Split Rail Fences

Double braids hung heavy and long down her narrow back. There were so many rules, now. Girls are not allowed to wear trousers or shorts, only ruffle edged, pretty dresses. Girls don’t wear jeans, those are men’s clothes…she was wondering about that. How could pants be men’s clothes? Her little legs went inside just like the men. She heard often,  around the dinner table, that everyone puts their pants on the same, one leg at a time. Then again,  it was the men saying that in the first place. Girls just took delicate bites, sat up straight, laughed on cue;  while using the correct fork or spoon, napkins folded in laps, drinking too much wine and passing plates.

She thought about these things when her chores were done and there was still daylight left. The rule was when the street light snapped and crackled to life at dusk, she had to already be indoors.  She thought about these things while practicing the perfect balance point on top of the dangerous split rail fence that edged the front yard.

“Get your fool ass off that fence! How many times have I told you to stay out of that tree?! If you get yourself hurt I’m gonna hurt you real good before I take you into the doctor!” She had learned that the neighbors wouldn’t tell on her, they were nice, they looked at her with sad eyes, she didn’t understand why. She felt bad for them. Adults all seemed a little crazy. Some were mean crazy and some were sad crazy. She wondered if she would grow up and be like them. After dinner, with her hands wrinkled from the dishes, while the grown-up’s had their drinks and talked, for a few invisible minutes, she could practice flying.

The fence was a death trap. Rickety, rough hewn half sawn, papery cedar logs. The ends taper cut to slip inside the holes of the raw cut cedar posts. Even just leaning against it people complained of the splinters it would give them. It was a mean old fence, ringing the biggest, nicest house, on the corner lot.

Taking her shoes and socks off, climbing…quickly now, she stood like a stone statue, on top of the prickly corner post. Toes pointed, just like in dance class, feeling the splinters pushing her to bleed or give up. Stepping onto the wobbly edge of the first rail, she imagined herself light as a balloon, bones hollow like the birds in her books.

She knew the rail was there, when looking down she could see it appear and disappear under her small white feet. The magic was when she realized she was just above the edge, only just a hair, just a tiny unsayable bubble of air, she was floating on the edge of her world.

The first rail was the grouchy one, always trying to throw her to the ground and betray her. The rail was still angry that it had to live looking down at the other half of itself, she thought she would be angry too, if someone cut her in half and then used those parts to build a mean fence to keep people in and out. She made it quick across the first rail, so as not to aggravate it too much, no need to be a pest. She felt bad for the rail, after all.

The second post was solid and it’s rail was nicer. It was the one the bikes always got leaned against when kids from the others houses, were allowed to come play. The handle bars had worn a soft spot in the rail over the years and the rail was sweet. It would encourage her to keep going. At the end it got a little tricky but she understood that was the nice rail’s way of getting her ready for the next step.

From the third rail forward she would be in plain view of the people inside the house. If caught, there would be pain and punishments a plenty. She knew she had to be quick to finish the course, it was always important to finish what you started, she heard that at the table many nights too.

She thought to herself, as she readied for flight, the day they found her floating magically above the fence would be the day that they would love her, for real. Who wouldn’t love a magical flying child that knew how to tend bar and do all the chores? Even mean people couldn’t be stupid enough not to love magical flying girls. Everyone knows that.

She took off like a shot.

She danced, twirled, jumped and leaped all without ever touching another rail.

It was a long fence.

Sometimes, the sad eyed lady next door would come out of her house and stand watching from her side of the fence, just behind the bottle brush bush, away from the big windows. She held her hands together like she was praying for dinner, under her chin, watching with her mouth making a soft little O, never making a sound.

She wondered why she had to come to this house and had live with these people all because they were supposed to belong to each other because of blood. She couldn’t see their blood, just as she couldn’t see her own inside her body.  She knew it was red, but then all the people she had met so far had red blood inside of them too, even the black people had red blood inside them, it was all confusing to her.

She didn’t really understand what all that meant, except she couldn’t wear her boots, believe in magic, or think herself too special to wear the pretty dresses and learn the pretty manners.

She most defiantly was not to be walking the splintery edge of the mean fence in her bare feet while the wind blew her dress way too high for a proper young lady. Ruffled and lace covered taboo, exposed. She knew that too. It was all so confusing. Why wouldn’t they want a flying girl?

Maybe she would fly away someday.

It was possible, just as possible as Jesus or the Devil, if you thought about it.

She heard the stories about them too. Both of them magic.

She could be the first magic girl, who would know unless she showed them?

She practiced, every chance she got. She practiced being light as a balloon, bones as hollow as the birds, she practiced magic, chanting to herself in her mind all the time. Light as a feather she would say, I am light as a feather.

I tell her, when I see her, that magic does exist. That she is free and can actually float away. She always giggles, covering her mouth,

“then who would remain to remind you to dream and fly?”

HA! 2016

Digital StillCameraartwork: HA! 2007 “Abandon” Ink and Gesso (sold)

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