Backhand Stories: The Creative Writing Blog

Waiting at a bus stop on a redbrick pedestrian walkway, flanked by street lamps, surrounding a bubbling fountain that a flock of geese call their playground, where early morning risers throw away their pennies in exchange for loathly dreams, where a little girl is asking her grandmother what “cobblestones” are, a group of students and businessmen are boarding the mid-day bus system that operates several routes throughout the city of Fort Collins, Colorado. Others, who search for more viable means of transportation, are riding their bikes through downtown, across the Foothills trail, by an out-door venue where a band playing Bill Evan’s Autumn Leaves is tinting everyone’s moods with the saccharine modesty of a mid-Summer’s day, beneath a 19th century archway that leads to an alleyway encroached in vines and a cool shade that blankets clothing in chalk and factory ashes, that splits hair, that has a woody, robust smell from someone smoking a cigar outside of Cozzola’s Pizza three blocks away.

The year is 1864, sometime in June; Camp Collins, an outpost of the United States Army in the Colorado Region is being destroyed by floods from the Cache La Poudre River, which sits adjacent to the camp. Camp Collins is reestablished as Fort Collins several miles down the river. In the year 1900, Patrick Whelton is feeding sugar beats to his sheep, the Great Western sugar processing plant is being finished in Loveland, and Percy Gray is slaughtering one of his sheep in his rickety, wooden shack so that he can feed his family of four children and his wife, who has been laying in a stiff bed with the flu for three weeks.

During the spring, the kids at Shepherdson Elementary get a two-week break from classes. A group of friends place a hundred heads of cattails under the wheels of every parked car on their street, bringing an artificial winter to Fort Collins by midday until the afternoon spring rain pulls the fluff out of the air. The fluff disappears in streams that flow down street gullies into the city’s sewer system, which scatter the seeds along the banks of the Cache La Poudre River basin and give birth to hundreds of new cattails by the following year.

Tomorrow, a huge flock of geese will be flying over a forest of willow trees towards a small, communal lake where a young girl will be sharing popcorn with all the other geese. And several miles away, 13 year-old Todd Bennet will be being rushed to the hospital after being bitten by a rabid bat that he’d found lying in the grass in his backyard. And Mrs. Moter, who creates mosaics out of glass, will be finishing up her mural for her church. And Mr. Hath, who lives next to the famous motorcycle mechanic, will die of cancer at the age of 97 while the family two blocks down the street will celebrate the birth of their new-born child, James.

And some college student will be dry heaving in another person’s bathroom at 2 in the morning. And a girl and her best friend will think they’re being followed by the blue truck with the paint peeling off its doors. And brothers Ian and Kyle will be selling lemonade at the corner of Omega and Harmony, while a homeless man smokes skunk beneath the bridge. And Travis, the 11-year old German shepherd, will fall asleep on his owner’s woodpile and never wake up again, while the jet-black crows perched on the three-story Victorian home will caw and squawk an opus from hell.

And when the air is foggy in September, an old man will walk his dog, Rusty, along the sidewalk that is adjacent to the black, iron fence; through the neighborhood where a child once let his imagination run loose, where bike gangs had wars with wooden swords and air-soft guns, and nobody felt any pain because the future was unpredictable and the past was new. And someone will be giving sermons outside the Vineyard Church. And someone will be chasing after the cards that the air picked up and threw across Edora Park. And the railroad spike, the oddly-shaped bush, the fifteen-foot telephone pole, her crystal blue eyes, the color of the man’s skin, the delinquent shoes sitting in the middle of the road, the black silhouette of the murderer’s hair, the sound of laughter, the hallucinations, the hopes, the dreams, the thrills, the pain, will all be a bunch of hazy memories to the old, decrepit child with the ashes in his hair.

In the morning of every day, Ethan Isaiah is shaky, sitting on a miniature stool in the middle of the tomato patch that has been decomposing since his wife, Irene, died of ovarian cancer last month. His chapped hands grasp an empty whiskey bottle that he pulls up to his mouth; looking through it, the world is a glossy blur, a scent of fermented grains and organic compost that sigh for a deep, longing paradise. He envisions himself as a child again, living back in South Carolina before his family flew to Colorado, lugging a sack of fresh tomatoes back to his father’s beat-up truck, swimming in the crystal, clear water of Lake Jocassee at night with his younger sister, Natalie, and his cousin, Tom; the moon’s reflection a shimmering scintillate on the black, marbled water. He envisions the sun molding over the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite; followed by a thousand bodies of the sea crashing over her fragile, naked body until she rumples and dissolves like soggy, charcoaled paper down a sink drain.

A robin flies down from a willow tree and sheds its beak next to a fuzzy caterpillar that wriggles up through the soil. Brown, wrinkled tomatoes putrefy the writhing earth, providing a feeding frenzy for all types of insects. Ants scurry up Ethan’s dirty jeans, across his gristly arms, through his matted, black hair, between his swollen gums and down his husky throat. A car alarm echoes out from West Mulberry Street, where a college student is trying to explain to an old man that it was all an accident. Ethan’s dog barks until the curled distortion of the sun sets behind the molars of Horsetooth Mountain. At night, she rests her head on Ethan’s lap and looks up at him with black, marbled eyes that reflect the moon and remind Ethan of home.

“Alright… let’s go, girl” Ethan sighs. “Let’s go inside. Let’s go eat.”

Several miles away, the air is sighing for the coming season while a jetliner flies over the city; the city where the rivers flood over, where the geese flock, where the streets are made of cobblestones, where spring becomes winter for an hour, where stories clash, and twist, and run parallel to each other, and nothing makes any sense because it is all a subtle chaotic string that changes tone every second and mixes beautiful melodies with straight cacophony and the cycle of life and death and the constant stream of curiosity and bounded adventure.