e m i l y    a b r o n s

Crash Sheep Plant


A small tour bus has collided head-on with a compact automobile and the two lie crumpled and at odds from one another on opposite sides of the road, as if they still had some petty disagreements to resolve. The collision caused the bus to overturn onto its side, whereas the car was compressed by the collision to two feet shorter than its original length. Seven of the original twelve passengers in the bus were dead within thirty eight seconds of the impact: 6 due to head trauma and excessive blood loss from either impact with the interior of the bus or with the external environment from being launched through the large 5' by 3' windshield at the bus's original velocity of 70 miles per hour; 1 due to a heart attack—originally sitting in one of the bus's four front seats. Five minutes after the collision, the gas tank of the bus exploded, killing the remaining five passengers who were still alive. The explosion of the gas tank resulted in the burning of the bus, which lasted approximately an hour and charred the metal bus carriage. The compact car, which had been moving at a velocity of 65 miles per hour, contains a young couple, their 3 year-old toddler, and a pet cat contained in a carrying cage, all of whom were immediately killed on impact. The cause of the crash is unknown.

Streams of smoke exit the windows and drift out from beneath the vehicle. Bus passengers lay scattered across the otherwise empty road, outstretched on their back, in a fetal position, or separated into parts. Liquid settles into the miniature pits within the pavement, drips onto the desiccated soil and eventually trickles through, leaving stained images of budding circles on the surface of the ground. A wash of blood has formed on the road on the right side of the crumpled car. The road has no paint markings on it. The tour company's logo on the side of the bus is still legible somehow, despite the soot and surface fluctuations. Every so often metallic clicks punctuate the open air, as the contorted and heated metal changes conformation again, condensing, settling, cooling.

A flock of sheep that had been grazing on the surrounding land was half a mile from the road when the collision occurred. The unexpected, loud noise startled the sheep, as did the unfamiliar smells, and the flock trotted further away. Now, an hour later, one sheep approaches the road, causing the rest of the flock to follow. They stop several yards from the wreckage and look at the objects on the road. One ram attempts to mount an ewe, thrusting his pelvis in the air behind her, but the ewe rebuffs the attempt and settles into a different area of the flock. They begin to graze again, continuously holding their heads down and tearing up new grass shoots that are beginning to emerge from the dry ground they have discovered near the road. After 45 minutes the flock follows a sheep that moves to a small area of shade beneath a stand of holm oak, which hangs clustered tails of pale green catkins over their heads. The majority of the sheep lie down on the rough ground to chew their cud, while a few remain standing to ruminate, surveying the scenery with placid rectangular eyes. They take small steps in all directions. Three lambs abruptly run away from the flock, look around, and then run back in jerky angles, where they hop onto a mound of rock next to the holm oak and endeavor to maintain their balance, their long back legs sliding down the rock face. One pregnant ewe lies a short distance from the flock, her distended belly ballooning from her spine and the skin on her side rippling where the fetus moves. Manure, ash, and diverse collections of twigs and leaves continue to catch in her wool, studding her fleecy halo as ornaments.

On either side of the road the maquis stretches out across low mountains that eventually reach the sea. The entire landscape is bathed in the hollow, pale light of spring except in enormous swathes of shadow that blanket several portions of terrain, some up to a mile wide in length, which trace patterns of a certain terrestrial logic as reflected from the physical dictates of the clouds above. This area is comprised primarily of sage, heather, juniper and its dusk-blue cones, spurge olive, myrtle that releases its aromatic oils upon contact with the fauna, buckthorn, holm oak, and the tree heath that now puts forth sprays of tiny puffy white flowers. The ground between plant growths is composed of dry compacted soil that occasionally exposes outcrops of granite bedrock and is littered with chipped fragments of rock and dusted with sand, which lifts briefly in clouds due to the pressure of a moving animal's limbs. The areas of shade beneath the foliage provide the soil with a greater degree of moisture retention, where grasses proliferate with the rising temperature of winter's transition to summer. One three-inch blade of grass has germinated beside a rock lying beneath a strawberry tree several yards from where the flock of sheep rests. It is bent only slightly by the powerful libeccio from the west that continually assuages the landscape with water vapor gathered from the sea. The shoot absorbs the sunlight that is scattered from the shaking outstretched gesture of the tree canopy. Particles of dust and soot sweep over its cuticle and are pulled into the air beyond. One particle skids over the cuticle surface and lodges briefly in a pore, then shudders within the circle of cells before being swept away again. The pore resumes exchanging gases. It takes in a carbon atom, which the plant will use to grow, and in its place a molecule of oxygen is carried away by the wind.



EMILY ABRONS is a recent MFA graduate from Brown University.

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