THE TASTE OF THINGS • by Lynn Kristine Thorsen

The Adventures of Junie and Chee

Junie and Chee were sitting in the grass on the shady side of her house and admiring their ant farm when Junie told him the ants tasted salty. Chee’s immediate reaction was, “You ate an ant?” His expression was one of admiration and doubt.

“No, when I touch them, they taste salty.”

Chee put his hand experimentally down on the top of the ant farm and waited until several crawled on his finger. “I don’t taste anything.”

Junie let her hand rest on his until an ant crawled on the tip of her index finger. “Salty. And my sister’s hair tastes fruity.” Junie discovered this as she was combing her baby sister’s hair earlier in the day. “Like a bowl of fruit with a banana and apples.”

Junie and Chee sat in silence after she’d explained that for the past several days, she’d starting tasting things she touched. Then she looked over at Chee and added, “It keeps getting stronger. I thought I was smelling things in my mouth, but it’s when I touch them.”

Chee stared at his best friend. “What does the grass taste like?”

Junie trailed her fingers across the top of the grass. “A little sour.”

They walked around the neighborhood while Junie tasted the side of her house, the bushes in the front, Mrs. Jeepers old Ford Mustang, and the bare sidewalk. Tastes had ranged from sour to like cough medicine. The sidewalk tasted dusty. “How do you know what dust tastes like?” Chee asked.

Junie frowned. “Like dirt only not as strong. I’m not telling my mom, so don’t tell yours.”

“Okay. Let’s bike to the forest tomorrow,” Chee shouted as he ran down the block toward his house.

“Okay.” Junie yelled back her agreement.” Junie and Chee spent their summer afternoons in the Ogalala State Park where they counted the different bird species, looked for animal tracks, and dangled their legs in the clear-running creek.

The next morning, they stood at the base of a tall jack pine. “So, touch a tree.” Chee waited while Junie let her fingers run across the rough bark.

“Salt and some sour sweet. I think the sap is the sour sweet.” She held her finger on a trail of hardening sap. “Yup. And piney.”

Chee picked off a piece of sap and stuck it in his mouth. “Yuck. What about this?” He pointed to a cluster of small white berries on a bush. Junie picked a berry and rolled it around her finger tips. Then she pinched it until it burst.

“Yum.” She smiled at Chee. “Like minty fruit.” She handed Chee the berry. “Taste it.”

“White is poison. So, if I die, it’s your fault.” Chee took the smashed berry and put it in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Yup, minty fruit.”

They found an abandoned nuthatch nest nestled in an old tree stump with the remnant of two speckled eggs shells and four eggs that were still whole. “Can you taste the eggs?”

Junie frowned and then stuck her index finger on one of the broken shells. “It doesn’t taste eggy. It’s more like dusty seeds and grass and light. And wind.” She suddenly smiled at

Chee. “It tastes sort of like flying.”

Chee shook his head. “How do you know what flying tastes like? How can it even have a taste?” He gave a little snort.

“That’s just what it tastes like, I guess.” Junie poked at the broken shell. The taste of worms and hunger poked back at her.

“Touch one of those.” Chee pointed to an unbroken egg.

Junie hesitated for a minute and then touched it with her index finger. “It tastes like sorrow.”

Lynn Kristine Thorsen lives in the West with two large cats, and a mathematician/fiction author husband. Her fiction recently appeared in “Halfway Down the Stairs” and in years past appeared in “Story”, “Kansas Quarterly” and other periodicals. Her short story collection, “Miss Emily Martine & Other Stories” won the Utah Arts Council first prize and publication prize. She was an epee fencer in a national competition, chews ice, writes, travels, and collects rocks.

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