Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Flight and Other Possibilities of the Human Spirit

Beverly Forehand


When I was six years old, I flew from the top step of our house and landed on one outstretched toe graceful as any bird. I remember the way the air whistled around me and the slight tingling as my bare foot touched grass. I ran into the kitchen to tell my mother.

"I flew - right off the steps!"

She looked up from the bowl, her hands deep in cookie dough. "You jumped," she said. "You're lucky you didn't skin your knee or worse."

"No, no," I said bobbing my head like a duck, "I flew. I did!"

She started kneading the dough again. "Don't let me catch you jumping off the porch again."

I think I left then. I tried flying every day for three months after that, but I never managed it again. I did skin my knee and one day I chipped a tooth. I still dream of it. Flying. It did happen. Of course, no one believed me. No one believes me now, and I can just feel you shaking your head. Girls don't fly. Maybe they do in movies, but regular freckle-nosed, grass in their hair, Band-aid-kneed girls don't fly. They jump, they fall, and they go running back inside teary-eyed hoping for a cookie.

Lots of things in my childhood were like that. They fell into two clear camps: things that happened and things that didn't happen, even if they really did. If you heard neighbors fighting and then you saw a bruised arm, you looked away. Good neighbors mind their own business. They mow their lawns and keep their dogs on their own property. If you see a man sobbing on the street, tears falling silently, mouth open with a grief too big to bear, you move along. "Don't stare. We all have our own loads," my Granny would say. "God never hands out more than a man can carry." Bad things sometimes happen. Houses burned, jobs were lost, and every one rallied to help. The church would hold a raffle to raise money or everyone would donate their old clothes and toys. If there was a death, there were casseroles to make and bundt cakes half chocolate and half white. Those were things that could be faced. They could be dealt with and put to rest. But other things were tucked away, like quilts for winter circled in lavender and lemon balm to keep the moths out. Things too big or too hard were just forgotten. Time heals all wounds, or so they say.

There was a sinkhole on my Granny's land. It was a great and unfathomable mystery to all us kids. You could fill it up with brush and in a day or a week it would be gone. None of us ever saw it do any sinking, but it wasn't from lack of trying. We'd feed the hole leaves and rocks, and once I fed it one of my sister's dolls in a fit of spite. Folks said it would take anything in time. No one ever said where these things went. I asked. No one knew. But it ate things besides sticks and brush and big-eyed plastic dolls. One day, as I sat cat-quiet underneath the honeysuckle bushes hoping to see something sink, Sandra Clay came and stood by the hole's edge. She looked like she might throw herself in--something not even the bravest of my cousins would dare. Sandra was fourteen to my eight and had sad blonde-brown hair. She wore glasses and smiled at me when I giggled in church. She stood looking down into the hole for the longest time and then said in a voice mouse-small but resolute, "I love Billy Marcum, but he doesn't love me. He'll never love me." She stood a little longer and I thought I could almost hear the plop-plop of tears falling in that hole. Then she left.

And she was right. Billy Marcum never did love her. He married a red-haired woman from up north that he met while he was in college. I don't know what happened to Sandra. She moved away after she graduated high school. But I do know that she seemed somehow happier, or at least less run-down after that day at the sinkhole. I wondered over the years, how many other women and men stood over that hole pouring down their grief. Many, maybe too many.

One day, when I was nearly grown, the sinkhole stopped drawing things down. Brush piled up and eventually, my uncle used the Ditch Witch to fill it in. "Everything's got a core," my Granny said. "That one's full." Maybe it was filled with all those tree limbs and rocks. But I think there's only so much sadness anything can bear. Even a hole.

***

Beverly Forehand is a freelance writer and painter living in Nashville, Tennessee. Her short stories and poems have been published in Atriad Press' Haunted Encounters, Bewildering Stories, FATE, The Harrow, LongStory Short, Quantum Muse, Typhoon.net, Waxing Waning Moon, Ultraverse, The Wheel, Zephyrus, and other publications. She recently published a pet recipe book with Dawson Progressive and is a monthly columnist for Critter Exchange. Her hobbies include cultivating her medieval herb garden and begging her cats (unsuccessfully) to stay off the sofa.

© Beverly Forehand

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012