Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The wastes of green

I'd like to tell you its name, the name of the sickly green that glowed through its windows, but I can't.

I was in the back of the house, a house I'd known since childhood. The house looked over a a ravine that would run with fresh rainfall, when there was rain, when I was a child who ran through it.

Now it was dry, and the sloping ground above it was covered with a waste of wood. It was this waste of wood that gave off the sickly green light I saw. It wasn't the green of living things. There were no leaves. There weren't even trunks to hold the branches that would have held such leaves. There were only piles of broken grey wood.

It might have been driftwood, these piles of cracked and stunted branches, had there been any water to drift them. There wasn't any water. They were covered with a green slime, a slime that spoke of the absence of life, or a life most alien to the one that had grown up around me.

No smell should have reached me through the glass of doors and windows pulled tight, but I could sense its smell. The green slime covering the piles of wood smelled of a special kind of wasting, a wasting with a name I didn't have, and I still can’t give to you.

The ravens came to give it to me, that name. They swarmed to the waste, swooping down from a pewter sky. They hopped up the hill through the piles of sickly grey wood covered with green slime, until they reached the sliding glass door where I looked out.

The glass was pulled shut, as was the curtain, but the curtain was made of a see-through, plastic fiber, and I could see their ghostly shapes through it as they came slowly up the hill.

Suddenly they took to the air again, and one raven, the largest, twice as big as I what I thought a raven could be, hovered just outside the pane of glass. I could see its shadowy form there, and when it turned its head I could see the outline of its parted beak. Its great parted beak floated there like another pair of wings, and its tongue vibrated within as it sounded the name it came to tell me.

I couldn’t hear the name through the glass. I couldn’t hear any sound through that thick, shut glass door. I could only see the shadowy form of its enormous beak parted to give me a name I might not even know how to pronounce.

I put my hands against the curtain to try to sense the shape of the name's sounding from its vibrations. The raven humored me and hovered there a little longer. It hovered and loudly hummed this name while I tried with both hands to touch it through the pane of glass. The name was too big for my two hands that tried in vain to grasp it.

All I could feel was the curtain and its plastic covered in web, the silky, sticky cobwebs of too many years gone by, the weightless grabbing of our neglect. Then I heard my grandmother’s voice, the voice of my grandmother Rose, dead now for twenty years. It came from behind me, not angry so much as annoyed, in that nasal way she had of nagging.

My dead grandmother’s voice came annoyed, not angry, and it told me to get away from the glass. I had to obey her, it was her house. As I stepped back, the raven lifted away from me and away from the sickly green light, and it took the name with it.

That’s why I can't tell you the name of the wasting green covering the wood behind my dead grandmother's house.

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