a flash CNF piece by Katie Dunne


Just Like Mamaw Said

We were sitting out in her backyard, Papaw’s do-it-yourself cornfield a stark contrast against the brick garages lining the alley, soldiers standing tall. Little tress, I always thought, little skinny trees.

The corn didn’t always grow so well in the Chicago summer. Rats, squirrels, opossums, and God-knows-what-else would always chew through the leaves before the stalks ever grew to their normal height. Still almost reach the gutter, though. Taller than I’ll ever be.

The gray shingles on the roof cracked in the heat and black ashes fell to the garden like rain. Mamaw leaned against the blue paneling and looked at me, then the ground, and then sighed.

“Remember when I used to catch crickets out here?”

Mamaw nodded, ignoring the fact that it was always her that would do all the catching. I would only throw a butterfly net over the creatures, letting out a shriek halfway between horror and glee until she was the one that scooped them up and placed them into one of our plastic cube hamster cages.

I thought Mamaw had looked back at me, eyes squinting against the lowering sun, but I wasn’t able to catch her eye. I turned and scanned the greenery next to me. I didn’t see what she saw.

I turned back to her and scrunched my face. I sat on the walkway and picked at a straggly piece of grass. I plucked it from the dirt and began to wrap it around my fingers when I heard a noise coming from the spot Mamaw had been studying.

A rabbit.

No more than a few months old, the rabbit rummaged through the leaves, looking for an evening snack, I supposed.

“Look, Mamaw!”

She smiled as I watched as its pale brown undercoat poked through its gray-brown fur as it moved.

“Can we catch it? Go inside and get it a carrot. I want to watch it.”

As Mamaw walked down the long gangway up to the house and creaked up the old wooden stairs to get inside, I imagined her hand on her hip as she crept up the stairs. I imagined her hunched over as she walked across the checkered kitchen tile, imagined her catch herself before she fell head-first as she knelt at the fridge, reaching into the cracked drawer to grab a carrot.

But I also imagined her running. Racing up the stairs, loud plopsas her foot mashed down on each stair. Imagined her plucking the carrot from the fridge and galloping down the basement stairs to get a butterfly net. Imagined her blowing dust off the handle and waving it back and forth to clear the netting of spiderwebs. Imagined her leaping outside and scooping the rabbit up in the net so that we could keep it forever.

Mamaw came back, carrot in hand. She rolled it across the dirt, scaring the bunny so that it ran back to the paneling of the garage, its nest nearby.

“It’s always how it is. One generation comes to the replace the other.”

Like the rising and the setting of the Chicago sun, like the wind whispering from one ear to the next.

I stared at where the bunny had gone. It peeped out at me from behind a leaf. I smiled.