The Morning Place
by Mary B. McArdle
You may differ with me on the meaning of “morning.” My biorhythms interpret it as beginning around nine-thirty and ending at two. But when I discovered the “morning place,” I realized the word has nothing to do with biorhythms and everything to do with perception.
My name is Andrew Sheffield. Nobody ever calls me “Andy,” which is fine with me. I’m nineteen and in my first year of junior college. I work part-time at night in a movie theater running the projectors.
The hours suit me all right, but there’s one thing that is a big disappointment. I don’t have a girl friend, at least not right now. It would be nice to have company in the projection room and I imagine most girls would appreciate seeing all the new movies free.
I decided one weekend to take a walk in a wooded area near my parents’ house just before noon. The late February day had warmed to a comfortable temperature. Most of the trees were bare, but a few weak and underdeveloped blossoms had appeared. My shoes crunched on sparse bundles of dead leaves and sticks. The natural debris was scattered and looked as though someone had forgotten to finish cleaning up.
I’m usually at ease with myself, but today I would have welcomed a female companion. Girls my age aren’t often attracted to a guy who wants to become a high-school English teacher. Obviously I wouldn’t make much money.
Only, I don’t think I would have found the morning place if I hadn’t been alone.
February had been dry. I headed for a small stream which to my surprise was nearly overflowing. The water had a golden tint, and the other side of the stream was shrouded in a tantalizing mist.
I could see the bottom; the stream was only about three feet deep. With a rush of abandonment, I sat down and took off my shoes, bent on wading across. When I got to the other side I became aware of something that was more of a feeling than an observation. I actually felt the grass softening its hue, I felt a difference in the sound of the stream’s music, I felt the atmosphere altering its substance. I stood at the far edge of the stream and rubbed my eyes.
Then I looked up. The sky was a pale canary and there were four suns in it. One was almost overhead, orange and swollen — surrounded by a halo of yellow-orange. The other suns were lined up much lower on the horizon, one similar to Sol but larger — the other two tiny, far away, and a brilliant white. Yellowish light spilled over the landscape touching everything, while glittering reflections bounced off the rocks, the leaves, the soil.
I sat down on the plush grass, running my fingers through it. Is it morning here? I wondered. I would think so, judging from the position of the sun — suns, and the light. But where is “here”? Should I stay a while? Should I see what afternoon and evening will bring — or should I try to go further and explore? What if I can’t find my way back?
Defiantly I scrambled to my feet. But I could go no further; the more I walked, the less progress I made. The horizon receded, the mist reappeared in the distance, but I could still hear the stream bubbling behind me.
I went back and sat at its edge with my toes dangling in the water. Something nudged my arm. Standing on its hind legs was a cream-colored rabbit with a lavender tail and ears and whiskers that spangled in the sunlight. He allowed me to stroke him, whiskers quivering with delight. Then the rabbit skittered away.
Am I in Wonderland? I thought. But Alice followed a white rabbit, not a pastel one that smacked of Easter eggs.
I stayed where I was until the suns began to sink in the sky, the white dwarves disappearing below the horizon, the other two growing huge and round and deepening into a soft melon and a deep crimson. Reddish streaks ran across the sky from one sun to the other.
I thought I’d better leave before full dark, or I would probably get lost and never make my way back. That is, if I even wanted to...
But eventually I would get hungry and then I would need to sleep. Where was the woven blanket to cover me and the banquet to be served me beneath the foliage?
Was this another world or another time? A physical place or a designated hour? The White Rabbit led Alice to other worlds; the Looking Glass distorted time as well.
With reluctance I stood. I heard a voice from behind, calling me. “Andrew?”
I turned around, and there she was. A girl my age, lovely, with long sandy hair waving to the side and light brown eyes. She wore a simple white dress, reflecting yellow and orange in the folds of the skirt, and sandals.
“Who — who are you?” I stammered.
“I am your future,” she replied, and faded slowly into the sunset.
The sky darkened to a deep red-violet. I crossed the stream and set out for the house.
Now, as the stream recedes from sight, the grass grows coarse and dry again. The vegetation, still weedy and brown from winter, will not support the kind of life that inhabits the morning place. The only colors here to break the barrenness of the season are my clothes.
I’m late for work.
It was too early for a long line at the theater when I got there, but a few attractive girls were already waiting. One had long, sandy hair and wore a white dress. She looked around at me, a question in her eyes.
“It’s me,” I said. “Andrew Sheffield. Your future.”
She smiled and extended her hand. We went together to the side entrance leading to the projectors.
Copyright © 2006 by Mary B. McArdle