There was a young boy whose name was Oliver. He lived on a farm in Maryland, around thirty miles to the west of Annapolis. It was the height of summer and the trees were chirping with the first cicadas of the year, and in the evenings the cicadas would become tree frogs, which sounded like birds far off in the distance. The birds were like wonderful choirs singing in bizarre atonal notes in the trees which the farmhouse overlooked. And when the trees swayed in the wind, Oliver could hear words which the wind was saying just to him. No one else could hear it, but only because they didn’t pay attention to such mundane things as a little breeze. But there were words: I sashay, I sway, through trees away away! He had once told his parents of the whispers that lived in the trees, and his mother had patted him on the head, laughed and said “really, silly boy!”
On one particular day, Oliver decided to take a walk along the road that led from his house to nowhere, which was unpaved and unfurled under a canopy of leaves which glowed in the morning sun. “Oh!” he said to the sun, “isn’t it all so perfect, so beautiful!” He didn’t walk often, and instead peered out of the window most days, his face almost touching the glass, but
he felt that today, specifically this very morning, was far superior to others, because the sky had a muted blue as though it had been painted with watercolors, and the clouds looked like the waves on the stormy ocean of a Turner painting, and the leaves recycled the sky’s light into a neon green glow, and the grass! Even the grass was beautiful! He didn’t know why this was better than other mornings, it wasn’t a thought or a knowledge, but just a feeling.
At one point he passed by a ruin of an old farmhouse which was now evidently owned by the weeds and grass. As he walked by, it occurred to him that the grass might have been the ghosts of those who had once built and owned the house. Some people are so attached, he thought, to a place that is in the past. He continued onward towards where another road branched off of his road. It was a private road and was on a hill. He continued. The Turner-like waves of the sky were becoming more docile, and the sky was rehearsing for the day. His thoughts were interrupted by a tap on the shoulder from behind him, which scared him out of his wits.
“It’s alright, child! I mean you no harm.” It was a man, with a long grey beard which
looked more like thousands of grey whiskers than hair. He wore a grey button-up plaid shirt,
and the two buttons at the top were unbuttoned.
“Who are you?” He asked the man.“Oh, It’s been so long since someone has cared to ask me that I no longer remember. Call me whatever name you think suits me.”
“Where did you come from? I didn’t see you come up behind me.”
“The forest,” he pointed towards the deep woods to his left, “I was foraging.”
“Foraging, what’s that?”
“Picking berries and mushrooms and whatnot. To eat.”
“And where do you live?”
“The Land Of The Flowers.”
The boy smiled, “Where’s that?”
“Over that way,” he pointed with his long and bony finger, “Come and visit me tomorrow! I won’t be going back until late today, for I’m spending the day foraging, but tomorrow I will be there for you, no doubt!”
“Yes! Please!” The boy exclaimed with joy, “Could you give me directions?”
“Yes, you have to cross the field down that way and walk along the gravel trail across from the field until it lets you out and you see in front of you ‘The Land Of The Flowers’,” he paused, “Do you want to see the wonder of the world?”
“I’ve already seen it, it’s in the sky!”
“No, in The Land Of The Flowers, you stand in the midst of it.”
He turned those words over in his head while he walked home, ‘the wonder of the world.’ What did he mean by ‘the wonder of the world?’ Oliver had thought that the wonder of the world was something that one saw every day in the trees and the wind if one waited, but hadn’t ever considered the possibility of there being a wonder that was outside his realm of
understanding. He didn’t dare tell his parents, for fear that they wouldn’t let him see the Land, but only said to them, “I’m going walking again tomorrow. I might be a while, because I want to walk farther than usual.”
“Alright,” was his father’s reply.
So he set out the next day for The Land Of The Flowers. The wind whispered its deepest secrets like a specter, floating through the forest, once in a while letting out a whistle as though the sound of a bird far away and in the past had made its way into the voice of the wind. And every time the wind spoke the trees all nodded in agreement, or maybe acknowledgment of its words, for as much as the wind spoke to him, it also spoke to the trees, and it was a poem, he was sure, a poem that had no rhyme or even meaning, but just sound and the bare essence of beauty. The boy quickened his pace and was eventually running, and his excitement was like no other excitement, because he, Oliver, would today see the wonder of the world! He rushed past the ruin of the farmhouse, ran towards where he had met the man, who the boy now considered his savior, and darted across the field, trembling in a fever of excitement— this was it, he would today stand in the ever present beauty that lies in the sky as though the Turner-like waves of the sky were tall flowers, and he would, in the sky, be satisfied forever, and never do anything but forage and bask in the pool of the sky!
But as he approached the end of the gravel path that the old man had told him to take, he began to hear the hiss of cars passing and wondered at this sound. He soon discovered that the path let off onto a big road. He stood at the end of the path, at first expecting he would ‘see in front of him The Land Of The Flowers’, but only found a gas station with a weather-beaten sign that said LIVE BAIT on the window. There were many signs taped to the window, advertising cheap food and cigarettes, and cars passed leaving a haze of almost black smoke in his face. In front of the gas station parking lot was only a singular Black-eyed Susan. He kneeled down on the gravel and cried and cried, because the world had lost its wonder.
Noah Chiles is fifteen years old and lives in Lovettsville, Virginia, USA. He is a writer and musician whose artistic influences include James Joyce, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, David Bowie, Björk, and The Beatles.
"Black Eyed Susan" by Mustang Joe is marked with CC0 1.0.