Tamed yet free. Wild yet shy. The air is cold, and icicles linger, dangling in artistic structures from the roof, untouched and untainted. This weather is common during winter, one of a young boy’s least desirable seasons. In the red brick, icy abode, an adolescent sits upright on a burgundy living room chair.
Two birds take flight from a pine tree coated in opaque snow. A young girl stands beside the permafrost covered window and her fingers trace the etchings of ice across the glass. She shifts her gaze up and her lips part in a smile as the first bird swoops past. It was the bird of which she was named after, a skylark. Comforting thoughts gently danced in her head like sugarplums on the night before Christmas. The girl’s name repeated itself. Skylark Evergreen. Skylark Evergreen.
The second bird, decorated in deep blue feathers, flies across the sky as the young boy stares in awe. A beautiful blue Jay skirts about in the chilly atmosphere. The sight of the bird reminds him of his name given to him when his mother saw an enchanting blue jay fly past the hospital window. He remembered his name as if he had forgotten. Jay Jackson. The sweet words faded from his mind as he saw a magnificent sight. The blue Jay and a captivating skylark danced with each other, airborne. A tear rolled down Jay’s cheek. Skylark watched the birds, stunned in amazement. They had found love within each other.
The neighborhood of Stone Heights contained many citizens of Harrisville, possibly over one third of the population. In their hometown, there was a place, Skylark’s heaven on earth, Ivystone Park. It was shaped in the form of a circle, surrounded by nature and wildlife. There was a pond at the east end with lily-pads that gathered in the water. Frogs would occasionally stop by and hop from pad to pad, and whenever Skylark visited the park, she would gaze with amazement.
One day, after Jay and Skylark arrived at home, she called for him and asked, “Hey Jay, do you want to come with me to Ivystone Park? I haven’t been there in a while.”
Jay smiled at her. He was lost in her grassy eyes. “Sure, I’ll come.”
They left their book-bags at home. Skylark led Jay towards Ivystone Park, her favorite home away from home. On the pallid sidewalk, they strode through Stone Heights until they reached the center of Harrisville. They proceeded in direction of the park and finally reached the entrance. Wild roses entangled themselves around the sign that hung from the arch at the entrance.
Worn from the winds and weather, the sign read: Ivystone Park. Skylark’s face glew with vitality and jubilancy. She bounded inside the park.
Jay followed Skylark in. Their blood ran cold when Skylark and Jay laid their eyes on Ivystone Park.
Destruction. Uncomprehendable deeds of death and decay. The gazebo began to fade into a grey, husky color, and rotted. Trees and plants withered and slowly disappeared from existence. In tears, Skylark trudged slowly to the pond she once skipped stones on. Polluted. The repulsive stench of oil and gasoline harbored in the waters, and protruding out of the pond, a nest of skylark eggs. Poison had eroded them, and only dark yolks and remains of ruined lives was left in the nest. Skylark buried her face in her arms and sobbed.
Jay tried to console her, but it was no use. Her once calm green eyes now flooded with tears and reddened. Oil continued to flow from the stream that led into the pond. Out of a nearby tree, a blue jay glided across the cursed air, smudged and coated in oil. A solemn tear rolled down from Jay’s brilliant blue eyes. Skylark raised up, her face a mix of grief and anger.
“We must stop the factory, Jay! Look at what they have done!” She cries out, pointing to the ruined remains of Ivystone.
Jay shouts: “This park will not wither away! They must stop this pollution!”
Together, they stormed off, heading home, trying to erase the horror burned in their minds.
Posters with pictures of the polluted Ivystone Park were plastered everywhere across Harrisville by Jay and Skylark. They listed their full names and contact information, and each notice ended with
the same statement:
We must preserve what is left.
They had hoped for it to be provocative enough so that others would take a stand against it. The next day, after they got off the bus, Jay crossed the concrete to Skylark’s house. Her once radiant and exuberant personality was replaced with sorrowful, timid and weak faded remains. They exchanged small greetings, and sat quietly, awaiting a call. However, the phone remained silent. Nothing. The void remained empty and bare, not even the sound of hushed breath was present. Everything was still, like it was frozen in time.
Blank and quiet.
Day after day, nothing. They had begun to give up hope. Skylark Evergreen and Jay Jackson sat around in their home while Ivystone Park became even more in disrepair.
Suddenly, the phone rang. Skylark stumbled from the speed of her stride as she answered with an anxious “Hello?”
“Hello. I saw your poster about Ivystone. It looks like it’s in awful condition. Do you know how this might have happened?”
Skylark and Jay knew exactly who the culprit behind the pollution was. None other than the factory that had just been recently been built. They thought that dumping a little of the waste of oil and gasoline wouldn’t hurt anything if it was placed in a stream. But that stream empties into the pond in Ivystone, and the air was clouded in carbon dioxide and peculiar gases.
“We have suspicion that the new factory may be the cause,” Skylark replied.
“Seems reasonable,” the caller said. “They were built near a stream that leads to that park. They could be dumping waste into the water.”
“That’s what we were thinking.”
“I’ll spread the word. Hopefully this will spread the word to possibly the mayor.”
“Sounds great. Call me again if you have any ideas on how to spread the word.”
They exchanged goodbyes and Skylark placed the phone back into its holder. She faced Jay, and then buried herself into his arms, remaining silent. They remained like that for twenty minutes until she told him that she would see him tomorrow, and then she left for home. Jay was left to think about the park and Skylark.
On the same living room chair, he pondered whether or not there was some kind of romantic connection between Skylark and himself. The soft, cool spring air blew gently around outside. Jay’s eyes stared outside, but he wasn’t looking.
There was another issue. Ivystone Park was extremely polluted, and seeing that blue jay coated in oil crushed him inside. He wanted to simply snap his fingers, and the troubles would end. The park would be restored like the pollution never happened.
But it doesn’t work that way.
If they could notify their city government somehow, there just might be a chance that the factory could be brought to justice. Unfortunately, he had no resources at home to research how to notify your local government.
I’ll have to wait until tomorrow, he thought.
The hours seemed to turn into years until he finally shut his eyes at nightfall.
As they completed their usual after-school routine, Skylark had waited until this moment to tell Jay that she had talked to the stranger who called them the day before. It turned out he was the same age, but he went to a different school than them. His name was Joseph Ariosky, and Skylark had talked him yesterday after she went home. They both found out that the only way to contact the city government in Harrisville is to simply send a letter to the Mayor’s office. So Skylark and Jay went to his house to write the letter that would change the fate of Ivystone Park.
They sat over the coffee table in Jay’s living room, sitting as still as the grass within a breezeless prairie. The college-ruled notebook paper, properly labeled, with the first line:
Dear Mayor of Harrisville,
But they didn’t know what to write. What could possibly turn the attention of the most busiest man in their local government to helping a worn down park? It had to be something special, something emotional…..
Then it came to them. Suddenly the words flowed out to the paper, channeling without ceasing. The pencil kept etching the words onto the spaces, filling it and filling it until they ended with:
Jay Jackson and Skylark Evergreen
“Ok Jay, Joseph said we mail it to that address and it should reach City Hall.”
With both of their hands on the sealed, white envelope, together, they slid it in the mailbox. Skylark looked up at Jay.
“Thank you for helping me Jay. I don’t know how to thank you.”
Skylark smiled pleasantly and walked home.
If only….. Jay imagined.
Days passed. Spring blended slowly into the beginning of summer, and school had finally closed until the next term. But something wasn’t right. They both could sense it. The aroma of injustice and unfathomable damage wafted through the air like trash left behind. It had been a month since Skylark and Jay sent that letter, and they were beginning to think that there really was no hope for their beloved paradise.
Nobody else really cared about Ivystone Park. It wasn’t maintained by the city; it was abandoned and no one really visited there anymore. Back when Skylark and Jay were little, Ivystone was once the busiest public place in Harrisville. Everyone enjoyed the natural scenery, and the air was clean and healthy.
But then, a theme park called The Fairgrounds opened on the other side of town and attracted all of the residents who used to visit the park. It was forgotten until Skylark discovered it walking home from school one day. She immediately fell in love with its charming views and the landscape. From that day onward, Skylark held it in a special place in her heart. But now that place is beginning to crumble.
Until Jay found the response letter from the mayor himself.
He ran as fast as his legs could carry him to Skylark’s and pounded on her door. She opened the door with an annoyed expression.
“What the heck, Jay! Why were you….” her eyes landed on the letter.
It was all she could do to not to explode from excitement.
She snatched it from his hands and tore the envelope into shreds which landed on Jay’s feet. He sighed, shaking his head. After Skylark’s tantrum, they read eagerly:
Jay Jackson and Skylark Evergreen,
Hello! I received your letter a while back, and I must admit: I have never been so touched in my life. You have truly poured your hearts into this paper. When I read about the skylark nest and the blue jay, I was so upset. I cried at the realization of what the factory is doing to Ivystone Park. It was foolish of me in the first place to allow the construction of The Fairgrounds, so please forgive me. Fortunately, it warms my heart to know that there are two determined young individuals who would care for a piece of natural treasure. Because of your determination, before I sent this letter, I arranged a court hearing regarding the city of Harrisville suing the factory for illegal misuse of chemical waste. Unfortunately, you are not able to attend yourselves, you may still watch it on the television one week from now!
Thank you so much for your efforts!
Mayor of Harrisville
“I can’t believe it! The mayor HIMSELF wrote us back! There’s finally a chance for the park, Jay!”
Jay and Skylark celebrated with each other all day. They reveled in the thought that Ivystone Park would finally be repaired to its former glory. The following week, they stood at attention, their eyes locked onto the screen. Skylark and Jay watched until the jury announced their decision.
“It is with the greatest pleasure that we find the defendant guilty of all charges.”
Their jaws gaped open.
The judge slammed his gavel. “Acme Industries, you have been sued by the city of Harrisville for a sum of $5,000,000 from your crimes against the environment. In addition, your factory here in Harrisville will be shut down immediately, and you are never to return to our city again. Court adjourned.”
It had been done.
The factory closed down, and the park was cleansed and purified to its former state. Nests of skylarks and blue jays gathered in the abundance of trees. Vines became interwoven with the gazebo, and the summer rains gave life to the soil. The sun blossomed in the azure, cloudless sky. Golden, honey sweet rays warmed the lively earth. Wildlife emerged, such as the blue and yellow tulips that collected in a field of nature’s glory. Skylark and Jay walked hand in hand on the cobblestone path, worn down by the past.
Skylark remarked at Ivystone Park, now restored: “It’s finally ours again, Jay.”
Two birds flew overhead, and a skylark and a blue jay feather slowly drifted down. Skylark gently took hold of the blue jay feather, and the skylark feather landed in Jay’s outstretched hand. Jay told Skylark:
“We are ours.”
They indulged in Ivystone’s majesty and beauty, but their walk soon ended abruptly as twin shots rang through the crisp air. A skylark and a blue jay plummeted right in front of them, crashing in the pavement.
And this was only the beginning.
© Copyright 2016 Tyler Benjamin. All rights reserved.