By Madison Trowbridge
When I was in high school and I’d fall into another deep depression, my father would knock on my bedroom door—a quick, gentle tap tap tap—before opening it and stepping into my bog, my thick soup of crusted pants and shirts and bandanas saturated with oil, warm and heavy air finally getting a chance to shake clammy hands with the air of the rest of the house, spilling lazily into the hallway in muddy puddles around my father's ankles, and he'd slog through the knee-deep muck of dirty laundry and chip bags and stench to sit heavily at the edge of my bed, sending a cloud of spores blooming into the air, and he’d smile at me, tired and simple and a bit sad, and he'd say, “You're rotting in here,” which was a phrase we both knew quite well, and I'd say, “I know,” taking special care not to shift my arms and release the plague of locusts onto him from the nooks between my ribs and my shoulders, and he'd put his hand in my hair, slick and sectioned into bundles of greased locks that tangled amongst themselves, but he dove his hand into the muck anyway, stroking the scalp of the girl buried underneath the thick weeds, surely in her grave, flesh rotting away as they spoke, but still he stuck his hand in and grasped for her skin, reaching, and have you heard of the bog bodies, ancient corpses preserved in peat bogs, some so well-preserved that you can take their fingerprints, many with nooses strangling their throats, lost in the depths of the marsh, and covered in stink and gunk and rot, lying asleep for hundreds or thousands of years, buried in fetid blankets quilted with peatmoss and mud, but farmers and biologists find them and bring them to museums, and one of them is known as the Bocksten Man, who is known for his well-preserved clothes and head full of hair, and I'm sure when they pulled his body from the wet peat he was stinking and falling apart, but they cleaned him up and
pulled the earth from his face and found his mop of blonde hair and loved him, fawned over his strands that were so recently covered in oils and festering debris and mud, and I wonder about the farmer that found him and what he saw when he found that strange lump catching on the crooked metal fingers of his harrow, raking through the dense moss which was suffocating the man underneath, plunging into his upper half, and I wonder if those steel fingers combed through his ratty, dirty hair as it tilled away the thick debris, kissing the corpse of a man whose father never came and wormed his fingers into the fen looking for the son that lied motionless in the quagmire, and after all this time you'd think the slime and rot would have sloughed away his skin and melted his bones and eaten away his golden hair, but those scientists carved their fingers into the stew of decay and found him, and said, “Oh my God, he's in there, there's a person in there, someone’s baby is in there,” perfectly preserved, still recognizable after all these years, just sleeping beneath the mud, and I wonder if that man’s father was able to find him today if he would be happy to see that the bog wasn’t able to totally compost his son, even though parts of his child really did rot away, organs and friends and years of youth he’d never get back, if he’d still fawn over how well preserved the rest of it is and how if you don't mind the decay you can still card your fingers into your child’s blonde hair, and I wonder if mortality didn’t exist and the child was still alive under the rot he would be grateful to his father for braving the gunk and grime to clean him up, making him get up and get dressed and taking him to get a cheeseburger, just the two of them, father and child, for peeling away the moss from his eyelids and reminding him to shower, making him go to school, loving and kissing the baby that was only asleep under the marsh, not dead, heart-wrenchingly grateful that his father loved him so much he was always, always willing to painstakingly unearth the child underneath all the rot.
Madison Trowbridge is rambling, raving, recent graduate of Ball State University with a great love for the flash nonfiction essay.
Art by Kallie Hunchman.