Big Sky
Claudia Smith

 
rusty-old-water-spigot-278536-mIn Texas, the ditches look like they aren’t ditches but they are deep, and if you drive into one you have to call the highway patrol to come get you, The weeds grow taller than a man and even when they are burned-out, bleached out stalks of gold, they still grow that tall. It makes them look as if they aren’t ditches at all.

Gold, my son calls them, but they are too faded to even be called yellow. I’ve pulled over at a rest stop and he wants a Coke and I tell him, no, there is plenty of water let’s just have a rest here. I pull out the smashed honey and peanut butter sandwiches. I cut the crusts off for him with the pizza cutter I threw into the bag when I was packing. Then I eat his crusts. I don’t like the crusts, but I can’t stand to throw anything away these days.

It is on days like this I wanted, I still want to be, empty. This feeling is not despair; it is more like exhaustion.

I tell him he can play for a little. “How long?” He asks.

“Ten minutes.”

But before a minute passes, I’m after him. “Stop!” I tell him not to climb on the giant, rusted armadillo outside the bathrooms.

I tell him we can scatter the sample wildflower seeds his aunt gave him before we left. “And can we come back to see if they made bonnets?” He asks and I tell him yes, and I mean it, at least for now I do. The inside of our Ford Escape is a mess. I find the seeds under the seat, along with a yellow sticky I wrote to myself days ago. “Consider the lilies of the field,” it says. What was I trying to tell myself? Was this some sort of pep talk? I don’t even remember. Also there are: Cheerios, wadded up Google map printouts, half-emptied blue ice pops. I need to stop at a car wash in one of these towns.

I give in to his wish, and we guzzle water from a spigot in the field. “Is it well water Mom?” I tell him I don’t know. He puts his head upside down and I spray the water.

My cell phone battery is dead. I tell him we can wait a bit longer, and he can play in the field, but not to go to near the ditch. But then I notice that the grass is up to his waist and so probably my knees and I say “No, I was wrong. I’m sorry, come back!”

He starts running back. I am his mother even when I am nothing.

 

Claudia Smith is the author of the flash fiction collections The Sky Is A Well and Put Your Head In My Lap, as well as the short story collection Quarry Light. She lives in Houston, Texas, where she teaches at the University of Houston-Downtown.