Millie’s Story

“Move away from it!”

Prodding my ribs with the dragon’s barrel, Pa attempted to push me aside. I hunkered over Keme’s bloody, prone body, gripped his shoulders tight, knowing if I gave Pa a clear target, he’d shoot Keme again, kill him. If he wasn’t already dead.

“Damn it, daughter, I said move!” Another jab with the dragon.

Not looking up, I shook my head. “No!”

Silence invaded the shed, broken only by Pa’s raspy breathing. I felt a light touch on my bare shoulder, then the hand jerked away as if my skin had burned it. Pa growled, “Millie, what’s going on? Where’re your clothes?”

I looked up into a face that was more shadow than substance in the lantern’s feeble light. I opened my mouth, but no words came out.

“Did it…did it force itself on you?”

I finally found my tongue. “No, Pa…I…we…” And lost it again.

His eyes raked both Keme and me, taking in our nakedness; they narrowed, hardened. “Are you telling me it didn’t…you willingly had congress with this demon?”

“He’s not a demon, he’s—”

“It has wings, daughter, it is a demon, and I’m going to finish it. Then…” A loaded pause. “Then I’ll deal with you.” Continue reading

Home

Down a distant country road
Lined with hickory and oak
Sits an old weathered house
Its roof wreathed in gauzy smoke

Wash flaps on the line
Hound dogs rest in the shade
Kids shimmy up a walnut tree
Wearing clothes handmade

Mama stands on the porch
Daddy towers at her side
Unconditional love in their eyes
Welcoming arms open wide

Here’s my baby,
Daddy says with a grin
We’ve been waiting for you, Mama adds
Supper’s ready, come on in

I close my eyes, take a final breath
My heart no more shall roam
I leave the road, pass through the gate
At last…at last…I’m home

Photo from Pixabay

 

Keme’s Story

“I saw the most beautiful girl yesterday,” Keme said to his mother. “More beautiful than any I have ever seen.”

Wapun continued grinding the pestle into the multicolored corn contained in the hollowed-out mortar stone. “Oh…have you been traveling north again, visiting with the Hidatsas?” She glanced over her shoulder, smiled up at him. “Has some pretty little thing caught your eye, my son?”

“No, not the Hidatsas.” Keme remembered the girl, eyes as green as prairie grass, hair the color of gold. And her smile.

“The Kansa then? Or the Mandan?”

“No, no, she was…well…” Keme trailed off, uncertain how to tell his mother about the beautiful girl, how they had met, and how she had not been frightened of him.

The pestle stopped. Wapun turned toward him, her black eyes locking on his. “You did not go over the mountains again, did you?”

Keme looked down at the stone floor. It had been a mistake, he should not have told her about Millie. But he had been so excited he had to tell someone about the girl and his love for her.

His mother grabbed his arm. “Look at me, Keme.”

Slowly, he raised his eyes. Worry twisted her features, causing the fine, white down that covered her face to bristle like an angry dog.

“This girl—does she live across the river?”

Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, he nodded.

Her wings rose slightly, quivered, the tips making a raspy noise upon the floor. “You know this is wrong. We do not mix with them.”

Keme knew. From an early age, he had been warned not to fly south from the Redochre Mountains where they nested, that since war had broken out among the Earthbound Ones many, many moons ago (so long ago that no one now living remembered just when), they had changed; the Earthbound Ones now believed their avian brothers to be witikos or other evil spirits. Continue reading

Wings

The wings are still there
Propped in a dark corner
Of a forgotten room
Since childhood

Shaggy and moth eaten
Dull gray with dust
Feathers drooping
Beneath Time’s weight

They whisper of a dream
Where anything is possible
Where I can fly
If only I believe

And possess a child’s courage
To strap on gossamer wings
Constructed of innocence and faith
And leap blindly into space

Photo from Pixabay

Wagon Wheel

Old Crow Medicine Show is a Nashville based string band that has been recording since 1998. Their music has been described as Americana, alternative country, folk country, and bluegrass. They have garnered many nominations and awards in their long career, including the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album of the Year for Remedy.
My favorite single, “Wagon Wheel” (which has been covered by various artists), was nominated for Song of the Year in 2013 by the Country Music Association, and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry of America in 2013.

Hershel’s Secret

Damn, it was hard to keep a secret from Maryanne. That woman was so confounded nosey. Asking this, asking that, her voice going all reed-thin like it always did when she didn’t believe a word I was saying.

“And you’re telling me that this time you gotta stay late and work on Mr. Redwine’s truck.” The racket the twins was making in the background pretnear drowned out her voice. “For Pete’s sake, you’re a carpenter, not a mechanic.”

One of ‘em—most likely Alex, he was the noisy one—let out a high-pitched squeal that stabbed my throbbing head like a rusty pitchfork. I yanked my cell away from my ear, whispering “holy shit” through gritted teeth.

Squawk, squawk, squawk spitted out of the phone. I lifted it back to my ear.

“—and we’re gonna talk about it when you get home. This’s been going on for months. Two or three evenings a week, something’s come up and you’ve been getting home late, dark or after. How you been driving nails in the dark, Hershel Thurman Patterson? Huh? You tell me. And your paycheck sure ain’t been getting any bigger.”

Lord-a-mercy, the lying was getting harder and harder to live with. “I…uh…the truck…” Good thing I didn’t have one of them there smartphones. I’d heard tell you could track a body if he had one on him. Continue reading

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife–recommendation

Recently, I read The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, and its sequel, The Book of Etta, by Meg Ellison and was so impressed that I wanted to recommend these two outstanding books to those of you who love dystopian/postapocalyptic fiction, and strong female characters. Ms. Elison’s writing is convincing, conveys a strong sense of place and time, and portrays realistic characters, both good and bad, dealing with a changed world. These two books are the author’s first, but I hope not her last.

The following 2 editorial reviews were taken from Publishers Weekly:

Re The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere 1):

“Elison’s gripping and grim first novel, which won the Philip K. Dick award in its previous small press publication, tells the story of an unnamed woman who survives a plague that wipes out most of humankind in just weeks, leaving 10 male survivors for every woman. The story is beautifully written in a stripped down, understated way, though frequently gruesome in its depiction of rapes, murders, and still births. The protagonist, who sometimes calls herself Karen, or Dusty, or Jane, is beautifully realized as a middle-aged, bisexual woman with considerable skills, an indomitable will, and great adaptability, though she suffers considerably and is far from superwoman. A prologue and an epilogue set long after the events of the main narrative (and reminiscent of the concluding chapter of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid ’s Tale) hint at a positive future, leaving the reader with a glimmer of optimism in the midst of despair.”

Re The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere 2):

“In this gritty sequel to her Philip K. Dick Award-winning The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Elison returns to her postapocalyptic American Midwest milieu, but far in the future, when the midwife protagonist of the first novel is largely a legend. The plague that destroyed human civilization lingers, killing women in childbirth, fetuses in the womb, and newborns. Far more boys survive than girls. The various pocket communities that have survived have found their own ways of coping with the gender imbalance. In matriarchal Nowhere, women collect men into “hives.” In nearby Jeff City, castrati live as women, giving the illusion of gender balance. In Estiel, formerly St. Louis, a monstrous dictator known as the Lion raids other communities for their women and girls. Etta—or Eddy, as he calls himself outside the confines of Nowhere—is a young transgender man who can’t find a place for himself in a world where people with wombs are classified as either baby-making machines or midwives. He’s a wanderer and explorer by nature and has no interest in any other role. Elison continues to startle her readers with unexpected gender permutations and fascinating relationships worked out in front of a convincingly detailed landscape.”

Gender issues aside, these two books are engrossing reads. To me, the protagonists’ sexual orientations are only a small part of Elison’s two novels, and have little bearing on what makes them great stories. I highly recommend reading both, though each can stand alone. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a third Road to Nowhere.

You can keep up to date on Ms. Elison at her website at: www.megelison.com.

Click on the covers to view or buy on Amazon.

Mistress Youth

Youth is a fickle mistress
Batting her clear green eyes
Whispering in your ear…
I will stay with you forever

Naively, you believe her
Slug through the weeks
And months and years
Thinking she will always be there

You live your days for others
Instead of yourself and her, while
Work and family obligations
Mindlessly gorge on time perennial

Time you should have spent loving
Time you should have spent living
Time you should have spent just being
Time you should have spent with her

Until one morning you wake up alone
She has left you for someone younger
Leaving you old and worn out and used up
No good to yourself or anyone else

You see her out with her new love
And grow angry and resentful and hard
Hating her for abandoning you
Hating her for being happy without you

Then slowly you come to realize
That she did not leave you
You left her, long ago, standing alone
Beneath the glow of an eighties moon

Photo from Pixabay 

Saving Grace–part 5, conclusion 

Part 1 here

I knew what It was up to: It was trying to scare Grace and get her to move from between It and Penny. Grace was of the light and that blacker-than-black unthing couldn’t touch her.

Again, they did their dance–It moved left, Grace moved left, It moved right, Grace moved right. Then one of Its great wings sliced down toward Grace and I hollered and Caleb hollered and Will hollered, all three of us thinking that she’d be flattened under that slab of black. But when it touched Grace’s head, the wing burst into flames.

With another roar that shook what was left of my little house, It pulled back the blazing wing into Itself, snuffing out the fire. Then, It folded, and folded again, and kept on folding until It was no bigger than a sheet of paper, and slid in a blacker-than-black square across the floor away from Grace. Continue reading

Silly Girl

once upon a time…

there was a silly girl
who didn’t see
the mistake she made
by trusting he

she gave her heart
she gave her all
and he tripped her up
just to watch her fall

he felt big by
making her small
used sarcasm and anger
kept her back to the wall

he didn’t listen
he didn’t see
that she stopped loving him
wanted only to be free

now he’s sorry
but it came too late
for too long he sowed meanness
and now he reaps her hate