Intricate

Midway through a hot afternoon the grass beneath us hisses and seethes with suppressed energy. I’m watching her as she holds a ‘Y’ shaped tree branch the length of an arm, frantically tying lengths of elastic together. Just you wait, she promised over and over again. You goddamn atheist. Just you wait.

It is a weapon to strike fear into anything that is not both sentient and aware. A forked branch, lashed up on both forks by tied elastic, with a Maxi Pad taped to one end. Into the former sanitary product she cradles a rock the size of a child’s balled fist. Pointing into the sizzling golden field in front of us, towards a patch of taller stems waving to the sun, she proudly boasts I’mma take these out.

I shuffle away; not out of fear but just to capture this moment. A homemade catapult, trembling against the weight of something it never intended to throw. Controlled, only just, by two sinewy and sunburned arms; one fist holding it steady and the other drawn back under her chin. And finally that majestic head, beaded with sweat and straggled by a damp fringe, one eye clamped shut and the other open. I see the poke of a red tongue between the lips in concentration, training the centre of the forks on the target.

And then, everything gives up all at once. One arm of the catapult snaps; at the same moment a piece of tied elastic suddenly untwines itself. The rock falls unnoticed into her lap, as the rest of the machinery cracks and gives her a stinging slap across the face. It is hard not to laugh so I don’t try to stop it. I cover my mouth and look at her, as a red welt blossoms on her cheekbone and her jaw clenches to suppress the mixed feelings of anger and laughter that are exploding like fireworks in her chest.

She takes a deep breath. “That’s not funny.”

‘I know’, I say, my shoulders already twitching.

“Stop laughing” she grins, swinging on her haunches to face me. I meet her smile and our cheek dimples interlock. Soon we are both on our backs, joining in with the hissing of the writhing grass, all screaming joy into the sun.