16 December, 2006


Natasha Shealy
“I love you.”
She said this despite herself.
He watched her lips unfurl like a fern, while his thoughts drifted to his daily schedule. He needed to mend the Ramsey fence line, and take a shit. This doesn’t sound like much, but his bowels worked like clock work when he was out in the field.
She waited for a miracle, thinking his intelligent constitution meant he had re arranged the words that would come tumbling out his mouth. But that look was a faker, and he refused her a second time. Mary sighed heavy at the foreshadowing of Roland’s lack, and steadied her gaze by taking inventory of his cupboards like he was leaving till spring. She noted his absolute economy in the seemingly thorough fare of staples, ten or so jars of canned beans, and some sweet corn, seven of jars of tomato sauce she had brought him in an excited state back in August. He had bags of grain, and had bought a side of beef from the local, maverick veterinarian with measured timing. Yet he lacked suffiecent oil. Mary scanned the pantry with a critical eye, gathering he had neglected to stock up on commercial cooking and lamp oil... and that was exactly the sort of man he was! He stocked his pantry full of damn practical winter means, but would up and forget to conserve his grease. He prided himself in proving his economy while he shriveled up inside like a frost bitten tender leaf. That man had let his grease stink into the ground like there was no such invention as winter.

Mary stood up and made her way to the door. “Well, I gather you are pleased with our trade. I reckon I’ll be making my way back up Hog Skin Branch.” She didn’t wait for nuance, and went to fetch her woolen jacket off the back of a lone straight back chair near the stove. Life wasn’t so easy after he had told her he would never love her.
Romance through herself down the mountain and cracked beneath Mary’s feet as she made her way west. For awhile she had no concept of the natural world. The road was beginning to take on a grey blue quality that meant creation was deep under ground for the next few months. Folks would be curled up in their homes like subterranean treasures till March, chopping wood, tending the stove, polishing the family flatware, piecing quilts, watching the Price is Right. Mary forgot her steps until she was right up on the old Ramsey site, and could not dispute the reality of sooty smoke. She could smell the scent of poplar from the stove, and proclaimed out loud, that they had lost their minds burning such sorry wood, knowing they couldn’t cut much else these days in accordance to their ill conditions. Charles Ramsey had lost the last of his burly tobacco lot a few years back,
and he and Violet didn’t know how to do much else except loose their minds. They spent most their time getting’ old and watching TV. She noted the reflection of the television set in the afternoon window of their living quarters… The mountains were shrugging… Year by year, new and unrecognizable cars made their way up Big Pine Road, prophesizing the sordid threat of gated communities that were to cover what once was a row and field.
There is an echo within a forests floor. A bounce goes into its mossy, rooted birth place.In her thoughts, Mary would dig her fingers through the soil finding roots and peat. The faint imaginings of sparkling subterranean treasures. To spend the night covered underneath the soil would be an okay night.
Afternoon shadow fell shapely against the holler. “Light doesn’t shine sharp as it should,” Mary whispered to her self as she made her way back up Hogskin Branch. Light never gets concise in these parts except for when it is hunkered down in corners past daybreak. She thought of the Arizona sky she had left in May. Someone steals the sky in these parts. The rolling hills and foliage were not all to blame. There was a relentless bandit of sunshine that haunted these woods in the dark of winter. Burgeoning pangs of December acknowledged her dispute, suggesting January meant a quiet panic. This would be her first winter alone on the mountain. And, she wasn’t sure could recall all of her familial upbringing that addressed survival. Most of her childhood had been focused on this very moment. The moment she would need to recall the knowledge of survival which she lacked. She knew how to start fires, can preserves, and find certain poetic foliage. She knew how to think about these woods, but was not assured with confidence that her ancestry had provided her with the spiritual endurance to spend a winter alone on Hog Skin Branch
Roland went to fetch his truck like it was an animal. He had to warm her up with words that ignite. He began with saying nothing. Not saying a word. He assumed the truck would just up and lick his hand. When that didn’t blossom, he spilled forth with colorful language that bemused the wild turkey as much as it would Mary. Both birds liked to walk away from him with tongue in cheek, as though they needn’t mind if he ever called on them again. The truck started, and Roland made his way back over to the Ramsey site.

He wanted an easy woman. Not a whore, but someone that did things like he wanted. He wanted one that smiled and led straight through with that smile. One that wasn’t one way, then the next. Someone simple, but not too dumb. Mary. She was a ‘coon charm. She sparkled and caught his eye in a way that could only mean unhappiness. How can something shiny last?
Mary gathered up her shoe shine kit and sat on the porch. Tomorrow was Sunday, and she wanted to shine her dim cowboy boots for Sunday service. She had never considered going to the Southern Baptist church till after she got lonely up on the hill. Church was still the most social of event around here, even with the new grocery store, and Super Wal-Mart in Newport. The monthly sewing bee’s with her mother’s friends and the seasonal party left her spirit lacking. So, eventually her thoughts tumbled down towards the white washed church with its solo outhouse across the street. It was an act of gravity.

First you rub in the polish in a circular motion, and then you buff it out. It is straight forward, but gives results. It is almost a miracle how shiny you can make your everyday boots. People have relied on this method for a long time she said to her self as she made plans for supper and plotted rows in her mind for a spring garden.

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