Mother, the bells in town tolled midnight.  I woke up.  I washed my hands in cold water, packed a bag I could carry over my shoulder, and left.  With my new polished boots and my father’s pistol wrapped in my pants, I snuck out the bedroom window and ran down the road, saying goodbye to the mailboxes.  To the snakebites and bee stings.  To the stinging nettle growing in the palms of my childhood.

            Mother, I hope you find this letter.  On my dresser I left you my books, my baseball cards, my silver dollar coin, my lucky rabbit’s foot.  I have made my bed, my teeth are brushed, my hair combed to the side.  I hope you don’t worry. I hope you don’t send out the dogs in the morning when you find I’m not here.

            Mother, it is cold and dark as a dead flashlight and a light rain is beginning to fall.  The moon is moving through the woods like liquid.  I must go now.  I must go and rub my feet in the ashes of the old fire pit down by the river and sing a song, then move further east into the mountains.  If I don’t go now no one will ever remember the trees I was too afraid to climb. 

            Mother, there is a place Father told me about, somewhere in the redwood canyons, where he lived many years ago.  He told me it was a quiet place, a good place for getting away from mosquitoes.  A good place to find blackberries in summer.  Where the lupine blooms first in May.  Where the creeks are still running in August.

            Mother, I am tired.  The stars are growing weary and lonesome.  I must go lay down in the moonlight.  I must gather up the moss growing on old stones, the gristle of a chicken bone, and make a bed for myself in the river.  I feel the night conglomerating like dust on my tongue.  Does the world not know what stillness is?  I think there must be many dead things swimming in silence beneath our feet.  At night, I feel their fins grazing my thighs.  I know this is it, Mother.  I am not coming home this time.  I have cast off my name like a fishing line broken and sinking in swift currents.

            But I promise you, when I cross over the split in the barbed-wire, I will say a silent prayer to the approaching thunderstorm.  Then a prayer to my family.  Then one to the spirits of the fish I had eaten the night before.  Wherever you are, I hope you don’t forget me.  I hope you remember the asters growing in the down of sunlight.  I hope you remember the dust on my eyelids.




Reid Maruyama was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California.  He currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Recently, I have been interested in childhood and how I can irrigate my work with such simple memories.  I'm not sure what the initial impulses for writing this particular story were, but I knew once I got there, I wanted it be full of gratitude and love and perhaps a bit sentimental.  



Copyright 2009