A) The History of a Gesture
After the machines come back from the construction site, moving through dusk, the bereft moon tumbling after them, someone blinks the lights, someone guns an engine. The smell of beef roasting in the house across the street wafts toward the boy who lives there but he does not run to it. He leans over the gears of a machine instead. The driver revs the motor to tease him, and the boy jams his fingers in his ears against the sound that will haunt him from then on. When his grandfather first heard the moan of pesticide air-blasters, he had tried to duck the sound with the same gesture, but the boy doesn’t know that. As alarms and sirens pierce the night all the way into morning, his grandfather is wakened by his own inner alarm. He looks out the fogged window and sees nothing of what he left behind. He ducks behind the curtain. He puts his fingers in his ears.
Ninety decibels from each lawnmower blast the golf course. It will take all four of them to do justice to the north, south, east, and west of the green. They take their places, synchronize their speed, and converge on the hills. Snowplows do something similar scraping winter streets. They have no trouble clearing the grid; it’s the squealing roundabouts that confuse them─ they can never tell who has the right of way. Autumn leaf blowers, four hundred cubic feet per minute of hot air blowing at one hundred fifty miles per hour, have workers noticing how fast the importance of hearing oneself think dwindles in the presence of a leaf dancing to a sinking sun; or the sight of fallen spring blossoms lifted by a breeze, petals twirling higher and higher until the gardener can no longer see them. He throws his rake after them and curses─ the sound rips an opening in the sky for the blooms to enter.
Biography: Cheryl Snell’s books include several poetry collections and the novels of her Bombay Trilogy. Her latest title is a series called Intricate Things in their Fringed Peripheries. Most recently her writing has appeared in Gone Lawn, Ilanot Review, Cafe Irreal, Pure Slush, Literary Yard, and New World Writing.