“The Hawk” (2010) by Candace Elizabeth Brooks (a.k.a. Ariadne Phoenix Levinson)

THE HAWK (Fall 2010)  

The electric doorbell chime on speakers throughout the house interrupts a commercial during Jeopardy, and Ruby starts for her metal walker. “Surprise!!!” A huddle of people behind the screen door, but she recognizes only Lydia. The smell of tobacco wafts in from the porch. “Eighty is a milestone year,” a man says, a kiss on her cheek. He takes off his baseball cap. One of the men stomping the mud off his boots comes inside from the garage in time for roast supper with carrots, on the next day. “Fixed that water heater.” She counts six people in the living room who eat with her off the extra folding TV trays she forgot she owned.

A hawk’s hard wings like banner fabric on the wind. Slicing sounds refract on ice. Whorled paths follow children on steel blades over the windowpane lake. Retrieving his fallen glove, Graham spins reverse. Vera clasps it to her chest away from him, skates off fast in open circles. White teeth twirl, black curls brush her taunting face, shivering laughing. A snapped twig, the ice sheet shatters. He feels her fists clash under him against the frozen wall of water, sees her frantic wide eyes. He shouts for help. He dives into the cold bone-strangling lake. Her body resists being pulled. His ears drum swimming further below. Grabbing her ankle, her ice-skate caught among rocks. Tight laces break cut by his Leatherman knife. Her blood-starved brain, dies by reaching surface. Tubes through her nostrils, she is upright forever in pijamas. Daylight casts dull moving shadows on the circle of knitted webs lengthening at home in the parlor. His thousandth door slam away from gossip clouds. Oxygen leaves his blood his knees rage, racing himself. Away from her submitting in the hayride, pumpkins rupture under the speeding truck tires.

The towns replaced by cornfields until the breeze-combed stalks blur into an empty bright horizon. Nina’s doll eyes move on Forsythia’s skin from the passenger side mirror. Air-condition silence after three hours of news radio. Godfrey’s neck bends back against the fabric seat. Eyes closed, his Adams apple swallows, Forsythia shifts in place. In Gordon, chemical smells, mothballs, 1960s flower neon housecoats sun faded on basement hangers. Forsythia motionless standing, sneezes seeing rolled up dust molded gray-green velvet drapes. The basement like a theater set, the TV/VCR combo and bedroom furniture raised on a wooden platform in a dark corner. Stale fluorescent lights tremble over walls painted linen blue. Kroger boxes stacked against them, labeled: POTS/SILVERWEAR. TOWELS/KNICK-KNACKS. Lydia placing a blank price sticker on an empty wooden curio cabinet, says, “I know Greg and Godfrey are going to fight over that jukebox.” “I can help with something…” “No, you’re fine. There’s nothing really to do but have them come over here and haul away all this junk.”

“Saw Everdell on the way out,” he says at dinner. He means, “Everdell saw me holding money, who hasn’t got anything now.” In her bed between her sisters’, eyes open in the dark night listening. Concern in her dad’s voice in the wooden planks of the floors and into her bedpost. Market crash. The contagion from the telephone call is worse it has festered since returning back with him from town. As water near water collects, as water lightning-struck charges. Muffled words to mother through the doors. Rumors like locusts that the banks have closed. A stock market crash. Now since breakfast dad is nowhere on the land. Hitch the horses out to town. Men off their farms, fifty or so assembled outside the brick bank building pitch mad demands into the open second story window, the rain on their mouths. Mama and Ruby search through the bearded leather faces. Mr. Jean shot himself last night. The banker, the clerk says. “What about our money.” Mama leads Ruby by the shoulders. Horse hoof beats on wet pavement. People collect out of their houses into the muddy cart swelled square.

In Iraq a pyre of human excrement ravages past the American bases violently at the stars. The desert lifeless 10 miles in every direction, infected by a noxious sour smell. Worse than death, it drowns his bleeding nostrils, overfills his stomach. Plastic Port-O-Johns bake in the sun in the day boiling excrement and urine at infernal temperatures. The Units take turns each night burning their waste. Godfrey dry heaves convulsantly, vomits dust; sand is blown back in his face. A Camel Light back at camp relaxes him. Moist baby wipes down his body. A fresh cotton t-shirt. Drinking Coca-Cola under a reading lamp over Genesis, Judah spares the widow his daughter-in-law for disguising as a whore because she is impregnated with his twins. She really pulls one over on everybody and gets Judah by the balls for not handing Shelah over when he turns legal. In Numbers Aaron stops a plague by thrusting a javelin through a Midianite harlot and the Israelite she seduces. When this happens they also are sleeping in a tent.

David thinks the moving sea is an animal because he is hallucinating on Nyquil. And the damp sand he has his feet in up to his ankles looks like television static. That the ocean is a thick a wet mirror of paint soaking up the sky after the storm. Billions of capillary waves shimmer on turning, because the wind is an invisible pinroll machine. Trillions of tiny pale yellow light bulbs blink on the outline of each ripple. The ocean, a big marquis-sign at sunset. A strobe of silent lightning in the distance vanishes. The wave sounds like wire threads struck hard against a cymbal. Tongue rolled crests splash. The waves sound like sex. Thunk, when they fall, breaking. The ocean is air beneath a satin lilac dress, casting sea foam nets onto the wet clay shore.

A little girl, her great granddaughter, Nina, is sprawled belly down on the shaggy carpet, bare feet up. She colors into a coloring book. The sunlight shines golden on her through white drapes. “Well, you sure do know how to make yourself right at home.” “Ha. Hah.” Metal spoons rattle against porcelain saucers on a tray. Lydia carries in tea from the kitchen, offering some to the pale woman staring at the TV, who reaches with both hands for a cup. “Now… Forsith,” Ruby points at her, “doesn’t talk much, just smiles and smiles…doesn’t she? And she’s so pale.” “Like a ghost.” “She’salbino.” “An albino, sweetheart.” “She needs lots of creams.” The blue glow of Jeopardy on television is the only light in the living room, it dances on the faces and arms of the family gathered this time with supermarket birthday cake on paper plates. Ruby whispers to Lydia above the other voices in conversation. “I am not going. No, I am not.” “Mother, you don’t have a choice. You can’t take care of yourself anymore.” “Sure I do take care of myself.” “You’ve fallen down three times in the last two months…we’ve got you packed already, mom.”

The basement, like a theater set, has a TV/VCR and a mattress on a wooden platform at the far right wall; overhead, long glass tubes tremble with flourescent light. The walls are painted linen blue, Kroger boxes stacked against them, labeled: POTS/SILVERWEAR. TOWELS/KNICK-KNACKS. An empty wooden curio cabinet stands next to a rolled up pair of dust moldy, gray-green velvet drapes on a bronze rack. Forsythia standing motionless at the center of the room as Lydia moves along the couches, the lavender one, the one tan, steps over the woven rug, placing blank price stickers on the objects too large to pack in boxes. Things the family doesn’t want to keep. Gregory will contend with Godfrey for grammophone stereo. Lydia’s church friend Sally is interested in the four-poster because it is antique. She tells Forsythia this pinching a sticker off its roll. Forsythia offers to help. “It’s okay. You’re fine,” Lydia says. “There’s nothing to do, really, but have the guys come out here and hall away all this junk.” Forsythia tugs her sleeves over her wrists. She steps slowly on the floorboards. When they creep the sound calls attention, holding her still. Seeing the accordion, its rusty metal plate, flower-embellished, she decides against picking it up.

The news of the stock market crash bounds like a rubber band snapped through the towns of Gordon, Whiting, and Jaspers. Telephone bells ring, telegrams tick, people walking out of their houses into the streets, hands in their back pockets, drive their carts into town, line up outside the bank, winding in a corner outside the brick building, men mostly, wearing farm clothes, the officials wear brown business suits. The town centers in Gordon, Whiting, and Jaspers, have comparable appearances, that consist, each of them, of a church house, a town hall, and a bank, Gordon with a fountain at the center, a donation from Cuthbert family. It is a cement cherub surrounded by goldfish spraying water at it. Ruby rode into town at her mother’s side on the gravel trail that goes from the barn to the center of Gordon. They survey the faces in line, looking for Herman, her father, who isn’t anywhere back on the land. Ruby’s mother Mona wrinkles her apron in her hands as rain begins to pour and agitated voices grow louder, words pitched into a near hysteric furor. Rumors, like locusts, are swarming, that the banks in Jaspers have already closed down. Ruby understands the people are afraid of losing their farms, are withdrawing all their money. If they don’t find Herman, they might lose everything, like the Everdells did in Whitfield. But they don’t see him. No one back out on the land has seen him since breakfast.

David lays drunk, stoned, stretched out on the shore, blankly staring at the stars turning inside out in the black sky. He drools. Sweats. His eyes roll pleasurably against his brain. Bathwarm ocean waves ripple along his feet and legs. He turns his head to face the girl next to him, wanting to speak, but his mind is like cotton and he can’t remember her name. She is topless wearing torn jean shorts loose over her emaciated stomach. She is white as the moon, ribs like tiger-stripes, her nipples hard, as she has NyQuil induced dreams. The sand shifts near him and soon he is blinded by flashlights. Cuffs are slapped around his wrists. Soon his mother’s red fingernails are pressing numbers on a beige plastic phone, the rubber cradle over her shoulder, and her red lips mouth words with her fast, angry tongue, as she sits cross legged on a stool in the kitchen. On the next day he is riding the Greyhound bus and listening to “Kind of Blue,” as he goes to live with his father, who is an electrician in Manassas, Georgia.

The hawk’s hard wings like banner fabric on the wind. Slicing sounds refract on ice. Jagged paths follow children on steel blades over the windowpane lake. Retrieving his fallen glove, Graham spins reverse. Vera clasps it to her chest away from him, skates off fast in open circles. White teeth twirl, black curls brush her taunting face, shivering laughing. A snapped twig, the ice sheet shatters. He feels her fists clash under him against the frozen wall of water, sees her frantic wide eyes. Her cheeks are blown purple with air. He screams for help, diving into the cold bone strangling lake. Her body resists being pulled. His ears drum swimming further below. Holding her ankle, her ice-skate caught on rocks. Tight laces break cut by his Leatherman knife. Her blood starved brain, dead by reaching surface.

Tubes through her nostrils upright forever in pijamas. Daylight casts dull moving shadows on the circle of knitted webs lengthening in the parlor. His thousandth door slam away from gossip clouds. Oxygen leaves his blood his knees rage, racing himself. Away from her submitting in the hayride, pumpkins gorged under the speeding truck tires.

The towns replaced by cornfields until the breeze-combed stalks blur into an empty bright horizon. Nina’s doll eyes move on Forsythia’s skin from the passenger side mirror. Air-condition silence after three hours of news radio. Godfrey’s neck bends back against the fabric seat. Eyes closed, his Adams apple swallows, Forsythia shifts in place.

In Gordon, chemical smells, mothballs, 1960s flower neon housecoats sun faded on basement hangers. Forsythia motionless standing, sneezes seeing rolled up dust molded gray-green velvet drapes. The basement like a theater set, the TV/VCR combo and bedroom furniture raised on a wooden platform in a dark corner. Stale fluorescent lights tremble over walls painted linen blue. Kroger boxes stacked against them, labeled: POTS/SILVERWEAR. TOWELS/KNICK-KNACKS. Lydia placing a blank price sticker on an empty wooden curio cabinet, says, “I know Greg and Godfrey are going to fight over that jukebox.” “I can help with something…” “No, you’re fine. There’s nothing really to do but have them come over here and haul away all this junk.”

Her bed between her sisters’, eyes open in the darkness listening. Concern in her dad’s voice in the wooden planks of the floors and into her bedpost. Market crash. Like a contagion from the telephone call, that grew returning back with him from town. As water near water collects, as water lightning-struck charges. Muffled words to mother through the doors. “Saw Everdell on the way out,” he said at dinner. He meant, “Everdell saw me holding money, who hasn’t got anything now.” Rumors like locusts that the banks have closed. A stock market crash.

Since breakfast dad is nowhere on the land. Hitch the horses out to town. Men off their farms, fifty or so, assembled outside the brick bank building pitching mad demands into the open second story window, the rain on their mouths. Mama and Ruby search through the bearded leather faces. Mr. Jean shot himself last night. The banker, the clerk says. “What about our money.” Mama leads Ruby by the shoulders. Horse hoof beats on wet pavement. People collect out of their houses into the muddy cart swelled square.

In Iraq a pyre of human excrement ravages past the American bases, violently at the stars. The desert, lifeless 10 miles in every direction, infected by a noxious sour smell. The smell, worse than death, drowns his bleeding nostrils, overfills his stomach. Plastic Port-O-Johns bake in the sun in the day, boiling excrement and urine at infernal temperatures. The Units take turns each night burning their waste. Godfrey dry heaves convulsantly, vomits dust; sand is blown back in his face. A Camel Light back at camp relaxes him. Moist baby wipes down his body. A fresh cotton t-shirt. DrinkingCoca-Cola under a reading lamp over Genesis. God telling Aaron that —-, a whore is the reason why a plague has come upon the Jews. His spear through her stomach purifies them, who also are living in tents. Later Joshua’s descendent — the widow is smart enough to disguise as a whore and impregnate herself with her wealthy brother-in-law’s son. She is spared for pulling one over on everybody.

David thinks the moving sea is an animal because he is drunk on Nyquil. And the damp sand he sits upon looks like television static. That the ocean is a thick wet mirror made of paint collecting the storm and the dusk but shimmering them, mixing them into gray green spreading them into silver gray green. Waves roll in horizontal parallel lines to the shore before breaking. Sea foam cast like nets onto the shore. The mighty ocean rumbles under him. Why it is nowhere still. The ocean shimmering like air through satin, even like billions of tiny pale yellow neon lights blinking. The ocean is a big marquis sign at sunset. A stroke of silent lightning in the distance disappears.  The waves curl with the sun in every direction. The clouds feather soft, but they are untouchable. The wet clay shore. Even the sounds of waves are like waves increasing in strength their volume is size they creshendo to a lapping fall, invisibly pinrolled. And the sun changes course and the shimmering dims, or inverses reflecting the blue mixing the colors of sky and cloud. A wave builds and is cast and spread. The sky darkens, the ocean changes mood. Like beer froth. Thunk when they fall. Like sex. The waves sound like sex. And they move fast speed up collecting, move fast spilling fast into the shore all the ripples at a different pace. The waves sound like a brush over a piece of gold tin. The waves are percussion instruments because the wind blows them. Two more horizontal waves at a time. One like a waving skirt flailing. The waves sound like water poured out of a glass. Now gray and getting darker his eyes adjust. The horizion flat as if he could walk across it. As if there were little distinction between the middle of the ocean or the end at the horizon line, where somewhere it is a thick band of blue and another place is white invisible. The lights on a ship that looks like it sails right on the horizon line, moving across it without moving. The lightning flash is muffled behind the clouds this time, looking in the distance what is close looks less clear because as time moves forward the sun diminishes and there is little difference between the sand and the color of the waves that have only the last drops of green, at one end blue.  How it swirls at dusk collecting the sun’s hews after a storm.

Now gray and getting darker his eyes adjust. There looks to be little space at all between the middle of the ocean or the end at the horizon line, where somewhere it is a thick band of blue and another place it is white invisible. The lights on a ship that looks as if it sails right on the horizon line, moving across it without moving.

The wind, an invisible pinroll machine, agitates the water as billions of capillary waves shimmer on turning. Trillions of tiny pale yellow light bulbs blink on the outline of each ripple. The ocean, a big marquis-sign at sunset. A stroke of silent lightning in the distance disappears. The wave sounds like wire threads struck hard against a cymbal. Tongue rolled crests splash. Thunk, when they fall, breaking. The ocean is air beneath a satin lilac dress, casting sea foam nets onto the wet clay shore.

As if there were little distinction between the middle of the ocean or the end at the horizon line, where somewhere it is a thick band of blue and another place is white invisible. The lights on a ship that looks like it sails right on the horizon line, moving across it without moving. The lightning flash is muffled behind the clouds this time, looking in the distance what is close looks less clear because as time moves forward the sun diminishes and there is little difference between the sand and the color of the waves that have only the last drops of green, at one end blue.  How it swirls at dusk collecting the sun’s hews after a storm.

David thinks the moving sea is an animal because he is drunk on Nyquil. And the damp sand he has his feet in up to his ankles in looks like television static. That the ocean is a thick a wet mirror of paint absorbing the sky after the storm and the dusky sunset, mixing the grey-green smoke colors and spreading them out into silver orange. The wind, an invisible pinrolling machine, agitates the water as billions of capillary waves shimmer on turning. Trillions of tiny pale yellow light bulbs blink on the outline of each ripple. The ocean is a big marquis-sign at sunset. The ocean is air beneath a satin lilac dress, casting sea foam nets onto the wet clay shore. A stroke of silent lightning in the distance disappears. The waves sound like wires struck against a gold cymbal, rolling their tongues into crests that thunk when they splash, breaking. Size is their volume.

, into its surface.

trillions of tiny pale yellow neon lights blink between its threads

The wind  swirled, agitated into frothy white capped waves by the wind, an invisible pinroll machine.

and the wind, an invisible pinroll, mixes them. Billions of waves shimmer.

The colors as crashing waves smeared into silver gray green, turning gold lilac into beer froth.

shimmering them, mixes them into gray green, spreads them into silver gray green gold orange.

That the ocean is a thick wet mirror made of paint collecting the storm and the dusk but shimmering them, mixing them into gray green spreading them into silver gray green.

The sky darkens, the ocean changes mood. Not seafoam but beer froth. The waves sound like sex. Now gray and getting darker his eyes adjust. The middle of the ocean so flat that he could walk across it. As if there were little distinction between the middle of the ocean or the end at the horizon line, where somewhere it is a thick band of blue and another place is white invisible. The lights on a ship that looks like it sails right on the horizon line, moving across it without moving. The lightning flash is muffled behind the clouds this time. After looking in the distance what is close is less clear. As time moves forward the sun diminishing, now there is little difference between the sand and the colors of the waves.

drops his glove and spins

The hawk’s hard wings like banner fabric on the air. Laughter echoes on open ice. Steel sounds of twelve ice-skate blades carving paths into the frozen windowpane lake, as children move on it.

The lake is frozen. The lake is ice. The water in the lake has frozen.

The doorbell rings during a Jeapordy commercial break. Ruby rocks out of her chair

The surprise Monday night during Jeapordy nearly shocks her, she only recognizes Lydia at the door. “Eighty is a milestone year.” “No, I am not going. I am not.” Ruby says to Lydia. Television is the only light on in the room, dancing on the faces and arms of the family gathered with supermarket birthday cake on paper plates in her living room.

Sound clip of Jeapordy.

but it is dinner time and the drapes are drawn open to the gray street.

The hawk’s hard wings like banner fabric on the wind. Steel sounds of twelve ice-skate blades echoing paths in the frozen windowpane lake as children move over it. Graham spins reverse retrieving the glove that fell. Vera grabs it before he does, skates away from him in open moon circles. Petal lips, porcelain teeth twirl, black curls against her taunting face, shivering laughing. She trips on a rock of snow, thuds heavy on a thin sheet of ice. Like thunder, it breaks open. In three seconds the lake is swallowing her. Cheeks puffed with air through clear ice. Her black eyes are wide frantic. Graham shouts for help. Frozen water strangles his lungs and bones, diving in the lake. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he pulls her towards him, but her body resists. She is caught by something. He swims deep into the dark iciness, feels his head go light, his heartbeat pumping in his ears, needing oxygen. Her skate is caught among rocks. The laces are too tightly strung. Clasping her ankle, he uses his Leatherman knife to tear them apart. Free, she floats weightlessly. By the time they reach surface she has stopped breathing.

The basement, like a theater set, has a TV/VCR and a mattress on a wooden platform at the far right wall; overhead, long glass tubes tremble with flourescent light. The walls are painted linen blue, Kroger boxes stacked against them, labeled: POTS/SILVERWEAR. TOWELS/KNICK-KNACKS. An empty wooden curio cabinet stands next to a rolled up pair of dust moldy, gray-green velvet drapes on a bronze rack. Forsythia standing motionless at the center of the room as Lydia moves along the couches, the lavender one, the one tan, steps over the woven rug, placing blank price stickers on the objects too large to pack in boxes. Things the family doesn’t want to keep. Gregory will contend with Godfrey for grammophone stereo. Lydia’s church friend Sally is interested in the four-poster because it is antique. She tells Forsythia this pinching a sticker off its roll. Forsythia offers to help. “It’s okay. You’re fine,” Lydia says. “There’s nothing to do, really, but have the guys come out here and hall away all this junk.” Forsythia tugs her sleeves over her wrists. She steps slowly on the floorboards. When they creep the sound calls attention, holding her still. Seeing the accordion, its rusty metal plate, flower-embellished, she decides against picking it up.

Forsythia by train tracks throws stones against the rusted stationary boxcars.

Grown over with moss. A stone, another stone, unlooking for the right size stone projects easiest howls loudest. The stone has a wake. The stone in her hand, her shoulder wounding. The almost release and the fear of being unable. Her numb hand from clasping the stone. That she won’t open her fist. Her wrist instead will tear away from her. Instead the car draws it out as if inhaling. Loud it is throat shattering. And the ground. Tripped on a shot one time thinking: she cracked the box car. Did not, just a coming train passing. Forsythia daring the second time, to run by the moving train let it graze her fingers. A penny flattened in her pocket, a scorched thumb. Lights out in that house at 9 o’clock but the sharp talking. Forsythia with toilet paper ears. With a walkman. Under the pillows. The metal springs that sound rusted too. The dog who comes always after and his cold nose on her feet to wake up. Her blanket missing reappears on the other bed the other girl and the other girl. Prefers namelessness Forsythia since it’s revolving doors there. The crack of light under the door not dancing painting the wooden floor with television. Blurry voices anyway. Forsythia in the classroom spelling Forsythia at the margin. The bell startles her towards another room. Forceps in the hallway. Locker-room Forceps. Basketball to the head, bounces. Cafeteria peas and cardboard pizza milk. For for for. Music lasts one hour. Forsythia drumming.

David has been watching Godfrey throw back shots for three hours. The bar has an obnoxious pink neon clock and to match the neon country music jukebox. He habitually re-rosins his pool cue standing against the black wall, at least ten minutes must pass each time before anyone takes the next turn. 9 ball. More beer-rounds. He isn’t listening, not to the music or their voices. Women move across their laps, some of them good-looking. The cigarette smoke is suffocating. Outside some fresh air, but he also smokes. Perhaps it is better when the air is clean to muddy it. The cars move cautiously from street-light to street-light since it’s nearly last call. Their slow red lights and his slow red cigarette light and Godfrey comes out. Looking for you bro. I’ve been out here. Ready to go back. Yeah bringing a couple of friends. Drunk idiot. David and the softcore in the next room. Denny’s in the morning, beers all day in Godfrey’s room until the next. Conversations that start but go nowhere. David is reluctant to say anything, as if speaking were an insult to his thoughts.

Today I’m going to show you how to make a simple thirty minute chicken marinara. It’s fresh, it’s quick, and you can come right home and throw it in the oven, have it ready for the family. Alright? Oil paints. Pre-mixed turquoise on the wooden pallate a thin tipped brush for the details around the edges of grass blades. Such small strokes Lydia needs to squint through her glasses and lean forward to see them clearly. So first you take the chicken breast, and if it’s frozen just remember to thaw it out while you’re at work so nobody kills you for not having dinner ready. There are hundreds of grass blades. Hundreds of little turquoise edges that blow brightly in the wind on the side of the road leading to the symmetrical church, a white cross at the steeple’s needle tip. The sky is cloudless yet. The dogs bark before Forsythia opens the front door, calling them down. Thaddy Banyon Get In Here. Lydia tells the dogs. Now. Their black nails scratch against the wooden panels and Lydia closes the door behind them. Plastic bags rustle in the kitchen. I always, always make my sauce from scratch. And it’s easy, and quick, if you have it pre-made, you can put it in a plastic container like this one…yeah, isn’t that convenient? Now watch this I’m just gonna sautee a little piece of garlic…I know don’t you love that smell? Her paint strokes are a few degrees faster; she sometimes glances at the television affixed to the wall, high in a corner. Forsythia is beginning to chop vegetables from the kitchen. In minutes a smell of heady broth wafts into Lydia’s paint-room.

Something Godfrey has to hide, pornography. Something he must be afraid of doing, listening to rap music and looking at it. Something that must happen but which doesn’t though always remains a threat. Something that might as well have happened when the Playboys disappeared. A conversation that doesn’t take place because their words are more strained than anyone’s. Just a feeling the following hour when she brings him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk. She sets down the plate so the ceramic rattles to express her inexpressable dissapointment, the air hitting him as she turns, her skirt like the gesture of a bull scraping its hoof on the dirt. He would take the sandwich and gratuitously bite into it. He would chew like a cow and loudly slurp up the milk. He would toss the dish into the metal sink for her to wash. She would gossip loudly on the telephone. Not gossip, but agree inflecting her consternation, always shock. You would think at some point the world would stop pissing her off so much. He would take a basketball to the front yard, above the garage like all the other American houses on American streets. His would be grey and there would be more space, land between them. He would bounce the ball down hard on the pavement, you could still hear her yacking not yacking just listening in agreement, as though at church, and saying amen to the antichrist teletubbies or whatever. He would bounce the ball hard down on the concrete, its sound like something hollow its sound like someone running in slow motion the sound of your own feet running but in slow motion and amplified. She’d raise her volume too Oh I know in her voice that is almost his mockery of it. In her voice that sounds just like when he mocks it, except her rendition is meaner than his own. He just busts her balls. She just busts his. He would be frustrated suffocated by not being able to say, what did you do with the playboys, I’m seventeen, I bought them with my own money, not being able to joke with her like his friend does with his old lady and says he only reads the articles or something. Since she wouldn’t buy it from him bounce since he doesn’t read bounce bounce. Oh I know. Bounce. That’s crazy. Bounce. Bounce. He’d be frustrated and humiliated bounce at not being able to bounce be a guy. Bounce bounce. And Bonnie told me she saw her at the supermarket with Ezra and it was as if nothing happened between them? Bounce. What a hypocrite, he would be thinking. Hypocrite because she spends all her life talking about bounce other people’s failures. Bounce bounce. So what does that bounce make her bounce. Bounce bounce. He wouldn’t be shooting hoops. Just bouncing the stupid ball while the dogs watched him through the fence in the back yard, their noses sometimes through the wire, nostrils flaring to catch his smell. He’d stop the ball and sniff his shirt. No more church friend on the phone. He’d go take a shower and slam the door behind him wearing Walmart cologne. Peel out of the driveway fast.

In Nebraska a few years after the great depression someone came to Ruby’s house to gather her family’s story as part of the farming administration writer’s project. It was set up days in advance and Ruby’s mom sewed different buttons on her dress because it was missing one. In other words, none of the buttons matched. It was made of mismatched buttons. It was a common thing but for Ruby it was a sentimental loss, like the words of Christ in red in the Christian bible. Shall I explain what I mean for you. It was a dramatic symbol that her family’s wealth was starting to dwindle like everyone else’s. Though they didn’t talk about it with the children. She was an only child her older brother was killed in world war i. She saw at the wooden table, the whole kitchen, the whole house wooden and old since her grandfather had built it himself. And dark in the livingroom, the only light through the kitchen window that looked out on the yard and its garden, and the mechanized bird-feeders her father the judge was making out of scraps of wood and timber now in his retirement, since he married a woman two lifetimes younger than him. She was in the kitchen since in those days just to wash a pot was a big ordeal or to clean an oven, complicated to cook. To clean up and have put away in time for company. An apron these cliches that constitute a memory. Worn nearly threadbare. Her hair braided and combed up. But where would her father be at? The interviewer would arrive and again, the judge would be missing. Her mother wiping her hands on a dish-towel, the apron put away, stockings, something about stockings, no stockings, but a pencil line on the back of her legs to pretend she wore them. Ruby her mother and the interviewer there, the clock ticking and a clean glass of water on the table. The interviewer’s notebook sitting in front of him, his pen at the side, her mother telling him about the stuff around the neighborhood, like how old it was, how this one man came to Nebraska to start a farm but wound up being a minister who married an indian and moved onto the reservation having a mission there but being converted and how he was last seen shirtless hunting bears in the winter. The interviewer clearly not even listening. Since the judge had tried the murderer of the Macon twins who was later cleared after his hanging since their father confessed. That was far more interesting to him since the interviewer wanted to be a reporter for a newspaper but in times like these he had to take this job instead. So the interviewer didn’t hear the story either about how when Ruby’s mom mom first came to Nebraska she met a cowboy coming back from the goldrush in California and just for letting him stay the night he left her a sack of gold. Or some innocent story where Ruby’s mom doesn’t realize (nor does Ruby) that her mom’s mom was paid for sex. She would talk with this stretched smile and her eyes as if they were hands or a frog tongue stretching out to draw a fly. This nervous need to hold his eyes on hers because he hardly even looked at her. And Ruby would be like don’t look at me, I have to be here because you are. I have to wear my mismatched button dress to show you we’re wearing mismatched buttons too, now. Ruby would hear her friends down the street tying a can to a dog’s tail, causing some cheap kind of ruckus, and dusty in the first hour after school, but she’d already taken her bath today and she’d have to go straight upstairs and try to read American History while the grown-ups got to listen to the lone ranger on the radio. So it would be a heavy half hour, a whole hour for Ruby, because she watched her mom cooking, cooking a boiled hen, and her mom didn’t like to let her help because of the time she burned her hand and the Judge scolded her. So the judge would show up after that interval with some candy for the girl and a magazine for her mother. It would astonish the mother since they were supposed to be overdoing their loss. Why would they be over-doing the loss? Because the judge pulled his money out in time, and because he owned buildings. But no one knew he pulled the money out, since they didn’t want people to feel angry at him. How did he know to pull his money out? He didn’t. He was fortunate. fdsakkkkk====

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