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from A MIND STATE / Kat Meads BACK THEN: LINDA AND I IN DORA'S LIVING ROOM her clan gathered every Sunday of every season, aunts and uncles smelling of talcum and bleach, assorted cousins bypassing both scents to sniff out power and align ourselves accordingly. Our loyalties toward any adult then were fragile and easily swayed. The fall afternoon Linda invaded their story swapping session with a tale of her own, I listened from the doorway. She described in detail the bullet's trajectory: how it had whizzed past her ear, coming dangerously close to contact. Between two dirt clods we had uncovered this, she said, raising the shotgun casing. Their laughter fluctuated, sometimes louder, rarely kinder. My mother had pinioned my eyes at the start of Linda's recitation: a warning against false witness. Nonetheless I corroborated, admitting to no one, not even to myself, that I had experienced no sliced wind or danger. Linda had honored me as accomplice. A great many days we schemed to flee adult injustice. I was assigned the Wonder Bread, she the Del Monte ketchup. We were to meet at midnight by the bridge which joined her yard to mine. "Twelve o'clock sharp," she repeated, those afternoons preceding midnight. Afraid of missing the deadline, I forestalled dreams with recalculations of our escape route through moonlight and babbling frogs. The scenario never imaginatively or figuratively completed. I fell asleep long before advancing toward a dark woods lighted only by two jittery flashlights. I was spared discovering how cavernous those hunched trees would have seemed, even with Linda beside me. With memories that survive whole - conveniently well-preserved, climactic, thematic - the teller serves more as scribe than interpreter. Such remembrances tell themselves they tell so easily. Those less neat memories whose fragments become more fragmented as regret, retraction , contradiction and pride rush in to stake their claims - deserve the suspicion. Prematurely a teller migh congratulate himself for not having turned his back on something of importance simply because of the labor involved, because there appeared no clear and clever way to share it. Eventually, however, the ego-baiting and revisions cease for reasons of futility, not satisfaction. Whoever might do well by the memory, that person is someone else. The Missouri Review ยท 45 My ancient and recent memories of Linda come in pieces, maddeningly out of sequence, elusive, brittle. If she were buried, our closure would be absolute, neat. But Linda is alive and well: thirty-two, married, the mother of three healthy, inquisitive sons. She teaches fifth grade, suffers nicotine addiction and these days displays a patience unevidenced in her childhood. She is not someone who had to settle for financial strain, a marriage centered around offspring, life back in the county where life began, but she has. I wanted, you understand, Linda to be like me and me to be like Linda. I wanted everything to stay as it once was between us and never could. The day she walked past my house to catch the school bus, I was unprepared for solitary hopscotch and wildly impatient for her return. She emerged with more books, more papers, more tales indigenous to that foreign country - none of which she held in awe, all of which I did. About scissoring the rubber band that restricted her daily reading, Linda was nonchalant: Mrs. Tommy Brumsey and the reading circle progressed entirely too slowly. She outgrew her taste for sycamore ball fights, jump rope, bob jacks and staying outside until night took possession in swashes, preempting the woods before the fields, leaving only the tiniest passage to run through toward the brighter kitchen light. I did not like spending my afternoons indoors reading, and I hated school. When Gertie Outlaw forced me to drink blue water from a trashed perfume bottle, I gagged. When Gertie tried to bully Linda, Linda drank half of the blue compound, mixed the remainder with dirt and swallowed mud. At tag, she was caught only when she allowed it. Well enough I managed short forays from the safe zone to the monkey bars and back, but seized I never went for the shinbone. That was Linda's specialty and her method...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 45-61
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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