Humans Like Grass: A Short-Short Story

I was never more delighted to see my sister than the day she caught me outside eatin’ grass. What are you doing, she asked. Eatin’, I said. Why you eatin’ grass, she asked. Goats eat grass, I said. You aint no goat, she laughed. I butted her knee with two finger horns attached at my temples. She giggled. We lay in the green itchy tufts and ate grass together. Ladybugs crawled up our arms and legs, ticklin’ our skin. A month ago, my sister’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia. And a month before that, she’d started goin’ to church. My parents heard her talking to herself in the shower the night after she’d been to an early service with a friend of hers from school. The following Wednesday, she went again with her friend, and again Momma and Daddy heard her talking to herself in the shower. When she continued these solemn chats amongst the wet walls of her bathroom, my parents began to worry. I’d hear them discussing in frightening rhythms how they believed my sister was possessed. It just aint normal to be talkin’ to yaself, daddy said. She believes she’s talkin’ to Jesus, momma countered, she believes she’s talkin’ to Jesus. I couldn’t tell if she was arguing in favor of sister or agreeing with daddy in astonishment. Our own daughter believin’ in such silly things, daddy said. I imagined him shakin’ his head in that disappointed way he does. Maybe we can send her to counselin’, momma said. Counselin’ costs money; somethin’ we aint got, daddy said. One day, momma cornered sister in the laundry room. So who you talkin’ to in the shower, she asked. God, she said without pause. God, momma said funnily, how silly. Why’s it silly, sister asked. Well, he’s not really there. Yes He is. Honey, no he’s not. I believe He’s there. How does he talk back to you? I hear His voice in my head, sometimes it sounds like my voice. Sometimes, momma asked. Yes, sister said, and sometimes it sounds like an older more experienced voice, one of wisdom and care. Momma turned away. She pulled a towel from the dryer and balled it close to her chest. I don’t hear those voices, momma whispered. She walked by me looking ahead. It was as if I were invisible to her. We used to have a close family. Every Saturday we’d have cookouts, and the first week outta school we went campin’. Sister’d always sing honky tonk and me and mom’d line dance while daddy stood by the grill clappin’ his hands along and checkin’ on the burgers and steaks. One Saturday, sister didn’t sing honky tonk, she sang hymnals. The next Saturday she didn’t join us, instead goin’ on a church retreat with her friend. When she returned, daddy tried brightenin’ his soured mood by discussing our family trip this summer at dinner. Sister asked if she could go to Camp Kiner instead. Now dammit, daddy slammed his hands on the kitchen table, you aint goin’ to no church camp, this is family time. I have another family now, sister said. Daddy hit her. Sister’s face was red, but she didn’t cry. That night I heard her talking some funny language I couldn’t understand. Her tongue fluttered and she seemed to be in another world. I stood outside her bedroom door and watched her in awe. She seemed peaceful and at one with something that looked it made her happy. Momma saw me idlin’ in the hallway. Whatcha lookin’ at, she asked. A few moments later daddy was behind me, then brushin’ me up against the wall in fury. He snatched sister off the floor by her wrists and chucked her into the closet. He slid his belt from around his waist and hit her and hit her. He said he’d beat the demons outta her if she refused to do it any other way. Momma tugged me out of the doorway into the kitchen, shuttin’ sister’s door behind us. The next week sister was in counselin’; the week after that she was sent to a rehabilitation center. I guess things that got bad enough that money wasn’t an issue. Momma and daddy didn’t visit sister much, but grandma did, and I came with her today. I saw sister comin’ down the aisle through the window. She wore a thin white cotton gown and a button up sweater over it. I bent down like a loon and picked grass off the ground like monkey’s do off each other’s backs. I felt like a monkey, and wanted sister to see me as one, too. What are you doin’, she asked. Eatin’, I said. Why you eatin’ grass, she asked. Goats eat grass, I said. You aint no goat, she laughed. I butted her knee with two finger horns attached at my temples. She giggled. We lay in the green itchy tufts and ate grass together. Ladybugs crawled up our arms and legs, ticklin’ our skin. Whatcha think about bein’ here, I asked. Interestin’ people here, she said. Doncha wish you were out, I asked. Sometimes, she said. Why sometimes? More peaceful here. But doncha worry about bein’ here the rest of your life? Not really. Why not? God’ll get me out. In’t He the one that gotcha in? No. Who did? Momma and daddy, she said, God just allowed it to happen. Why’d He do a thing like that? To help momma and daddy, not sure. You okay with bein’ in here if God putcha here? Yes. Why? She looked at me, and I got nervous. Here I can help people who need it and really want it, she said, and I can pray, talk to God, and read my Bible in peace. Momma just don’t believe in God, I said, that’s why she was scared about you talkin’ to Him in the shower. I know, she said. What were you doin’ that night in your room, I asked, what was that funny language you were speakin’? She laughed softly. I was speakin’ in tongues, she said. In tongues? In tongues. How many you got in there? She laughed harder; I liked the way it sounded. It’s when you’re so happy and in love with God He just takes you over and speaks through you, she said, you’re one with Him that way. What are you sayin’ when you speak in tongues, I asked. I don’t know, she said. How come, I asked. Some things you just don’t know about ‘til you get to Heaven, she said. You goin’ to Heaven, I asked. Yes, she said. How can you be so sure? It’s not a sin to be certain you’re goin’ to Heaven. Why not? Because everyone sins, she said, it’s inevitable. Oh. She touched my hand; looked at me with soft eyes that concentrated on something within me, something deeper than the surface of my perspired skin. I shivered; goose pimples pricked my arms and back. I love you, she said, I want you to know God the way I do. I was nervous again; I didn’t know what to say. She plucked a blade of grass from the ground. The top was a healthy green, but brown death slithered up the blade, threatenin’ to kill. I imagined the blade dyin’ a slow death, and I feared sister would have the same fate here. Finally, I said, I ate the grass like a monkey hopin’ you’d see me like a monkey. Why’d you do a thing like that, she asked. I didn’t want you to feel like the only loony, I said, I didn’t want you to feel alone. I don’t feel like a loony, she said, and I don’t feel alone. But you’re in the loony bin, I said. I’ll be out soon, she said, I have faith. I don’t want you to die a lonely death here, I confessed. She chuckled. Humans wither like grass, she said. Huh? We all die someday. Momma’d slap you if she heard you talkin’ like that. I know, she said. Then why’d you do it? Because it’s true, she said, you want me to tell you lies? I don’t know. Humans wither like grass, she said again, doesn’t always mean you’re meetin’ your death. What else does it mean, I asked. Our bodies are our temples where our souls take up residence. Huh? She laughed again. Sometimes, she said, it’s not your body witherin’ like the grass, it’s your soul.

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