There was so much that.  Plentiful.  Bountiful.  


Father and sister lifted the harvest over their shoulders. Slung it in sacks.  Sweating and straining.  Who was I?  A child.  Not quite.  But not a full participant.  Never that.  The Chihuahua, my only companion.  And a small one at that.  I raced him to the road.  A last vestige of carefree innocence.  I say that now, knowing.


Blinding wind.  Little pellets of dirt flying off the cars.  Stung, watering eyes.  Cars whizzing in blood-red streaks.  Destination unknown.  An evacuation?  Maybe.  I pelted them. The dog and I leapt.  I screamed and shouted.  For joy.  The last cars receded into specks.  Not the last of the day. The last. 


I bit into the harvest.  Juice dripping off my chin.  Rough against my gums.  Tickling my lips.  All the good goodness.  Father grabbed the harvest.  From my hand. What was in my hand.  I had enough.  I had had enough.  For the day.  That day.


I slept on a wooden bed.  Occasionally I stood.  Then the floor creaked and dust came up.  I paced the perimeter of the room.  I peeked through the cracks in the walls.  The air was heavy.  I breathed through the cracks.  Not damp heavy but leaden.  Pushing like an unseen hand.  There were strange noises.  Contraction of the wood.  Parting of the soil.  Ripening of the harvest. 


Morning came.  The normal things didn’t.  I couldn’t wake the father and the sister, no matter how hard.  It wasn’t that they were.  It was some kind of trick. So I thought.  To make me grow up.  Learn responsibility.  I shook their somnolent bodies.  Blew under their peeled-back eyelids.  Coaxed them with the smell of the harvest on my hair and hands. Listening at their ears I heard a lock click shut.  I would get out.  Not in.  Or I would get out.  Not in.  I was too small to fight.  Too weak to drag them.  Clinging to their pillows with their strong arms.  Muscular.  Bulging.  Grasping those smothering pillows. 


But the harvest.  Gathered and stacked.  Plentiful, bountiful.  I shouldn’t need to.  I wouldn’t let it.  I unlocked the barn door and gorged my greedy mouth until dusk.  There I slept.  Letting the others do as they.  Who cared?  Not me.


I woke.  The sound of helicopters.  A search, evidently.   For us?  Me?  I spit out the half-chewed harvest in my mouth.  I wiped the harvest from my lips.  I shooed the chickens inside.  They hovered protectively over my sister.  The helicopters came right above the roof.  So close that.  I stuffed my fingers in my ears.  I would not leave my room until.


Next: the rains.  Floods tapped at the windows.  Rivers gurgled down the road and through the field.  The Chihuahua whined and snapped at a half-drowned fly dragging its wings across the wooden floor.  Little did I know that.  A harbinger. 


Next: the heat.  Mirage jungles formed over the field.  In the barn the harvest crisped and crumbled.  I drew portraits of my father and sister in the dust.  Then I blew them clean.


At last: to see what remained.  Back to the barn, tentative at its door.  Warped and rotted wood.  With the slightest pressure.  As if it was waiting to usher me inside.  I gasped.  Father’s beer belly lurked in the shadows.  But the vision vanished.  I should have known better than to expect. 


I divided it, prepared rations.  A few sour remnants, stacked on cobwebs.  I would see how long I could.  And I took careful notes.  Notes and words.  For remembering.  


In fetal position father clutches a pillow against his stomach like a pregnancy. He wears striped pajama pants and a plaid shirt. His eyebrows are overgrown and his beard unshaven. The cot he lies in is padded with faded currency from an extinct nation. Under the cot is sister’s doll, face up. Its plugs of plastic hair are plucked, leaving golf ball dimples. Like father, the doll remains silent and resists all known interrogation methods.


Sister is naked on the bed, a blue pillow at her back. The contours of her ribs are shadowed like wind-blown sand yet her eyes have a kind of sheen. She throws another empty handful to the chickens. They flutter dusty wings over the piles of pillows. She can never be hungry this way, she says. Chicken broth, chicken tenders, breaded chicken. With scarecrow fingers she lifts an invisible skirt. A curtsey or an obscenity, I cannot tell. No doubt an angel could appear like this, a feather peeking between her lips.


Writing broke something.  In my head.  I was not afraid.  Let them come, I said, beckoning skyward.  The breeze, drying the mud on my soiled palms.  Brown stalks, echoing the silent wind.  Words were needed.  Even though.  Even if.  I mowed HELP in the field, large enough for the helicopters to see.  But they never. 


Next, the flies. Harbinged, so to speak.  Black swarms poking through the walls like nails popping out.  So much for.  I would rest just like.  I found a pillow.  I placed it over my face.  Everything that moved, flies.  Flies tickling the hairs on my arms.  Helicopters! I whispered then screamed until my ears ached.  I ran down the hall to the other bedrooms. Father shifted his weight.  Flies within his beard.  The springs of his cot groaned and snapped.  Sister swatted her hand at me.  Flies! she hissed.  It was the first speech since.


I placed Venus fly-traps in porcelain dishes on the floor. At night I poked open the bright green traps.  I counted the limp dead, already black powder.  Thinking it a lollipop, I sucked on an amber necklace. Black flies afloat inside the burnished stones. I buried the necklace. To bring me luck.


Today is now.  The buzzing, a muted drone. The flies, a swarm of tiny helicopters at the window. Unable to shatter the glass, they explode in wisps of flame. My flesh, stuck to a pillow with tufted leather padding.  Swollen and about to pop.  I’m in an examination room.  I told the story of the harvest.  Doctors are nowhere.  Riding in helicopters, I think.


The Chihuahua’s muzzle is in my rations.  The end of the harvest.  The very end.  My head, able to lift an inch or two, that’s all.   The dog’s toenails, tittering across the tiles.  Between my left hand and thigh, a delicate little skull.  The remains of a Chihuahua from joyful times.  Through the window, clouds part like sister’s lips. 


I close my eyes to wait for evening.  It will come too late.



 - Louise Norlie