The Forest in Our Home
BY Joshua Young
When we were kids, a forest grew in our living room. Trees had grown from the carpet, roots snaking in and out of the orange shag our parents refused to tear out because at one time in each of their lives they had played on shag such as this, because it reminded them of the first time they made love in my father’s basement, and because they claimed to love the feel of its touch between their toes. As little children, our father would hold us up on his feet to play airplane and we’d pretend that below us laid a strange orange sea.
Now, in the room, the branches brush the ceiling, scrape against the walls.
Our friends like to come over because we can maneuver through the trees, into the corner of the room, and, if our parents come looking, we can hear them pushing through. Sometimes, our visitors leave the door open as they come and go, and breezes from outside shake the branches, sway the trees, producing noises like cutting oranges down the center through the pulp and rind. The smell, though, is pine. Thick and damp like syrup. Outside, our friends have to peel the smell from them.
Animals move in between the trees and birds make nests, and the wind brings clouds and water. At first, there was a small stream trickling through the center of the room, but as the forest grew, and rain fell, the stream turned into a river.
Tired of the frontiering, our parents take to the guest home and stay. We cut down a tree or two and build a cabin. We live there till we each marry and build other cabins to accommodate our families.
When smoke creeps into our homes, we do not know that our neighbor’s son hates our forest. He hates that it is ours, that it is confined to our home, and that he cannot be a part of it. He hates that we never have to leave, that we can just live in here, that we have made lives between the trees.
On Sundays, he’d skip church service and stand on our back porch, staring in through the sliding glass door, watching the forest thicken. Some Sundays, outside our house it was sunny and hot, and inside rain fell.
He hates that we have our own rain. He wants his own rain. He wants his own forest. He wants to hike through it. He wants to clear branches from his path as he walks. He wants to build his own cabin.
So tonight, he lights matches, opens the glass door, and leaves them at the foot of the forest. He doesn't watch. He runs home and lets it burn.
When the fire quits the next morning, our house is gone, but the forest keeps growing. There isn’t a charred leaf. We go back into our cabins, and inside, forests begin to grow.
Joshua Young holds an MA in English from Western Washington University, and he will begin an MFA in poetry at Columbia College Chicago in fall 2011. He currently lives in Washington State with his wife, son, and dog. His website is http://thestorythief.tumblr.com