see a hawk fold its wings, and plummet toward the ground, extending its wings just before reaching the ground, extending its talons, and capturing a small rabbit as it flapped its wings and returned to the sky. The hawk had landed in a tree, and started consuming its prey.

The raw power and grace of the hawk making it’s kill convinced Scream that a skilled warrior knew, and used technique to best his opponent. A skilled warrior knew, as that hawk knew, that technique provided a warrior an edge in battle.

Scream saw many bird nests on his journey. He stayed a safe distance from them, so he didn’t frighten the parents, or their young. After seeing several bird nests, he realized he didn’t have to tie himself to a tree. He could use tree limbs and leaves to make a small, temporary nest of his own to sleep in. It would take practice, and it would take time. But he knew he could learn. And he felt that learning to build simple places to rest in the trees would allow him to sleep better on his trip, and would keep him from falling out of the tree while he slept.

“Mother,” he thought, “you were right. There is much we can learn about life simply by watching the animals. The animals were here before we were. They know how to live in the forest, in the sea, on the land.” His appreciation of his mother increased. He remembered Mystica’s home, and the homes of her daughters, in the trees. Made by the trees. How natural they were. How simple. How solid. How safe. He could learn much about living in the forest from them.

He had plenty of water to drink that day. He found a stream of water running through the forest. He realized there were a lot of streams and rivers in the forest. There was plenty of water to drink, and plenty of water for things to grow. It was something he hadn’t expected. He’d expected trees, and water to be separate. Much like the river and the lake where Rose lived. He didn’t expect them to be so thoroughly mixed together.

He decided to take a bath in one of the streams. He splashed water all over himself. Rinsing the dust, the sweat, and the dirt of his journey off. It was refreshing to feel clean. He stayed on the ground long enough to eat some dried fish, and some of the sea weed. He marveled at the way the sunlight filtered through the trees. The way he could see beams of light passing through gaps in the limbs and leaves. The way the ground was always in shadow, never brightly lit.

While he was on the ground, he got to see a couple of deer, and a raccoon visit the edge of the stream, and drink. He got to watch the raccoon stand in the stream, and watch the water. He watched as it plunged a front leg into the stream, and pulled it out, holding a small fish. He hadn’t realized raccoons had workable hands.

He took back to the trees, when he was ready, and continued his journey. That evening, as the sun began to set, he found some tree branches that had fallen. He placed them across the gap between a couple of tree limbs, and tested the resulting surface to see if it could hold his weight. He had to try several times to get the right branches, and to get them positioned properly, so they acted like a little floor between the limbs. He covered that little floor with dead leaves.

As he prepared for sleep on the second night of his journey, he thought of Rose. Of holding her hand. Of her smile, and how it made everything seem OK.  He remembered how, when he was lost, and alone, and wondered if he’d ever see his mother, and his home again, Rose had smiled at him, and held his hand.  And he felt like everything was OK. Like being lost forever wouldn’t be so bad.

That night, he slept on his own little nest in the trees. And he slept well, finding he wasn’t afraid of falling. And having dreams of walking with Rose among the trees, holding her hand, and getting to see her smile.