Tunnel, by Wil Stewart

Short Story: The Green Man

Joanna Kowalski bet Davey Harris that he wouldn’t drive through the Green Man’s Tunnel for ten bucks, and I said I’d drive both of them for twenty bucks and a kiss from Joanna. So, the three of us piled into my mom’s station wagon, Joanna beside me, singing along to the oldies station Mom left on and Davey behind us without his seatbelt. The siren to start trick-or-treating blared outside as I backed out of the driveway. My little brother, Mitch, ran down the front steps in a sheet dragging on the ground. His plastic pumpkin basket sailed behind him as he rushed, my dad hot on his tail.
“It’s not dark though yet,” Joanna said, whining from the back of her throat. She sounded a bit like my cat the last time she was in heat, right before she chased the neighbor’s poodle and tried to hump it.
“What’s it gotta be dark for?” I hit the brakes to keep from killing two pirates, a pumpkin, and an angel.
“Are you kidding me?” Davey stuck his head through the two seats. He turned and grinned my way.
I flicked on my signal and turned smoothly onto the main road, the wagon’s engine roaring and clicking.
“Do you even know what we’re doing?”
“Driving through some tunnel out in the park that everyone’s chicken to do.”
Joanna snickered. “You’re telling me,” she said slowly, “that you don’t know what happens when you go out there? To the Green Man’s Tunnel?”
I shared a look with Davey through the rearview mirror. “All I wanted was money for some smokes, and to get out of this trick-or-treating bullshit. I would-a-had to follow Mitch around. Did you see him? Wearing a sheet. Dumbest thing I ever seen.” I also wanted a kiss from Joanna.
She let out a breath like a whistle. “Pull over when we get in the park.”
“Where?” Davey slapped the headrest of my seat, and I jerked the wheel. “Stop it, you jag-off.”
He laughed. “Bet you don’t even know where the tunnel is.”
“Somewhere in the park.” There were lots of tunnels. I had almost hit a pick-up head on driving out of one of them on my way to a church picnic I had to go to. Idiot was going too fast, and I swerved out of the way, driving across some guy’s neatly cut grass. Glad he didn’t see me do it, either. He would-a been pissed if he was anything like my dad. Can’t even look at the grass when he’s done mowing it.
Davey sat back and pulled the strap of his seatbelt and let it go. The metal clanked against the window with a snap. He still didn’t put it on. “Pull over up here at the BMX track.”
I did.
Joanna got out of the car and slid a thin cigarette from the crushed pack in her pocket. “Either of you got a light?”
I flicked her my Zippo over the hood. She fumbled it and the lighter scraped the rocks. “Ah, hell, Joanna.”
“Sorry.” She spoke through the end of the cigarette and cupped it to light. “Go on, Davey. He needs to hear about the Green Man.”
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Green Echo, by Lars Kristian Hoydal

Short Story: The Backwoods Boy

A little boy – about five years old at first glance – appeared on the outskirts of the field of wildflowers beside the railroad tracks on a hazy Sunday morning. He crossed the wooden slabs and metal rail on the balls of his feet slowly and achingly, avoiding prolonged contact with the uneven gravel. At the other side, he approached the field cautiously, reaching out a sooty hand to tug out a handful of the tall grass.
The dirty blond hair at the back of his head stood straight up and his overalls hung loose on him, the cuffs dragging on the ground, even when they were rolled twice. When he walked, he didn’t bother to hold the pants, causing the cotton up to his knees to grow dark with a mix of dirt and soot. He didn’t wear shoes. His feet were practically black with only the skin between his toes anywhere near his true skin tone. He limped on his left foot because of a large burn spanning the length of the arch of his foot to his heel.
He sat on the small gravel slope beside the tracks and cleared a small place in front of him. Working meticulously, he arranged the fistful of tall grass stalks and wildflowers in a pile. Every so often, he crawled back to the field and plucked more, trying not to pull out any with thorns or sticky leaves. As he worked to pad the pile, he stuck his tongue between his lips and chewed on it softly. He stopped when the inch deep pile was a rectangle big enough for him to curl up on, his cheek leaning against the back of his hand on the ground.
His thumb moved subconsciously toward his mouth as he closed his eyes. He yawned loud and long and slid the tip of his thumb between his lips, his teeth scraping against the dirt that was like a second layer of skin around his nail. He swirled his tongue around his finger and sucked off some of the grime. He jerked his thumb away quickly, as if he’d been hit, when he realized what he was doing.
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