Boy of Grasses

by Chris­t­ian K. Martinez

The weeds I touch fade, dust in a dust­bin scat­tered on the wind. The flow­ers I seed bloom, sun­light blos­soms on a hori­zon. Brod Gar­ris, Da's eldest, says I got good mag­ic. Run strong through the bone, from the seed. 

Brod Gar­ris' a bas­tard though, doesn't know the green. He's a met­al man, makes plows for field­ers to till. No mag­ic in plows, just the man that uses 'em. 

I think he holds a grudge on me for full blood, for mag­ic. But Ma says Brod Gar­ris just a bit­ter man with a weak wife's brew. 

I won't be like him, he's a small thing with his plows. I'm a mag­ic man.

I want a woman with strong wine in her cask, a plant and tree that blos­som in the moon and bend to shiv­er light from branch­es. I'm young, twelve and a score, but I'll have her. Just you see. Though that idn't for now.

Last week Da sent me to Aliya on the hill, but the witch was nice to me. 

Well nice most­ly, she set a fast word to my face when she caught me sneak­ing out to watch her bathe. Said if I was a man she'd make me drink her brew, as a woman had a right to. I shud­ddered, maybe shivered. 

We left it at that.

On the course home though, a thought nag­gled me and wouldn't come free. "I'm a mag­ic man…" 

"and a man don't need drink to spend time with her either," I thought too. She's wise, and pret­ty as a tulip if you please it. She knows more bout plants and the Green than Brod Gar­ris for sure and maybe more than Da, and he's a Wizard.

I've been going for a spell, see­ing more even if I won't dare a peek. I help her in the gar­dens and learn. She tried me first at weav­ing and busy work but I wouldn't have it. It's the green or noth­ing for me. 

I'm the only male she'll suf­fer around, that she trusts won't try a sip. She jokes I'm get­ting old­er, fif­teen now. Almost a man, then she'll have to worry.

Like I'd be fool enough to. Her brew would sour in my chest, I know the story. 

A woman so strong with a tree so large it shades her gar­den. A women so wise that saw no fit­ting men, and didn't fan­cy being with one unwor­thy. It's well strange she tol­er­ates me at all. She doesn't trust men, just me.

But then, every­one trusts me. Even Da once he got over me learn­ing offa witch. That stuck in his jaw like a thorn for a year or two. Now he nods at my name, says it in pride. "A boy so keen with mag­ic, even the witch of wil­low won't slip him down her hill," he says. 

He trusts my judg­ment most times now, thinks its the green guid­ing my hand instead o' m own thick head. But it's something.

He's get­ting old, keeps telling me I'll be next Wiz­ard in Lilies. I won't though, don't fan­cy being in town. In the town they tell sto­ries, tall tales about a tall boy. 

They call me a boy of grass­es, so good with the green I'm like the lit­tle folk. They rid­dle me ques­tions bout the weath­er, the future and all sort of crafts I nev­er got to learn­ing. Think I'm a faerie man, or a man of proph­esy or what­ev­er such.

 I like being up on her hill. She calls me Tarin. She sees me in the green, as a per­son. Even as a man.

Not even Da sees me any­more, and I don't care for the titles of life he wants to give. It's the green I love. Most­ly just the green.

I almost let the sto­ries get me in the head with what they call me still, even tho' I'm old enough to drink a brew. Almost drank what I know no man, don't mat­ter if he's a mag­ic man, should drink.

Ma's tak­en to send my meals up to the hill, with lil Brod Geof. And I some­times take a pic­nic with it, lone­ly like, beneath Aliyah's tree. He took up near a pound of fish and cheese to me, asked for some cook­ing herbs to make Ma happy. 

I let him look his­self, he's got more green than any the rest of my brod­ders. I'm sure Da'll pick him when he gets it I won't be Wiz­ard in Lilies.

That night she was on a sojourn, what she calls a walk about, off look­ing for strap­ple-fox and moon­ber­ry in the long weeds of the wood.

I was sit­ting gainst her tree, felt its bark on my back soft as a wil­low pret­ty as a red­wood. Just couldn't right get that cask out­ta my head. It was laid out there like it always is with two vines wrapped tight and leaves pret­ty­ing up the wood.

Kept whis­per­ing myself "I'm a mag­ic man, It won't kill me. They call me boy of grass­es, no brew o' the Green could put a stitch in my soul or body."

Came close to pulling out the cork as I could, fin­gers wrapped like a sin­ner round the root.

That's when I got to real­izin' wouldn't kill me if I drank it. Wasn't about that now at all, she'd gone so long with that brew and kept it well. Even if she didn't brew up wine so much as poi­son, was her choice now right?

What gone hap­pened to me? Said I didn't need her brew to be beside her, though as a boy didn't rec­og­nize my words quite so.

It's what I got to remem­ber, if I'm a mag­ic man or a boy o' grass­es or a faerie man or a Wiz­ard. Don’t mat­ter. Won't open that cask for noth­in in the world but if she asked.

And I don't think its in ole Aliyah, young as she is, to ask. 

Damn but Da didn't yell for days when I moved up to the base of the hill. Must have been a sight, was as every­one told it.

"There went the boy, boy o' grass­es ya know? Tarin? He just walked up with a heavy-plank tent and some ham­mers, right down to the hill. Where the roads meet. His Da and his Ma were yelling and cry­ing, all his brod­ders went up and bran­dish­ing tools like he wasn't damn a man already.

Then the Witch came down the hill, with her own cry­ing and yelling and throw­ing out flow­ers that hissed. Our good ole boy just looked 'em all and smiled. 'If you want a potion I'll brew it, but I aint no Wiz­ard. If you want me gone, say screw it. I'm on the road not on your hill.' Then he plopped down to his tent and said good night and a prayer. And was off, that ole flop­py hat over his face. What a boy he is, isn't he?"

They aren't wrong in how it hap­pened but a bit full on the dra­ma, even for a small town like Lilies. It wasn't such a big play on my part. Just been a time these years, up at the hill all day every day. Since four years  I nev­er left her gar­den but home and back. 

The walks get­ting to drag on me is all. And Ma's always on me to go tast­ing brews. When I've not want­ed a woman's wine, or any oth­er kind, for years. Only one'd do me, anyways.

Da's final­ly set­tling on it, and got her set­tled to at last. Keeps sayin "My boy, Wiz­ard by the Road. Out there on cross tween Lilies and Bram­ble, under Witch's hill."

Not that Aliyah liked it much, wouldn't speak a word to me for a week. Not a kind one a month after. She's get­ting in the step of things now, not so mad at me. Though she won't stop look­ing off at her tree and back to me like we had some­thing in com­mon. Guess we both have roots round here. 

Those first days were sketchy. Thought she might poi­son me sick a few times. She wouldn't ban me from the gar­den though, didn't even make a pass at it. 

A right call on her there. We call it hers, but a good half those leaves is mine. Our plants and projects run over each oth­er, flow­ers just wrestling in com­pe­ti­tion; looks so grand.

Walks a lot short­er now, can work a sight longer too. Start grow­ing up some prop­er moon-weeds when sea­son comes, start a few dif­fer­ent vines. That'll make din­ner a sight nicer too, in the winter. 

Aliyah and I eat sep­a­rate most nights, but every few we'll have a lit­tle throw out under the tree. I lay back on a blan­ket and stare and she sits, sad­dled on that big ole wine cask buried half in the dirt.

We don't talk much at din­ner, but I fall sleep right under her tree. Wake up to her in the morn­ing sprin­kling water on my face like I'll do some­thing with it. She smiles at me when I sput­ter. Still has that tulip smile made me keep com­ing back as a boy. I smile right with her now, before walk­ing down and get­ting dressed to meet the morning.

It's a fine time liv­ing down from her on the hill. 

Chris­t­ian K. Mar­tinez has had cre­ative work pub­lished in Alien­Skin Mag­a­zine, Bards and Sages Quar­ter­ly and at Nev­er­met Press.

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