Farmland by Elizabeth Conway

Above-ground the turquoise pool is the only color for miles. A stain on the landscape, it is obvious it doesn’t belong. It belongs. To a fourteen-year-old girl born with a heart condition. Once with a mother who died of snow and ice and steel and a telephone pole, all perfectly timed to work perfectly together — now with a father who pays rent to rent land and a farmhouse with an above-ground pool. In Montana. In May. The rain stopped. Government subsidies dictate which fields and farmers hibernate through the drought. Unsanctioned watering and unsanctioned burns carry a fine, carry consequences, leaving land to fade and bleach and with a pool holding water holding children above-ground.

Nearby, Catholics lay in the cemetery below trimmed brittle grass and swept headstones and plastic flowers pulled of color left by the mourners, by the sun.

Nearby, crows perch on the fence, keeping beaks open to cool their cores from the afternoon heat that melts plastic petals from the mourners, from the sun.

The girl can see her mother’s grave from the pool. The mother’s headstone is polished granite that looks too new for this cemetery. A stain, obvious it doesn’t belong. It belongs. To the past, to old death old wars old illness. Yet too, plots are paid and saved for the girl and her father to be buried here, near the mother, separated in boxes padded with cotton and lined with silk. She wishes she could warn them.

Nearby, there are hints of buried life, fed by spilled water pushed over the sides by the weight and wake of a fourteen-year-old born with a heart condition. “You can expect rain in fifty-one days,” they say. But still, below, bulbs of onion grass know when to embed their roots and push new growth to the surface. Further, Earthworms take breath with their bodies, finding oxygen in soil. Further, Earth safeguards and stockpiles freshwater reserves for survival. Because.

Nearby, there are hints of buried dead, insulted silk-lined boxes and synthetic injections carefully crafted to stop decay. A grid of named and numbered stones confirming to generations a collective decision it’s in our best interest to ignore what rules we’ve agreed to. Instead building traps in pools and boxes. Pretending to plant ourselves with authorized rain.

Elizabeth Conway has an MFA from the University of Montana, Missoula and is a former editor-in-chief of the university’s literary journal, CutBank. Her fiction has been a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Open Fiction contest, Reed Magazine’s John Steinbeck Award and The Southeast Review’s World’s Best Short-Short Story Contest. Recent works are found in the ‘Weird Sisters’ Lilac City Fairy Tales anthology by Scabland Books, Blue Earth Review, and Fractured Lit’s flash fiction anthology.

grayscale photo of a house on a grassy field
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on
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