Word Count: 500
Liminal Blade of Grass
In the country, the boundary line between one property and the next is imperceptible. The difference between one blade of grass and the next negligible. How then, does one determine precisely where one property ends, and the next begins? A half-mile-long picket fence? Too costly. Barbed wire? Cheaper, but unfriendly when no cows are involved.
In the country, one blade of grass would seem the same as the next. Who would care which was which, what was whose? Nobody much—except Gladys. Gladys cared. She sat on her back porch, quilt across her knees, every day, Sundays and holidays included, watching and listening.
The threshold between silence and sound is thin as an eardrum. But Gladys was attuned to the liminal difference between silence and not-silence, the sound a footstep makes on one side of the boundary and the sound a footstep makes on the other side. Woe be to anyone who trod on the wrong blade of grass. Gladys knew almost before the shoe touched the ground. She didn’t need fences to mark her territory, even barbed wire—not that she cared about being friendly or not friendly. Many a neighbor in Gladys’s lifetime had felt the sharp blade of her tongue when they accidentally strayed. She had honed that blade to a fine edge and slashed freely. Now, only newcomers and scallywags infringed on her turf. She took care of them, as well. The only good neighbor, Gladys muttered to the crows, was one who stayed where they belonged.
Gladys was happy. Or thought she was. She also thought she was prepared against any trespassers—man, woman, child, or beast. Until today, when the interloper appeared.
“You’re a mean, ornery old woman, Gladys.” The voice seemed to come from the ground itself.
“Who’s there!” Gladys hadn’t fallen asleep. How did this intruder escape her detection? “Show yourself!”
“Aren’t you the least bit lonely, Gladys?”
“I wouldn’t care if I was the last person in the world. In fact, nothing could make me happier.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Who are you? Some kind of ventriloquist? Come out where I can see you and then get off my land!”
Gladys looked about but still saw no-one. “I’m gonna count to three. You better be gone by then or I’ll get my sickle and chop you up for fertilizer, you no good skunk-smellin’ son-of-a-hell-hound. And that’s just for starters.”
Silence. “Humph! Scared him off allrighty.”
Settling back into her rocker, Gladys felt a sudden jolt. Her porch and the ground under it shook violently. It shook so hard and so long Gladys fell out of her chair. She huddled on the rough planks of the porch, whimpering. When the shaking finally stopped, she picked herself up and peered around. Earthquake? Mudslide? Whatever it was, the ground had fallen away—all the ground, except what was hers, leaving Gladys alone in her own little kingdom. Bereft of her pass-time, her reason for being, with no-one to curse, Gladys sat and wept.