Heartland: A Short Fiction

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It was a desolate part in the middle of America, a part where the flag dimples in a ripple toward the center; there, but unseen; folded up in the stars and stripes. There, the summer sky was a painter’s cerulean blue with clouds the size of children’s imaginations and as white and fluffy as freshly laundered sheets. Telephone poles spotted the countryside like flagless specters of America, wires reaching out like stretched limbs crossing time and distance; communication. Here there were two seasons; Summer and Winter; hot and cold. This part of the country couldn’t afford grey area.

The wires stretched by forgotten paved roads, cracked with the wildness and persistence of nature, blades of grass and weeds mosaicing the asphalt– progress’ patchwork quilt. Thousands and thousands of miles on display in America’s heartland.

If you follow this patchwork quilt down the right folds, past just the right unseen bridges, over just another ripple, you will find Dorothy. Dorothy resided in an old fill’er’up station, just off of that forgotten highway. ‘Earl’s Place’ read the sign above in dilapidated letters with peeling paint; a happy home for termites. Dorothy was Earl’s only daughter. Earl was long six feet in the earth’s bosom, grass growing like the little hairs of a babe in his place. Dorothy had never left, even after everyone else had.

When she was in the wellspring of youth, she was electric! A vibrant youth with yellow victory curls, luminescent skin that shone without the weight of years, her eyes were bright and quick as fireflies at dusk. She had the whole world in front of her. She used to stand on that long highway at night and feel the miles between her and ‘something more’ in bolts of longing like electricity. That road wasn’t so lost and forgotten in those days. Passers-by would come in to fill up and swap howdies. This is how she met Henry, some 50 or so years ago; a sailor on leave hitching across states like a seed cast in the wind. Those few days with Henry she had finally traveled those empty miles across time and space, she had crossed the distance of ‘something more’. He left, a seed cast about in the winds of youth and America, and told her he would call, would send for her.

A day passed and six years went by. Another day passed and seven years passed by. The years came in sixes and sevens like a neverending game of Go Fish. The highway wasn’t so high anymore, people moved to bigger cities and brighter horizons. But Dorothy stayed. She would walk five miles each morning, down that lonely stretch of highway, longing to feel the electricity of communication between those flagless poles. She would pay homage to them as if they were altars to ‘something more’. In the summer months she would lay a daisy or a Queen Anne’s Lace at the base of each pole she passed. In the winter she would leave bits of bread or bundles of twigs. She would converse with the blackbirds that found reprieve from their ‘something more’ on those wiry limbs; would talk about the passing clouds, the prolonged chill of winter, the quality of the bread or the twigs she laid at their altars– she spoke of things birds were interested in.

Her afternoons were spent tending the garden, casting seeds for the chickens, baking bread from the groceries she had delivered every couple of weeks on that lonely stretch of patchwork. The telephone sat on the wall. Wires hung in useless and coiled heaps beneath the mouthpiece; a relic. It had been twenty-some-odd years since it had rung. She cradles the speaking piece to her ear as a lover holds their prized jewel to their cheek and listens for a dial tone each night before bed.

Henry never calls; he had cast out into the ‘something more’, past the rippled and forgotten heartland, to the taunt edges of America. And the years would continue in sixes and sevens in that inbetween.

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2 comments

  1. Hauntingly beautiful.

    1. Thank you so much. This is one of my favorite pieces of writing I have done recently. It haunted me until I got it out on page.

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