At the bottom of Sleepless Creek is a dress once worn by a girl then given to me. Do not look for it. It is meant to be stuck in a place that is dark and hidden and wrapped around the bones of a cottonmouth. The dress was given to me but first it rode on a line outside a window that should have been cleaned by a mother, but wasn’t. Not that the mother hadn’t washed it before, but she was gone. And the line was clipped by a girl who wore the dress every day for a year until she began to feel something else grow.
After the planting, she ran from room to room down hallways into the dark. Each room the same: women tied to windows with their secrets and each in the same dress.
When she began to grow, her body a different shape, she remembered her mother once told her, They will think you’re ready but you won’t be.
The girl swirled her corn and green beans together as if a painting or a field of dots and daisies and knew by the feeling in her stomach her mother had missed the point when the girl crossed over.
At sixteen her mother was planted in the ground. It was spring. She kept growing. Her mother, too, into a field or dots and her father more angry.
Do not look for the dress at the bottom of Sleepless Creek. She gave it to me by hanging it in a tree the night the rooms grew smaller and she could no longer hide. The women untied themselves and their secrets.
It was on this night her father woke and didn’t know how to feel so he felt for her.
She knew she wasn’t ready so she ran to the boat as a girl they had built, her father and her, together. It wasn’t ready either. Never finished because her mother was planted and things keep growing even though they stopped building things.
A boy at the bank had his rifle and a fear of his own feelings.
Because her father had taught her, she knew how to see things that shouldn’t be seen. Like pain twisted into being beautiful and lonely and forgotten.
She laughed, said, Catch me.
At nineteen he was a man, really, but outfitted with a teenage soul stuck in the soil like her mother’s bones and her father’s misplaced passion.
Come here, he said, scared at remembering a man named Willie who, much older, had pain of his own and ways of dealing with it that involved prey.
He prayed. She listened. She let him.
Because somewhere inside her a man that was her father took over. And the boy that was a man became the girl in the dress and he let her take it off, swing it on a tree, a flag or a way to find their way back after the damage was done. Whatever it was it was not love, but similar.
Don’t look for the dress at the bottom of Sleepless Creek. It is meant for a baby which between the two became a snake and rage. So beautiful don’t think I didn’t eat it. I did.