Well, your mother was right that this town never let you go, but you don’t mind as much as you used to. You can drive past the old cemeteries and bowed out barns and fields dancing to the weather, and you can tell which places the trout lilies and jack-in-the-pulpit like, which pasture used to have a gnarled apple tree that bloomed each spring till a storm cracked it right through the center. And maybe it doesn’t matter to know these things. But you know them. You do.

And you know the words in the book your daughter always wants to take out of the library—a collection of botanical illustrations she stacks on top of guides about the rainforest and coral reefs, places you’ll probably never see but maybe she will.

Barochory: The way a seed finds a place to grow by gravity. An apple falling with a deep, round thump.

Your mother had shaken her head when you told her, but she didn’t cry. She didn’t crush you with what you were already bound to learn. How hard it is to have a child so young. How hard it must have been for her to have you. You didn’t know it yet, but by then the sickness had already taken root, spreading to her lymph nodes like it had for her mother around the same age. Growing like a tree.

Hydrochory: The way a seed travels by sea, ice, and rivers, making itself both water-resistant and light, able to survive what it needs.

Sometimes you’ll say your daughter’s name, ask her what she’s doing, but she won’t answer until she’s done. You’re glad she hasn’t learned to hide the desire to know something completely. You try to remember that when she pulls apart milkweed pods while they’re still green or snaps dandelion stalks to watch the sap run.

You’re glad she was too young to remember the day you drove to the city, to the doctors who talked about letters misplaced before they drew your blood. A few weeks later they called you back, and you waited all evening till the moonflowers winked bright faces into the dark. Then you cried on the porch while your daughter slept.

Anemochory: The way a seed sails on wings or parachutes, tracing invisible corridors of air.

Sometimes when you watch the wind turn the unmown fields into oceans, you wish your mother could tell your daughter what she always told you: that the wind has a shape, almost everything does, even if we can’t see it. She’d say the shape is only part of each thing, and your daughter would say, of course, so earnestly you would laugh and ruffle her hair and wonder if she knew what it meant, if it might mean something else to her someday.

But right now, you just watch those fields roll and shiver. You just think about how much keeps growing everywhere, between all there is and is not to choose.

Erin Calabria grew up on the edge of a field in rural Western Massachusetts and currently lives in Magdeburg, Germany. She is a co-founding editor at Empty House Press, which publishes writing about home, place, and memory. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize and was selected as a winner for The Best Small Fictions 2017. You can read more of her work in Milk Candy Review, Split Lip Magazine, Longleaf Review, Pithead Chapel, Third Point Press, and other places. She tweets @erin_calabria.

© 2020 Erin Calabria. Published by LITTLE FICTION | BIG TRUTHS, May 2020.

Editors: Troy Palmer, Beth Gilstrap & Alvin Park. Images from The Noun Project (credit: Gan Khoon Lay).

The 2020 Flash Issue:



by Erin Calabria