The Meanderer by Mason Binkley

I have been training my husband and children not to complain about anything I do that they can do themselves. The instant one of them expresses discontent over the noise of the vacuum, the meal I’m preparing, or how I’m arranging their clothes in the closets and drawers, I put on my walking shoes, fill a thermos with water, and leave.

I always go to the same place: the entrance to a trail about half a mile away. The trail threads through a wooded area thick with pines, then snakes across grassy hills and uncoils into an endless line along a flat, green plain with mountains on the horizon that jut up from the ground like serrated teeth.

I have never gone as far as I have today. A blister has formed on my left heel, resulting in a limp. I walked for at least an hour on the line in the open plain until the path itself assumed an aura of oppression, as if it had decreed that I may only travel one way, and it’s this way. In rebellion against this strange authority, I ventured off the path and created my own, winding and bending for miles now.

This morning, my husband appeared next to me by the stove. He said, “The kids are getting sick of oatmeal. How about pancakes or bacon for a change?” It was his condescending tone, the way his eyebrows furrowed, and how he puffed his chest into my personal space that drove me away this time. “Don’t leave! Don’t leave!” the children pleaded. They asked, “What about church?” As I tied my shoelaces, I looked up and said, “Perhaps one day you and your father will learn that I can do more for you than God ever will.”

To my surprise and delight, I have discovered an area where yellow flowers brush against my shins, a pond in the distance, dragonflies zigzagging through the air. The sky has turned gray, portending rain, although I would welcome a cool shower and an opportunity to refill my thermos. I would pray for rain if I thought it would make a difference. Perhaps God too has become exhausted with complaints, and so She wanders across clouds wearing earplugs, insisting on being alone and refusing to come down, stopping occasionally to rest or eat a bowl of oatmeal.

Mason Binkley is the author of “Familial Disturbances,” a flash fiction collection published by Ellipsis Zine. His work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, Necessary Fiction, Jellyfish Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and other places. He reads for Pithead Chapel and lives in Tampa, Florida, where he works as an attorney. You can find him on Twitter: @Mason_Binkley.

a beaten path running through a country field
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