one: what a mountain becomes to a lost girl
she didn’t know what stopped her exactly except to say that the whole forest began to throb around her like a fresh bruise. she couldn’t remember how long ago at what curve or how far she had strayed from the voices of her parents her sister. she had simply walked at her own pace. ahead of the group taken the wrong fork. she had been thinking of titles. los manzanos. how strange to name a whole mountain range after the mealy red fruit tree. this wild stacking up around her was nothing like the polished piles of apples at the grocery store. as she traced her way backwards the path winding ahead of her like a diamondback rattler the dusk settling like venom in her veins the girl counted her footsteps. she became a black ant marching and carrying all her food back to the queen. so focused on her task was she that the girl barely heard the voices or the shrieks of rescue whistles in the shadows ahead. so focused that when she ran straight into her mother’s arms she cried and thrashed her body not because she was relieved but because she had almost been free.
two: what a tree becomes to a spy girl
after she stopped going to 5th grade because the brown girls called her nigger and the white boys called her ugly and kathy the fat girl who everyone made fun of didn’t want to be her friend either the girl took to climbing trees. that was the best thing about albuquerque and their new house that sat at end of a dirt road on an acre of valley land. they had all kinds of trees in the yard. crab apple trees that bloomed into clouds of pink. cottonwoods that lined the ditch behind the house and flexed their muscles against a flaming sky. tall trees with sturdy arms and sweeping views of the next-door adobe houses the horse ranch down the road the noisy canopy of the exotic bird farm half a mile away.
this was also after her mother started sitting on the back porch in the dark or sleeping the day away. after her father started going on more and more business trips and her older sister got too cool to play dolls. so what else was the girl to do but climb trees and besides she had a favorite one. it grew in the very back left hand corner of their yard behind the chicken coop and the compost pile. a cottonwood holding the leftovers of an old tree house. five rickety steps nailed to the trunk a 4 x 4 platform with a couple slats missing and rusty zip-line no one dared use. after slugging a bucket of carrot peelings egg shells and coffee rinds and dumping it into the stinking heap the girl would wipe her hands on her red raincoat and climb the tree to sit precariously on her throne. she’d take out her notebook a pair of binoculars she’d stolen from the children’s museum an almond butter and honey sandwich and a pen. then she’d get to the real business of living. recording. she could see and hear and feel everything up there. through the leaves the sky was an open wound changing colors in the wind. and when it grew dark and her mother began slamming together dinner in the kitchen she’d climb down and walk back to house. her sister on the phone smacking her gum would pause and roll her eyes. what do you see up in that stupid tree anyway. you’re not harriet the spy you know. that’s just a movie.
three: what a mini van becomes to a curious girl
thursday was homeschool group day and the girl had to spend the whole morning cleaning her room and the den in time for the rest of the kids to arrive with their parents. most of the other homeschool kids were hopeless. that’s how she liked to explain it to her best friend lea who she’d left behind in baltimore when they’d move a year earlier. what are they like? lea would ask over the phone during their weekly calls to one another. oh you know kind of hopeless and none of them can do a back handspring like you. the truth was that the homeschool group kids were really not that bad. they were just strange. carl and his sister emma were super religious but sweet. melody was obsessed with sailor moon and her step dad was a control freak who didn’t let her have sleepovers. vienna and her two younger twin sisters caty and elyse were dancers and only ate leafy and tofu dishes. then there was huck named after the book huckleberry finn. huck was a geography bee champion but didn’t really know how to talk about anything else except geography. the girl wasn’t complaining though. it was nice to have company since her sister didn’t really like to play anymore and well sometimes she worried except for lea and her notebook she’d didn’t have anyone to talk to.
the rest of the kids arrived at noon and the first hour of group was always some sort of lesson. today they were learning about the civil rights movement and sit ins. the girl knew all about the civil rights movement. she’d written illustrated edited and self-published a whole magazine about the little rock nine emmitt till martin luther king jr and so on. the girl looked around the room at the other kids who seemed to be in awe or shock or disbelief. didn’t they know their american history? hosing people down is not a very christian thing to do carl couldn’t contain himself any longer. yea emma chimed in couldn’t they just talk to the colored people? african american huck’s dad who was teaching the lesson this week corrected we don’t call them colored anymore. it’s just not correct. the girl hoped nobody could tell her ears were prickling hot. she couldn’t control it. sometimes she just wanted to yell I AM THEM even though she knew they didn’t think of her that way.
after the lesson the parents would sit in the living room and discuss camping trips and gluten free diets while the kids would take to the yard like wild things. the girl liked this time best when they were free to play four square in the driveway or red rover in the grass. vienna and the girl’s big sister were the oldest in the group so they liked to sit under a tree giggling and trading fourteen-year-old secrets over bottles of nail polish. but the girl was restless today. after fifteen minutes of four square she whined let’s do something else. like what dodge ball? melody chimed in. truth or dare. the girl grinned. but not here it’s too public. let’s go in my mom’s van.
her mother’s van was a 1988 dodge mini van. sky blue with wood striped paneling on the sides. a six seater with grey upholstery covered in crumbs and stains. it sat in the cool shade of the two-door garage and the girl took her place in the passenger seat as the rest of the group crowded into the back through the side door and shut it. melody caty elyse carl and emma. they were all there. huck had excused himself to study flash cards in the den. my dad says this game is sinful. there went carl preaching again. then don’t play. the girl said. no one forced you into the van jesus head. melody giggled and elyse pulled out a carrot stick from a zip lock bag and started nibbling nervously like a bunny. who wants to go first? nobody said a word. fine i will. the girl rolled her eyes just as she’d watched her sister do. ok someone ask me. ask you what? caty asked. truth or dare.
the first round was a bust. caty dared the girl to hold her tongue to the garage floor for ten seconds. no biggie. the girl did it for twenty. then it had been carl’s turn and he of course picked truth. do you ever forget to pray before eating? his sister emma had blurted out before anyone else had a chance to come up with a better question. yes he’d said but then i say a double prayer the next time i eat to make up for it. then melody got dared to make out with her serena sailor moon doll for one minute. she gagged as if they’d asked her to make out with an actual person but did it anyway. finally it was the girl’s turn again. truth i guess. she said not sure the game had been such a good idea after all. these kids were creatively challenged when it came to inventing dares. the group looked at her blankly for a moment. then elyse who had been quiet the whole time eating her carrots said almost too faintly for anyone to hear how do two guys have sex? the whole van erupted. ewwww gross caty started elyse why would you even ask that? melody was laughing uncontrollably i think i’m going to pee my pants she hiccupped between snorts. carl had turned white as a sheet and emma was smiling angelically what’s sex? she asked. the girl was speechless. she couldn’t have been less prepared to answer the question but was delighted that elyse had turned the game towards such a deliciously controversial topic. she chewed the inside of her cheek and thought back to what she knew about sex. man sex. there had been a dirty magazine in lea’s older brother’s room when she and lea had been snooping one day. a whole section on threesomes and some very informative pictures. this would have to do. it’s kind of like a sandwich she blurted out before she’d completely formed her talking points. the whole van grew silent as the group turned their attention back to the girl sitting in the front seat. a sandwich? elyse’s eyes grew wide. shit what was she saying. yea um like you know a sandwich. two guys and a girl in the middle. or sometimes the girls on the bottom and the two guys are on top of her and each other. the car remained silent as a coffin. but where does the guy put his you know thingy when he’s on top of another guy? melody ventured to ask as carl began rocking back and forth in his seat. the girl took a deep breath. she wasn’t really sure about the exact mechanics but there were only a couple holes it could go into and she’d studied her anatomy coloring book pretty thoroughly. she was taking a risk but she was 75 percent sure her answer was correct and even if it wasn’t they’d never know. she couldn’t believe it had come to this. she had their undivided attention. she couldn’t wait to tell lea. well she began slowly taking a deep and what she hoped was a wise breath. i think it goes in the other guy’s butt.
To be continued...