Fridays For Future, Climate Strike Online, StoryADay May

This post is part of StoryADay May ( #StoryADay #StoryADayMay @storyadaymay #freeshortstory #FridaysForFuture #ClimateStrikeOnline


When Cosmo put on his stained tan trenchcoat, he heard his mother stop putting dishes away and knew she was looking at him.

This year, he looked back at her. Tenderness flooded him as his grief met her sorrow. This year, he didn’t just walk out. This year, he crossed the kitchen and shared an embrace. He kissed the top of her head.

“Taller than you are, Dude,” he said, making her laugh. This year, he wouldn’t leave without speaking. “You be all right?”

What if she said no? What if she said she needed him to not go to the woods?

If she said that, he would probably stay home for a day or two, but they would both know he would have to go, and things would be more and more awkward until he finally went.

But she was Mom, and she didn’t say no.

“Sure. I’m okay. Got your filter? Got your lines? Got some food?”

He stepped back and patted the trench coat’s pockets, inner and outer.

“Got everything.”

“Stay safe,” she said.

“You, too.”

His absentee father had died four years ago yesterday. He always spent the anniversary with his mother, mourning the loss of any possibility that her happy family dream would come true, that his father love dream would come true. The man himself felt like less of a loss than the loss of the dreams he had taken with him to the grave.

The day after their shared anniversary, Cosmo always went to the woods.

They lived in a funny little archipelago of town that reached into farmland and woodland, and he could walk half an hour and be in relative wilderness. He’d been taking refuge there from the world since before his dad had left, his dad having been absentee even while he lived with Cosmo and his mom.

He kissed the top of his mother’s head again, said, “Later, gator,” and waved over his shoulder as her “While, ’dile” followed him out the door.

He had a particular place he liked to go. There was an abandoned cabin near a spring-fed lake. The cabin was still solid, even though it had been empty for as long as Cosmo had been going there. He never used the cabin (it might be abandoned but it wasn’t his), but he liked being near it. It was company that needed nothing and offered nothing.

From one of his pockets, he pulled a thin rain poncho. From another pocket, he pulled a second poncho and, from a third, he pulled a folded square of waterproof canvas. He shucked his coat and, using sticks from the floor of the woods, he turned the ponchos and canvas into a small but waterproof tent.

He put his coat back on and went foraging.

His mother had panicked when he had told her he foraged, but his mother panicked at pretty much everything. The world in her head was full of danger – well, he had to admit she wasn’t wrong – but her boss, who was one of those small but fearless guys, had given her a woodland survival manual that he had lifted out of a “too soiled to sell” box behind a used book store, and she had browsed it and given it to Cosmo. He had accepted it with thanks, even though he had been the one to dump it behind the store, and suspected his mom’s boss knew that.

He gathered wild leek and wild onion, fiddlehead ferns and mushrooms. He grazed on wild blackberries until, if he hadn’t been a young male, he would have been full – he seemed never to be full. His mother always insisted he carry protein bars and jerky with him, and they tided him over as he filled his pockets with all the good things the woods provided.

When his meandering brought him to the lake, he picked up a thin fallen branch that still had plenty of spring and strength, and tied his fishing line to it. Worms were easy to find, a fish was easy to catch and clean. There were plenty of critters who would appreciate the innards, and the head, tail, and bones went back into the water. He disassembled his pole, stashed his hook and line, wrapped the fish fillets in leaves, and stuck them in one of his pockets.

Back at his tent, he made a fire, stuffed his ferns and mushrooms and whatnot between the fish fillets, tied the package up with string, and cooked it low and slow on a flat rock propped over the flame.

As he ate, he monitored the fire, letting it burn down to coals. When it got dark and he could no longer see any glow from the fire, he poured water on it, stirred it, and poured water on it again.

He crawled into his tent and stretched out. The ground was less than perfectly even, and he could feel stones he hadn’t been able to see when he chose his camping spot.

And now he could stop thinking. The woods gave him plenty to think about, none of which was his father’s absence or his mother’s pain or his own aching emptiness. The woods filled him up. The woods made him whole. Every time he came to the woods, he found a piece of himself. Maybe some day, all the pieces would add up.

For now, it was enough.

MY PROMPT FOR TODAY: Woods as therapy



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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