Archive for June, 2013
By Breanna Ruen
Years later as she lay amongst the hollowing prisoners of Haven Hall, Irma recollects her life in the Valley for the last time. She has not a soul to tell her story to – the stale musty air has at last blown them all away, though her memories live on for one more jaded foggy day. Looking out her window, she imagines the world as it was when it still held it’s innocence, when only Ya’s creations were beloved and nothing more was yet known – before sin and temptation were introduced, and before there came a Mrs.’; when a mesmerizing wonderland named “Yahuwah” existed…
Bumble bees beautifully buzzed through the bushes of lilac and lavender, swimming through the air in dance, past the sunny waving fields of bright browns and gallant golds to the deep woods of luscious greens and past the rainbow splattered mountains in between. The baritone buzz steadily waved by Irma’s ear beneath the giant pirouetted Pine tree, one of a pair that she much loved. She closed her eyes and breathed a breath of life – the wind carried with it a smell on it’s back of fresh spring water winding through the forest’s needles and leaves. Waves of wild strawberry rhubarb and honey apple pie scents just then rippled from the various Valley’s windowsills, and smells of cherry kindling sneaking out the kitchen skylights as the sun shined directly over the Valley.
Irma sat with fresh dirt in her mouth leaning back against the base of the Pine, chewing the small wad slowly she opened her eyes and spread her arms out to the midday sun. To be at peace, one with Ya, “Ahh” her thoughts exhaled. A simple melody from a harp reverberated throughout the Valley, from whose barley grass rooftop all would surely know. It echoed not in shear force but it blissfully spread across the valley, all the way to the outskirts of Irma’s warped skinny stone cottage.
When Irma looked out of the robust cutouts of her attic abode, it was as if she lived in the sky – up in the tops of the tallest tree with the most beautifully curious birds. She could almost reach out to a nest if only her arms stretched out quite a few more feet. The turquoise eggs were so close yet unreachable, so tantalizing that she daydreamed once of climbing out on a limb to move the nest inside. When they hatched, she imagined, they wouldn’t be caged – with open windows they would be free to flutter about her room and visit other birds. They’d perhaps go on woodland adventures in the daytime, but they would always return back at night. However, Irma knew like any Yahuwahn that any free spirit must come to you. There were some hornless cows, spotted rabbits, and red foxes that chose to live near amongst and in-between, but no one would dare to keep those creatures that chose another life.
Though the tantalizing views and adventurous air of Irma and Esme’s attic room was a small wonder, it was but a sliver of the Skinny House cottage. Irma raced down the spiraling stairway that seemed to sway and swirl back and forth and around as Esme tried to catch up to her. Irma twirled around in excited hesitation once she reached the grounded kitchen, for Esme would pounce like a little lion onto the dirt floor with a “rah!” as her eyes smiled and her mouth laughed. Irma braced herself before sprinting out the side door, past Esme and the Pimpernel. She peeled down the hill and through the wild gardens, past the Pines and into the fields. Irma sprinted as fast as her bean-pole legs could fly just for the spirit of things, and dove into the tall grasses.
After some outside play, Irma became a lion and chased Esme out of the tall grass all the way to the breakfast table. They had sensed breakfast smells of hog hash and homemade bread coming from nearby cottages, or perhaps Chevon chuck with thick corn gravy, and even Lily cakes with liver bacon. Mother called for Esme and Irma through the cottage’s kitchen window just above the ground – they could just make out her silhouette above the grass and through the chives.
Mother had boiled a few eggs for breakfast, but she was already focused on making storage preparations for the white season. Irma and Esme would be sent out to pick currants and hunt rabbits for the rest of the day. Though few buds had yet turned into bounty, mother would soon be behind as food grew feverishly in the warm wet weather and the new season had come early.
Mother requested Skinny House to be built next to a wild garden hillside, where large flat earthen stairs appeared to melt into one another. Grasses and herbs grew wild, but air and earth foods were planted by mother. Her hands were strong like fathers but soft like the dirt – she had the gift to grow, the “Mother of Yahuwah” she was known. Only she could tell you why these grew on the hillside: Asters and Anise, Currants and Crab grass, Henbane and Honeysuckle, Poppies and Purslane, and what uses they held. Ribbon grass and Red Clover, wild chives and willows, lilacs and lilies and lavender had purpose, like milkweed or mallow, dandelions and daisies, ferns and Fleabane, thistles and cockleburs and so on. Mother didn’t plant weeds of course, but they were wanted for obvious reasons.
Irma and Esme found yet another great use for weeds, as entertainment – cockleburs, toe-knockers, and sticky lace were a few favorites. In Winter, when the lands were white and thick with snow, she recalled, the cockleburs and other tough candidates could still be found. Irma and Esme would put on their thickest wool sweaters atop layers of clothing, taking what seemed like hours to put on and prepare for a long day of crisp fun. Some days were good for wearing winter hats, father’s wools, and lots of color, but in sticky times of war the girls wanted neutral wool and little of it. You see, the one with the fewest burrs attached to her at the end of an unspecified amount of time would be dubbed the winner. Though the burrs were hard and brown and the hardiest halfway under piles of white, they stuck to one stubbornly still. It was as if life or death was upon the young ladies and the only way to survive was to become rubber. Everyone in the winter world had a winner of the war in mind – the Evergreen hid Esme but the raspberry bushes prodded her profusely; the grape vines tripped up Irma and the trees hid her away. The birds didn’t care and the burrs themselves liked to give the game a twist by grabbing hold of a shoe lace or throwing themselves at one’s boot from underneath the snow. Hills and ditches helped them both and snow could turn the tides, but it was mostly up to the huntresses as to who would rise.
Before Mother sent Irma and Esme out for rabbits, she reminded them to eye the Scarlet Pimpernel just outside the door before heading to the west woodland. As they walked through the prairie purposefully planting their feet, they carried with them only a handful of hemp twine and necklaced hunting knives around each sister’s neck. Irma and Esme passed the prairie land and made their way up the steep hill that exited them out of Yahuwah. Crossing the valley’s edge they suddenly faced a large stone ahead of them. They stopped curious and afraid for it had never been there before and they had not heard of any stone creation from any Yahuwahn. As they stepped closer to the almost black stone statue, it became apparent that the carved figure was a curious-looking kind of large black bird. The eyes were glossier than that of the stone from face to feather, more like black marbles. Irma examined the dark bird’s features as if searching for the secret to it’s existence, following it’s wing lines with her finger and staring into each eye with her two blue. The claws of it seemed to melt into the grassy brush amongst thick vines creeping across the ground like veins upon the earth, yet stoney-looking still.
Irma and Esme went to work gnawing at the invasive spread with their knives to see what may lay at the feet. They first cleared brush atop with their bare hands so they could see which ones may need sawing most. The stoney roots from the feet of the bird seemed to go in no particular direction but in many ways. Irma uncovered what looked to be a section of shapely symbols and so they continued clearing the area more feverishly this time. Irma headed left and Esme worked her way right. After much exertion and enough extraction, they pulled up the weak roots amongst the dry wet grasses and flung them like they would barley in the fields but in no particular fashion. It appeared that something was written beneath the black bird, but in some sort of unworldly written word.
The girls were taken aback by it, feeling their surroundings were a bit eerie now but not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. “Chicken scratches,”came from Irma as she tried to shrug her shoulders and walk on. However, Esme was appalled by Irma’s nonchalance and she aired concern towards her, “I don’t know if we should go in there.”
“The woods don’t belong to anyone and if were weren’t supposed to go in here anymore they’d write something you could understand.” Irma trekked past the black statue and marched on towards the forest as she spoke parallel to the fair trodden path. Esme’s face wavered from fear towards acknowledgment, but her soul still remained a bit concerned. Esme followed Irma into the woods, looking back at the gnarled inscription below the black bird once more, and let the image of the fog creeping in on the valley below linger in her brain.
Irma spoke with her back to Esme, only turning her head on occasion for her to hear her words, “Why haven’t we seen it before – the weeds were all grown over the lettered part?”
“You know those crab grasses grow like fire, and besides, when’s the last time we’ve been up here?”
“I mean, we couldn’t see it until we climbed the hill and we haven’t climbed the hill since…when was it?
Deep Winter? …Look!” A chunky squirrel hopped around the branch of an Elm. “That one is either with babies or a fat winter laddy.”
It was a bad time of year to hunt with most animals getting ready to birth. Those that had needed to stay alive long enough to keep the next generation going for future food supplies. However, there were always plenty of rabbits and Irma knew of a particular breed who tended to birth in Winter rather than in Spring.
The mood lightened and the cranial clench lessened. The conversation wove into squirrels and rabbits now as they trekked through the plush Spring woods. Irma dug up memories of the rabbits territory, pausing at times and yessing mentally as she recognized sections of the forest – a young tree and an old stump here and viney black-eyed flowers over the hills there. They walked across the fallen trees and investigated mushrooms and rotting wood on the way, finding small patches of morels by surprise. Somehow the rabbits were early and the mushrooms were late.
Deeper into the woods, Irma’s ears opened to the flickering of wood finches fluttering in the brush and tiny snaps of small woodland creatures. She finally felt she was in the hares’ neighborhood she had been searching for. As her and Esme stepped carefully and swiftly forward their much opened ears heard a slight rustling sound of a perhaps a rabbit. They began unwinding their loops of light brown hemp string that were cupped in hand. Irma unleashed her necklaced knife and slashed through the dry brown strand she’d measured out by eye. A length from armpit to fingertips usually did the trick for the initial loop as she’d need to loop one end and tie the other to whatever branch or thicket plant was nearby. Esme sliced smaller sections because webbed loops were necessary sometimes to force a rabbit forward into the loop.
Irma’s pleasant memories are fast-forwarded to a fortnight later, when she was lying in the tall prairie grass just beyond Skinny House, watching “Fleet” hunt grasshoppers. As she breathed in the wild perfumes and smiled at the blue sky above her, there were suddenly ripping and grinding and digging noises coming from the neighbors afar. The woman was tearing out weeds from her garden beds and throwing them into a pile as her thoughts mumbled unpleasantly. Irma was shaken by such waves of energy as any Yahuwahn ought to be. It was as a new and strange feeling that came over her, at first concern and worry. She stood up and walked quickly toward her neighbor with eyes and mouth slightly soured, but her hands still skimming the tops of the grasses as she walked.
It looked as if father and mother had already been there, with the same looks on their faces but more torn. They walked away from the neighbor’s as Irma approached and they all walked clear past one another – Irma towards the garden bed and mother and father towards the house. Irma asked her neighbor if she was okay and she said she was fine with a look of distaste on her mouth. The force was sharper now and so Irma became more worried. “It’s just these weeds,” the neighbor said as if her jaw had bolts in it.
“What can I do? Would you like help pulling them out?”
“No, I just hoped these beds your father built would do the trick, but the weeds still come.”
“We would be glad to take the weeds from you, we can use them.”
“Then why don’t you and your family pick them?” She threw a chunk down into the pile and walked off towards her house.
Irma yelled sincerely after her, “We would be glad to pick them!” Irma felt better as the woman walked away and the ill vibrations had faded a bit. She began plucking each weed carefully from the earth, using her hand pressed tightly against the dirt and stem’s platform to release the entire being from the ground never to return again. Irma thanked each weed for their healing properties a bit empathetically and happily marched them inside, to the kitchen cellar to dry. As she tied each one with a thick piece of woolen string to the roots hanging from the dirt ceiling, she smiled and then stopped as the thought of the upset neighbor crossed her mind. Her mother walked down to the cellar as her thought was in process and peered in and around at the weeds while Irma continued to hang them. She piled the crab grass onto a brown wicker basket as her mother suggested they throw the weeds out this time. “They might hold the same energy as our neighbor held and we don’t need to be eating anguish, Irma.”
“But I took half of them out myself and thanked each one, it’ll be okay.”
“Luckily she didn’t send the anguish to your father, but he has been beaten with it. We’re not going to keep those weeds.”
Irma looked up and down at them. “Waste them instead?”
“The roaming cattle will probably eat them, so they will not go to waste.” Mother began to take them down and so Irma followed. She was confused and began to feel the angst herself. “There’s no reason not to keep them. If she doesn’t want them then we can pluck them out for her and use them, “ Irma spat out. “We’ll let her do what she wants with that which grows in her beds,” mother concluded. She helped mother take down the strung weeds and lay them back into a pile – it resembled a soft ceremony.
Father had taken it personal, that his creation did not make the neighbor happy. The beds could only slow the weeds, he thought – he could not stop the birds from dropping their seed or racoons from brushing them on with their coats nor winds from blowing them in. However, he could not shake her waves for some time and just let it be. He went back and forth trying to figure it out, not sure if he should try to make something better for his neighbor or if he should feel angst towards her. After all, he tried to help her and there’s nothing wrong with weeds, he thought. He spent time in his den and did not speak to anyone for the night. Irma hoped to convince her father to just let it go, but she felt the angst reverberating from the basement and did not wish to be radiated with that awful feeling herself.
As day faded into night, nobody noticed that the air had changed. There was an ever so slight dusted feeling atop the moss roof of Skinny House as if a witchy gray rug had been shaken upon Yahuwah leaving a layer of distaste along the roof of one’s mouth. The people of Yahuwah began to call it “hard times” though nothing had changed but their minds.
The distressed neighbors no longer brought goat cheese or beef. Mother even brought over a plum pie, but they insisted that they didn’t need it. When mother returned a few days later to trade they didn’t come to their door. Mother thought they were perhaps away, so she return again the following day and the day after, but again they did not come to their door. She thought she saw the neighbor man amongst the cattle one day so she set down the floral pie and bunched herbs she was carrying at their door and began walking up the hill towards him. She turned back to embrace a scenic look at Yahuwah as she scaled the hill and as she soaked it in, her eye caught someone passing by the neighbor’s window inside. She cautiously walked down the lumpy hill and assured herself that someone was there. The neighbor man stepped out his back door and appeared to be pouring out some white liquid from a tin bucket as she continued down the hill.
“Hello! I thought you might be up in the pasture,” she smiled at him coming down the hill.
He looked at her as if she were a half-squashed bug, a bit afraid annoyed and apathetic. “Hi there,” he said as if confused.
“I set a few things in front of you’re house to trade for some meat,” she smiled hopefully.
“The wife doesn’t want us eating pies anymore and she doesn’t care much for herbal remedies since that Mrs. came to town. Now I can give you a shank of beef or pork, but from now on you’ll have to trade with someone else.”
“The Mrs.? Who’s the Mrs.?”
“Well, she…she’s like a god.”
[It is not yet, that Irma like the wind winds through the wilderness on adventures all her own – meeting whimsical tree folk, wise earthen tribes, or creatures that belonged to the Sire. It is not yet that she learns of the red cliffs, and the purple mountains from pastel lavender to blackened hues, nor wise-up on the power of plants, or learn of those that exist past the Pine woods of the Valley. It is not yet that she learns of the Mrs’ and the Haven’s intentions, when she watches her kin forget, and Yahuwah is ruined. It’s not yet, but soon…the adventure begins.]
December 4th, 1992
It was a smooth drive along Interstate 90 until the storm started rolling in. In fact, the drive was almost too perfect. After all, Anna wanted material to inspire her and there’s absolutely nothing exciting about a smooth, uninterrupted drive down the highway.
After driving over 900 miles from St. Cloud, MN to Montana, the early December weather finally became typical. The storm hit with no warning, and within 10 minutes Anna was white-knuckling the steering wheel of her 1987 bright red Honda Civic. The cassette tape playing in the tape deck was still blaring Journey, but she had stopped screaming along to it. It gets dark after dinner this time of year, and she thought it better to focus on the road.
Glancing at her dashboard, she noticed she had a 1/2 a tank left.
“Thank God,” she said, “I might want an adventure, but I don’t’ want to die in this storm”. The young brunette nervously chuckled at the thought of talking to herself. Maybe this is the story she was yearning for: Aspiring author goes insane while searching for inspiration.
Shortly after the storm began, the conditions of the drive worsened, and it was if a white wall appeared just before her car, with the snow falling rapidly. Letting her foot off the accelerator, Anna decided to take an exit in search of a hotel or a truck stop at least. She had been driving for nearly 14 hours and with only short breaks the exhaustion was finally hitting her. Not to mention she hasn’t eaten since lunch and that was several hours ago.
The highway she traveled on now was two lanes, and in poor condition. She immediately regretted taking the exit, but then reconsidered; it could be destine: an adventure. The 25 year old had lived a white-bread kind of life. Parents that doted on her, sent her to private school, college all without asking anything in return other than accommodating that life. Maybe they didn’t ask for much in return, but they couldn’t accept her choices to go against that grain. Escaping her humdrum life with every chance she could, Anna dove into books, sneaking out of school to see R-rated movies, choosing a major in college they hated: English. But it was never enough. She yearned to explore, see things, find things, meet new people.
She continued to drive at a careful speed but was re-energized by the prospect of adventure and started screaming along to Journey once again.
With the Journey album coming to a close, she reached to insert a new tape. Glancing at the clock, Anna did a double-take.
“Oh my God, how long have I been dr…I..I could’ve sworn I saw a sign for somethi….Goddammit there’s not even a place to turn around!” She let out a frustrated guttural grunt and turned the heat in the car up to full blast.
Looking back to the road, Anna could barely make out a store in the distance, she hoped it was a motel, her eyelids were getting heavy. As the building grew closer, she squinted her eyes in strain to make out the outline, it was smaller than a motel, but bigger than a car. Suddenly the white wall lifted and to Anna’s horror, it was no building at all, it was a male Elk, bigger than any horse she’d seen. And he was standing right in the middle of her lane.
A panicked scream escaped her lips she made a hard swerve to the left and an even harder swerve to the right to correct her turn. Before she could stop she drove off the highway, and the car stopped with a mighty force.
Her body slammed into her seat belt, pushing the air out of her lungs, making her gag and gasp just as her airbag deployed into the left side of her face, stinging it with the hard fabric.
Anna frantically pushed the air bag away and down, coughing and wheezing with tears running down her reddened, sore cheeks. Each time a tear slipped from her eye, it stung and burned like nothing she’d experienced before. At first, she didn’t know what was happening, because she wasn’t crying. It was an uncontrollable, bodily function, her eyes weren’t crying – they were running because they had been open when the airbag had slapped across her face.
After successfully pushing the airbag aside, she unbuckled her seatbelt and tried to look around. It was after 8pm by now and there were no streetlights. Only the moonlight could guide her to the surroundings. Looking carefully and slowly around her, she saw that all along the right side of the car was black, not even moonlight shone through. The windshield was partially visible and it looked like the drivers door was exposed. By the angle, Anna knew she was in a ditch, probably a shallow one. Not only that, she was half buried in a snow bank. She moved her head to the left, looking out she saw the head of the Elk along the highway. If she wasn’t so angry, she would have appreciated his beauty.
Anna put the car into park, and tried to start the engine. It sounded, for a brief second, like her reliable Honda might be turning over. But, the engine died before it truly start. The same thing happened each time she tried to turn the key. After a heart crushing few minutes she again looked outside to the highway, at the only window visible – though the falling snow had already begun to restrict her view.
Wait, is this even a highway? It looks abandoned. Like an ally between two separate forests. Anna could feel her anxiety level rising, her pulse quickening.
Not quite alone. The devil in Elk’s clothing was there. He seemed to be stalking her. He just stared. Anna knew better than to leave the car, who knows what that Elk would do. Plus, she hadn’t seen a car on this highway since she took the exit, there was no where to go. No one to flag down for help. Her body ached for her to close her eyes, to finally sleep.
Stretching her arm above her, she clicked on the dome light.
Anna took a very deep breath, wiped off her tears, and reached for her bookbag in the passenger seat. She screamed in pain unexpectedly and her body became tense. That airbag damaged more than her face, it seemed. Her neck could no longer rotate with ease. She tried again, to reach for her bookbag – this time more slowly.
Pulling her backpack zipper open, carefully, she wrapped her fingers around what she was searching for: her notebook. Anna’s notebook was her security blanket. She carried it with her always, jotting down little phrases, funny jokes, observations. It was more than just a diary, it was a part of her.
She opened to the first page in the book and read over her notes, her material. She smiled at her memories, reliving them. After reading through each page, nearly half the book was filled, she finally reached the last page. Shivering, Anna took her hair down from the ponytail and wrapped her long straight hair around her neck, “Never thought of hair as a insulator..” She pulled her collar up, for the first time, she noticed her breath turning to an icy fog and she exhaled. Glancing at her watch, she realized it had been over an hour since the crash. She looked to her left once more, she could no longer see outside. The falling snow had covered her window completely.
She carefully turned to the next page in her notebook, the blank one, and withdrew her pen.
I wanted inspiration. I wanted an adventure. I left my, let’s face it, dead-end horrible job, so that I could explore. Saving everything my parents had given me, selling the name brand clothing, the stereo, the furniture. I did it – all right. God my parents would be rolling their eyes…something of a hobby for them…if only they could see me now… Just another reason we haven’t spoken in two years. Of course something like this would happen. Is this the end of my story? Is this what I set out to do? If it is, I’m going to leave with my notebook. So that when they find me, they can see that I had possibilities. I could have gone places in this world, made a difference.
Anna closed her notebook, tucked it inside her coat, zipped up. She noticed more now, than before, how she shivered. Tucking her hands in her pockets, the aspiring writer slowly closed her eyes and allowed her body to sleep.
“Hey! Hey miss! Miss ya wit me! Open yer eyes, Miss!” A gruff, low voice boomed in Anna’s head.
She felt a rush of frigid cold wind snap her in the face and opened her eyes abruptly.
“Louise! Louise! She’s wakin’ up!” the same voice barreled through her ears and droplets of spilt splashed across her face as his enthusiasm peaked.
Anna’s eyes were starting to come into focus and she attempted to wipe the spittle from her forehead while Louise came tromping through the snow like it didn’t faze her one bit.
“Oh Lord thank JESUS! Girl, we was so worried fer ya! Elroy, Jesus Christ, git er in the truck an warm er up! Whatchu think, we’re havin’ a party?” Louise barked out.
“Allright…allright..” Elroy began mumbling under his breath.
Before Anna knew it, her arm was thrown over Elroy’s shoulders and she half walking/half being dragged to the largest black truck she’d ever seen. This was no truck, it was a truck on steroids. Looking down she wondered why her ankles were so cold. The snow was nearly up to her knees at the high points of drift, and she was wearing tennis shoes. It never occurred to her to pack boots.
Elroy’s hand had the strangest combination of warmth and callus she’d ever felt. It scratched her wrist and felt like fire against her icy cold skin. Elroy was a tall man, about 6 feet tall and in his 70s. He stunk of stale cigarettes and had very large features. His nose, jaw, mouth were huge, but not as huge as his hairy ears which hung down to practically his shoulders. His eyes were a little sunken in with the loose skin of old age covering his eyelids. Elroy’s face and neck were riddled with sun and age spots. The friendliest feature about him was his large potbelly. Big potbettys on older men always reminded Anna of Santa Claus.
Louise opened the passenger door and Elroy pushed Anna in by putting two hands under her bottom and heaving her up to the seat.
The blasting heat from the truck felt as though 10,000 needles were poking and twisting into her skin, over her entire body. But, what stung the most, was the left side of her face.
“What’s yer name, there?” Louise spoke softer now. Anna hadn’t realize she was in the truck with her until she said something. She turned to Louise in the driver’s seat slowly, and realized that her body was shaking. Every part of her body was trembling.
Now that she was facing Louise, Anna was finally able to look upon her. Louise was in her 70s, she thought, same as Elroy, though if the smell of cigarette smoke was an indicator she was probably younger and had just prematurely aged. Louise had what looked like medium-length badly died blonde hair tucked under a red plaid hunters hat, with ear flaps to keep warm. Her eyes were kind, but seemed worried and her lips were snapped tightly together in a non-nonsense kind of way. She was taller than average, probably 5’8’’ and a little husky, with what looked like a lifetime of muscle under those bulky winter clothes.
“I…I’m…” As Anna began to speak, stuttering out words and she breathed, she realized why the left side of her face hurt so bad, her left eye was half closed. It was swollen nearly shut.
“M…My ey…eye…it’s” Anna began.
“Ya, it’s not pretty but nothin’ broken. Damn airbags don’t do a lick a good, ask me, I bet you’dabeen fine wit out it.” Louise interrupted, but stopped herself when she looked back at Anna’s confused eyes.
“M….My n…ame is Annamarie B..Brennen. Anna.”
“n what in God’s name ya doin’ out here so far from anythin’?”
“I came b..because I wanted..” she paused when she realized how ridiculous her reasons for a cross-country trip would seem. “I….I guess was looking for a… f…fresh start.”
“What, and you chose here, Pony?” Louise choked out a laugh and suddenly her expression grew solemn. “You shoulda picked any other place than Pony.”
Louise scooted over to the middle seat so Elroy could hop in the driver’s side and drive the truck, finally, out of this godforsaken weather. Anna’s skin wasn’t stinging quite as bad and she felt her head dip, and she nodded off into warm slumber.
“She ain’t stayin’ wit us, Louise. We can’t git involved. We was planning on finally leaving soon…we can’t git involved.” Elroy said in a hushed tone.
“She’s just a young girl, she coulda died out there. She’s lucky she ain’t frostbite! What if they git there hooks in er, El? Ya know how they are.” Louise’s voice was agitated and distressed. “Ya know,” speaking with soft sorrow, “she’s about Hank’s age..or…she’s about how old he’d be now i..if..” Louise choked of her last words and sighed deeply while she seem to regain composure. “Let’s at least take her home with us and get her some hot food and warm clothes before we drop er off. We can’t send her out wit no boots or hat or nothin”.
“I ain’t saying it again, Louise. We can’t. You go on and we’ll make a quick stop home for couple things, but she ain’t comin’ inside. We can’t git involved in this business again. Ya know how they are. We can’t. We need to just drop er off.” Elroy stayed firm in his words, even through the whisper. “If she was big enough to set out on her own, she’s big enough to handle herself here even against…” Elroy’s words trailed off inaudibly.
Anna was frightened to open her eyes. She’d listened to this exchange and was worried what their plans were with her. Where they going to leave her in the middle of a field? Drop her at a police station? She suddenly realized all her belongings were back in her car – she didn’t have her backpack! She had to go back, she HAD to.
She continued to let them assume she was asleep while they all stopped back at, what she could only assume, was Elroy and Louise’s house. Anna waited for a few minutes after they pulled away from the house. She began to stretch, in effort to look like she had just woken, and yawned. “Where are we?” Anna said drowsily. Looking around, she saw they were approaching a town. It looked like a ghosttown, actually. Nearly every building looked either abandoned and boarded up or in serious violation of city codes. “Wait, where are we going? I need my things. Did you get my things? We need to go back, you’re taking me back, right?” As Anna spoke her voice became more and more frantic as her fear level rose, and at the end she was out of breath.
“I’m sorry sweetheart, but even if we wanted to, we wouldn’t know where yer car is. The snow’s long covered that up. Won’t be seeing that city car til the thaw come April. But me and Louise got ya some warmer stuff than that fancy coat you got on, it’ll help you out some.” Elroy keep his eyes on the road. His voice was stern, but there was regret behind them.
Anna was stunned. What can she do now? She had exactly $47 in her jeans pocket and the rest was in her car. Her driver’s license, her address book…everything to her name was in that car. The only “out” would be to call her parents. And, after not speaking to them in two years, this was not how she was going to make her grand entrance, how she was going to prove them wrong, show them that she was a success.
“What happens now? Where are you taking me?” Anna began to wonder what she knew about this couple, they could be taking her anywhere. She only knew their first names.
“We’re dropping ya in town. Only thing open at this hour is, well, Pony Bar.” Louise spoke with reluctance.
As Louise mentioned the hour, Anna quickly looked at the clock radio. It was nearly midnight. Anna reflected on the fact that she dozed off in her car over three hours ago. That means it had been over an hour – perhaps even two before someone found her. At that moment she realized how very close to death she actually was, and how lucky she was to be alive. Suddenly every moment felt precious, every breath felt sweet.
Elroy slowed the huge black truck and stopped it abruptly about 20 yards from what looked like Pony Bar. The only reason Anna thought that though, was because there were snowmobiles and trucks parked in front of it, and there were lights on inside. There was no sign, labeling the building as “Pony Bar”.
Louise handed Anna some heavy duty winter boots.
“You don’t have to do this. But…but I greatly appreciate it. Thank you, thank you very much. You both saved my life and I’ll be forever grateful.” Anna meant the words she spoke, even though she wished they would help her more. She slipped off her tennis shoes, and slipped on the boots. Luckily, Louise was only a size or two bigger than her in feet. Louise passed her a plastic bag of what looked like wool socks, gloves, a couple hats, a scarf or two, and what she guessed was long underwear. Anna was very appreciative for these items, but silently wondered how the long underwear would fit as she was a good 4-5 inches shorter than Louise.
“Whelp. Here ya go, Anna. There’s a pay phone….and better yet booze in there you can take advantage of. Just….ya know…just be careful and don’t be so goddamn trusting.” Louise face read worry, but she quickly turned back to the road, away from Ann. “Glad the boots fit.”
Anna opened the truck passenger door and slipped out. She grabbed hold of the plastic bag and paused, looking back at the elderly couple.
“Take care, girlie.” Elroy said, putting the truck into drive as he spoke.
Anna shut the door and watched the large black truck pull away and kept watching until it was out of sight.