From the Blue Sky
When a self-admitted crackhead--let's call him Prisoner K--reads about a tropical rain forest, his mouth and index finger stumble over the words. He knows he's set foot, temporarily, in unfamiliar terrain.
"Can you pronounce this for me?" he asks.
"Photosynthesis," I answer.
He's learning about cause-and-effect relationships, where one "thing" can make another "thing" happen. More specifically, he's studying the global effects of the rain forests. He repeats after me, "Foe--toe--sin--th, th, th--sis," and continues to drag his finger across the page.
With guided practice and encouragement Prisoner K is able to answer most questions. However, there's one open-ended question troubling him to no end: What can you do to help prevent the destruction of tropical rain forests?
He smudges his first answer and starts over. "Quit chopping down trees," he scrawls.
"Now Mr. K," I ask, "when's the last time you swung an axe or used a chainsaw?"
"Never," he says. He shows me where he found his answer--middle of page 84.
"You're not a logger," I point out.
"Nah, I'm just a crackhead from the Blue Sky."
I pass the Blue Sky Trailer Park almost every day. It's on my way to work. It's barely noticeable, sandwiched between a rundown industrial complex and rusted out boxcars. I'm not sure whether he's telling the truth. "Paper comes from trees," I say. "How about not wasting paper, how about recycling?"
"Yeah," he agrees, "but nothing I do is gonna matter. I'll always be a crackhead."
James R. Tomlinson, author of Adopted Behaviors, Motor City Burning Press, lives in a 1970's brick ranch near Detroit. His flash fiction and flash memoir have appeared in Sleet Magazine, Staccato, and Nano Fiction. He teaches in a Michigan prison.