Clover

When I was five I discovered the clover patch by the old farmhouse I grew up in. A hidden oasis of green in the expanse of sandy hay flapping in the wind around our humble little abode, the amber stalks around opened like a curtain to a hidden backstage. Many a warm summer afternoon I lay in the cool comfort of the clover patch without a care in the world and stared up at giant white clouds slowly crawling across the sky.

When I turned 8 I fell in love. Margaret was her name. She lived in the next farmhouse over, down the road. We met when we both wandered to where the properties did, right where it gave way to the thick of the forest, at the rotted fence made of old railway sleepers.

We lay in the clover patch most every day that summer, at first apart and then together. We lay in the innocence of childhood guilt, knowing that what we were doing was wrong but could also never be. That was when we learned its secret. The clover patch was alive, a living thing. The tiny sprouts swayed and caressed their leaves against our naked bodies, absent any summer breeze.

The summer after that my parents sent me off to boarding school and I thought only of Margaret. Those few weekends I returned home I visited the clover patch, like a pilgrim to his childhood Mecca, hoping I’d find her there. But the clovers lay still, only for only me.

When I was 16 I visited the clover patch under the light of the full moon and Margret was their too, her back to me, the clover swaying beneath her feet in the still humid air. “I knew you’d come,” she said. We made love. We lay in the clover and held each other and it held us.

We made love each summer after that, until I was 19 and Margaret told me she was going away to college in the city. “I can’t keep doing this,” she said. “We’re not children anymore.” The clovers lay still then and I wondered whether they’d ever really moved at all.

She sent me a letter after I shipped out to Iraq. It said she met someone and everything had happened very fast. It said she’d always love me in a certain way, and that nothing would ever be the same as those summer nights we lay amongst the clover. She said she was pregnant and she was going to keep it and they were going to get married.

When I was 20 I came back to the farm on leave. Dad and Mom were dead and the old farmhouse was mine now. I brought Margaret’s second letter with me and read it over and over on the way home. I went back to the clover patch under the light of the full moon, and thought about all the summers we’d lain in its soft caress.

I lay, and this time the clover was alive again, and I felt it caressing me, then saw in the dim moonlight little white tendrils sprouting from the tiny plants and snaking out over me. The tendrils burrowed into my skin, into the flesh of my arms, and I bled. The clover sprouted, smothering me, thousands of them rushing into my mouth and forcing their way down my throat and suffocating me.

The moon was beautiful that night. I hoped that one day Margaret would come back with our son, and in my bones they’d find my dog tags with the inscription I’d had engraved on the back: I STILL LOVE YOU

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