We drove over five hundred miles to see the house where Mama was born. “I’m sure someone else lives there by now,” Ainsley said.
“You’re an optimist, Sis,” I told her. Mama and her parents abandoned the old place in the fifties, just walked away after the wreck. Even though it happened fifteen years before Ainsley was born (seventeen years before me), that wreck dominated the landscape of our childhood.
Granddaddy drove an Edsel in the days before they invented good taste. Mama said he loved that ugly old thing, but she and her brother thought the vertical grille looked like a sour faced aunt puckering up to kiss them the worst hello ever.… Read the rest
Three days after Mrs. Carmody brought us the silver bullets, a man missing his right hand came to the door. Daddy looked out for a long time, like he didn’t see the person right in front of his eyes. The man leaned in against the jamb and shook, though the weather was fair. Everything about him was mud brown except that arm. It was swollen and purple from the wrist to almost the elbow. He held it out to Daddy and said, “Please?”
Daddy didn’t move. “That your hand Annie Carmody found in her wolf trap?”
The man nodded, though it was at first hard to tell that apart from his quaking.… Read the rest
Back and forth the car swayed, and the couple in the sleeper argued on.
Ann said, “Amtrak never gets anyplace on time.”
“For the fourth time, I’m sorry,” said Karl.
“Sorry!” Ann’s voice rose. “We’re in the middle of Nebraska, and the wedding starts in an hour. This is the worst gift you could have given me.” Karl didn’t answer, and Ann didn’t stop. “You’re so cheap!”
“What do you mean, cheap?” he protested. “This cost us twice as much as plane tickets.”
“And it’s taking four days instead of four hours! What a waste of money.” Ann pounded on the window.… Read the rest
“Why don’t you hunt?” asked Johnna.
“I See too well,” her father Aif answered. Between them, they held a wide, heavy board so two men could bang nails in from the roof. They were putting up a wall constructed of a series of such boards, each nearly as long and wide as the tree from which it was hewn, smoothed by machine, and chosen for this project with great care. Building an Auric hut was hard work.
“But I’ve seen hunting parties,” Johnna protested.
“Brace that!” said her father. Johnna squared her weight and the hammers commenced above. This addition to her father’s hut was going to be larger than the original building.… Read the rest
Sade shifted on her rug and ruffled her shoulder feathers. “Pass me that bowl,” she instructed, her blind eyes focused somewhere over Johnna’s shoulder.
“Which?” Johnna asked. There were three bowls in front of her.
Her grandmother said, “The one you were thinking of.”
“Oh.” Johnna picked up the right hand bowl and passed it across the low fire.
The old woman nodded and turned it over in her hands, tapping her fingers rapidly around the rim. “This is a good one,” Sade said. “Now tell it to me.”
“Excuse me?” Now, Johnna shifted. But where her grandmother had changed positions to get more comfortable, Johnna moved because there wasn’t any comfortable to be had in this hut.… Read the rest
Stations of the Cross: A Prosaic Response to John Ashbery’s Poem “The Ecclesiast”
The man left oilslick footprints, bright, then dark, mottled sometimes, variegated and unexpected. He was homeless certainly, under his burden of layered clothing and multiple grocery bags, followed by the rank decay of life. And yet, every step forward made a new color on the pavement. He gave the impression of someone from an earlier time, a medieval peddler or Christ under the cross, no Simon to bear his burden.
He walked with a staggering gait, as if the unevenly distributed grocery bags pulled him constantly off balance.… Read the rest
When people asked about Johnna’s dark skin and hair and her grey-violet eyes, her mother Manda said, “She was my surprise baby.” Those traits, especially the eyes, belonged to the Auric tribe, whose standing with the ruling council was never stable. So the askers usually pretended to think Johnna was descended from her stepfather, even though she looked nothing like him or her younger siblings on that side.
Her father, when Johnna saw him once a year, was more honest. “Pfft. Accident,” he said. “The caravan leader had a fetching daughter, and I had a terminal problem keeping up my drawers.”
Johnna grew up among her mother’s folk, nomadic traders who settled into their mountain valley only in hard winter.… Read the rest
“Wednesday Washday,” Mam always said.
She had sayings like that for every day of the week. The only other one I remember is “Monday morning do the darning”, probably because it rhymed. But she died when I was small. Everybody in town says Daddy should have given her at least a month in the ground before he started poking around in other women’s holes. But if he had waited, I wouldn’t have gotten Ona for my new mam, and we’d not have Ruby for our baby. Of course, she isn’t really a baby any longer. She’s got five summers on her, and she can do more every washday.… Read the rest
Billy Squier crooned “In The Dark” on Trevor’s boom box. Trevor lay on the top bunk, while across the room, Paul pounded a joystick. “Be careful with that thing!” Trevor warned.
Paul said, “It’s gonna die soon anyway.”
He was right. When the boys opened the gaming console at Christmas, they gazed unbelieving at the box. The machine inside was used, but very real. Nonetheless, one of the joysticks had been broken within a month, its red button jammed down until it wouldn’t spring up anymore, and there wasn’t any money for repairs. The second stick was held together with duct tape.… Read the rest
“I should have done the flowers.” Donovan Harcourt stared around the restaurant. At every turn, the vases fairly glowered at him. Bright yellow Gerbera daisies had been paired with orange zinnias and chrysanthemums to clash with the blue tablecloths. Bicolor roses festooned the bridal arch in shades of fuchsia and burgundy, and his daughter’s bouquet poofed outward with oversized hybrid lilies.
“It’s pretty bad,” Gwen whispered in agreement with her father.
They stood at the back, waiting for the music to change so they could walk down between the tables to the place where the groom waited in an appalling magenta corsage.… Read the rest