In the Wheat Fields -- flash fiction by Annie Pan
Perhaps it was a sycamore.
Or maybe a maple.
He never knew; their leaves were too similar: large and veined. All he could recall was its tall, rugged trunk that stood up straight like a metal pole; its long, twisted branches that extended upwards as if to snatch a cloud from the sky; underneath hid a large shadow that never failed to serve as a resting place when he was a child.
The man’s eyes wandered toward the window, watching the waves of prairie grass pass by, similar to a swift autumn breeze. He rubbed his hands together, trying to keep warm, as he remained seated.
The sharp whistle-like bell and the screeching of train wheels against their tracks broke the silence, signaling his arrival. He stepped off the train, mumbling a few words of appreciation to the conductor.
It had been eight years since he returned; eight years of working abroad.
His parents had sold their farm after he had left, choosing to move to New York City where jobs were plentiful. He knew there was nothing left for him in Kansas, yet he came anyways.
The remaining specks of sunlight had begun to fade, no longer painting the sea of wildflowers nearby with hints of orange and yellow. But instead of the familiar whistling of the wind and the soft owl hoots that he remembered from his youth, the sound of football games from the opened windows of houses filled the street. The rugged dirt path he had once walked on was replaced by smooth pavement. No longer was he covered in the night’s darkness, surrounded by the buzzing of insects and an occasional firefly to light up his path. Instead, lamps aligned the streets and webs of electricity wires hissed quietly from above.
When he finally reached the spot the farm should’ve stood, all that appeared was a large, brightly red supermarket. It should’ve looked out of place, but it didn’t; roses and newly trimmed saplings had replaced the wild, undomesticated fields of knee-high prairie grass.
The man walked behind the building, heading towards the place the tree he used to play around stood. He was off the pavement, covering his shoes and pants in dust.
But he didn’t seem to mind.
Instead, he continued walking, away from the town’s bright lights. He paused, staring at the scene in front of him as he reached a clearing. What should’ve been a gigantic tree, covered in so many leaves that it could even hide a full moon, was a stump.
His fingers trailed across the surface; it was smooth, evidence of work from a machine. The owner of the land must’ve thought the tree was a nuisance, calling a tree service company to cut it. He leaned against the stump, staring at the freshly planted rows of non-native tulips in front of him. Breathing in, all he could taste was the strong odor of synthetic fertilizer.
The Kansas he once knew was gone.
Annie Pan is a sixteen-year-old high schooler from St. Louis, Missouri. Her writing has earned gold and silver keys from the National Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition. Her work has been featured in the IYNA Journal and Teen Magazine.