The Tin Man
Dear Mother, guess what? We ran into the tin man again. I think we’ve been going in circles. It’s the third time in as many days. Each time we approach from a different angle, but always find the static frame, the same blank expression. The same stolid stare of endless days collecting time and rust. It’s become unsettling. This last time I swore I saw its eyes move. The machine thinks we could fix it, but I wonder if we should. I wonder if we’re even circling at all. If our familiar friend or foe is just the same one that we’ve seen before, or the soldier of an army spread across the country like a marker, or a warning. We turned it on its side onto the grass before we left. The next time that we pass we’ll know for sure.
Trouble with Water
Dear Mother, there is trouble with water. I speak of the machine, of course. Shallow puddles are fine, light rain. But streams must be waded, rivers crossed. Heavy rain means making camp, daylight lost for hours in a musty tent, trading stories in the twilight of a cloudy afternoon. We have our differences, the machine and I, but I admit that I’d be lost without him. Things that follow come at night, are kept at bay by light and sound. The machine has been faithful (at least in this regard). Today was lost to rain, and now I’m restless. Tomorrow there’s a river. I’ll carry the machine if there’s no ferry.
P.S. The muse loved water. Stories too. I wonder what she’s doing now.
The Glade of Phones
Dear Mother, this afternoon I thought to call you. We came upon a glade of phones, hanging from the branches in a grove of ghost-white birch trees, their coiled cords like vines dissolving into cloudlike clumps of leaves. There was an urge to reach and grasp one, but the machine advised against it. Snakes as much as vines, he said. So we pushed on. For hours I felt I’d passed you on the street and failed to stop you, like you were dangling within reach and lost. Later I realized I no longer have your number. Do you even have a phone? I worried for the muse, but she was never much for gadgets.
The Stone Face
Dear Mother, this evening we came upon a clearing on a hill. I think they call them balds here. At the top was a stone in the shape of a face, the size of a two-story house. The stone was old and covered with moss, cracked and broken and weathered with age. It looked a bit like father. The light was fading; the shadow of the stone was long behind us. The machine asked if we shouldn’t make camp, here in the shelter at the top of the hill. But I said no. We pushed into the growing dark. We haven’t seen the muse for many days.
Dear Mother, it must be Christmas. The pines are wound with garland, strung with colored lights. They appeared overnight, twinkling on all sides. We can walk for miles past nightfall, even in the moonless dark. I haven’t noticed colder days, though cold is something one gets used to. Shorter days? Maybe. I’ve lost track of time. Another thing I’ve lost is distance, sense of space. When we walk among the lights at night, I sometimes feel the muse is close, right there. Like she’s just outside my vision at the corner of an eye. Another twinkle, like a shooting star. The machine thinks I imagine it. I think maybe he’s right.
Simon A. Thalmann is a writer and photographer from Kalamazoo, Michigan. His work has appeared in many publications in print and online, including Garfield Lake Review, Gargoyle, Spillway, Verbicide Magazine, Weird Tales and others. Thalmann is also the author of several books of poetry and fiction, including the award-winning “Blaze Goes to College” children’s book series published by Kellogg Community College. “Dear Mother” is part of a manuscript-in-progress titled “Dear Mother, Guess What?” inspired by Russell Edson’s prose poem “The Bridge.”