--IN THE OTHER ROOM PEOPLE ARE LAUGHING. PEOPLE ARE HAPPY.
Sound of the Wind
Mother tries to explain that it’s impossible to drown in shallow water unless you’re really trying.
We don’t have a shower, just a tub and she tells me to stop running the Hot and to get out. “I should start making you pay the water bill.”
I get up and tuck my breasts inside a blue towel that I’ve dried my hair with. I check the mirror. I’m not fat, not thin, not normal either. I’m pale. I’m nobody’s sister friend classmate or confidant.
In the main part of our trailer where we eat and watch TV and where the sink and fridge are, Mother’s boyfriend is hunched over the counter, smoking beside a tattered cloud that is coned under a low-hanging lampshade. He arches his back when he sees me, windmilling his neck but not getting a crack. He smells like fertilizer chemicals and manure. The best thing about him is his hair because it’s almost all fallen out.
“Look at Lucy,” he says and chuffs, even though my name’s not Lucy.
He grabs me by the waist and I wait to see what she’ll say but it’s okay with her, even when he props me on his lap.
Lester was Mother’s last one. He was one hundred percent Cherokee with an Indian name that meant Sound of the wind. He whittled me a miniature totem pole the size of a bat. Lester knew some things about me, I guess, and so the totem ended up being a wooden diary of my life, or a charm bracelet that wasn’t meant to be worn. Lester had black hair like a woman that ended just above his waist. He could whistle with his fingers and send birds shooting out of the trees. When he’d whistle with his tongue curled, the sparrows sang back. Sound of the wind. I wanted him to teach me and he said he would.
Lester used to call me Katydid instead of just Katy and I liked that nickname and I even liked Lester a lot but he’s gone now.
Boyfriend number twelve, or somewhere about that, is fingering the edge of my towel while he’s telling Mom about Rainey Walker who goes out to his backyard and shoots a cow every other day. “You’d think those idiot animals would have it figured out by now and skedaddle.”
But I know what those cows are thinking: There’s a fence. Where’m I gonna run? Might as well get this life done with and pray there’s another waiting over the mountain top.
“Say, Cheryl, would you mind running and getting me a pack of cigarettes, maybe another six pack?”
Mom’s eyes twitch for a half second. “Sure thing,” she says.
I know she’s thinking the opposite way of those cows: If I don’t fetch and jump and let the world turn on its own filthy self, this one’s leaving like all the others and I don’t want to be alone. That’s exactly what she’s thinking, forgetting that she’d still have me.
When I step off, Mother’s boyfriend pinches the towel so it flaps open for a moment, revealing my lower half and the fact that I never shave.
I go down the narrow hall to the far room where I sleep. My chest has a bird trapped in it, fluttering and banging.
I hear Mom get in the car. After the station wagon starts and drives away, the door knob turns. I can tell he’s surprised that I haven’t locked it because there’s a little hesitation in the motion, and then it swings open, slick-like.
He tip-toes over, hunched atop the bed like a sick tree all sun-twisted from rot.
When he starts to pull the cover back, I roundhouse him from behind. I know the first blow has to count, and it does. My totem pole cracks against his skull and breaks in two and he’s stunned but topples, landing belly up.
I can’t take chances. I’ve seen vampire movies before and I’ve lived one.
So, I take the broken half of the stick--jagged tip raised over my head--and then bring it down where this man’s heart would be if he had one. I repeat the motion several times, ignoring he grotesque sounds and scene.
When I’m done, I’m out of breath and that bird’s back in my chest banging around.
I take a bath. Run scalding hot water.
I sink below the surface, happy to be invisible, uncertain about where my life is headed now, but pleased that, for once, I was the one to make things happen.