A Flyover State
If I had to say there was one good part about the beatings, it was the room’s curtains. Though the belt was hard, the light was soft. The diaphanous, floor-length drapes held back enough of the daylight to illuminate us as shapes of ocean creatures. His elbow cocked back into a triangle, like a dorsal fin, before it unleashed and recoiled.
I couldn’t slither away, being the size of a prawn. As such a creature I outgrew my outer shell and just walked right out of it. I saw this on some wildlife show. In that bedroom, all over the carpet, were my little skeletons nobody had bothered to clean up.
The summer wind puffed up the fabric and stirred the dust as shards of crystalline feathers. The barbed wire fence had snagged the angel’s wings again, I always told myself; maybe some day she’d make it.
Once in awhile the curtains stuck to the TV’s rabbit ears. After he stopped I walked to the window and fixed the curtains so they could blow out again if they wanted to. Some need a little extra boost in the saving department.
Behind those curtains was a treasure of trees and vines and poison oak, where I fled every afternoon. On my way out of the house was a portrait of expressionless Jesus Christ. I nodded to him and quickened my pace. I didn’t believe in him, though told otherwise. I believed in the woods.
The trees murmured “rhubarb rhubarb” for my return. That’s what they called me, because when I ran to them my stick thin body stayed straight as my long hair fanned out past the laundry lines and curled away from fence posts.
On the way to the top of my favorite tree—shaped like a giant hand outstretched and formed into a cup—my fingers brushed across the leaves to the highest branch that looked over the prairie.
I sat there until the smell of charcoal broiled into the evening sky. Until then, the airplanes hummed at high altitude and contrails zigzagged but formed no words, like cartoons had led me to believe.
I waved to the passengers as they headed farther into their lives: to countries bordered by water, to cities between mountain ranges, to villages filled with silk gowns and dainty tea cups. I knew some day it would be my turn.
And I was right.
Originally published in Vestal Review
Web Issue No. 38, 2010
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