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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