The New Air Has Come Breathing

Jon Chaiim McConnell

My mother asked me to come home as soon as possible, since some new air had rolled over from the coastal plains and was getting into everything. It was five in the morning. My last year of school had just started and the drive would take nearly ten hours but she sounded near crying the longer we talked and eventually I told her I would. It was the way she used my full name, Josephine. She knew that always worked.

I didn’t know how to tell how quickly the air was respiring, but as soon as I pulled off the highway I was stopped by an orange vested crewman who held me to wait while a group at the exit ramp prodded something out of a tree. They held long hooked poles in single file together while a spotter called out directions from the top of a government van. When I waved the man over he leaned his elbow into the nook of my opened window and said he thought I looked familiar.

He asked if we went to high school together.

We did. And I told him that we did. I told him that his name was Roy Percival and that we had math and some others together.

He smiled and said that that was right and then he tugged his little beard.

When I asked what was going on he said that they would be a couple minutes more, and soon there was a crash of branches to the ground. The men had worked a possum family free, the mom and four babies. New air had gotten into them already, lifted them from the ground, and stuck them there. And now they drifted skywards in sinuous paths in the wind until they bopped their small bodies together off into five lonesome directions…

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