from the story What We Are Left With
…Two things stay with Lillian from the robbery the night before last. One is the stitch that fear has left in her stomach. The other is the purple pressure mark on the skin below her temple. She had pressed her cheek hard into the kitchen floor almost from the moment they ordered her to lie down until they left. She had borrowed steadiness from the floor, had used it to link herself to Howard who lay a few feet away from her.The pressure mark has faded a little by now. Lillian leans toward the mirror and spreads makeup over the bruise. The purple turns grey.
Her daughter Joanie’s reflection appears behind her in the bathroom mirror. “Don’t wear black, Mom,” she says. “Wear something cheerful. Yellow or green.”
As soon as Lillian called yesterday morning, Joanie had closed Crystal Health Foods, left little Matthew with her roommate Carol, and driven over from Ripley. Howard doesn’t want her here. Told Lillian he could do without her quackery, her New Age hocus pocus. Today, at Joanie’s insistence, they will have a ceremony for the dog the robbers killed. She wants to free his soul, she says.
The linoleum, cool and steady against Lillian’s cheek the night before last. The smell of Mr. Clean because she’d mopped up before they drove into town for Norm and Jean’s anniversary party. Old linoleum, laid in 1965 when Joanie was learning to walk. Little baby shoes stepping over its printed roses and branches, scuffed patches on her white toes from all the early missteps.
Now a big black shoe, almost a boot – with yellow stitches all around where the upper meets the sole – is planted by the table leg. The girl wearing the boots half-sits on the table, half leans against it. Her other foot swings back and forth above the floor. Lillian cannot guess at what makes this girl with long brown hair and freckles like spilled cinnamon take to carrying a tire wrench. Or what makes this boy listen to her orders. These two are from some foreign world. You can’t get there from here.
They are little more than children, really, these two who now tramp through the house and who have told them to lie down facing in different directions. Lillian cannot see Howard. She tries to send the memory of Joanie’s white baby shoes to him through the floor. Wants to give him something to fill his mind and replace what is happening this moment. She raises her head to turn towards him.
“Don’t move,” the girl says. Barks. The way Pepper does when a stranger drives into the yard. There was no greeting from Pepper when Lillian and Howard drove up tonight. No damp nose breathing clouds onto the black vinyl of her purse, no front paws snagging her slacks. The farmyard so oddly quiet, the light from the living room windows throwing rectangles on the snow-dusted dogwoods and peonies. Howard and Lillian made for the house without a thought about danger because, even in their imaginations and even though there was no sign of Pepper, there would never be someone in their house who had no right to be there.
from the story Powers of Sight …
We built small blazes at first. Built them for the smell of fire nibbling at straw, for the thrill of the sudden flare. And for the drama of the miniature world we imagined down in the grass, burning up. The fires were tragic for the tiny people who lived there. Now they must run from their minute homes and travel for a day to set up camp four feet away in a fresh forest of unscorched grass.
Lorie and Pen and I did our fire experiments in Peterson’s pasture, which wasn’t far from our own street. The middle of the field was in full view from our picture window, but we went in by a side path and stayed behind the poplar bluff where we’d be out of sight. The only house that bordered directly on the pasture belonged to dim-sighted old Mr. Peterson. People said he sat and watched his new TV most of the day, his chair pulled right up close to the screen so he could watch the shadows and light that went with the sound.
We went to the pasture often. Lorie was the one doing the honours, usually. Building a low stook out of dry grass, striking a wooden match from the box she’d swiped from her mother’s kitchen, glancing over her shoulder toward town when the stook caught fire. The three of us stomping the fire out once the straw bundle had burned completely. Wiping our canvas running shoes on the thick quack grass in the ditch, trying to scrape the disobedient smell of hot rubber off the soles.
The day we had a blaze we couldn’t stomp out we ran out of the pasture the roundabout way and picked up the path that took us back into town behind the school. A block from home Lorie said, “Wait. Slow down. Act like we just came from climbing trees over by the school.” Lorie was the boss, which was fine with Pen and me. We forced ourselves down to a casual pace, kept it up all the way to where Lorie’s house faced ours across the gravel street. We split up, Lorie to her place, Pen and I to ours.