Grass So Green
There was a great rumbling in the sky followed by a burst of hawks. Nenna tilted her neck back until her vision filled with blue. Bomb, she thought, though she did not know if bombs rumbled. Perhaps people were incinerated before they could even hear anything, or perhaps there was no sound at all. Regardless, no one had cause to bomb a small town like the one where Nenna lived. Beneath the booming sky, dogs barked, air conditioners hummed and, somewhere down the street, a rooster crowed. The next-door neighbor rode his mower up and down the lawn in tidy strips, an American flag rippling overhead.
Nenna had long sensed some looming deterioration within herself and was therefore spending more time out on the deck to soak up Vitamin D which, according to the internet, was essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Weeks ago, she had tapped one of her canines with a fingernail and knew from the hollow sound it produced that something was wrong.
She was glad to be outside, bearing witness to the resounding sky instead of hiding inside mute walls. She felt she was meeting her fate, whatever that meant. She felt that the sound was meant for her. I’m ready, Nenna thought, though she knew nothing was really coming. She was old enough to know better. All the same, she was ready.
Nenna, Nenna, said a voice inside her head. We’re sinking. It was the lunchtime voice, the one that chimed around noon to let her know the morning was spent. She dreaded these voices, for to announce the close of one day was to forecast the start of another, and Nenna was through with days. Her life had become one long day; the whole song and dance of sun and moon was nothing but a rude disruption. She didn’t want to brush her teeth anymore.
The rumbling passed. Nenna’s voices grew sharp and orange hued.
“Nice day, Nenny!” The neighbor dismounted his lawnmower and waved. His lawn gleamed emerald in the sunlight. Bill was an unflagging UFO enthusiast, and Nenna sometimes suspected he was trying to cultivate grass so green and lustrous that aliens would notice his efforts all the way from outer space and come down to congratulate him.
“Nice day, Nenny,” she grumbled. The voices groaned. They weren’t the sort of voices that drove one mad—on the contrary, they sought to drive Nenna sane. They wanted her to split up the day by meals, go to bed at night, and partake in civil conversations with the neighbors. To appease them, she called out, “Lawn’s looking healthy!”
“My pride and joy.”
“Lunatic,” she muttered under her breath. Nenna, Nenna, said the voices.
Nenna hobbled indoors and surrendered to lunchtime: a mealy pear and three burnt sugar cookies. Then she surrendered to television and sat through a documentary about pumas. It was comforting to learn that pumas were not endangered, that they sometimes ate raccoons. She admired the way their muscles surged beneath their silky pelts when they chased their prey. Long after Nenna was gone, pumas would surely endure.
The voices had calmed to a dim hush, as they often did after lunch, which left her free to light her brain on fire. Evenings were for Nenna alone. Between the hours of four and seven, she liked to poke holes in the pillows, tilt picture frames askew, change the lightbulbs, and reorganize the cupboards. As she went about disassembling her house, she would think things like There is so much to do! or A woman’s work is never done! and other such babble. Nenna had never been a mother or housewife, but she had been a woman. She was scarcely one anymore, or rather, her womanhood had long since become irrelevant to her, but still she knew the script.
She alphabetized the spices and guzzled the vanilla, shrieking, “Down the hatch!” After unplugging all the lamps in the house, she sat at her computer desk and typed samurai into the search engine; then puma eating raccoon, raccoon hands and, finally, what sound do bombs make? She would learn the truth.
Samurai looked to Nenna like elegant robots. She’d thought raccoons had thumbs but was mistaken. Almost no one in Hiroshima recalled hearing any noise from the bomb.
Satisfied with her newfound glut of knowledge, Nenna proceeded back to the deck, where she was certain the rumbling would find her again. The suppertime voices did not follow. Perhaps they’d finally given up. She closed her eyes and waited.
Bill was still outside, busy righting nature’s many wrongs. He was chainsawing a rotting limb on the tree between their houses, sporting safety goggles and earmuffs. The dark evening clouds had congealed into a curious shape. It looked to Nenna like the head of a puma.
She stared transfixed at the apparition above. The sky boomed again, deeper this time, reverberating in her weary bones. As she stared, a shiny metal disc cut through the clouds, giving the puma a lopsided sneer. It looked almost like—
“Bill,” she cried, a sudden lightness blooming in her chest. She pointed a finger to the sky. “Bill, lookit!”
Bill did not look up from his sawing; he didn’t even seem to hear her.
The rumbling grew louder and louder until it swallowed Bill and his chainsaw. Nenna hobbled down the wooden steps toward her neighbor. Her pink slippers reached the stark green border of his property just as the chainsaw severed the limb. It split with a deafening crack. Nenna, Nenna. Bill removed his earmuffs a moment too late. He looked down. Nenna, Nenna.
Overhead, the puma opened its jaws and rain came pouring down on the ill-fated neighbors, missed by no one.
Kira K. Homsher is a writer from Philadelphia, currently living in rural Virginia. The winner of Phoebe Journal’s 2020 nonfiction contest and a Pushcart nominee, her writing also appears or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Passages North, New Delta Review, Hobart, and others. You can find her at kirahomsher.com and tweeting @bogcritter.
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