A bed made of monkeygrass awaits its owner in a blooming backyard
in Columbia. A sighing breeze carries the tangy scent of the parted grass blades
mixed with the yellow peppermint breath of daffodils. Light tapping sounds inter-
rupted by contemplative silence drift from a vine-covered shed at the end of the
grass. Perhaps Miss Mary Ellen, a neighbor hanging floral linens out to dry, notices
the sounds and the stillness, but probably not. There is nothing unusual about this
spring day.
A squirrel watches Miss Mary Ellen from one of the many dogwoods. He
was wild in a new sense of the word. After falling from his nest only days after
his birth, a woman nursed him till he could return to the backyard. Now he eyes
whoever is out hanging laundry with a look of strong longing as if he’s lonely and
hasn’t talked to anyone in ages. The woman calls him Ed. When Miss Mary Ellen
catches his gaze, she hurries her hanging and precariously drops a clothespin into
the brown crabgrass. Ed has been known to jump from his dogwood and pursue the
backyard dwellers on Wilmont Avenue. The lonesome look in his perfectly round
eyes transitions to a voracious appetite for milk and catfood. Miss Mary Ellen, now
finished with her damp floral sheets, shuffles in pink mesh slippers to her porch. Ed
jumps onto the clothesline a little too late and a large pair of panties loosens from
one end on the line. They hang limp like a halfhearted flag of surrender.
The weightless slams of Miss Mary Ellen’s ricocheting screen door awaken
some settled pigeons who frantically coo louder and louder with the progressively
steadying beats of their wings. They find higher perches on a branch that secures a
rope swing on a laurel oak tree. Light footsteps on the loose boards of the shed an-
swer the sudden cacophony of the pigeons and a young girl with bare feet jumps
Bailey Pittenger
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