Fish Lake, Utah by Jane Fleming

Flash Travel Story: We are in Fish Lake National Forest, Utah. The colors of the earth are swirling in front of me— blue, green, red, brown— impossible combinations, impossibly real. My foot lingers on the edge of the canyon. What is the distance of that drop? One hundred feet? One hundred-fifty? Can that knotted feeling of fear and exhilaration in my stomach act as a measure too? It doesn’t really matter.

I swipe my dusty hiking boot across the parched earth, pushing aside quartz and tan pebbles and pull a woven blanket out of my pack so that I can sit down to eat lunch— peanut butter and jelly sandwiches packed out of a cooler from the trunk of our van. Zach hands me the dog’s leash. He’s afraid of heights. He’s afraid that our stubborn hound will pull him over the edge. Better that I go than him.

We smile at each other, but we don’t talk as we eat. I can’t stop staring outward. I can’t understand how I have missed this my whole life— the pine trees that seem to grow in spite of themselves, the color. Did I mention the color? The rolling, hilly dips of the canyon and the fact that all I had to do was drive 30 hours west and I’d be here. I needed to be here. And if he believed in fever dreams, if he tugged on my cosmic strings and pulled me towards him, maybe we could be experiencing this together. Maybe it would be us too. And maybe not. I close my eyes, I lay back, and feel every patch of skin connected to the dusty earth. I feel a beetle crawling across my legs. Breathe.

BIO: Jane Fleming says, I am currently a Ph.D. Student in English at the University of Texas at Austin. My poetry and prose has been previously featured in KNACK Magazine, Moonchild Mag, and the Eunoia Review.