It’s a pipedream in the playground with Sierra. She runs to the swing. I tally each arc into the air. ‘I can count too,’ squeals the three-year-old. ‘One, two, five, 40-hundred.’ It gets cloudy when it comes to the whereabouts of her mother. I give Sierra coconut covered sweets that look like mushrooms and a carton of apple juice with a mini-straw.
It’s a reverie in the Sierra Nevada with Sierra. I’m surprised she doesn’t ask about her mother. Or her father, for that matter. I’m looking for mushrooms. Are all toadstools poisonous? Sierra plays the counting game on a swing hanging from a mountain oak. She curves into the air, dipping down to shout, ‘One, two, nine, 70-tree.’ Sierra builds a little box from twigs and grass on the dark side of the woodland. She picks up a discarded juice carton. ‘Don’t touch that. It’s muddy,’ I cry.
It’s a hallucination in Sierra Leone with Sierra, hunting for the last lions. Sierra wants to stroke the cub’s cottony mane. Her mother, who overdosed on magic mushrooms, might not approve. The child wants to hip hop to Afroswing music, coming off the third beat. ‘One, two, THREE,’ she counts. Sierra sucks the juice from rose apples and nibbles on plantain. She no longer asks who she is, or where she’s from.
It’s a fantasy in the playground with Sierra. She’s growing tired of the swing. Instead, I hoist her up by her arms and whirl her round in the air. She laughs. Her mother is long buried on the dark side of the woodland, a box made of twigs and grass marking her grave. Sierra’s catching on and avoids mushrooms of any description. She counts the steps to her mother’s mound, ‘One, two, nine, 70-queen.’ Sierra holds my hand and asks if I’m her new Mama.
Canadian-born Cheryl Markosky’s a journalist, splitting her time between the UK and the Caribbean. Her work can be found in EllipsisZine, Urban Tree Festival, Friday Flash Fiction and the upcoming National Flash Fiction Day anthology. @cherylmarkosky www.cherylmarkosky.com
Photography by Garidy Sanders