Richard C Rutherford is previously published in Stone Coast Review, Fiction Southeast, Hypertext, Red Fez, Squalorly, The Tishman Review, and The LA Review. He has daughters, so he’s a feminist. For thirty-seven years, he raised cattle at the edge of the desert, then retired, then had to go back to work. He supports local bookstores and has a large collection of stories.
A girl tree, centered on an oxbow. All the others were boys, straining for altitude, reaching for her, hoping. She was a little bit older.
By the time pollen happened, her root forks pressed against underground clods. She nurtured a green feeling for a young cottonwood, not the tallest nor the thickest. His rustles, eager velvet, sliding his branches.
The other trees clattered their leaves, vibrating her leaf patterns. She didn’t deny her organic response, her xylem grateful, lifting water. But clatter doesn’t sustain like a rustle. Her root tentacles reached and grew, slid past and around his. When the breeze brought offerings, she gathered the pollen she wanted.
We still have people to fetch water. We still have people who spill it. A pragmatic man might choose to fetch. Maybe a young woman fancies herself a modern-day priestess. She requires water, he submits to the jar, to her power. She sips and power shifts to him. She spills and gets it back. The next move defines a pattern. A quandary for the pragmatic man.
He didn’t know why he was so drawn to the scent, so repelled, yet attracted. He didn’t wash his hand for days, kept it under his nose. One small cluster of neurons knew; that place where the spine grows from the brain like a root. She smelled like leaf mold in the Miocene.
Electrons are free. They loop, but not to gravity. Instead, electrons exert, pressing in on protons, keeping them corralled. Electrons will loop another proton—just a loop—then come back. Electrons are sly.
“Touch me,” she said, leaning back.
His breath came and went in trembles. She was more than the anatomy book.
Gently, he led with his thumbs, pushed her curtains back revealing two shy minora, glistening in the wings.
Eighth grade, class was in session.