Those 29 words make all the difference, don't they?

The assignment was 250 words, but I just couldn’t bring myself to let this 279 word version rot in the cellars of my hard drive. Enjoy.

The road curved away from me in both directions, disappearing south around a bend, and north, fading into a haze that was still too cool to shimmer. I straddled the yellow line, watching for cars. Joe was behind me, digging a hole in the asphalt, looking for a long-forgotten iron property marker. Bam, bam, bam, said the prybar in his hands. There was no sound at all but the slight wind and the banging of the heavy iron bar.

“It’s perfect weather,” I said. “Not too hot, not too cold.”

“It’s Goldilocks weather,” said Joe.

I smelled life. I smelled trees growing. I smelled the road baking softly in the sun. I felt like breathing the whole world in, inhaling, inhaling, always in, never out. I never wanted to breathe out again, I never wanted to let it go, to let the life that I smelled out of my lungs. I sucked it in, felt it with my tongue. It tasted like dandelions, strong and full of sunlight. It tasted like an apple tree reaching deep, deep into the ground, feeling for worms and mulch, stretching its roots, bending, twisting, down, down, down.

My chest expanded, filled with air like a balloon, tugging at the earth, trying to float away. I had to move, I had to laugh, I had to fight giants. I strained my sight skyward, peering into an upside-down ocean until I almost reeled over backwards and slipped in. So I planted my feet in the middle of the road, gripping the ground through my shoes, and leaned against the wind while the trees clapped their hands, the prybar banging away behind me.