The glide and swivel of young bones: the fluidity of motion. They took turns swinging on the rope, skipping stones across the muddied stream, rushing through the underbrush. It was as if their veins were filled with air, their joints with straw. Their bodies were liquid, and they danced to whatever breeze animated them. They were lightness and laughter. They viewed those days through a prism, a time before the light was broken.
***Excerpt from a novel-in-progress, The Stone Age***
She was a summer girl, ambling through the mazes, the clatter of plastic hangers and low-hanging blouses, everything different enough to be different but the same. Last year’s colors, or the year before, faded, bruised and repaired with soap and stitches and the smeared drift of magazine perfume. Novelty T’s and rhinestoned skirts for that country girl look, ragged gypsy blouses, semi-transparent for the middle-aged trailer moms on the go. Piled denim on wobbly tables, desperately faded, hills and valleys of blue, blue youth, blue discomposure, the petites and the plus-sizes cohabiting as if it didn’t matter. Colors, so many colors, but blurred and watery, filmy as laundry water, all marked-down, dollar-day-discounted. She sorted through the pillars of denim, and a fat woman with Big Mac hands and a rumpled frown elbowed her to pluck the last pair of skinny jeans from her hands. But there were still plenty of summer skirts, and so she moved on, feeling like a plundered summer dream.
She stirs the big copper pot, bubbling onions and carrots and sliced red potatoes, salted and peppered, frothing like ocean foam, and the steam rises, a thin blur of vapor smears the kitchen window, aromas of home. Seeds and spilled spices on the countertop, overhead fan whirling its muscular rhythm, bubbling yellow broth, the tap-tap-tap of a wooden spoon against metal, dull noise in the grand silence. It was her mother’s pot, handed down like the silverware and the wedding dress and the family casserole recipes. This is how you will live, it was implied: cooking soup, controlling the stove’s flame, memorizing ingredients. The steam will frizzle your hair and make your hands damp, and the aromas will be your home. The bone china bowls with the rose patterns, faded now, handed down, and the gravy boat and the silver serving platter, all hers now, stored in molding cardboard boxes. No clobbered tin cups, no McDonald’s water glasses, no plastic plates collected from flea markets, not for you, but these fine Revere Ware copper pots, and ivory tablecloths, and crystal pickle dishes, these make a house a home. And the steam rises in the kitchen.
Elani collected stones from the creek and placed them around the tree trunk. She discovered thin pieces of mica and she polished them with her sleeves until they glowed like cracked diamonds. They were her favorites. She also liked the smooth round stones that she shifted in her hands like marbles. She called the collection of stones her garden, and it was prettier than you’d think, with them just being stones. There was a pattern there you wouldn’t otherwise notice, of color and size and shape. Neither of the boys dare touch it because she was the only one who could see the pattern before it was there. That was the special thing about Elani: she could see things no one else could until it was right there in front of you.
She viewed the remains of her greatest romance, relived the music, fell into his dance. Perfumed vanilla and mint, a whiff of sorrow adrift in the parlor. At six he would leave her with nothing but flowers. She wore her sunflower dress to their first kiss, imprints of gray, barely a mist. A last dance, my love, before the orchestra finishes; a dream, a bare dream, before memory diminishes.
Honey, she whispered in her charcoal voice,
The dog ate another squirrel, there were guts on the porch. Someone cut the brake line of your Ford, and the IRS called, they want to know if that’s your real name. Something’s wrong with the TV, we can only get Nick at Nite, the babysitter has Trump bumper stickers on her Subaru, what do we do now? We have an ant infestation under the kitchen sink, the cat’s pregnant again, and I lost the MasterCard somewhere between the couch cushions and my ex-husband’s apartment (don’t ask). And your sister emailed me, says she’s not really your sister, she’ll explain later. The town manager dropped by, said we might technically be living above an Apache burial ground, the basement’s flooded and I think I smelled gas (can you check?), Oh, and your mother called.