Wednesday, February 9, 2011


(in keeping with our theme of late here's a personal essay based not very loosely on real life, love M)

Six girls in six years is crazy, it really is. I can tell sometimes from the way Uncle Chuck laughs and shakes his head, or when he asks Pop whether he’s a cattleman or in the business of little girls. Never mind all the little brothers that came along later. But two sets of twins do help hurry things along. First is Abigail Ann, twelve and tall with dusty feet. Not far behind is brown, boyish EJ at ten and we two of straw hair and forget-me-not golden eyes: Jerusalem and Bird. Bird is me and we are nine. Last are redhead Fran and round Mary May Amelia. Despite their seven years all they share are blue-as-anything eyes that trade gleams of thought in our house on the side of a hill.

In a stair step line we sit on the edge of the stair less porch and watch Uncle Chuck mutter and chug: John Deereing the tall alfalfa fields. They stretch to each of the humble hills that surround this empty little valley, green as green, our best playground. Uncle Chuck passes our only real tree—as tall as this valley is wide—and stops. We six exchange looks in an assembly line of authority until we are all looking to Abigail Ann. We heard the hitch in the mowing sounds and we know. Uncle Chuck sits in the harvester a moment; his brows undoubtedly knit, then continues on. We know that this is the bride price to keep us in rubber sandals and Sunday suppers. We know of chicken dinners that were strutting a few hours ago and where the steers are taken every fall. Farm girls have leather feet and practical hearts. But this is not quite the same: small brown bundles of spindle legs hiding in our almost-hay that will never grow up to have their doe eyes or six graceful prongs; spotted backs obeying their mistaken mothers’ worried commands: never, never move, baby mine; not a muscle, not a nose; I’ll come back for you.

Anywhere but our tempting fields these instructions would be wise, but their mothers never seem to learn this bit of anti-wisdom. As the light dims and we pretend we haven’t been summoned for supper we can see a slim gray figure slip from the hill into the field. We see her daintily, fearfully step toward our tree. She is unnerved by the way the shield of green has been laid flat in watermelon stripes. We can see her tremble in the emptiness from way up here. What she seeks is no longer there. We kick our dangling legs and gulp against the dry heat.  Redhead Fran tries not to cry.

I met a mother once, face to face. I was walking the dirt road, leather footed and alone. She looked at me, standing on her stubborn spindle legs and I saw her peaceful eyes in a world of fast, fat, fierce coyotes. So in the morning we will run down that dirt road, kicking off our rubber sandals and leap fawn-like back and forth over those watermelon stripes and smell the sweet alfalfa musk. We will run and bound wild rare in the stubble and say I’m sorry and thank you and I won’t forget. Then we will climb our only tree and somehow unknowing know that we are fawn girls, farm girls and someday, someway we will be chewed up and spit out too. But something, like this thing, a good thing will come of it. And we will have peaceful doe eyes in a howling coyote world. And these fawns will not have been a waste.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! That was amazing! I had no idea you were writing stuff like this M! "watermelon stripes!"