Monday, May 13, 2013

The Most Terrible Sad Rainbows of Love Left Behind



The Conclusion of Sun Jelly Pastures


     It warn't long after we got the news about Enid's cancer spreadin' to 'er brain that babysittin' 'er become a full-time job, what with her constant babblin' an' wanderin' out into that dag-nabbed south pasture. It was sorta like how me'n'Enid had ta keep our eye on Sun Jelly so's he wouldn't tip hisself over outta his baby chair or turn blue from chokin' on his spit, only he didn't know no better. Maybe Enid didn't know no better no more, neither. The situation had got ta where's I couldn't hardly pay no attention t'other thangs that needed ta be done 'round here. Them cows and chickens needed tendin' to somethin' fierce, and Enid couldn't help me no more. So, I done called up Enid's mama, Dottie, ta see if she'd mind comin' down here ta set with Enid for a spell. Once Mommy Dottie seen the shape Enid was in, I thank she jus' didn't have the heart ta leave 'er. She come down 'round about a month ago, an' much as I hate ta admit it, havin' 'er here's been a real big hepp ta me.

    Course, the apple don't never fall too far from the tree, an' just like Enid, Mommy Dottie shorely does love her some Jesus. She goes an' gets 'erself all worked up into a tizzy, yammerin' on about His Divine Grace and how He performed all a them wondrous miracles, healin' the sick, walkin' on water an' turnin' it inta wine, an' how he done raised ol' Lazarus and even His own self straight up from the dead. Her carryin' on riles Momma E up ta where she's combing 'er fingers all crazy-like through what's lefta her hair, strippin' down ta her underbritches a' singin' "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" at the toppa her voice out the kitchen winn-der. Good thang our neighbors' houses is so spread out, otherwise someone might've already notified the po-leece. Lord knows we wouldn't wanna give Buford Calhoun, good-fer-nothin' sheriff that he is, no more reasons ta stick 'is nose up into our business, 'specially since word about them blue-stemmed mushrooms in our south pasture done got out to the college kids.  

    When Mommy Dottie first seen Enid's paintin' of grass-haired Jesus on the fence out front, she couldn't hardly believe 'er eyes. In a New York minute, her jaw went from flappin' to slack. "Well, I'll be," she declared. "If that don't take the rag offa bush. Baby Girl done painted The Son of God, tiptoe-in' barefoot on a cow patty with a coupla heifers chewin' on His Bless-ed Hair." Big ol' tears was rollin' down 'er cheeks. "She ain't right, is she, Maynard? Bless 'er precious heart, Enid's crazier'n a bedbug." 

     What Mommy Dottie didn't know was that, here lately, I been doin' some cryin' myself. It ain't nothin' I'm proud of...my mama'n'daddy didn't raise no sissy. Honest ta God, if I had a nickel fer ever'time Mama told me, "Boys don't cry," I shore as hell wouldn't be slavin' away on this here farm. The first cryin' jag come over me when Enid was cooped up at the hospital, bein' poked and prodded all day long. No one was tellin' us nothin', an' I had no ide'er what was wrong with 'er. I ain't gonna lie: I was scared. I was settin' in my truck, drivin' back home ta git all my afternoon chores did before dark, when Patsy Cline come on the radio, sangin' that song "I Fall To Pieces." Welp, I fell to pieces right then and there. Had ta pull over 'till it passed. 

     There ain't no right way a'deliverin' terrible news; it don't change what's done happened. I reckon it was as hard fer Earl Busbee ta look me in the eye an' tell me my wife had incurable cancer as it was fer me ta hear it. Him bein' my old friend didn't help none, neither. From there on out, ever' second run slow as molasses. It was like bein' inside one a them nightmares where yer tryin' ta scream or shout, but nothin's comin' out. Worst part is, there ain't no wakin' up from this 'un. 

     Enid's dyin'. There ain't nothin' I can do about it. My heart's broke, thankin' about how sweet she's always been ta me. I shore ain't done nothin' ta deserve it. All these years a me payin' her no nevermind, and she still took care a me best she could, even when she had 'er hands full with baby Arliss. She loved bein' his mama, even though he was blind and retarded. Poor ol' Sun Jelly. I couldn't give her no more children after he died. Truth be told, I was afraid a havin' more kids. What if they was defective, too? I knowed I let Enid down, but she didn't never fault me for it. She just went on with 'er life. An' now, we're countin' her life in days. After she's gone, I'll be alone ag'in.

     Before I started talkin' ta Homer Owl Song a few weeks back, I couldn't hardly git nothin' done 'cause I was so tore up about Momma E. We pretty much got her squared away with hospice an' all. She's so out of it most a the time anyways, I don't thank she really knows what's goin' on. It's better this a-way. Me, I become a nervous wreck ever since we brung 'er home, and ever' passin' day, it kep' gettin' worser fer me. I ain't never been emotional like this before. Homer's been real good about checkin' in on us, but even so, I felt funny talkin' to 'im 'bout my private feelins'. It don't make no sense, 'cause my pride ain't never done me no favors. But, what's a man to do?

***

     One afternoon, not too long ago, Homer come over. Told me ta have Mommy Dottie keep 'er eye on Enid, so's we could git chores done. Then, him an' me was gonna set out in the south pasture from nightfall 'til the sun come up next mornin'. Knowin' what I knowed 'bout Homer, I didn't put up a fuss. I knowed my prayers was bein' answered. We moved the cows outta the pasture for the night, an' then we built us a fire an' set up camp. It was the first time I ever just set out there, doin' nothin'. Once we got the fire goin' good, me an' Homer laid in the grass, talkin'. He had a lotta innerestin' stories, bein' 100% Navajo an' all. First off, they call theirselves Dineh, which means "The People." Their creation legend was sorta like Adam an' Eve, only their First Man and First Woman led ever'one inta this water-covered world by walkin' up a reed from the bottom of a lake deep inside the earth. Then, after the winds blowed to clear off some land, them an' their two kids, The Changin' Twins, made all the mountains an' rivers an' all the plants'n'animals an' ever'thing else folks needed to live here in harmony with nature. After that story, Homer turned kinda serious. 

     "Even though my people accept death as a part of life, Maynard, we don't talk about it at all. It's taboo. Now, we're not afraid of death itself; we accept it as part of life. What we are afraid of is the devils people leave behind called chindi. These evil spirits are all the ways in which a person was out of sorts with the world, and we steer clear of them. They're thought to make the living sick. This is why prayer chants and purification rituals are central to our way of medicine; we're restoring nature's balance and our spiritual connection with the universe. Talking about death is thought to bring it on, so we keep to positive conversation. After someone dies, those evil spirits disperse. Because of that, we prefer for people to die outdoors. If someone dies at home, his home and possessions--anything personal the chindi might attach themselves to--are all destroyed. You'll never hear us speak the name of a dead person because the chindi might hear it and bring disease. We don't cry or outwardly mourn our dead, either. Too much emotion might interrupt the spirit's passage to the underworld."

     The fire done died down, so I got myseff up'n' give it a stir, then Homer throwed a grate he brung with 'im on top a the coals. I thought maybe we was gonna fix us some coffee, 'cause he set down a kettle a water ta boil. Then, he went on with what he was sayin'.

     "For my people, letting go isn't an option. If we don't forget the dead, their spirits will trap us in ways we'll never understand. But, as autonomous and self-determined as we are, in this day and age of life-prolonging technology, our fears of death have become self-defeating. With all the taboos we have on talking about death, along with the advances in modern medicine, how can I ensure that someone's autonomy is preserved when he or she becomes terminally ill? Given the option, some folks choose heroic measures, while others prefer to let nature take its course. Every individual has the right to determine what's best for him, whether it's quantity or quality of life. If death is the end of all experience, then my job is to change the way in which dying people and their families experience life, whether it's in months, weeks, days, or minutes. I think I can help you, too, Maynard."

     Homer explained about how them magic mushrooms was bein' used by researchers ta help dyin' people overcome their fears about death. I already knowed all about him bein' a full-fledged Navajo medicine man an' havin' that fancy ethnobotany degree, so's I asked 'im if he thought whatever was in them mushrooms could help someone like me who was havin' so much trouble lettin' go. "Yes, Maynard, in my hands, I believe it will." He told me about how peyote's a sacred herb for the Navajo, an' how it brings on a spiritual experience. Said he'd taken it a time or two hisself. I asked what it was like, an' he said it's like a real peaceful oneness with nature. "These mushrooms will work the same way, Maynard." Hell, it sounded perty good ta me, I was so miserable. "Let's do it," I said.

     Me'n'Homer walked aroun' the pasture, lookin' for a clump a them mushrooms. It was just before dark. The sun was settin' real perty, just as yeller-orange as the yolk from one a Enid's guinea hen eggs. We come up to this one cow pie that had 'shrooms growin' out of it ever' which way. Homer picked one've 'em, and showed me how the cap was tan in the middle an' dark blue 'round the edges. The stem bruised blue when he squeezed it, an' he pointed out how the ring around the top a the stem was stained purple'n'brown from the spores. After pickin' about ten nice-sized ones, Homer swished 'em around in a pan a water, then dumped 'em into the kettle. He throwed in a buncha differn't herbs he said'd keep me from gettin' sick at my stomach, lettin' it cool down fer a spell, then he squeezed some honey an' quite a few oranges into it. Poured half've it into a coffee cup, give it to me, an' said, "Here, my friend, drink this." 

     I'd be lyin' if I told ya that there tea tasted good. It was more like drankin' bitter wood chip dirt, but I choked it down anyhow. Homer was busy sprinklin' some kinda colored powder in the clearin' by the wild muscadine patch, near where poor ol' Sun Jelly was buried. Soon as I finished his tea, I put my cup down, an' walked myself over ta see what Homer was up to. He was singin' to hisself in Navajo, makin' a big ol' drawin' with sand that was black, blue, yeller, red, an' white.
Ink drawing by Madilyn Leonard
"The big circle is water, Maynard; it represents Earth. And, here's First Woman, the Great Mother, surrounded by all she's created in complete natural balance. You can sit down anywhere you like." He started up singin' ag'in, an' even dancin', too.

     I set myself down smack dab in the middle a that there circle, an' then, the circle swallered me, an' I was back inside my mama's womb. It was dark an' warm inside a her, soft as buckskin, quiet as the calm before a storm. Sunshine Greedy Fingers reached up inta her an'pulled me out, but outside was all Dark Cloudy Lightnin', an' I fought ta git back inside, but Mama done closed 'erself up. I wandered 'round by myself, blind as Sun Jelly, cryin' me a river 'cause I was so lonesome, when I seen Enid, young an' nekkid, 'er hair blowin' in the wind, 'er belly fat with our child, 'er heart big as Texas. I wanted to crawl up inside a her with our baby, but there warn't no room.  She held out her breasts fer me like two Georgia peaches, an' I suckled at 'em till the milk a her motherly love run all through me, an' she petted my head an' loved on me like 'er own child. Because a her, I warn't alone no more. I fell asleep fer a long time, an' I didn't take no notice've all the thangs she done fer me.  She might as well been invisible. When I woke up ag'in, a rainbow smile come across Enid's mouth, an' Sun Jelly ran 'tween 'er teeth on rainbow legs, an' that rainbow wrapped itseff real tight around me ta where's I was all bound up in it. I seen both a 'em disappearin' into the green grass a Heaven, an' there wasn't nothin' I could do ta stop neither of 'em from becomin' the most terrible sad rainbows of love left behind. When I couldn't see Enid an' my boy no more, a bluebird sung to me, an' I unnerstood ever' word a his song:

"Be joyful! 
Be happy! 
Get up, it is dawn."  

     The sun come up pink as a breakfast radish, an' the mornin' mist hung over the pasture like a sheet a Cut-Rite wax paper. I seen that Homer'd put a rainbow-striped blanket 'cross my shoulders. He was smilin' to hisself. "It got a little chilly out here last night. How you feelin', Maynard?," he asked, handin' me a steamin' hot cuppa black coffee. It smelt so good. He was fryin' up what looked to be corn pone in a cast iron skillet; he musta kep' that fire goin' all night. "I feel good, Homer. I thank I done found my peace with all a this." I went over ta set by the fire, an' Homer kicked around at the sand paintin' ta get rid've any a my leftover devils.

     After we got done eatin', we broke camp, an' headed back ta the house. Mommy Dottie come runnin' out in a panic. "Enid ain't wakin' up, y'all. She's breathin' funny." When we got up to the bedroom, Enid's eyes was open, but I don't thank no one was at home. Homer'n'Mommy Dottie set theirselves down on Enid's hope chest, an' I climbed up inta the bed with 'er. I cradled Momma E in my arms, same as I done with Sun Jelly, an' prayed I warn't too late, tellin 'er all them thangs I hadn't never brung myself ta say to her before.  Homer started singin' in Navajo again, an' I reckonized it right off. It was that bluebird song I done heard not an hour before.
   
          Enid passed around lunchtime, an' I'm pert damn sure she clumb Jacob's Ladder straight up inta the Good Lord's tabernacle. She done right by Jesus an' the Holy Spirit, I reckon. We buried 'er a coupla days later in the south pasture, over by the muscadine patch next ta Sun Jelly. They's keepin' each other company in heaven now. Physically, I'm alone, but I ain't lonely. The memory a Enid's love's alive, an' I'm movin' on with life, just like she done so long ago. Homer didn't make it to the funeral, but I unnerstood why. It ain't his way. Besides, he said he had a girl waitin' on 'im back in New Mexico. Someone he called Venus.

Part I: Sun Jelly Pastures
Part II: Whether Help Come

     



     

     

     



     

21 comments:

  1. Aw, so sad but a WONDERFUL story. Expecting a book out of you one day, my dear. Perhaps a collection of short stories? Hmmm?

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    1. Janene, I am definitely considering a collection of short stories. Who knows, maybe I'll crank a few more out and put that together.

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  2. Damn good Kris. What a story.
    You have the voices so clear & so very strong. Funny too,with a dash of & Navajo life magic. The best stories are even better with that light & shade.

    You've got a book their,
    & I do love "I Fall To Pieces."
    Cheers & well done,
    ic

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    1. Isn't that a great song, Ian? So emotional; just love it. After writing this story over the last month, these characters' voices are permanently embedded into my mind. Sounds crazy, but I'm gonna miss all of them!

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  3. Very well done Kris. A sad ending to a wonderfully told story. You are very gifted in your writing. I will say it agin when you really bring it home with your subject matter. However, if I might make a request for anything you do in the future it would be to continue to use your colorful perspective in writing. You always can make me smile, you and your stories make it easy.

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    1. Thanks, Steven. So much of my writing is just free association; I'll get a crazy idea or pairing of words stuck in my head, and I'll find a way to weave them into the story. My husband asked me how I came up with "Sun Jelly" last night, and I told him it was one of those random pairings that just popped into my head.

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  4. That was a fitting finale for a story loaded with mortal pangs. Maynard's struggles have been intensely depicted. It reminded of Robert Browning's dramatic monologues. I felt so sorry for Enid and her mother.

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    1. Yes, I felt sorry for Enid and her mama, too, but am glad that Enid's psychosis kept her from suffering. I felt the sorriest for Maynard because his regrets were so overwhelming. Thank goodness for Homer and those magic mushrooms!

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  5. Kris, once again I'm bowled over by your wild and original imagery: "The sun come up pink as a breakfast radish, an the mornin mist hung over the pasture like a sheet a Cut-Rite wax paper." You're a keen observer of people and nature, and it's wonderful how you're able to integrate all your knowledge, imagination and experience into your writing. This tale of Sun Jelly pastures is indeed a sad one, a tragic one, but I'm glad that at least Homer had his Venus to go home to.

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    1. Ha ha, Marty, I was so tired finishing this story up last night. I was trying to think of round pink things to use as a simile for the sun, looked over at our community garden, and voila, breakfast radishes! I wrote this ending with you in mind because you'd said, "Homer should've gotten on that bus," the one that had Venus on it. Overall, I think it was a happy ending.

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  6. This was a wonderful short story. Your dialog put me right there at Enid's bedside.
    And, I just about lost it imagining Momma stripping to her underbritches for Jesus. LOL!!!!!

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    1. Charlene, I have to admit, I cracked myself up a few times, writing this outrageous story and colorful characters. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  7. When I saw the title, I hesitated to read it. Like Maynard, I wasn't ready for it to be over. But finally, I let myself enjoy it....even the sad parts. So beautifully done! I will miss them.

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    1. I'm glad you overlooked the title and read the finale, Gina. I am already missing these characters myself...guess I need to come up with another plot and cast!

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  8. Go check this out. You are a recipient of these no-strings-attached awards

    http://themotherofnine9.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/blog-awards-straight-from-the-heart/

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  9. I really enjoyed this Helena although it was very sad. I could almost hear the Navajo chanting as I read (didn't have time to listen to the video) and could visualize the scene you set in my mind. I also loved how you decribed the characters throughout as it made it more real for me. Wonderful story.

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    1. RPD, I am so glad that even without listening to the video, you could hear the prayer chant. I was really wrapped up in writing this installment, and Maynard, Homer, and everyone else felt so real to me. What an intense experience! I'm happy to hear that my own experience with these characters translated to those who read the story.

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  10. Kris, writing the conclusion in Maynard’s voice is brilliant. His first-person account feels so intimate, and immediately the reader can empathize with Maynard and view everything unfolding from his eyes, his perspective.

    Such a lovely and fitting image of the sun “settin’ real perty, just as yeller-orange as the yolk from one a Enid’s guinea hen eggs.” Fascinating description of Homer’s colorful albeit bitter as “wood chip dirt” mushroom tea. I like the way Homer’s character explained how magic mushrooms could help Maynard find peace with Enid’s dying. “Yes, Maynard, in my hands, I believe it will,” and it did, along with the sacred purification ritual, as Maynard had splendid visions of Enid as she “held out her breasts for me like two Georgia peaches,” (love that!) and “I warn't alone no more.”

    Enid’s rainbow smile merging with Sun Jelly, surrounding Maynard and “becomin’ the most terrible sad rainbows of love left behind.” What a grippingly beautiful line! The “pink as a breakfast radish” sunrise felt like a peaceful beginning for Enid’s final passage. Btw, what a marvelous description for a sunrise!

    The Navajo Bluebird song is so beautiful and lovely images in that video. (Btw, “Fall to Pieces,” love that, too.) The last line about Homer meeting up with Venus, perfect!

    Kris, I appreciate that you used the sand painting ink drawing from my college paper on Dineh (even though my hand-drawn attempt at a circle is a bit out of shape lol!). It all flowed well together, excellent story. You have an incredible imagination and a gift for dialogue, too. Keep writing!

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  11. Kris, you have done a wonderful job on video recording! I did not understand the whole thing by just listening, but listening helped me tremendously on what's going on, and I read through again, So I understood!

    It is amazing how you got inspired by different sources in reality and put them together. I wondered about Madilyn's cross-country traveling when I read the part of Venus and was about asking you if you got inspired by her life story. But reading her comment, it seems to be the case.

    I would agree with np that your writing style is very original. So raw!

    I enjoyed the different characters, they all very real and alive to me. Especially the character of Homer, his view on healing, and death. He seems to to one of those absolutely "unapologetic free spirits". And Maynard's fragility had a perfect match with his native wisdom.

    I will read again, for lots of details of your beautiful descriptions, which I could not digest just by once or twice.

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    1. Yun Yi, just having your comment here made the video worthwhile; I felt so badly that my story was difficult for someone who didn't grow up here to read. I am guessing my father, who was Polish, might've had the same dilemma. You're absolutely right about Madilyn inspiring Venus's character. Madilyn had posted a very sexy picture of herself in a homemade cavegirl outfit on a movie set in CA, and that was when I found out about her experience with the Navajo. Very cool how that all came together. I'm so glad that our worlds have collided in the blogosphere and on FB, Yun Yi. I so enjoy reading your insightful posts.

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