Tag: Soil

SOIL: Soil By Zachary Keep

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 500
Zachary Keep
“You’re gonna’ die in the dirt, old fool.”
The sheriff said it, his growling voice particular to aging officers of the law, when it became clear Tom wouldn’t leave. He was right about the fate of one old man, but he was wrong about the dirt. It used to be dirt. That was before the end of the world. Today it was soil. Soil grew crops, fed mouths and brains. It was soil that kept lights on, antibiotics produced, libraries organized.
It was soil where Evelyn gardened. Soil where she’d lain for a decade.
He was glad she hadn’t witnessed dirt become soil. The shift in… priorities… those semantics entailed beggared description. He missed her of course- nearly joined her once. He still smirked, recalling his attempt (the realization that you could breathe through the barrel of a pistol? If that wasn’t her sick sense of humor, he didn’t know what was). Her dark humor saved his life that night.
He’d gone on. Survived the three year winter and lived to see the first harvest, first canal boat, even the first concert in the park under electric lights. He’d sampled the rarest luxury in the remade world… old age. He tried contentment; reading, smoking, watching civilization toddle along. It never took.
God help him, he’d been excited to learn of the militia’s route at the hands of that Utica thug, gleefully telling the Sheriff to piss off before crumpling the evacuation order. He was a mile from the expected incursion route- over Kast Bridge, along North Creek, and South to town. They’d radioed for help from Albany, but it would be close. Someone needed to hinder the advance, so he’d walked to the one lane bridge, sat, and waited.
Two scouts came at sunset. Ridiculous in black fatigues, they fumbled with plastic rifles at his hearty greeting. One face registered surprise at his ancient revolver. The truck- running on God knew what-came an hour later. It rested in the middle of the bridge now, a moonlit hulk with spider web cracks on the windshield and two flat tires.
The night was silent now. He scrutinized his fingers, burned from reloading his last six cartridges, and reflected. He’d bought time, maybe even enough time. (Cont’d Next Page)
He passed the night, savoring memories of an intensity reserved for those awaiting death. As the sky lightened, fear bloomed; what if they’d taken another route and left him sitting here, a helpless old fool?
His doubt didn’t last long. The dawn carried noise of hundreds of footfalls. He’d bought more than hours- he’d bought all night. Thank God.
Knees cracking, Tom stood to face the first figures advancing cautiously across the bridge. They paused, gathering in a knot and training their rifles. At length a voice rang out “What the hell happened here, old man?”
He breathed deeply, the scent of wet earth filling his lungs. His grin showed more teeth than were strictly natural as he replied in a steady voice: “Let me show you.”

SOIL: Soil By Linda Helterline

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 430
By Linda Helterline
There is a hole just the right size at the foot of the bird feeder, and just as the two red, fuzzy ears emerge slowly from the soil, the chattering begins. Someone has refilled the tube feeder with lots of big, fat, oily, sunflower seeds. “Okay, time to climb up the Shepherd’s Crook, hurtle myself through the air, and wrap my hungry tongue around the wonderful seeds.”
Apparently during the night, a thin layer of black ice had covered the black Shepherd’s Crook and made all but impossible the reaching of the scrumptious sunflower seeds. After several attempts, each one ending in all four legs wrapped tightly around the pole while sliding sadly down, a few seconds of rest were necessary. There must be a better way, but what can it be?
The big garage door opened. Time to run for the stone fence…fast! He was passed by two red cousins, a gray squirrel, a low-flying woodpecker, the local rabbit family, a chipmunk, and then he saw a big, floppy-eared dog coming at him! No time to run to the fence, so he darted for the small hole in the soil…a hole carefully crafted by his tiny front feet. Jumping into the air head first, he dove into the tunnel and kept his back feet running like an outboard motor. THUNK! The escape hatch went dark, and was quickly filled with black fuzz, white teeth, noisy inhalations and a HUGE pink tongue.
Because he went head first into the hole, the squirrel had no idea how close the big, black nose was to his butt. However it was the white teeth which could do the most damage so he was more nervous about them! Luckily, the small circumference of the hole around the dog’s nose prevented him from clamping down on the poor squirrel’s tail.
Out the far end of the tunnel came the baby rabbits, squirrels and chipmunk, sounding like corks shooting out of champagne bottles. It was as if you were watching the opening of the “Lawrence Welk Show”. The dog was sidetracked by the rabbits. After all, what can be more fun than chasing a rabbit?! CHASING TWO RABBITS!! But how do you make your black, furry feet stop on ice-covered grass…especially if you notice your bane is the electric horse fence coming right toward you? SCREECH!!
Quietly, two little red ears popped out from the soil and watched the commotion. The ball of big black fur which rolled frantically around trying to stop before hitting the electric fence made him want to laugh. He didn’t dare.

SOIL: Labyrinth Planet By Michael S. Jones

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 493
Labyrinth Planet
By Michael S. Jones
Daedalus Base Camp
Minos Dispatch 9.14.2219 E.C.
Dispatch Six [6]
The tunnels are just that. They were dug! Rich is “Blown away.” There were intelligent beings on Minos. But how many “people” were needed to honeycomb this mountain? Does tunnel height indicate stature?

We have ventured One Hundred [100] meters into each alternative maze of Tunnel A. There were Twenty-Nine [29] choices; Six [6] of those are stub ends. Divergent paths range from twelve [12] degrees to thirty [30]. “Ramps” are a uniform Fifteen [15] degrees.

Rich devised a way to sample Tunnel A. When given a choice he suggested that we always angle right. Utilizing Bear Right Only [New designation BRO: see below] we found three dead ends. Rich says we would have entered tunnel B if digging had continued only a few meters further.

Why dead ends? Religious reasons?

Rich hypothesizes that tunnels are interwoven; perhaps braided.
“I am right,” he says. “I think in 3D. I can smell Tunnel B from here.” Yep, that’s Frankie.
Still, we are lost in possibilities.

There is no soil inside tunnels except for decomposed centilizard scat, and that only meters from sunlight. Hope springs eternal for carbon datable materials.

There is no torch soot. What was their light source if not fire? Did they use echo-location like bats in a cave? Flashlights? Occam’s Razor is useless on an alien world.

I saved best for last. The tunnels were dug with stone tools! Imagine at most two beings side-by-side at a tunnel head. Even with “soft” rock digging must have taken eons.
Chief Engineer Paige Rutter confirms Rich’s discovery of a broken Dolomite chisel in one of the dead ends. The chisel, according to her, has an an ergonomic handle. She says that we might be able to reverse-engineer the shape of the alien hands.
[Chisel 3D photographed & archived.]
Rich was bitten by a centilizard yesterday. His hand swelled and turned a pretty vermillion. EMT Edwardo Gonzalez treated it successfully, though it still stings. Ed told Frankie that it serves him right for petting the creatures.
My training is inadequate. We need an Exo-Archio/Anthropologist.
If you ever throw our support satellites up there please include a Ground Penetrating Global Positioning System. [GPGPS].
It would also be nice to have warning of Frog Drowning Rain Storms. [FDRS]
Change the order of lifeline ships. Strip a manned space-folding ship to make room for both materials and somebody who has better guesses than me about this civilization. Send supply drones later.
Biospecialists Bartlett and Wang thank Central for the discovery credit.
They say that Scolopendra Lasertilia Menus will be just fine.
Keeping to our Cretan imagery, these were the Theseus People.
Ginny says thanks for the Peanut Butter, but “Where is the jelly?”
Family greetings follow.

W. A. Sloan, Commander

[BRO] Bear Right Only
[BLO] Bear Left Only
[PU] Passage Upward
[PD] Passage Downward

SOIL: The Soil of the Labyrinth By Claire Robertson

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 299

The Soil of the Labyrinth
By, Claire Robertson

As they fell, Magnus realized that the ground had gotten more transparent as it floated higher. Well, that explained the whole cloud thing. They did not hit the ground as expected, but rather fell through it into a tunnel. “Ow!” exclaimed Syria. She had a few cuts, but nothing to bad. A few blue sparks danced across Magnus’ hands as he healed himself. “Yeah, rub it in that I can’t do that.” Magnus sighed and waved his hand, healing the girl instantly. “Thanks” she muttered grudgingly, “Where are we?” “Underground, I think.” “Yea, I noticed that thanks!” Syria snapped. After some argument, they decided to travel right. Half an hour later, they walked into a cave. There were 13 tunnels branching off in different directions. Each one was different. One shone like gold, one glittered like diamonds, one had pillows, one had blue sparks bouncing off the walls, one was a library, another a gym. There was even one that looked like the sea, but the fish swam in air instead of water. One was a hypnotic spiral. One was lined with barbed wire, another was a forest. The last one looked normal except for a slight blue pulsing light. There was a note in the middle of the cave. It read, “If you have made it this far then I am impressed. Now it is time for the real test. Do not be tempted by glitter or gold. The spiral may lead to riches untold. The pillows are hard, the barbed wire soft. If you look for a book you know the one to cross. But do not take the pulsing path for if you do, many trials and hardships now fall before you.” They of course went down the pulsing path, not caring what dangers lay ahead.

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.”

SOIL: The Soil of a Different Garden By G. Ackman

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 497

The Soil of a Different Garden
by G. Ackman

The shotgun kicked hard on her shoulder and she could already feel the bruise she would have tomorrow, a purple badge to her ability to load and fire the 12 gauge in the space of time it took the man to go through the door.
But that was something for tomorrow. Right now she had to take care of him. She hit him in the chest and the .00 shot stopped him fairly effectively. He was still alive at first, but his harsh rattling breath let her know he wouldn’t be for long. She didn’t look at his eyes, but stepped over his legs and walked to the door, reloading and racking the shot as she did so. Years of horror movies where the bad guy suddenly sits up and begins round two had taught her that. And maybe he wasn’t alone. The reverberation had to be audible for several yards. She knew from all the hunting seasons she had lived through, cringing as each “choom” echoed up the hills and through the woods, knowing the sound signaled the death of a deer. She always mourned the loss of the liquid brown eyes. Her yard has been a safe haven and each year, a doe or two would show up every day with her fawns. Cara loved watching the fawns playing leapfrog and “catch me” and hated those blasts even more. Now, though, this blast saved her life – or worse.
Two months ago, she would have called the police, but not now. No one was going to come and take care of this. She had to do it all by herself – like she has done everything for the past two months. Hours later, under cover of darkness, Cara dragged the body out the door. She had wrapped him in a sheet and tied it tightly with bright blue rope. It wasn’t as messy as she would have thought. Movies had led her to expect a large pool of blood, but it was no bigger than the puddle from when she over-watered the lemon tree. Since the rug was stained, though, she would get rid of that too. The rope, tied tightly with bowline knots, held as she lifted one end of the heavy body onto the wheelbarrow, then the other end. While still a muscle-wrenching task, taking the body up the hill to the woods was much easier with the wheelbarrow.
Safely deposited among the trees and covered over with brush, branches, and rocks, the man who no longer a problem. No one else showed up, and Cara knew she would sleep well tonight.
Two months ago, she was a wife, a mother, and a teacher who spent her time reading and doing jigsaw puzzles. Then the lights went out and stayed out. Her husband never came home and she learned to grow survival in the soil of her being. Collecting wood, gathering water, and protecting herself – just another day in this strange new world of hers.

SOIL: The Sacred Soil of the Argyle Gargoyle By Maggie Robertson

Maggie Robertson
Week 2: Soil
Word Count 497

The Sacred Soil of the Argyle Gargoyle

Sarah was eager with anticipation in spite of herself. She was at that age between child-like enthrallment and adolescence-fueled embarrassment with her family. Today was the day for the family’s spring ritual. Her father, Kyle, was doing the first tilling in their large market garden, the tractor moving slowly along as the rear-mounted tiller woke up fragrant, rich soil.
Sarah, her seven siblings, and her parents stood at the heads of their respective loam runways. The noon church bell rang up from the valley, and with the first chime the ten family members pitched full speed down the three-hundred-foot rows, their bare feet reveling in the soft, cool soil, their rhythmic strides adding a muffled backbeat to the music of the Earth. On this particular day, Sarah thought that music sounded like banjos. She ran faster.
She was confused by her conflicting emotions. These moments of family ritual brought joy and a sense of fresh-air freedom, but she was mortified to be seen in public with her parents.
Sarah’s mother, Katherine, refused to wear a bra. Her clothes were usually splattered with her latest project, and had holes in unfortunate places. She sang out loud in public, and talked to the canned goods in the grocery store.
And her father, well, it wasn’t so much his hunched and gnarled features (the result of an unfortunate accident somehow involving a reticent llama and a grain drill), but he insisted on wearing garish argyle sweaters, loud enough to wake the neighbors. Once in a town meeting, someone arguing with him referred to him as “The Argyle Gargoyle” and Kyle adopted the moniker for himself.
Still, they commanded respect for their remarkable talent to grow vegetables. Sarah could not understand the success of her parents’ crop rotation. Rather than rotating families of vegetables to avoid disease and pests, her parents planted peas with parsnips, potatoes, and peppers. They planted their turnips with tomatoes, carrots with cauliflower and corn; their beans grew alongside beets, broccoli, and Brussels Spouts. It defied any sense of logic Sarah could fathom.
She recalled how people came from miles around, and even neighboring states, to listen to her father talk about the sacred nature of soil: “that from which all things come, and into which all things go.” They seemed to hang on his every word as he expounded on sound soil structure and Earth elements. He talked about managing manure, micronutrients, and marvelous minerals. He cited copious compost combating clay concerns. Kyle told of tender tilling, loving life and loam, and much about marvelous, magnificent mycelium. (At which point Katherine remarked that he was a fun guy with a keen sense of humus.)
Sarah’s thoughts shifted to her seven siblings running in the adjacent rows: Samantha, Samuel, Stephen, Stephanie, Susanna, Sophia, Seth… and something clicked. Her reverie broke.
She reached the end of her row as the last chime sounded and the terrible truth dawned on her. Sarah was the child of alliterate farmers.

SOIL: Stringed Soil By Jane Malin

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 496
Stringed Soil
Jane Malin

The gardener prepared the soil. Metal rectangles stood like heads atop black bones with three-toed feet confidently hugging the ground. A blanket of silence was receding like snow as he sowed the seeds, placing each on its own rectangle.
As if by some invitation, plants appeared as the silence dissipated. The plants vibrated with energy. They chatted. Anticipation swelled. Large plants came through back doors. They commanded the landscape stretching emerald shoots in all directions. The gardener pruned the encroachers, coaxing them to dig their roots deep, like anchors for the whole garden. Needle-like mid-tones of olive and avocado began to push through in seemingly random spots. Delicate drops of apple green and ivory dotted the scene – lace in the woods on a spring day. This was pure freedom. The laughing breezes intensified. It was impossible to harness the excitement. Everyone was together again for another season of unpredictable beauty.
The artist surveyed the scene. He moved individuals; he transplanted sections. He trusted luscious groupings would make exquisite harmonies. His ears plainly saw the colors. Between his fingers, he twisted the slender, white tool that would deliver his instructions. The anticipation was palpable.
Clink! Clink! The gardener was ready. He raised his hands, and the chaos stilled. As if by magic, he called for the lush greens. They sounded like a safe embrace. He added soft blues, mellow and entangled. They made little difference on their own, but without them the panorama seemed boring. Together the blues and lavenders, violets and blackberries, lilacs and purples created complex harmonies. The gardener mixed in the lusty pinks and passionate magentas. Their songs danced in front, commanding attention.
The gardener cued the divas. High above everyone, dancing on the thinnest piccolo legs, their shimmering whites and golds stole the show. Their individual petals were iridescent arpeggios in the sun. Everyone sent forth beauty. As each one intoned his color, the spell intensified. Passersby were captured. Interlopers floated through the setting on stained-glass wings, stopping to kiss carefully selected colors like a French horn’s countermelody.
The gardener swayed back and forth, delighted and overcome with what his ears were seeing. As if to command nature, he called out to the players… “More Greens,”… Stay together, Blues.” It was magnificent.
Then, covertly, each color began to retreat. The players were finished. The greens laid down their huge instruments on the soil. Diva legs cracked and twisted. Bright colors softened to tans and browns and mustards. White and gold gowns were put back into cases and were carried away. Rain came like tears at the end of the season.
The conductor tidied up the soil, picking up debris. He collected the white pages, cataloging them in folders and placing them in the grey, metal drawers for next season. All that remained were the black bones of the music stands. The conductor placed his white baton on the podium just as the first flakes of snow fell outside the concert hall. (495)

SOIL: Fertile Soil By B.A. Sarvey

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count 499
Fertile Soil
By B.A. Sarvey

Soiled. Mama hurled the word like a stone.
Huddled, half-naked, shivering before the shed, the girl dug fear electrified toes into damp grass. Hauled out by her hair, she tried to robe her shame with her silken locks—Lady Godiva without a horse; the boy, interrupted, flailing tall weeds with bare legs, hungry arms, scrambling away from Papa and his shotgun like he was trying to outrun a bull. Behind her, a sharp crack, a whiff of acrid smoke.
It was an eternity before the boy wormed near again. Tossed pebbles at her window. Let her know her old man had missed. Days—during which a hydra of uncertainty gnawed at her innards. She couldn’t eat, heaved up bile—bitter in her mouth like shame which nothing could cover. Fear, guilt—not just fear he was dead. Fear of the other thing already growing inside.
No one would want her, now. Mama’s scathing pronouncement. Soiled. The word sneered from her mouth like she was spitting out soured milk.
Shame grew, stretched her belly like a balloon. But Mama was wrong. The boy still wanted her. Vowed to forever.
It was a quiet affair, witnessed by the boy’s father, the JP, and Mama, stoic in her blue mother-of-the-bride dress, betrayed only by her sour milk expression. Papa refused to come. The boy’s mother blamed the shame on the girl, spouted lacerating invectives even as he slammed out the door, rending her heart.
In time, Shame became a golden child, nourished by soil and sun, soaking up rain like a willow branch driven into the earth. The guilt was forgotten. Her name, chosen by the boy, was the only reminder. Grampa, won over by her small fingers worming into the dirt, showed how to place seeds, tamp down soil. Together they watched things grow. And the boy who helped create Shame was gradually forgiven.
But Mama hadn’t been quite wrong. And the girl who bore Shame was not quite right. The boy may have wanted her then. By the time he gained acceptance, though, he was again flailing at the tall weeds of an entanglement he hadn’t sought. In time, he had made a fine house, a fine living. Good pay afforded him a chance to play. She never asked his whereabouts, loved him unconditionally. Felt the stigma of Shame. Quietly accepted that this was the best she could expect.
Now, watching Papa, sweat-sheened face tomato red, toiling to shovel
Shame’s new garden from the sunbaked clay, she felt soiled anew. Betrayed.
He should have been there. Said he would help. “Must have gotten held up,” the apology climbed past her toad of a tongue. Papa was old. Too sick for digging. “Should have been…hours ago….” The hydra in her gut gnawed. Mama voiced no criticism, only twisted her mouth with that sour milk expression.
Never there anymore.
Never for her. For everyone else, yes. Even strangers.
She forgave him the shed.
She would never forgive him the iris garden.

SOIL: Night Soil By Nan Ressue

Week 2 Word: SOIL
Word Count213
Nan Ressue

I WAS A FAT CHILD. The kids in school used me as their goat and took every opportunity to bully me as clumsy, poorly dressed, and eating ethnic food in a packed lunch different than everybody else. My classmates used every quirk as a new excuse to shut my neck in the locker or shove me down the stairs. My parents were Lebanese and that fact was obvious more often than I could bear. I never asked friends home for fear they would notice some family practices that embarrassed me. My defense was long distance running and I practiced to the point of exhaustion until I could outlast them all.
My father kept a big vegetable garden to feed our family of four and I was required to help. Every year at spring planting, the product of the family outhouse was spread on the ground to enrich the soil. I tried to complain but my father insisted while I threw up in the bushes. There was no gardening in my life from that day on.

Fifty years later I’ve realized that some childhood memories stay with you forever. One fact remains very clear: No matter how far you travel or how fast you go, you will never be able to outrun your father.