In a Town on a Hill
By Kristy Athens
In a town on a hill they built a spine of concrete stairs. Some people walk up them slowly, and slower, and slower. Some people run up them quickly, and quicker and quicker. One has a bushy white dog on a leash. One smokes a cigarette. One carries a baby on her back. One has a bright green cast on her forearm. One hasn’t shaved in a while and totes three boxes of Triscuits in a flimsy plastic bag. Some step out of each other’s way, and some act as if the stairway belongs to them. All offer (slightly breathless) hellos.
The townspeople put in benches next to the stairway at different intervals, even a drinking fountain. They installed a section of metal stairs to replace a springtime washout. In some places the stairs are bordered by manicured yards, in others by wild Himalayan blackberry and periwinkle vines.
The townspeople built a small square near the lower end of the stairs, adorned with arches and more benches, and scented with rosebushes. Two girls climb mysteriously around the square, darting behind bushes and into corners, gathering something and dropping it into the reflecting pool at the base of a fountain. Rose petals. A third girl arrives with a minute dachshund puppy, brindled and spotted and wagging tail.
The flights of stairs are broken by what seems like many roads but is actually one: “Serpentine” to reflect its shape. Crossing it gives one a moment to recover from the previous near-vertical flight and prepare for the next. The ascent ends at what used to be the new part of the town, The Heights, to Montello, a street whose children color the sidewalk with chalk, and scamper amongst the hydrangeas, hostas and elderly golden retrievers, and leave tiny bicycles lying on their sides on the lawn.
This town now has a number of points of entry to The Heights.
Eventually, the stairs will be considered a liability issue and condemned. In
the meantime, this slice of posterity can still be enjoyed by those willing to coax
their bodies upward.
Kristy Athens writes nonfiction and short fiction that has been published in a number of magazines, newspapers and literary journals, most recently Babel Fruit, Greenbeard, Tonopah Review, and Stone’s Throw Magazine, and forthcoming from High Desert Journal. She also makes text-infused, repurposed collage greeting cards: http://ithaka.etsy.com.