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Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: cinderblocks and sage

Nothing but sagebrush was scattered on either side of the dusty tracks leading to their cinderblock house backed up into the intersection of two barren hills. They owned no lawn, but around back there was a fenced garden of a darker hue than the silver sage. A gray Studebaker climbed the trail, then stopped at the door. Out tumbled a little girl in braids, a round white-haired woman wearing men’s boots and a stooped man in overalls. Leaving their front door open, two figures appeared in the soft glow of the dust, walking down to greet the travelers. The couple wore bright smiles on their weathered face as first she, then he roundly hugged each visitor.

Today that girl sits in a wheelchair outside the door to her room, the familiar aroma of lunch wafting around the corner from the rec room. It came to her sometime in the night: the names of the couple she remembered visiting in the sagebrush so long ago. His name was Tony and his whiskers always scratched her face. His voice was gravelly and she thought some of his words didn’t belong to her language. The woman, Annie, wore braids too and was very soft to hug. The older women had been best friends but lived nearly 50 miles from each other, past the reservation and into the Portneuf Gap.

Did she imagine that round wooden table and how she could stand up underneath it with room to spare? Eyes closed, she could hear the thunder rolling across the hills, see the sky darken and the pungent smell of rain falling on sagebrush. She knew for certain that on those occasions the four adults sat around that table, holding hands and talking softly to each other . . . and later to someone else. She was content to play under the table. If she did peek out she was shushed back under for ‘just a little while longer.’ Before the long ride home after supper, Annie gave her friend several larger rolls of paper tied with string. At home she watched as these were taped to the wall of the old woman’s bedroom. And since she slept on a small daybed in the corner of that same room, the little girl woke up each day to pastel drawings of multi-colored sunsets or sunrises always over the same broad expanse of valley with rolling hills behind. Sometimes birds flew across the drawings.

All of the characters playing in her memory were gone now. Even the cinderblock house had been razed leaving only the well pump visible. Once she visited her uncle, the Studebaker driver. She didn’t know this would be the last conversation she would have with him. They talked about marigolds, the chickens in the coops, and reminisced about the dogs that they had when she was small. Casually she asked if those had been séances at Annie’s house. Never a man to squander words he answered, ‘Noni, there are spirits of the dead who are having a hard time passing to the other side. We tried to help them.’

Written from a prompt at Sunday Scribblings. Read more 'out of this world' here.

3 comments:

Granny Smith said...

Oh, Noni, this is so vivid! I can smell the rain on the sagebrush and hear the soft voices of the grown-ups. I hope that the fact that you posted this late Sunday won't mean that other Sunday Scribblers miss reading this outstanding piece of writing.

Love, Phyllis

Marianne said...

I've returned and read this 4 times, and I agree with Phyllis... it's also left me 'with a head full of questions and a mighty big thirst'... wanting to hear more....

One More Believer said...

excellent story... i agree with granny... i longed to be at this very same place... it is good to see you writing... how is the weather... here in cda, id is sunny and cold today... yeppers, no snow today... the crocus are hidding under the cold snow.. will probably miss their full glory this year...