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“Undergrowth” – Fiction by Ian Kappos

A Rushing Sea of Undergrowth - Emily Carr, 1935
A Rushing Sea of Undergrowth – Emily Carr, 1935

“Undergrowth,” from our Spring 2015 issue, is Ian Kappos‘ coming-of-age tale about loss, mysterious moss, and The Great Beast.

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WE CROWNED THE LEVEE, crossed the railroad tracks, and descended toward the river. The air was crisp and wet. Not like the city.

“This one is old,” Lyle told me, pointing through the murk at a tree that craned over the river. “I looked it up online.”

It was 1999, the last year that it would be cool for fourteen-year-old boys to listen to boy bands. Neither Lyle nor I was cool, but we grasped for a point of reference as earnestly as anybody our age.

“And check this out,” he went on, and led us scrambling through the underbrush. There was a full moon lazing above us, so we could see beyond the tangle of branches the river shining ripples of silver. Frogs croaked, mosquitoes buzzed. It was summer and we both wore denim shorts and polo shirts.

“See?” Lyle said. He pointed again. “Just around this bend.”

I tripped over a rock but found my footing in the suction of damp earth bordering the river. The water played at my shoes. Then I saw it: A bright green moss, or something like it, hugged a branch. It seemed to pulsate, going from a dull olive color to a sharp lime that made me squint.

Lyle then said something very fast that I didn’t catch, but he sounded excited.

I asked, “What is it?”

Little wormy things were fawning from it, dancing in different directions. They stretched and retracted, though there was no breeze.

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