Our sweat makes mud. The trees are still, their leaves made of tin. The frogs are wound-up toys. A satellite peeps from behind your neck, and winks conspiratorially. The mold creeps up our skin and into the warmest bits of us. I welcome all this clinging foliage, the pale nettle hairs that brush the tender small of my back. Anyone would think that this abundance of earth makes it impossible to focus, but it has simply turned me into a live piece of copper, conducting ideas of fiery subatomic particles.
A glint catches my eye and in confusion I wonder if this particular cluster of stars is newly born. I cannot think of any way of communicating other than the game we played only hours ago, sprawled on my tattered picnic blanket and tracing shy inside jokes on each other’s warm backs. I could have never foreseen this outcome, all this sweat here in the cricket-filled night while saturated in strange pungent smells. I don’t know why I’m this surprised; after all I enjoyed bearing your words, even though you never quite knew how to apply the right amount of pressure and blood was drawn at inopportune moments. Not that I’m averse to the small testing wounds that inevitably come with play. I have to be perfectly honest: I’d rather you be the knifepoint than the scar.
The cluster of stars blinks again. It shouldn’t be moving but there it is swaying among the gleaming branches. I tap your skin until you pause and surface. I nod towards the sky and then graze the shape into your wet shoulder, in an attempt to understand.
“Ursa Major,” you say, laughing at me. I am suddenly very young and scattered and proud to have reclaimed a dusty piece of knowledge under the expanding canopy of your ribs. You fall beside me and we gaze into the sky. By now the ground beneath us is soft and cool, ready to be sown. We are exhausted. There’s only one breath between us, coming and going, and neither is allowed to keep it for too long.
Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece. She is a winner of Queen’s Ferry Press “Best Small Fictions 2016” and has been anthologized in “Rethinking the Plot” (Kingston University Press, 2016) and in “21 New Voices” (Eleftheroudakis Publications, 2011). Her work has appeared in several literary journals, including (b)OINK, Corium, Whiskey Paper, The Letters Page, Atticus Review and Wigleaf.
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