The Longhorn Creek Story by Steve Carr
My story in Visitant Literary Journal
10:19 PM - 6 Feb 2017
The Longhorn Creek Story by Steve Carr
The Longhorn Creek Story
Larger than an atom, smaller than a molecule, a dot of light shot down from the night sky like a minute fragment of a flaming star and sped along a few feet above the prairie, following the warm winds of late summer. Along its way it dipped in between the sun-yellowed blades, skimming across the backs of and traveling through the internal systems of amoeba, mites, gnats and grasshoppers. Rising out of the grass the light was plucked from the darkness by a meadowlark on an evening forage across the plain, and left the bird as the meadowlark came to rest on a fence post to warble a grassland aria. From there the dot of light chased butterflies, moths and bats, and in a fraction of a second, impaled them with its iridescence. The light dove into the soil and gathered molecular, RNA, DNA and genetic information from grubs, worms, moles, gophers and prairie dogs before springing up into the westwardly winds.
Attaching itself to jack rabbits, foxes, coyotes, white tail deer and buffalo the point of luminescence traveled along their nervous systems, through the ganglia of their brains, and absorbed information about the structure and function of their ears and eyes before leaving each one through the tear ducts or nose. Enriched with knowledge, the light glowed more brightly and intoxicated with wisdom it sampled more flowers, shrubs, trees, other insects, birds and animals. As morning came the light hovered very briefly above the slow moving current of Longhorn Creek and plunged into the cool clean water that wound its way through the plain. Along the bottom of the creek it sampled the essences of tadpoles, frogs, trout and a turtle, and on the surface rode in the intestine of a salamander, then a copperhead, and then on the bank of the creek transferred to a chameleon. From there the light clung to the skin of Tom Leeds’ back as the young man came out of the water after an early morning swim.
As Tom lay down on his stomach in a bed of grass alongside the creek, basking in the warmth of sun-heated water on his bare body, the celestial rider on his back paused momentarily to reflect on what it had learned so far while feeling the vibrations of Tom’s beating heart. It then slid beneath the surface of Tom’s epidermis then into his bloodstream and coursed through his veins and arteries, traveling through epithelial cells and into and out of organs, transported by serum, plasma, mucus and water. When it vaulted from Tom’s body through his mouth the light entered the mouth of his wife, Kelly, who had joined her husband in the grass and had her lips on his.
Bursting through her system like a shooting star, the light noted the many similarities and differences between the being it was inside of and the one it had just left.
“I love you,” Kelly said, and the voyager within stopped.
This was not the discordant echo of a flying creature, or the croaking of those who sat in the long thin grass at the cool liquid’s shores. It was not the chirping of the things that hopped from plant to plant, or a hiss, a growl, a grunt, or a snort. In stasis in a stream of fluid the speck of light waited, hearing the increasing rate of the beats of Kelly’s heart, feeling her internal warmth increase as well as the movement of air in and out of her body.
Then it heard it: a beat within a beat. Allowing itself to be carried along the light came to rest on the outside of a membranous sac, and attached itself there very briefly before passing through into a fluid held within the sac, and then into a being residing within the being. Here too it circulated, exploring the infant in its newness, comparing it to the other living things it had passed through and studied. And here it imparted information and wisdom also. Then as suddenly as it entered, it departed, launching itself back into the the darkness of space among the stars.
Three years later, Amanda sat in her mother’s arms on the bank of the Longhorn Creek and splashed her feet in the clear currents flowing to the south. The heat of the sun beat down. Encircled by her mother’s arms and gentle hands, Amanda watched the drops of creek water trickle down her legs. As a meadowlark lit on an old fence post nearby with a song, Amanda looked up from the water and pointed at the bird. She giggled.
“Yes, sweetheart,” Kelly said. “Can you say meadowlark?”
Try as she might, Amanda couldn’t form the word properly. As the bird spread its wings and flew away, Amanda turned her attention to an ant crawling on her mother’s arm and placed her hand in front of it, allowing the ant to crawl onto the back of her hand. She raised her hand, bringing the ant close to her eyes, and watched it intently as it crawled from one side of her hand to the other, before falling off and disappearing in the grass.
After Tom waded out of the water he sat on the bank next to his wife and daughter and held his cupped hands in front of his daughter. “Guess what daddy has,” he said.
“What?” Amanda asked gleefully.
Tom opened his hands. In his palm was a small bright green frog. “What do frogs say?” Tom asked her.
“Ribbit,” Amanda answered trying to sound as much like a frog as possible.
“You’re such a smart little girl,” Tom said. He let the frog hop back into the water, lifted Amanda from her mother’s arms, and put her on his knees. He looked down at his daughter.
“You were born with so much light in your eyes,” Tom said.