We are alive and it is Earth day, and even if it wasn’t, we have mushrooms. We eat them as soon as we wake up, which for me is early, awake when Mother Nature’s giant yellow eye begins peaking over the horizon. Someone, my friend Julien, suggests we dig a hole. “As far deep as we can go,” he says, his voice greedy, like there would be treasure at the bottom.
I agree, because it is Earth Day, and even if it wasn’t, I like the feel of dirt on my skin, the idea of hardening my muscles with Earth’s own friction. It is cold outside when we step onto the porch. The grass looked like an ocean, and I feel salt burning my nose.
“Visitors!” someone, probably Julien, cries. I spot a white van swimming up our driveway. Something tugs my bellybutton, as though I could remember white vans as suspicious, something to stay away from. But then I remember we are the ones that are high, we are the suspicious ones, and we are fun and innocent, nobody to be feared.
A guy in his early thirties steps out of the van and walks up to our door with a camera, the big kind, like you have to rest on your shoulders. He wears shorts and a polo, the first semblance of business clothes I have seen in a while.
“I talked to a guy named Retro,” the camera guy, Camera Guy, Cam, explains. He looks tired. I imagine he secretly stays up all night editing his own short films to enter in local film competitions, Poor Thing. “I was going to film a little segment about you guys for the local news Earth Day special.”
“Right,” Julien says. “You’re in luck. We’re about to go dig a hole.”
“For a tree?” Cam, Poor Thing, says.
“To find some treasure,” I say. I can see the treasure, giant crowns and tiaras, because we are the heirs of Earth, royalty, sitting on the throne of nature’s palace.
“Are one of you Retro?” Cam speaks again.
But I can’t remember who Retro is because people come and go. I do know there are always shovels in the shed for the people who tend our garden. So I grab Cam’s hand and pull him to the backyard. The crowd has at least eight people now, most of them naked, throwing piles of dirt in the air. I feel confetti tickle my skin from the debris. It is still cold. Maybe Retro is the one who raises the shovel and plunges it down into the Earth like he is staking his claim upon the moon. People are chanting things, but I’m not listening, because I’m thinking about the treasure, how we would never tell anyone about it because greedy people would come and stay, not the ones who loved people and our mother the Earth. I worry that Cam has come to steal it in his white van, but he looks more miserable than sneaky. He is holding a shovel in one hand and the camera in the other.
“Isn’t this great?” I say to Cam.
“I don’t get it,” Poor Thing says. “This doesn’t look fun or beneficial.”
And someone hands him a mushroom and Poor Thing looks even more tired. He eats it raw. Within minutes he puts down the camera. He sits down, then lays down. Someone else has grabbed the hose and is running the water into the hole as other people are digging. I can’t hear anything else. Then I hear someone, probably Julien, singing, “Why don’t we do it in the hole,” to the tune of a Beatles song. The hole has suddenly become at least three feet deep, and I have not contributed to one spoonful of dirt. I have lost part of Earth Day, lost it to some beautiful dream where the grass was water with no borders. The birds would land on our heads to rest, and we would rest on the back of whales, and that is how the Earth should be.
I look back to Cam. He is holding his camera again, but on the other side, I imagine his non-dominant side. “Isn’t this the best Earth Day you’ve ever had?”
“I just don’t see what you see,” he says, like he is a failure. I soothe him by patting him on the shoulder, but he pulls away because I have smeared mud on his polo. “You guys are nuts.”
I have to let him go, because here people come and go. People are bringing out more mushrooms, and everyone is gathered around our picnic table, eating and saying goodbye to Poor Thing. I walk to the edge of the hole, the infinite abyss, and jump in: a pencil dive, feet first, so that after I have fallen stories and miles into the center of the Earth, I will land on my feet.
ALLISON FRASE REAVIS‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Arkansas Review, Cobalt, and Poydras Review. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and currently lives in Carrboro, North Carolina.