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Maple Syrup

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Syrup dripped slowly, not like blood.  Syrup was sweet, too, but Chi didn't know what blood tasted like.  Rusty, maybe, from the iron, iron like in magnets. He used to think that was why people stuck to the earth: they had metal in them, and so did the planet.  He didn't think that anymore.  If it were true, then why did dead people stick just as hard as living people, even when all the blood was drained out? Why didn't they go floating up away?  He used to think that was why they nailed coffins shut.

Sip.  Click

The flask snapped back in its seat on his hip where a magnet stuck it in place.  Mother thought it was rum, and he let her think that.  Rum didn't work, though.  Rum erased what maple syrup remembered.  Other people drank, remembered things that didn't happen and forgot things that did.  Chi wanted to remember what happened and forget what didn't. 

Sip. Click.  

**********

The store itself was not the temptation.  Not that Chi could ignore the rows upon rows of maple sugar cookies, gallons of syrup, lollipops in the shape of maple leafs, and tawny fudge squares.  He couldn't.  He was a good boy, though, and he wasn't tempted by the things that he shouldn't have. 

The temptation wasn't the cookies and syrup and lollipops and fudge;  it was the key.  The key hung on the wall by the door after dark when his parents had gone to bed.  He looked at it every evening at six, when his mother and father locked up the store and brought in the key.  Sometimes, he would get up in the night, come downstairs quietly, and stare at the little piece of silver hanging on the peg by the door. 

**********

Sip. Click.

It was funny that the taste hadn't gone away all these years.  Chi had thought that eventually he would get used to the sticky sweetness of the syrup and wouldn't be able to taste it.  But he still did.  Maybe it was a symbiotic relationship--the syrup and the memories--one kept the other alive.  The memories hadn't faded, and the taste was part of the memories.  The taste kept alive the memories, which kept alive the taste...  Whatever the reason, the maple sweetness was just as clear as the day he'd first drunk it, and it recalled that time perfectly.

Sip.  Click. 

**********

"No, we're not supposed to!" Geo had said the first time they snuck into the shop after dark.

Chi agreed.  They were good boys, both of them.  But rows of sweets, stacked neatly in a dark storeroom will sing to any young child, and Chi was listening.  Now that he stood, key in hand, with his parents sleeping in the house, he heard their song loud and clear.  Geo was not really trying to resist anyway; he was just making a token protest to fall back on later when they were caught.  All Chi needed to do was make the token argument to cement the deal.  It was the standard contract of light mischief.  So he said,

"Who'll know?"

He took one of the little jugs of syrup and poured it into their two bottles (white ones that you couldn't see inside of.) The shelves only took a little rearranging to conceal the empty space.  And the empty jar of evidence they buried by a tree.  They sipped the syrup slowly so it would last.  It wasn't difficult, though, like eating a chocolate bar slowly is difficult.  No one can drink maple syrup except drop by drop, one sip at a time.

**********

Sip. Click. 

It went in a metal flask now instead of a white water bottle.  He was almost grown now, and grown men who didn't play sports and worry about nutrition and hydration and those sorts of things didn't carry around water bottles everywhere.  No one carried around hip flasks either, but Chi did it anyway.  He needed something to carry the memories in, and the flask had come with a nice holder with a magnet.

"Don't dwell," they told him, all of them, parroting each other.  "Look ahead of you, not behind you."

 But he wanted to look behind.  There were rocks back there, and if you weren't careful you could trip.  You had to look.  His mother put it a different way.

"Don't run backwards," she said.  "Don't run backwards." 

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