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Literature : Word Choice

BB and Calla Lily

by Evelyn Hampton


Julio Gonzalez. Finca, 2014, oil on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

That was the night we got older. Momma had just been canned. We were going up to the Dairy Land when Calla Lily asked, Don't you think we should bring Thomas. Thomas was our dad. He was not our father, but he was in the position of the man, having been married to Momma for a few weeks. Funny about their wedding—nobody came because the invitation said the wrong day. It said the right day, but Momma and Thomas got fidgety and went ahead with it a day before the day, like time wasn't for them, only for the RSVP'd. The folks did come, but there was no gown for them to see, and no aisle, and no Momma and no Thomas—me and Calla Lily had to tell everybody that, see, they had gone to Thomas's parents', sort of, or that's what they said to say, because they had already done the wedding. I hate being looked at like that by so many relations I never see, it's like the air itself suddenly lays claim to me, wasps flown from a falling tree. We didn't hear of them again, the RSVP'd, and a few days later Momma and Thomas came back to time and asked had we eaten. Took us out for supper, me and Calla Lily, ate our favorite chicken. Creamed.

Back to the trip up to Dairy Land. Momma was on a jag after being canned. Thomas had gone all weary and got a strange look on him, laying all day on the creeping pattern of the couch that looks like it's moving when you're not looking at it, then you look at it direct and it stops creeping, then you look away and it creeps again. That's how Thomas lay.

Pick him up, just—throw him in the trunk? Calla Lily was like a murderer with all the tough taken away, and all the hate. She had these ideas that made you think, Now that's going to get us put away. And prison was never far from where we were living. But she didn't mean it to be mean, she just meant—I don't know, to be nice or something. She wanted Thomas to have a shake. Calla Lily always got peanut butter banana, the flavor preferred by murderers who aren't murderers, I read somewhere. I got something different every time, they have so many flavors at the Dairy Land, you never get tired. You always get a shake.

So Thomas wasn't moving much when we picked him off the creeping couch, carried him into the trunk. Why not the back seat? That's the question I asked Calla Lily, but she couldn't see it that way. She couldn't see us driving up to Dairy Land, Momma off a jag, with Thomas in the back seat. Just couldn't see it that way. A shortage in the brain, had Calla Lily. Too fast a metabolism. A mind sometimes like the object of her name, pretty and petalled and just a thing for the bees and sunshine to sway. Just couldn't imagine Thomas being able to lay in the back seat while me and Calla Lily was driving up that way, to the Dairy Land, where you never had to have the same flavor, they had so many, but Calla Lily always got the same. Because, she had a shortage, in the brain. Just a white curl in a green field was Calla Lily's mind sometimes.

But Calla Lily, I said, I can see it that way, and what I see is this: you and me driving up the Dairy Land, some cop coming along the highway like a lurch, you and me pulling over because, well, no because, just—and cop shining his light, or maybe he'll be a her, shining her light in the back seat and seeing Thomas there asleep, no trouble, just a man fallen asleep on the drive home, we have to drive our daddy back, no questions, nothing to ask, maybe he even gives us a nickel, or she. But you and me driving and Thomas not in the back seat, and cop shining her light all around the emptiness, it'll put a thing in her brain, like a worm, and she'll think, or maybe she'll be a he, he'll think, I've got to see in the trunk. That's what the worm in his brain will say, and you know how cops do whatever the worms in their brains tell them to, and pretty soon we'll be having to pop the trunk, and that light will be shining, Calla Lily, right on Thomas's face which looks so strange, soon it’ll creep like the vines of the couch.

But Calla Lily just couldn't see it that way. Just couldn't, even after she'd put a stick of watermelon Extra in her mouth and chewed it some. No, she said, we'll just put him in the trunk. When we get to Dairy Land we'll let him look about. We'll get him a shake. Momma being away, we'll just put Thomas in the trunk.

I suppose she never could see it that way, the way that would've kept us from getting older that night, for sometimes you can be seen by the authorities as adults even when you are not so aged. We put Thomas in the trunk and Calla Lily and I both drove, we knew how to do it that way, me using my feet and Calla Lily looking and steering, the two of us together like the old cherry tree that was split by lightning, then grew as two trees, twining round the wound where they had been separated. I suppose we had our wound, me and Calla Lily, and our wound was away on a jag. And Thomas on the creeping couch, and the creeping couch. We ought to have scorched that pattern, or sewed like a coverlet, while Momma was away, instead of going out for a shake.

And, sure enough comes the cop. I saw the red flashing even from the floor where I was. But Calla Lily didn't see it that way. I'm not stopping, she said, though it was me who had the say, since I was on the pedals.

Oh yes, I said. You are. We.

I'm going to Dairy Land, she said, I'm already there with my shake. She was still chewing the Extra and a bubble as big as her face.

I should have just pressed the brake. It would've been me who would've done it, but I didn't, so it became nobody's mistake. Between me and Calla Lily, it was nobody driving that car then. Just like if you looked direct at the creeping the creeping would go away, when I looked direct at who was driving I could see no driving, just me and Calla Lily in the stillness of being one wound together in a way.

Evelyn Hampton's first book of stories, Discomfort, will be published by Ellipsis Press in late fall of 2014. Her website is lispservice.com.

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Fiction
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