It was July and the peaches were green. Usually somewhat predictable, the natural world was in the process of changing her mind.
In the quiet order of their lives, the community noticed additional oddities. These were filed into categories: some were good omens, and others, dreadful. Interpretations depended on the disposition and age of the various people of the land.
Jamie witnessed thousands of walking sticks making their way up his favorite walking path. He quit counting at four hundred eighty-four. That was the month and year of his birth. The parade went on for days, ‘Like an exodus,’ he claimed.
Over a single night, Mary’s roses went from full-blown blousy, sweet smelling, county-famous ruffles, to looking fake and dusty, like old paper.
Lightening bugs blinked in tandem, turning night into a throbbing stage.
Bullfrogs, absent for years, converged into a song that woke the children from their sleep, all of them in panic. The common thread of their collective nightmare: a background of screeching.
In broad daylight, feminine garments were stolen from clotheslines. A teeming gossip-fest erupted, worse than the one the year before when a husband ran off with a neighbor’s son. Theories on who might be the thief spilled like poison from the town’s tongues.
Men accused the poor woman whose husband took the teenage boy. They assumed she was out for vengeance for the town turning on her. The women worried themselves sick over what was happening and began suspecting each others’ husbands, sure each was guilty of unspeakable desire. Then they turned against each other, and in no time, the mostly peaceful village was in war with itself.
Even the children had their theory: one boy made the mistake of telling his closest friends in school, and they told their mothers who thought it sounded like incest, that he wished his sister had beautiful things to wear.
The constable said it was the Almighty stripping away their finery, ruining the land that supported them, laying bare their selfish souls. A line formed around the back of his stone station, scared citizens seeking support, making reports. The one thing everyone agreed on was that all signs pointed to something worse about to rain down on their heads.
Sitting and weeping at his grand desk in the center of a nearly empty room, a young girl said her matching underwear went missing, as if it walked off on legs. He took notes on her opinion about the culprit, a jealous boyfriend. Like a flattened honeybee, his yellow phone vibrated across the desk.
With commanding countenance, he excused himself from the girl to take the call. Her eyes roamed the immediate landscape. On his windowsill, her gaze settled on the biggest book she’d ever seen.
As if the book were a magnet, she left her chair and floated to the window. Surprisingly light when she picked it up, the girl discovered it was not a book of vast knowledge, but a box made to look like one.
She heard the constable’s voice growing faint, talking and walking in the opposite direction of his office. Knowing better, she told herself the world was already falling apart: still-green summer fruits, converging insects, returning amphibians, the fate of flowers, a fighting village, this wave of undergarment thievery. What damage could a little peek cause, she asked herself. One finger lifting the cover of the box, an eye on the door, the other inside the lid, she discovered a stack of unmentionable silks. On top lay her favorite peach camisole.