Stars and Algae

Every night, stars fall into the pond, exploding into globs of algae. I know because I scrape off the celestial refuse every morning. The rotting ooze shimmers with the stuff of stars. I suspect the pond overlies a magnetic hotbed, sucking stars to their deaths. There is no other explanation. Stars and water do not mix.

I don’t mind the green bubbles of scum, but Grandpa likes his pond star-free. So I arise to peel away layers of exploded nebulae. The school bus rattles down the road and I wonder what they would do if a grown man ran after it, sat down in those sticky olive-green seats and went to school again.

After that, Virginia must be milked. She refuses to stand still unless I tell her my dreams. I whisper about the far-off places I’ve visited, but Virginia isn’t satisfied until I tell her about the part where I fly, floating off like a balloon, soaring over the farm. Virginia closes her eyes, long lashes fluttering in bovine ecstasy, for cows dream of flying more than humans do.

Virginia likes dreams, but the chickens prefer fiction. It’s a constant struggle to keep them satisfied. Today I spin yarns of medieval knights. They coo and cluck disapprovingly. It is terribly hard to please a chicken.

I cook Grandpa’s breakfast. Eggs over easy. Then I weed the garden and think up all the synonyms for green.

Bush-hogging comes next. Grandpa limps down to watch me, frowning at my uneven lines. I spur up swarms of grasshoppers and stare at the sky where the airplanes are glints of light and trails of crystallized vapor.

I have a dark wish that I don’t even tell Virginia. A wish that just one of those planes would crash. No one would get hurt. It would land gently in the corn field and I would help everyone off and drive the pilots to town on the tractor. But they never crash, and I can’t say I blame them.

At supper, Grandpa’s hands shake as he passes my plate. A new bandage where he cut himself peeling tomatoes. We talk about fall crops. He doesn’t remember we had the same conversation yesterday and the day before that.

He says if it’s a good year, we can send me to college. He’s said it every year. I don’t bother telling him I’m too old. I know the money is there, in mason jars underneath his bed. It’s been there for years.

I tell him my theory about the stars. He says I read too much. When he falls asleep in his chair, I walk to the gate and watch the road disappearing into the sunset.

Sometimes I think about taking those mason jars, catching the school bus into town and going wherever the next car will take me. But the stars are coming up, swirling like merry-go-rounds, getting ready to let loose. Grandpa will need his medicine. And someone’s got to clean out the pond.

Lora Kilpatrick
Lora Kilpatrick

Lora Kilpatrick lives in Oklahoma, where she runs an online violin studio. When she’s not playing violin, gardening, writing, or tending chickens, you can find her a couple of thousand feet in the air, flying vintage tailwheel airplanes.