Beneath a sluiced sky as empty as I try to keep my mind, the insects find me. I no longer show off my shoulders in spaghetti straps, and my eyes are shielded behind coke-bottle glasses, but they are not choosy. They treat my body like a cheap hotel buffet, gorging themselves on my blood and yet always managing a bite more. I feel them tickling my cheeks or brushing my lips like John, a long-ago lover. Now I come to think of it, he liked to bite me too, and that was how Bob discovered….. yes, well…. empty mind gathers no regrets.
I walk on, flicking my hands as if I’m conducting Flight of the Bumblebee. I can’t work out if the buzzing in my ear is a bug or just tinnitus, so I fumble to connect my earphones to banish the noise. Then, I select the podcast my daughter has recommended. It’s about people who transform winter into spring or create fake forests for film sets, and it will give us something to talk about when she FaceTimes me on Sunday. Abigail, my daughter, is a high-school teacher, and she became very interested in forests after I took her to see the movie Fern Gully when she was six. Now she campaigns to save the Rain Forests in her free time and is always talking about leaving education to find a job where she can work with plants. I wish she would just do it instead of sending me all these articles on gardens and global warming. Still, I prefer those to the TikToks of footballers doing outrageous and, sometimes, offensive things, Ben texts me on a Saturday night. Ben, my son, is twenty-two and has one passion: West Ham Football Club. From where he is, Bob whispers, “That’s a bit unfair”, so I quickly press ‘play’.
The podcast is fascinating. Who knew there was even such a job? Well, obviously, the people involved in the industry, I suppose. One man from New York speaks about sticking hundreds of fake leaves onto a tree’s bare branches in the middle of winter, so it looked like fall. As he deadened the ‘a’ in ‘fall’, I am struck again by how Americans are always so literal. Why call a season ‘autumn’ when you can call it ‘fall’, so it’s not just a name but also a description? Genius, really.
Then a girl talks about how she had to uproot a magnificent oak tree for a Nicole Kidman movie. It was two miles from where they were shooting, so she organized it to be put on a barge and sailed to the set, and then she bolted it onto a concrete slab so Nicole could climb it.
And I think what an utterly awful thing to do just as I step on a spider, squishing her flat.
Adele Evershed is an early years educator and writer. Born in Wales, she lived in Hong Kong and Singapore before settling in Connecticut. Her work has been published in Every Day Fiction, Free Flash Fiction, Ab Terra Flash Fiction Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, High Shelf, bee house Journal, Shot Glass Journal, The Fib Review, Réapparition Journal, Sad Girls Club, Green Ink Poetry and a number of print anthologies.