Aftermath of a Dream

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Here is the latest snippet from my novel-in-progress, THE ROCKY ORCHARD.

“Lula,” Mazie said.   Lula held her hands on Mazie’s upper arms and squeezed.  A shudder ran through Mazie’s body and left her trembling.  Her lip quivered and she said “Lula” again, as if testing the sound of her own voice.  “What just happened?  What in the world just happened to me?”

“You were telling me about your dream.  It must have been very powerful, especially for such a young child,” Lula said.

“But I was really there.  I felt the same exact things that I felt at the time.  When I had that dream in the first place,” Mazie’s breathing became uneven again.

Lula ran a gentle hand down the length of Mazie’s hair and brushed Mazie’s cheek with her fingers.  Mazie felt the tension drain from her body, and she inhaled a great breath, feeling the mountain air rush into her lungs.  “Your memories are quite vivid, dear.  And that particular dream was so frightening. You must have been so scared, so confused.”  Lula squeezed Mazie’s hand and asked, “Did you ever tell anyone about it?”

Mazie let out a small chuckle and said, “No.  No way.”  She thought for a moment and added, “I might have gone into my parents’ room.  I used to do that when I was still little.  If I was really scared about something, I would get up and wander into their bedroom and crawl under the covers beside my mother.  They would never wake up or anything, but I would lie there for a while.  I used to watch the little patterns and swirls that your eyeballs see sometimes when it’s dark and still.  They were strangely comforting; in fact, I would crawl into their bed and wait for the patterns to show up.  After a while my mother would stir and say, ‘OK, Mazie, that’s long enough.  Go back to your own room now.’  But that was OK, really. My parents’ bed always smelled really strongly of the two of them, all intermingled, and between the smell and their heavy breathing and the little floating dots, I felt OK again.”

Lula smiled but said nothing.

“You must think I was the strangest little kid, Lula.  Well, I told you I was.  Now you can see for yourself.”

“Not so far, dear.  Not so far.”

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The First Time I Died

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When we get back home, I am convinced that I am adopted, that I come from different people entirely than these two grown-ups who ping-pong between sphinx-like impenetrability and crazy, nonsensical laughter.  I start to have scary dreams.  In some of them, we are back on our road trip vacation, and my parents leave me behind at one of the endless places where we stop.  In others, I try as hard as I can to run away from something awful, but my legs don’t work.  It’s like I’m in super slow motion, while the rest of the world – and the scary threat – come closer. 

And then, I die.  For the first time.

 It’s so hot, and so dry.  The sky is a burning blaze of white. No wind.  The air is so still that it’s completely silent.  It’s like being in a movie theater when the sound snaps off, and the picture continues.  I think I must have suddenly gone deaf, and I look around to see if anything is moving – a branch, a lizard, a bird – something I should be able to hear.

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There is young woman in front of me.  She wears full native dress. A skirt that goes all the way to the ground, a long sleeve shirt with the cuffs rolled up to reveal inches and inches of bracelets. She has a single, waist-length braid that’s bound with a thin leather strap. She turns when I approached the edge, briefly, then looks back down. She doesn’t say a word. She doesn’t say hello, which I think is odd, because almost everyone says hello to a four-year-old child, especially one who is approaching the edge of the Grand Canyon.

She sits very near the edge herself. But she’s not actually sitting.  I realize that she’s crouched, and she stays like that, as if it’s the most relaxed position in the world. She is weaving a basket. I watch the quickness of her hands, young hands, and I think she might be very young despite the baby beside her. A papoose. I am proud of myself for knowing the word for an Indian* baby who’s all bound up in a beautiful little cocoon. The baby is wide awake, but utterly silent, his calm black eyes staring far into the distance.

I think that both of them must be miserably hot. In my 1960 shorts and sleeveless blouse, I can’t imagine how they seem so——————

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My foot slips. My saddle shoe’s heel scrapes against the parched dirt. It’s so slow at first, just a grating of my calf.  I feel the skin rub away, then the first tiny droplets of blood rising to the surface. But then time speeds up.  My feet fly out from under me. I am face-to-face with the white-hot sky.  I am in free fall.  Falling, Falling.

My back hits first. The sensation, the pain I suppose I would call it, lasts for a mere second. It’s like the wind being knocked out of me, except I know that it’s not the wind. I am surrounded by the blackest darkest night, but within the black, an ocean of spark-like bursts fly from my body in all directions at once. I die.

I am dead. 

I am gasping for breath I am trying to reach the surface I am trying to keep my lungs from bursting I am straining to see something besides the sparks inky black nothing and the sparks and I gasp and I cough and I sputter and an arm is on me no two arms are on me, they’re around me and it’s Lula and she’s with  me and I hear words, she’s saying words to me.  She is saying, “You are right here, Mazie.  You are right here.”

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 This partial chapter from my current novel has been reworked from a piece I wrote a few years ago.  You never know (or at least I never know) how writing will proceed.  For me, it’s never orderly. As I now envision The Rocky Orchard, this cast-aside piece now stands as a pivotal scene in my fourth novel.

Bottom three photographs: Edward S. Curtis