Darlin' Neal

At dawn on a day nearing Easter, Lily wanted to sneak around and see if her parents had bought any more presents, any candy or stuffed animals. Yesterday the family had gone down to Grants and done some shopping while Lily had waited in the car. She already knew her mother had bought a giant dictionary because she'd seen it in a cabinet above the couch. They'd been practicing words. Each morning they started with a new one.

She stuck her head out the small trailer window to try and see if her father was already gone to work.

What she saw instead of her father was a Jemez man running barefoot. It filled her with longing to follow, his swift silent movement, his long hair trailing after, the way he headed up the side of the golden red mountain toward the cliffs. Heights made her freeze with fear. She wished to live here long enough that she would know many trails and could work on losing that fear. She wished to live here always.

She stepped out her door and into the kitchen. There would be no sneaking around. Her mother sat there drinking coffee. In the center of the table sat a basket of Easter lilies. "Speculate," her mother said.

Her mother speculated about whether or not they should plant them outside in honor of Lily, to leave something behind that was her name. Would they grow in the mountains? They would never know if the flowers came up the next year and bloomed or not. They were always moving. Any day now, Lily's father would hitch the trailer to the pickup and off they would go, again.

"Speculate, speculate," Lily muttered. She went and turned the TV on with the volume all the way down. Her baby brothers were sleeping on the couch. On the screen a woman sang high and whispery as a mouse. Then pageant girls were doing cartwheels and twirling batons.

"Did the singing wake you last night?" Lily's mother asked.

"Yes, but it was interesting."

Heyya, yahna, heyya, yahna, started running through Lily's head.

"Were they having a pow-wow?" Lily asked, mainly because she liked the way that sounded.

"Some ceremony or the other," her mother said.

There wasn't room to do a cartwheel so Lily braced against the wall and stood on her head. She watched an upside-down woman wearing a tiara. She didn't know how in the world, but this woke one of the babies up.

"You're hyper," her mother said. "Why don't you take your brother and go to the store. You can buy some gum."

Outside, Lily scanned the cliffs looking for runners. She'd seen a funny thing once while riding in a car and she thought of it now. A convertible coming fast around a curve, the side of the mountain plunging on the other side of her, and the driver flew out still holding the wheel, and then back in. "Did you see that?" everyone kept saying. Her mother said, "His eyes were as big as silver dollars."

"Silver dollars, sand dollars," she said now. She walked along the arroyo, carrying her baby brother on her hip. The thin crust of dry earth crunched beneath her feet and turned to the softest powder. She felt it between her toes, wishing she was feeling home. She let the baby down so he could feel it too.

Darlin' Neal's work has appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Night Train, Puerto del Sol, Smokelong Quarterly, and many other publications. Among her awards are a Literary Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission and a Henfield Transatlantic Review Award.

To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/200802powwow.htm

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