Wagon Mound by Darlin' Neal
We’d driven a little over 20 miles to get there, from Colfax County to Mora County. I looked forward to it, riding in the backseat while my parents discussed possibility in the front. They were so full of hope and dreams while we drove out there. We were heading to the old people’s house in Wagon Mound. They had a garden, like my grandma and aunts back in Mississippi, though, of course, not nearly so plentiful and it didn’t feel like such a community thing. Still I thought of groups of people when I was there, because that’s what the name of the town made me think of, people all living in wagons circled around a fire who decided, Let’s make a town here. The thought of wagons reminded me of trailer parks we’d lived in until then, the way my father could hook that tiny trailer up and we’d head on to a new town, over and over again, but I found out I was wrong about the name. It only had to do with the shape of a butte, not a memory of origination.
I sat in their hot airy kitchen at the table with a pencil and white paper, patiently running the pencil over the paper and watching the impression of the roses in the table cloth rise. My parents were talking to the older couple.
The fat cat came to me. I took him to lie on the couch waiting for my parents to finish whatever they were doing. I remained on that couch petting and petting that cat until we both fell asleep.
When I woke up and looked through the gauzy curtains, blackbirds perched and sang on telephone wires. The cat plopped onto the floor and I went outside. The birds scattered, their wings beating crisp in the dry air. Things like that would make me think more about the farms of my grandmothers which were much more crowded with life and sound. In Mississippi, the bugs call out. So many birds sing you awake, there were bleached sheets and open doors and windows as long as the heat and mosquitoes would allow, the scents of contented childhood.
At that place in Wagon Mound I went outside and my brother Jamie and I chased a rabbit into a long tube. It was small, not lanky and long like the other jackrabbits out there. We touched its tail and it went farther inside. We tried to shake it free. We held the tube at a diagonal hoping it would slide out. I reached inside and the rabbit let out a terrified scream that raised every hair on my arms. I had never heard such terror. I thought maybe we’d scared it to death. We stood frozen and sad, my brother and I, staring at one another. The thought that perhaps the rabbit had been so afraid of us that we’d scared it until it was stuck up inside that tube and might die in that dark place horrified us.
My young father came outside looking for us after what seemed like endless hours. We wanted him to help. He laughed and said it’ll be all right.
“Can it get out?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “But it got in there.”
He put his hand on my back and directed me inside. I sat back at the table waiting to leave. I didn’t feel like copying flowers. I didn’t know where the cat was. My mother said I’d gotten dirty chasing rabbits. I needed a bath. She told the woman I took baths in near scalding hot water. The old woman told me not to do that. She showed me the broken veins in her legs.
We piled in the car to head back to our house. My parents talked of dread and I felt that word like heavy heat that might blacken the world, and in the sound of the rabbit screaming that wouldn’t leave me alone. We headed back to our house where the bill collectors called so much my parents no longer answered the phone. We didn’t know yet that already the chain link fence had been taken from around our yard.
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