A Season for Stories: “Sap”

Autumn is a season of both beauty and sadness, when the passage of time becomes visible as changing trees mark the inevitable transition from growth to decay. Senior political science major Liam Kelly Fleming presents an unusual exploration of nature’s dichotomy in his emotionally intense narrative, “Sap,” a piece that drew character inspiration from The Stranger by Albert Camus and was stylistically influenced by Ellen Hopkins’ Crank series. “Sap” provides an intriguing contrast to the parent-child relationship introduced in our previous entry, “The Aspen.” Read the second installment of A Season for Stories below.


Liam Kelly Fleming

“Hey Poppa.”
I don’t like being called that.
“Can you take me down to the beach?”
I don’t want to leave the porch.
“The water is so pretty Poppa.”
I don’t like the smell of the ocean. I hate this place, this child who reaches up at me sprouting out of the earth for someone to give her water, my life. I want to stab her until sap comes out from her bark and she stops whining to me forever. So I can bend down and sweep away her bones and every memory of her, and her mother. She ruined everything, that woman. She won’t kill the fetus, won’t nip the bud, but she is fine to run away from it once it’s gotten its wits about it.

“I’m ready to go home Poppa.”
Don’t smile at me.
“When is Uncle Ricky coming home?”
I envy Rick, off somewhere playing duck hunt in the mountains. Another time and place it would’ve been me. Now I’m just rotting while Rick gets to turn bullets into dirt and crush goat skulls under his tank. I just fight my wars with this little brat that bears my name.
“What’s for dinner?”
Eat the three dollars I give you to go to McDonald’s twice a day.
“Poppa, can you help me with my math homework?”
Take this calculator and hush.
“When is Momma coming home?”
The girl doesn’t understand that her mother was too smart to stay with us. That her mother got away and left me with this festering liability. It has been four months and that child doesn’t know what’s going on yet. I didn’t try to explain that her mother left a note saying that she went off in another direction. The little girl just made up that her mother was on vacation when I didn’t answer any questions.
“Nan said hi.”
Back. Again. Still clawing at me for something. Nan, she could take this weight, just take it away. Go back to Nan and tell her you need a place to stay tonight.
“Good night Poppa, love you.”
Goodbye. Goodbye. The Toyota runs fine so I can fire it up and be out of here real fast. I am going to drive to Rick’s place in Springfield, his friend watching it for him til he gets home. I go there. It’s better than Providence. It doesn’t smell like the ocean, there are no seeds sprouting and trying to envelop me. 

The city smells bad too. I walked the streets and was ignored. I ate McDonald’s. It tasted the same. 

Rick’s friend is a drinker. Not a social one though, he just wallows in his bed with bottles of brandy. He limps around once in a while on his prosthetic. The Marines tattoo on his arm has sagged as his body has ballooned with alcohol. 

I drove the Toyota through Holyoke today and saw a few women I liked, one reminded me of the root of my problems. 

Today I picked her up. She was sweet, and asked what I wanted, for once. I said just to look. And we sat there for a while. She left too soon, of course. 

Today I went out on that same road in Holyoke. I found her again, she laughed when I told her to get in. So I pulled the gun out of my glove box. She got in like I knew she would. She cried, and I told her she can’t do that, because I was the one who should be crying. She had left me with that parasite. She had left me to get fat and die, the bitch. I asked her why and of course she had no answer, there was no answer. I cried at her, and she just shook and kept saying please. She had no mercy on me, she left me to that child. If I hadn’t gotten away by tricking the kid, I would be covered in vines now, being sucked into the earth by that sprout. I had to cut the vines away, I had to kill the mother tree, cut the roots and make her sap run red. I inseminated her with lead, this time she wouldn’t have a plant to suck at me, no it would be a hard metal boy, he wouldn’t need anything from me. 

I smiled at her sappy body. I almost felt like I could love her again, now we could raise our boy and no one would need things from me. No.
“Sir put the gun down.”

When that cop shot me it felt good, like I had been released from a thousand years of deep anesthesia, all the black started blotting slowly into color like the reverse of being forced into sleep. I yelped in this expanse until finally a womb shaped hole opened and I was dropped into the cellular walls of limbo. San Pierre said ‘Aloë’ and read to me my sins, his brows furrowed, and next thing I knew, I was laying on top of a pile of corpses, not one of which had a heart. A screen lit up and my life came into view, every sin washed through the screen

Just when the film ended
it began again
there was me a child punching Frank McFadden
there was me getting fat off beer and McDonald’s
there was me having sex with the semi-conscious mother of my child
there was my child, and then me, and then her grasping at me as always
there was me walking away and my child’s eyes filled with tears
there was me pushing her out the door
there was a woman I didn’t know pleading for her life
I gripped a gun, I didn’t listen to her, she sprayed broken pink bubble gum out the back of her head
the video ended and it began again


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