Jess Underground Jul 15, 2022 9:27:03 GMT -5 beebee64 likes this
Post by nancykbrown on Jul 15, 2022 9:27:03 GMT -5
Heavy as a stone, I fall. Dozens of chickadees are pecking redwood seeds on the patio and Grandma is clipping clothes to the line. Birds scatter. Moments earlier where Redwoods along the driveway disappear into fog, I shimmied up the pole to the top of the clothesline and screamed as loud as a peacock, “Mom’s coming home.” I will not act weird. I will calm my wild self down. Everyone tells me, “Breathe,” as if I’m not. I won’t let Mom disappear again. That’s what she calls drinking and drugs; disappearing.
Grandma threw a wet towel at me to clip and hang dry. “Air-dry sheets and towels are soft as the wind in the trees.” She swoons over fresh laundry.
“Stiff and scratchy, if you ask me.” I’d laughed.
As I stretched down to clip the towel on the line, I tangled my toes in the clothesline, lost my balance and toppled headfirst toward the concrete below. Eyes squeezed, I screamed. Maybe I didn’t scream. But the pain never happened nor did a messy splat. I passed through the patio, packed soil, soft as a layer cake and continued downward.
FLOP! Here I am on my bottom. Opening my eyes to a pudding of darkness, cold, damp earth surrounds me. Crisscrossing my arms, I grab my shoulders to stop the shivers. Am I dead?
No, not dead. I’m panting. That requires breathing. I listen. Something scuttles across the ground and I pull my penlight from my pocket-shorts. Flicking it on, I see a cave. It can’t be real but smells like real dirt, like I’m actually underground. I touch a solid wall. Dirt, all right. A smooth tunnel opens to the left and slips around a bend. “Hello?” My echo warbles back.
“Grandma?” No, alone, I move toward the tunnel but as I get closer it disappears. I swivel around and the cave is gone, too. Vanished. “Where am I?” I howl as my light dims.
Wobbling dizzily, I am somehow above ground again and standing under the clothesline. Grandma hangs clothes. I stomp my foot on the concrete to test for cracks. What happened? I feel strange, dizzy, under some kind of spell. I was worried about Mom, wondering if she would show up. She is not known for being reliable and my feelings always come like an unexpected storm.
“Dad’s coming for fish dinner. Go pick some lemons, Jess.” Grandma talks as if I was never gone. Like I hadn’t plunged toward a certain death, awakened underground, and survived to return.
Dad is working, driving an Uber client to the San Francisco Airport and Mom’s graduating from rehab this month. Rehab is a hospital that helps people with addictions. I know all about it because we had an assembly at school. I’m eleven and nearly done with sixth grade. Mom’s only been gone for three months, but I can no longer see her face. But I smell her.