Marcus Grant | Managing Editor
The grass is wet, fresh dew building up under the cover of the stars. Familiar scents of manure and hay hang in the hot summer’s air and comfort the young girl running toward the farthest corners of the Applewood Farm. Her hair flows out behind her like a net catching branches and leaves in its coils as she ducks under trees and climbs between fencing.
The space is quiet. Only the bats flying above call out to her. Her foot hits a hard rock, throwing off the rhythm of her steps. “Just a lil farter,” she said to herself, hopping over the rotting white fence that marked the end of the property. The old creek is ahead. As she rounds the bend of the hill, it comes into view.
At the stony bank, a young boy sits with bare feet in the water. He sports a baseball cap and a sweatshirt that stretched out past the hem of his shorts and his small hands. His curly hair droops into his face in soft waves. As little Jenny approaches the lone child with huffed breaths, he picks his head up. A gapped-tooth smile paints the roundness of his cheeks, lit up by the full moon.
They wander further down the stream toward deeper water. Shuffling over the weathered rocks, the croaks of frogs began to fill the space, bouncing off the canopy of trees. Lightning bugs create a path, careful to guide the children away from stray logs and dips in the bed.
The pair tire and sit on the muddied ledge that holds the water. A fish brushes Andy’s toes. He calls his knees to his chest. The air is slick and sticks to the skin like the moss on the trees around them. The glow of stars hides beyond the leaves, keeping the space too dark to see far ahead.
“Hey, look,” Jenny calls from the opposite bank. She points down at a tall patch of grass sprouting from the water. Curious, Andy stumbles over. “Careful.” She holds a hand out, stopping the boy in his place. “Tere’s eggs.”
He crouches, nose touching the water as he moves closer. A bundle of small, shiny beads sits next to the grass. “Wow!” He reaches out a hand to feel the smooth of the eggs but is met with the sharp pain of a slap.
“Don’t.” Jenny’s owl eyes were pinned on the area. “You’ll hurt ‘em.”
They stay watching until sleep begins to pull at their eyes and the mosquitos finish biting the bare of their legs. Sloppily, they make their way back to the rocky shore they met at and say their goodnights, to the stream and each other, and return to the warmth of their beds.
The pair returns as summer progresses under the cover of the night and to the musical whirr of flying insects. Before the end of June, tiny fish fill the water. Their homes becoming empty sacks to be taken by the stream. They grow arms and legs and begin swimming free in the shallow water.
By the time school starts up again, in mid-August, many of the frogs have outgrown their fishy features. Their numbers dwindle down to a generous twenty. And then to ten. Then four. And, before the chill of fall sets in, the last of the frogs have ventured onward.
“Why’d ya think they left” Andy pokes at a beetle with a damp stick he found on the way. A lightning bug lands on his nose, making it scrunch up.
Jenny looks over, her back pressed to the wet of the ground. Her long hair is short now, reaching just past the lobes of her ears, and two more spaces have made way to her smile. Her brown skin is tickled with dark freckles. She shrugs, turning her attention to the sky. The wind moves the leaves, letting the stars peek down on the pair. “To make friends. Eat flies. See sum’ interesting.”