Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two Swings on a Hill

Behind my brother's house, a perfect hill rises up past the neighborhood fence. It's a backyard for wealthier people, accidentally visible from the porches of the more average. The hill is steep, and you'll have to either climb that impassable fence or find the secluded entrance for those stately homes before you can even reach its base. And he has never climbed it. My brother only points to a tree and mentions the swing.

One day, I'm gonna climb that hill and swing like a kid.

It looks dangerous, I say, ever the first-born.

It looks fun, he says, ever the little brother.

I look closely, picking out the shape of the swing from the shadows of the trees.

There are two swings, I say.

The first is a red board, tied to a rope hanging from a tree near the top.

The second is a wooden seat, lying in the dirt under a broken and frayed length of rope.

I tell my brother this, but he can't see it. Neither can his wife. I'm the only one that can make out the second swing.

I'm the only one who wonders at the story of a broken rope at the top of a steep hill.

A brother and a sister furtively hike to the gated neighborhood bordering their own. They walk to the back and climb the hill from the side that's never faced them before. Two children, undaunted by fences, wander wherever they please in the afternoons. There is no question of should we over the tantalizing tree swings. Of course they should.

A brother swings forward and back.
A sister swings forward and snap.

She doesn't exactly go flying, but she never catches herself. There is a bounce, a break, a bounce, blood, a bounce, a bone. And the bottom.

And then there is only one swing. Then there is only a brother.

Still he says he will climb that perfect hill and swing that tantalizing rope. Still, I am the only one who can see the broken swing. I am the only one who can hear my big sister warnings.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Elk in Estes Park

Originally uploaded by JaneDoughnut

Of many amazing things.

Welcome To Oregon

Originally uploaded by JaneDoughnut

Wish you were here.


Idaho is a martian place, filled with shiny tin buildings, struggling brush, and farms that are growing either potatoes or dirt. It's hard to tell. The sky is filled with dust. It's orange. I think there may be mountains in the distance, but they fade into that rust-colored haze.

Last year, the harvest consisted of twelve pounds of potatoes and nineteen tons of rock. Confused buffalo raped all their cattle to death and the cat died of leukemia. Lightning caught the barn on fire and storms flooded the septic tank, spilling sewage into the toilets, bathtub, and somehow, the refrigerator. The county social club wouldn't let them in after that, because they smelled like street people. Their only son ran the tractor into an exposed electric cable, killing himself and destroying the tractor. So when the state ran them off their land in order to extend the Interstate, the Dogleys didn't have much reason to protest.

They accepted a $250,000 check and packed up their belongings, unsure of where to go, but not really caring.

Anywhere but here, thought Ma.

I just hope this truck will make it out of Idaho, thought Pa.

Of course, Pa had no way of knowing the truck was just as pleased to be leaving, and it hummed happily all the way to Colorado. The Dogleys bought a brewery and lived happily ever after.



Were it not for the kudzu, Phillip might have believed it was just rotten luck.

On the day he was scheduled to leave Mosley, a tornado hit the power plant. Any business without a generator was out of business. This included his bank, his storage unit, and of course half the gas stations in town.

Oddly enough, this wasn't the first time such a thing had happened in Mosley. Tornadoes rolled through almost every May, right after the high school graduation ceremonies. Heck, it had happened right after his graduation ten years ago, and delayed him for so long he'd missed his chance at going to college in New York.

And every September, copious amounts of snow fell, generally at the airport. Mosley held the Louisiana record for annual snowfall by a good 14 inches. And was regularly setting new ones.

Determined to stay on schedule, Phillip sacrificed the possessions locked away at the self-storage unit, called in every debt ever owed him to collect cash, and filled up at a ghetto station notorious for diluting its gasoline with canola oil.

While backing out of his driveway, he ran over the debris of his neighbor's picket fence and destroyed the back passenger side tire. An hour later, after unloading his trunk, pulling the spare out from under everything, changing tires and reloading, he found a detour out of town that was relatively tornado-aftermath free.

He wasn't even surprised when he found himself behind a long line of cars on the northbound Interstate. An 18-wheeler had jackknifed and turned over, and authorities found it nearly impossible to move. Bulldozers were being diverted from tornado damage to deal with the accident. The driver of the rig swore he had swerved to avoid a naked child running through the street and, in his confusion, somehow flipped all those tons of steel. No one else would admit to having seen the mysterious toddler.

It took three hours to clear the road enough to let one lane of traffic through, on the shoulder. This resulted in several more flat tires and delays as people drove through the broken glass and metal.

All of this, no matter how unlikely, Phillip could have accepted. Oh, he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown, but eventually he would have accepted it as a string of mean coincidences. Until just inside the city limits, the road dissolved into a green mess. The road was blocked again. Pulling right up to it, Phillip made out the vines and leaves of kudzu. Kudzu was leaping from the trees and climbing out of the ditches. Kudzu was having a party in the middle of the Interstate, holding hands and singing and daring anyone to try crashing.

Well, this was not the day to test Phillip.

He was heading north one way or another.

He pushed the accelerator down to the floor. Singing Red Rover, Red Rover, send Phillip right over. The odometer hit 88 miles an hour as Phillip flew at the vines, into them, and no one in Mosley ever heard from him again.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Oh Beautiful

Spacious Skies

Amber Waves of Grain

Purple Mountain Majesties

I haven't even made it to the fruited planes yet, and I think I've fallen in love with America.

More pictures as we have time.