I won’t ever be eight again, woken late at night by my dad so we can slip out to catch nightcrawlers. Won’t half-sleepwalk through the wet grass with a flashlight—humid after-storm air, mosquitoes, cricket-song, peals of thunder rumbling west. Won’t bend down, breathless, a hand hovering over a nightcrawler’s glistening, swollen body. Won’t pounce. Won’t pin a nightcrawler in the mud, its dorsal pores stiffening. Won’t drop it in a coffee can filled with loose dirt that will live in the fridge until tomorrow when we go fishing. I won’t ever be eight again, impaling nightcrawlers on hooks, casting them into frothing eddies of the south fork of Wildcat Creek in Tippecanoe County Indiana, the song of a redwing blackbird deep in the maple tree one I know by heart, cottonwood seed puffs floating in the air around me, the hairs on my dad’s big Popeye forearms glinting gold in the sun. I won’t ever again sit in heavy boredom in the pews at church on Sunday, tie too tight, staring out the window during prayer at trees and sky, dreaming a wilder salvation. Stink of mud and fish. Scum-slicked shine of nitrogen runoff. Scads of electric blue dragonflies, fizz and fission. The easy intimacy of it all. Gone. Walked away from a day at a time.
Steve Edwards is author of the memoir BREAKING INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY, the story of his seven months as caretaker of a backcountry homestead along the Rogue River in Oregon. His writing can be found in Longreads, Literary Hub, Orion Magazine, The Rumpus, Electric Literature and elsewhere. He lives in Massachusetts.
Artwork by: Siim Lukka