SOIL: Childhood’s Soil Beverly Jones

Word: Soil
Word count: 372
Childhood’s Soil
Beverly Jones

She pressed her forehead and chin against the cold restraints as the specialist peered into her eye.
”Hmm,” he said from behind the excruciatingly bright white light. “You grew up in Indiana, didn’t you?”
He rolled his stool back. “Your retina repair looks fine. You have some histoplasmosis. It’s from a fungus usually found in Indiana.”
She thought of the seaside towns she lived in as a child and adolescent. Those were sun-drenched days, full of freckled noses and earlobes, of naked tender foot bottoms assaulted by Australian pine cones and sand spurs, of skin itchy from sunburn’s peeling and dried salt water.
But before that, before that was her grandfather’s basement.
She stood in the doorway at the top of Grandpa’s stairs, trembling, but from fear or excitement she couldn’t say. She was only four, not able to differentiate gradations of emotions, not able to articulate them until decades later.
Before he left for work in Alaska, her father told her to take care of her mother. With Mother working and her Grandmother recently deceased, she felt it fell to her to care for Mother, herself and Grandpa.
She stood gathering courage to walk into the darkness of the damp dirt-floored basement to get a jar of pickles for lunch.
She slowly descended the dusty wooden plank stairs, not knowing a spider had woven an intricate, exquisite web across the bottom step.
She missed the step and fell through the gossamer web, hands outstretched on the on the damp, dark soil, her cheek flat against the ground. The soil didn’t feel grainy like the sand she would come to know so well. It smelled stronger and wetter than the corn fields behind the house before spring planting. She felt as if she were suffocating, unable to get the soil off her hands or brush the dirt off her cheek.
She scrambled up the stairs, tears clearing streaks in her face. Grandpa held her on his lap in his rocking chair as he bathed her face and hands with a soft cloth. Later they went down the stairs together to retrieve the jar of pickles for lunch.
“No,” she smiled as she replied to the eye specialist. “I was born in Ohio.”

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