Her faded suede evening glove feels most sentimental and comforted in his red and black plaid shirt chest pocket. There she finds the beat for her red halter dress to flare and sway. Feeling their rhythm, his scuffed, work boots stomp the twos and fours.
“Why did you drill his skull and pour warm water in it?”
“I wanted him to stay. Everyone sees me as a monster. The others with oil, glue, Drano…They all left me. The warm water on his open mind cleared away his fear, hate, disgust of me. He stayed.”
“The grass tips are beginning to turn yellow brown again.”
“From the shadow of the boulder it must be getting close to evening.”
The sweat gathering on his biceps begins to chill making his strain to move the rock up the incline more difficult.
He reaches the crest and let’s his hands fall to his sides.
The stone rolls to the bottom of the mountain.
He sighs, stretches, and reaches for a smoke.
He walks through his own smoke circle swirls towards the valley.
He walks around his eternal burden running his hands over its smooth surface marveling at its coolness and density.
He puts his cigarette out and raises his eyes to the high horizon.
‘Maybe this time,” he mutters letting his hopeful smile glide into a grimace of effort.
There was once a box with rose colored powder sand and blue neon sides called Escafe. One day a boy and a girl sat side by side parallel playing at making sand castles. The castles were shaped from similar buckets and mixtures of sand and water and architectural leanings. Yet, the boy’s castles’ foundations hovered about a foot above the ground.
The girl noticed the extra height and thought it wonderful.
She reached her hands into her foundation and lifted. The foundation began to slip through her fingers.
She remembered how the sun pushed through the gaps of her fingers as she covered her flushed face mourning the loss of her grandmother. She remembered the water rushing through her fingers when she left all she had known to escape the flood that would take all she had known and leave in its wake smells of madness , tastes of bile, and shards of memories poking the edges of her mind. She remembered tracing the edges of fences around new homes with strangers.
Her castle was ruined.
She overcame her shyness and asked the boy if she could live in his floating castle.
He told her no. His castles were homes for his thoughts and books and calculators.
“But, I can teach you how to build your own floating fortress. Forget the illusion that you are tethered to the ground. Build your castle in the air instead of attempting to raise those caught in their gravity. Be free of ties and lies. Be free.”
She took a deep breath and released herself from her entanglements and discovered she did not need high heels or even boys with rising castles to soar. Underneath the braids of modernity, she found delicate, ancient, raven black wings that carried her toward the sun and other adventures.
“I could never love you,” she says as her stomach churns, head spins, and heart splits.
“Good. I don’t want anyone’s love. Too much hassle. What type of bread did you want?”
She watches him disappear into the Waffle House.
She pledges to never speak to him until he admits he loves her in return.
They eat their morning after breakfast sandwiches and gulp their vodka spiked orange juice in silence.
He doesn’t mind, notice, or perhaps care. She never can tell.
She has too much to say, so she purses her thin lips after every second, tiny bite.
She looks at the reflection of her lap in the windshield instead of him. Her inner lap pleads with her to reconsider this love crusade and beg him to eat her for breakfast. The argument between her crotch and her dead grandma who constantly warned of dying a lonely, loose, cat woman, spinster becomes as deafening as this new silence.
Sad, how someone new and talkative with strange novellas and hang ups wrapping around his cerebellum after one night could become so sullen.
The change makes her want to tickle him till he cries and smother him till he dies.
He drops her home without opening her car door or walking her to her porch.
She stands in front of her front door slightly drunk swaying and praying to find her house key.
He drives away before she eases the key into the lock.
He doesn’t call.
She pretends she doesn’t mind, notice, or perhaps care.
“And, here’s something for the girls.”
No one in the close cluster would approach the fast talking, funny smelling, dressed for a Sunday morning on a Thursday afternoon, coal boss.
Finally, one of the mothers accepted the gift and invited him to stay to supper.
The children gathered around Mama Grace.
“What is it?”
“What’s it do?”
“Can I see?”
Mama Grace pulled the brown paper and tie away and showed them the picture book.
“What is a cinderella?”
“Give it to Meemaw, and maybe she will read it to you.”
“But, Meemaw says we only read the Bible?”
“Maybe, she will change her mind.”
The girls were pretty doubtful about Meemaw ever changing, but they were so set on knowing what a cinderella was.
Meemaw was still looking for herbs, when they came to her cabin porch.
“I bet cinderella is a type of candy you can get in the city.”
“I think it’s a dance you get to do when you are sixteen and ready for dancing.”
The littlest who knew very little about the city or dances but always looked at the holy pictures in her “The Children’s Guide to Bible Study,” stared at the book’s cover.
She saw a skinny, blonde woman with a puffy, shiny blue dress.
She cleared her throat, pointed to the cover, and murmured, “Maybe, a cinderella is a lady in a big dress?”
The others crowded around the cover. One traced the billows of the gown and slowly whistled.
“Imagine all that fabric for one big, old dress?”
“It’s prettier than the sky!”
The girls swarmed her asking her to read cinderella to them. Meemaw, although usually strict, found herself a little swept away in their curiosity and anticipation. So, she agreed to read the story.
The girls learned about Cinderella. They also for the first time understood how much they had to learn.
“When is once upon a time?”
“What is a step-mother, a step-sister, a magic, a fairy god mother, a glass slipper, a gown, a prince, a ball, and a castle?”
“Happily ever after,” they all repeated after the story.
Each mulled over the words.
“Could you only have one of those if you kissed a prince? May I have one? What is it like?”
The littlest was the first to speak, “I don’t think you can go salamander catching or tree climbing in a ball gown. Don’t you have to wear one all the happily ever after time?”
No one knew how to answer. No one, not even Meemaw, knew all the answers arising from such a small book.
A vague, off putting feeling took over the girls. Some sat with their knees to their chins and closed their eyes quietly sniffling. A few wandered from room to room and adult to adult trying to distract themselves from this new nervousness. One girl hid under her bed.
Meemaw rounded them up and gave them all a mix of soda water and cod liver oil.
After she gulped her spoonful, the littlest began to shake. She took Cinderella and threw her in the fireplace.
Meemaw watched the book begin to burn and muttered something about ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
The girls crowded around the fire trying to save the book.
“Why did you do that?”
“We don’t need a book like that… You can’t feel our ground wearing her glass slippers.”
The girls stopped trying to rescue the book and looked down at their empty, sooty hands and down further at their soiled, bare feet.
Wild and free, they clapped and stomped into the night.
His mother gave him a blue pearl when he was just a boy. He would sometimes lose and find it again. He never really worried about the loss, because he always believed it would turn up. And, he would again feel its small dented imperfection and compare its blueness to the darker waters that surrounded their island. He continued to find it again and again until he didn’t.
His mother died when he was a teenager. He stood before her white and pink coffin staring at her clasped hands covering her chest. He remembered her lost blue pearl and began to cry. An island girl he rarely looked at took his hand and gently pressed each of his finger tips with hers over and over until he learned how to stop his tears. He looked down at her and realized he loved her.
They married on her eighteenth birthday. She gave him a blue pearl as her dowry and a son. He swore he would never lose it or him. And, he never did until he did.
Really, he traded them for a perfect ivory pearl from one of the many island tourists. He thought it more special. He thought it more rare. He thought it more lovely.
He began to love this temporary visitor. Her love was as temporal as her stay.
He asked her not to leave. She laughed and asked why he loved her so much.
He said it was, because she had given him pure pearl whiteness.
She laughed again.
“You silly island boy. I gave you a fake pearl! You gave me a rarer blue pearl like it was nothing. You have no idea how to value or love what you already have. Why would I want to be loved by the likes of you?”
She took his hand and gave him a long rope of white pearls he knew now to be fake. She closed his hand around her false gift and kissed his fist.
She laughed at him again and left him in her hotel room on the beach front.
He put the worthless rope around his neck and walked into the ocean.
Sometimes, the oyster farmers tell little children how they hear his sighs in the warm puffs of night breezes.
Meaning malice, she raises a banshee cry as she smashes my dream, bleeding and unfulfilled, to the ground. Up to my ankles in deferment, I look down and spy the early bird again devouring the early worm. Tired of the dreary violence of arbitrary punctuality, I look up to see the watermelon pinks and mango oranges of another indifferent summer morning beginning. I look everywhere but her squinted eyes and thin pressed mouth fearing falling into both.
“Where the hell did you come from?” he demanded holding my documents with just his fingertips fearing contamination.
“From your blind spot.”
“From your complacency.”
“From your Other.”
“I have been here all the time waking, waiting, warbling for you to see all of me.”
“I burst forth swaddled in my Daddy’s disappointments and dry humor.”
“A small tobacco plantation in Spotsylvania County, Virginia where the Fitz and the Hugh slaves became Fitzhugh slaves.”
“My Momma and her Momma and her Momma.”
“A burning, intoxicating Oahu sugarcane field on a muggy July 4th.”
“Africa, Germany, Philippines, Hawaii, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, then Virginia again.”
“The Navy, the Army, the National Guard, the US Federal Government, Walmart, and Kmart.”
“Soul gardens where the sweetest fruits are still bitter skinned.”
“Mouths of rivers still running muddy and dangerous.”
“From the time when I slammed on the brake instead of the gas choosing to no longer kill myself.”
“From a November naked dance around a park bonfire, cameras, lovers, strangers, and police.”
“From that startling moment when you realize the dream is about to be a nightmare.”
In a dream, I saw a young woman in a red, large brimmed sun hat at a desk quickly typing on a golden, glowing typewriter. Every few moments, she would belly laugh about something she wrote.
Curious what could be so funny, I peeked over her shoulder and began to read.
To my horror, I discovered she was writing about me. Private things. Personal things. Things that I had forgotten. Things that were about to happen.
I realized I was in the presence of the one who decided my fate.
She was in control.
So, I strangled her and pushed her dead body out of her desk chair.
The room without her constant chortling seemed very empty and quiet.
I sat to type wondrous things like big lotto wins, true love, a cure for my father’s cancer.
Then, I noticed the keys having been rubbed for thirty six years were blank.
Fear that I would press a wrong letter and ruin my destiny overtook me.
I did not know what to type.
What would my life be like with no omnipresent narration?
What would my life be like with no one in control?
I woke up with the sun that morning with a determined smile and my freedom.