The Fifth War

The fifth war was for the seeds, the right to what was green, and for the soil—more precious than kerosene. Before, the tomatoes had grown thick, wrapping their fingers all the way up the banister, the red fruit hanging like hearts through the summer, you could smell them in every room. We had a secret peach tree that sprouted through the living room floor and the children laughed when the fruit burst orange on their chins, dirtying their shirts. The neighbors saw the stains, soldiers came, dug it up and carried it off. Let it go, I said, but my sister—her two children so young they might never remember seeing a tree at all if she didn’t save it—tried to fight them off with a broken floorboard.

Soon after, another armed guard stole the tomatoes. Now, we scavenge, buy what we can on the black market, wild grasses mostly, plant them in a bucket with whatever soil we can get, mixed with old newsprint and asphalt. Place them in the sunlight, pray for the blades to stretch their cells upward, bright yellow turning so green you could imagine whole fields of it, the new skin of every child left in the world.

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