Saturday, March 26, 2011


Every now and then I get a wild hare and decide to write a deep(ish), dramatic human interest piece. This is one of those times. The drama doesn't stem from a person experience (don't worry), but I did base some aspects of it on some conversations I've had with trusted friends. I'd rather let the story speak for itself than say any more. Enjoy!

March 2011- Aaron Matthew Smith

“What’re we doing here?” I asked.
“This is it. This is the place I told you about.” She stopped the truck and hopped out, not even bothering to close the door. I didn’t say anything as I followed her up the driveway, gravel crunching under our feet. Cicadas hissed in the woods around us. A bird chirped nearby.  
She’d driven me out to the middle of nowhere. Not that Waco was exactly “somewhere”, but more somewhere than this. We’d driven for an hour outside the city because she said she wanted to take me on a picnic. Instead we’d ended up here.
The little house was hidden from the main road by a half-mile drive through God’s country. It was small, with a little peaked roof, porch and chimney on one side. The roof was sagging, the windows were all busted out and it looked like it was about to fall over any minute.
“I didn’t know you lived so close to Baylor,” I said.
“Yeah.” She walked through the front door, which stood open. “I wouldn’t say I ‘lived’ here. Only til I was seven.”
“I remember.”
She turned to look at me. A brief smile crossed her mouth before she turned and headed deeper. The house was dark inside, even though all the windows were gone and it was the middle of the day.
Nothing was left of the living room. Dilapidated pieces of furniture were decaying in one corner. There was a burned circle in the middle of the floor where someone had tried to light a camp fire. Beer bottles and cigarettes littered the floor. The drywall had been ripped down in places, people probably after the copper wiring.
“You should’ve told me we were coming here,” I said. “I would have… I mean, I’d have been more prepared.”
“It’s okay,” she said. She touched the stove in the adjacent kitchen, which had been ripped loose from the wall and tipped over on its front.
“Why are we here, anyway?” I asked.
“I haven’t been back here since the day I left.”
“You told me that. But why today?”
She shrugged. “Just felt right.”
The little stairs that lead to the second floor were crumbling and rotted. She passed them by and walked to another small room at the back of the house. She stopped at the door.
“This was my room,” She said.
“This was where…”
“Yeah,” She said. She rubbed her arms unconsciously, as if the bruises were still there. I shuddered. She’d told me about her father, said she hadn’t talked about it since Social Services placed her with her aunt and uncle eleven years ago. Not with the judge, not with the social worker. Nobody.
I’d convinced her to go to a therapist- Baylor has services for stuff like that, people who need help. She’d been going, and said it was helping.
“Asshole,” I said, trying to be helpful. She didn’t respond. She just stood in the doorway of the little bedroom. I peeked by her. Someone had drug an old ratty mattress inside, a filthy stained rectangle in the middle of the space. Trash bags were piled in one corner. Green light filtered in through the single shattered window. It smelled like rot and homeless people.
She abruptly turned and walked past me, through the living room and back to the front porch. I found her sitting in the little wooden swing, rocking gently back and forth, the chains groaning with each sway.
“That day,” she said, her voice tiny, “When I came home from school, the social worker was sitting right here.” She touched the rough wood gently with one hand. It was a miracle that the thing hadn’t fallen yet. “This is the best thing about this house.”
I sat next to her, for a moment afraid that the thing would dump us both on the ground. But it held, and I held her. She laid her head on my shoulder and cried silently for a few minutes. I kissed her hair.
“Let’s take it.”
“Huh?” She said.
“Come on,” I said, pulling her to her feet. I ran to the truck and came back with a pair of pliers. After some looking, I found a cinder block at the back of the house that I used as a step stool.
“Hold up on the swing so it doesn’t crash,” I told her, and I began to unscrew the hooks from the ceiling of the porch with the pliers. Ten minutes later, we were tossing the swing, chains, hooks and all into the bed of the truck. She leaned on the tail gate and wiped at the sweat on her brow, her fair cheeks flushed from exertion. She smiled at me.
“There,” I said, tossing the pliers into the bed. “Now the only two good things about this place never have to come back here.” She cocked her head at me. “You, and this swing.” She leaned her head on my shoulder again, and I kissed her cheek. It was damp and salty, but I knew it was from sweat, not tears. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I don't often write satire, mostly because it's difficult to do it well. Hit too hard, and you just sound preachy. Hit too softly, and your point is likely to sail right over the heads of your audience. I'll leave it to you to decide if I did a good job on this piece.

Aaron Matthew Smith- March 2011

“You’re crazy,” Cheryl said.
“I’m a genius.”
“It’ll never work.”
“It already has. Go on. Taste it.” I scooped up a spoonful and stuck it out at her.
“Doctor Reynolds,” she said, “Eric, I’m not going to eat that. It’s dirt.”
“That’s the whole point, Doctor Crawford!” I said, shoving the spoon in my own mouth. “It IS dirt! And I’m eating it!” I sprayed the front of her lab coat with mud. I swallowed.
“What does it taste like?” She asked.
“Kind of gamey.” I considered my formula again, looking over the sheets of yellow legal paper spread across my workspace. I found an empty corner on one of the sheets and scribbled ‘flavors? Maybe start with chocolate, vanilla, strawberry.’
“Eric, I don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Are you kidding? This is the best thing to happen to humanity since… since fire! Since the wheel! Since the pill!”
“You actually want people to start eating dirt.”
“Well, why not?” I said, setting my spoon on the work table. I walked around the plastic kiddie pool that I’d brought into the lab months ago when we’d first started the experiments. It was filled with rich, brown earth. The lab smelled like the outdoors. “Agriculture, farming, herding, where has it gotten us?”
“Here?” Cheryl suggested.
“Nowhere!” I said. “Think about it. How long does it take for a corn kernel to grow into an ear of corn?”
“Well, it doesn’t grow into a literal ear…”
“Months. It requires tending, sunlight, water, fertilizer, and even then if there’s an early frost it’s all gone. Workers have to be paid, machinery has to be bought. And then, it has to be shipped across the country. Think about all the wasted profit.”
“Why does anyone actually farm again? Oh wait- because that’s how we make food, Doctor Reynolds. What you’re saying is… it’s…”
“It’s taking out the middle man,” I said. I could feel my own giddiness on my face.
“The ecosystem will collapse!” Dr. Crawford spread her hands. “It’s completely disrupting the food chain!”
“No, it’s making it more efficient! It’s taking out every link in the chain between the dirt and your dinner. Think about it- dirt doesn’t have to be shipped. It’s everywhere. It never spoils.”
“Bees, birds, animals, the whole ecosystem depends on agriculture!” Cheryl’s voice rose.
I shook my head. “Survival of the fittest- they’ll learn to sustain themselves off of wildflowers or something. And, best of all, animals can eat dirt too!”
“You’re saying that people should just skip growing, cultivating, farming as a whole and eat the dirt instead.”
“With my…sorry, with our,” I changed pronouns under her withering stare, “formula, dirt is safe, abundant, cheap, and healthy! This could solve all the hunger problems in the whole world. Think about it.” I carefully annunciated each word. “The. Whole. World.”
I could see Cheryl considering the possibility behind her horn-rimmed glasses. Then she shook her head, her brown ponytail bobbing. “It’s… it’s totally unfeasible. What about the farming jobs?”
“Think about this: who owns more dirt than anybody?”
“…farmers, I guess.”
“Exactly! The farmers will benefit the most from this discovery!”
“….I don’t know, Eric. I just don’t know. Is it sustainable?”
“How could it not be sustainable? It’s dirt- it’s everywhere! What’s MORE sustainable than dirt?” I waited. “Nothing, that’s what!”
“But what happens when we run out of dirt?”
I blinked. “Huh?”
“If everyone is just eating dirt, what happens when it runs out?”
“Cheryl,” I rolled my eyes. “We’re not going to run out of dirt. Come on.”
“That kernel of corn you mentioned? It multiplies, becomes millions of kernels of corn in just one season. Dirt won’t do that, Eric.”
I nudged my glasses farther up on my nose. I hadn’t considered that. “Well, that won’t be for years,” I concluded. “I have an idea for a machine that can change sunlight into food. I’ll have ironed that out by then.” I shook my head. “Honestly Cheryl, the things you worry about.”