If you head South along a foothill of the Siskiyou Mountain Range, you might see a maple leaf detach and spiral downward, leaving the tree it once was to become singular, rigid, delicate, lying on a rock amidst tall brown grass, eventually succumbing to time and becoming dust, detritus, much more. You might notice it, though just as easily you might see a hunk of madrone bark peel back to reveal amber skin smoother than human epidermis. You might hear a scream. You might hear the high idle of a pickup truck as you trot between the manzanitas and Oregon grape, turning from this outcropping into a valley furry with moss. Perhaps the creek runs off the mountains’ snowfall on a rainy day. But if you heard the scream, it’s a sunny Autumn afternoon, and the creek is not yet a creek; it’s a series of pools blooming clouds of mosquitoes. In the gulley rises a path, muddy and wide enough for an automobile, steep enough that the humans trundling up the slope with plastic tubs in their hands have to lean forward and plant each step carefully. Depending on your ears, you might hear the pudgy blonde guy in black overalls and cowboy boots wheeze the phrase “Oh fuck” around his lit cigarette—he notices, after leaping out his vehicle, where his emergency break is not. You might know his name is Teddy Kilpatrick but that everyone calls him boss or Little Ted. Little Ted because farther up the hill from him and his slipping truck is Big Ted. Theodore Kalani sitting in his XXL camping chair between the cousins Marta and Margherita who might be speaking Italian while Big Ted shucks nugs off three-foot-long stems into one of the bins. The cousins might be shucking too, or maybe they’re rolling cigarettes while Reggina Urbanska or Gabriel Luna-Colombo heft the just-harvested weed from the plants to the shuckers. Or maybe it’s early Summer when you’re sniffing along a trail; you might smell the burnt odor of the ponderosas or the smoke from a nearby forest fire; you might see the seven rows of plants thick with kolas growing longer in the sun. But the scream occurs in the Fall. And your olfaction might be overwhelmed by the marijuana and the madrone berries steaming half-digested in piles of bear shit. You might look down from whatever tree you’re perched on to see half the plants stripped of flowers, green skeletons. If you’re one of the thirty-eight dweedlers, you might gasp as you look toward the shrieking LSD Lian. She stands above the slipping truck with a view of the muddy hill. Or maybe you’re a juvenile turkey on a paved road, one turkey from a flock of nineteen, and you might be pecking the freshly crunched carcass of your mother when the scream turns all your heads in fear. Just as easily you might be a gray fox eating a Jerusalem cricket, or you might be the cricket feeling your abdomen ripped from your thorax. You might be an old rabbit with a broken leg trying to run from a coyote. You might be, at the moment Ed Conner turns to see who’s screaming, a three-day-old roadkilled skunk. Or an ant. Yes. Maybe you’re an ant amidst thousands hopelessly defending your home from a black bear. Or you might be a fern crushed by a tire. Or, eleven seconds after the scream, you might be a human with a muddy face shattered, a spine snapped. Or you might be the tick buried in Ed Conner’s hairy back as he inhales his chew upon seeing his brother sitting in the mud at the base of the hill. Or you might be Karyssa-Jlyn sitting on the couch in your trailer, pulling a hit from a bong, and next to you might be Little Teddy and he doesn’t know you’re pregnant, and you won’t tell him because you’re ashamed of him for not joining the other dweedlers in mourning the ramifications of his fuck up. If the maple leaves are dropping from the life they once were, then you might be James Conner struggling to pull your prosthetic leg out of the hill’s grime, your empty plastic bin beside you. Your ascent paused. You might have a nice view of the foothills full of mist. You might think you’ve never seen leaves so large. That might be your last thought before you hear LSD Lian scream, turning back just in time to see the truck. You might be alive for now. Or you might fly over the frantic gulley full of trapped fog to land on a madrone growing cockeyed on an outcropping farther South. You might be the snow-capped Siskiyous. You might be the mud or the pink sun at twilight.
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