This short story was written as part of the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge, organized by LisaBee at the Sims Forums. Readers are invited to read all the entries, and vote for their top three choices in both categories (novice and veteran), for a total of six votes. Any vote that doesn’t contain three for each category (six total) will not be counted–so if you want to vote, please be sure to read all the stories and vote for three Novice and three Veteran stories! This month’s theme: ” Mother … motherhood … mothering.”
Into Green Arms
Kids were being kids again. That’s what Mom would say. But Sela thought they weren’t “being kids”; they were being mean.
“Who knows other ways forest ecosystems interconnect?” her teacher had asked.
Count to five. No one said anything. Six. Still silence. So before she could count one more, Sela jumped in.
“And so, you see,” she continued, minutes deep into her explanation of forest-system communications, “the mycelium acts as a type of network through which electronic and chemical signals can pass, much like the Internet, or even like the human brain. In fact, in many ways, the synapses in our brain are very similar to the fungus web of mycelium.”
“Did you say fungus?”
“There’s a fungus among us!”
The teacher, who couldn’t quiet the students’ raucous laughter, let the class out early for recess. Sela stayed behind at her desk, nose in book.
The rest of the day passed in spitwads, snickers, and sneers. The lonely walk home brought, at least, the relief of quiet and the anticipation of finally being with the one who would understand, her mother.
It could be any day, Sela told herself, for days like this were more common than not, and on days like this, there was only one place where Sela found comfort, in the quiet shelter of her mother’s wide arms.
When she felt alone and misunderstood, her mother let her be herself. She didn’t have to talk. She could sit and listen to soothing whispers.
Her earliest memories held this quiet presence, nestled happily in the shelter of her mother’s shade.
Sela felt, sometimes, that it was remembering her mother’s stillness that got her through the toughest days.
She found the house empty when she got home.
“At a meeting,” Mom’s yellow post-it note said. “Snack in fridge. Back for supper.”
Sela felt relieved. She’d have had to listen to lectures again, if Mom had been home. “Kids will be kids. Besides, should you expect them to sit still and listen while you rattle on? What have we talked about before? Just say the first fact, not all 101 of them.”
At least 122 facts about mycelium branched in her brain, each as significant as the other, and if she left out one, it might turn out that that was possibly the exact fact that people needed to know. Anyway, once she got started, she couldn’t stop, and if she’d sat quietly, she would have gotten into trouble, at least with her conscience.
“Look at this,” Mom had said one day, showing her two pictures of what looked like white strings of mycelium on a black piece of cardboard. One of them looked like all the branches had been snipped off, and the other looked like fairy lace.
Mom pointed to the snipped-off one. “This is what the synapses in most people’s brains look like,” she said. Then she pointed to the fairy-lace one. “This is what the synapses in the brains of people like you look like.”
“Did you know that the word dendrite means tree?” Sela had replied.
Mom gazed back with her common blank stare. “What even goes on in that head of yours? The doctor said they’re working on drugs to snip off the extra synapses. You know, to make you more normal.”
Sela didn’t want to be normal. She liked her fairy-lace brain, with its white connections stretching across both hemispheres, picking up the whispers of ferns, of spiderwebs, of dendrite branches, sparkling in the light and shimmering in the wind.
Mom was out! And not back until supper? That gave her all afternoon to be with the one whose company she loved the most!
“I’m off to the woods,” she scrawled in the note she left. “Back by sunset.”
And off she ran, past the meadow, through the forest, across the creek and up to the glen where, in the center of a clearing, with wide green arms open in welcome, stood her one true mother, with a thousand whispers of comfort from the one who understood her fairy-lace brain and spoke in a language that also traversed wide broad fields.