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Short Story and Essay \

'To sigh like the air' (Ch. 35 The Obbligato)



'To sigh like the air' (Ch. 35 The Obbligato)
By JdSchooley on 08/22/2017
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Towards 6:00 that evening the clouds began to break. Partial outlines of a slender crescent Moon appeared between the openings that split the night sky revealing bright stars a few now and then and finally entire constellations.
Margie studied the steep outline of the horizon and then gradually a building began to stand out atop the incline. Her blurry vision cleared as she stood in the icy road forcing her eyes to see, her frozen fingers searching for warmth within her trusty armpits. Knees numb from the frozen road she moved unsteadily through the jagged snowy furrows of the deserted highway. The snow had ended but rogue bursts of wind picked up smatterings of flakes here and there and sent them dancing wildly across the white terrain and about her chilly ankles. She saw in the outline a building with large letters of a sign on it.
Could this be shelter? She plaintively wondered. She hoped and strained, picking awkwardly in light shoes, over slippery ruts. "No!" She cried aloud, as she read, "Clay County Fair." Her heart sank in a pathetic curse, with the knowledge that her salvation had found only Goat Hill.
"Christ!" She shouted at the old structure. Its boxy stuccoed shape had not seen human habitation since the fifties. Even outsiders were aware upon first sight of the unusual monolith atop its lonely hill, unlikely was it to have any occupants other than bats and raccoons. No electric wires, or out buildings. Blank openings where doors and windows had stood against the weather. The locals have all come to know it for the hermit who lived out his last years on the second floor, while goats ran freely through the lower half, their curious snouts projecting from the open windows.
Again she cursed her luck and promised to be on the first clear road back to Georgia. Her primary impression of this spot had been fascination. Her curiosity finally paid off one day, she stopped to see what the tall square structure had to offer her camera. A brilliant evening sun had caught the derelict building in silhouette. Just the window openings and foursquare roof, stood pronounced before the pink hued twilight. She had pulled onto the shoulder to find a better perspective. Once she had a few images through her car window she decided to get out and take in the vast green blanket that spread indiscriminately over rich black soil. Crossing the road she faced a strong breeze that bent the tall grasses through the barbed wires which skirted the ditch and she caught that vantage in her camera as well. Soon the camera's memory was full so she strolled closer to see what remained of the goats old home.
She stepped over the wire gate and strolled easily past the, No Admittance, sign. "Private Property" she read aloud, what an excellent place to put a house. Standing atop the hill she took in the vast valley with it's sparkling creek and green pastures below. From East to West was open plain and clean fresh air raced about her face as red wing blackbirds sang their sharp call and grasshoppers flew past her shoulder.
"What could have stopped any pioneer, in search of farm ground, from further exploration?" She had wondered while rummaging for some reason to linger.
But then there were the winters. Long hard days of white isolation had plucked the many down to the present few. When all it took to survive was a good ox, a plow, and a strong back. Once 250 acres represented all one could manage, today it would require a million-dollar investment just to compete with market prices, and even that would barely make work for half the year. The smattering that remained now was a special breed. Many small farms required two jobs in town to keep propane in the tank. It's no wonder there's only one or two houses per square mile. Many such as ourselves, she considered, weren't even full-fledged farmers any more. With only a garden, or a place to stable a horse, and fields leased out just to keep current with the taxes. Save for these lonely remnants, left to bear out the elements, till gravity and rot give them back to the Earth.
Her wandering thoughts gave sensation to the old place. She could almost see the children at play in the tall grass. Almost hear their cherry voices from within the once new windows bright with fresh paint. Almost hear their mother's fingers modest play upon the piano, while songs of the Christmas season graced the arrival of friends and neighbors.
An icy bolt of wind cranked her face around and when she opened her eyes she could see where the truck sat butt first in the ditch. "Oh, thank you!" She shouts aloud and quickly hurried toward its shelter. Back inside she painfully forced her numb fingers to work the key. After flooding the motor it just cranked down to a miserable grind that leaves her cursing and weeping in freezing pain.

Josh Paduta had managed to put his anger into his work. The head of his father on a pole was a sight he could not forget. With stalwart forbearance he gave rhythm to the plane and ax and did so with a stoic chant he composed as he worked in the shed.

The air sighs
Ki po wowpi
The knife speaks
Ki mila iya
My knife tells you
Mitawa mila oyake niye
Sigh like the air
Wowpi lecel ki po

When Josh next saw Crow, he knew he was required to depart the home of the Wasicu. Now was the Moon of red cherries, the Sisseton band would be leaving for the great annual gathering of the Dakota. His heart lifted to know that he could finally rejoin his people as he stopped to hang the tool on its peg and closed the shed door.
He had been busy all month with the draw knife. Beside him stood several stacks of cedar shakes. Good and smooth-faced next to a large pile of wood curls and splinters, evidence of his efforts. His arms and back had grown strong and his wound was almost forgotten. He now knew many words of the Wasicu, and could read some on the page as well. When he opened the books he had little trouble reading the words to himself, but they seemed to catch in his throat when he read aloud. His sullen mind was not at ease with the unearned praise he received, even as he made little progress.
The bird remained close and still at a perch on the peak of the cabin roof. Its dark eye made him stop and look to its thoughts. A single word spoke to him.
"Come." He knew it was time to find his clan.
Inside the cabin he could hear how proud his caretaker was for the skills that Josh had acquired. "That boy has a natural gift for tools." The farmer's voice could be heard through the door, where Josh accidentally eavesdropped at the wash basin. The woman responded absentmindedly, busy with white flowered hands that worked a massive ball of bread dough and skillfully began the task of kneading and turning the sticky mass. Her pleasure over his work was ample just from the abundant aroma that filled the small house with cedar aroma even though the stack of shakes stood near the front the gate.
For a time, many had passed to see what land could be settled and as they spoke with the farmer, it would often become a topic, to inquire as to the chance to barter for a roofs worth of the items. Business had been good with sales of between 100 to 250 square feet of the shingles per day. First the farmer had been impressed with the fine edge that Josh could put on a tool. That had seemed only natural to him, given the fine whetstones the farmer possessed. Josh Paduta had been accustomed to various soft river rocks of a smooth texture, but with a ground flat stone from the carpenter box, the degree of his success exceeded anything.
When Josh stood at the door, the couple expected to hear that he was thirsty or had tired, desiring to rest in the shade. He didn't speak for a time, but stood not in nor out, just on the threshold.
"What is your need son?" Questioned the farmer at last. Josh had made known his intentions, regarding his obligations here and now was the time, to speak to that which had been avoided.
His gesture spoke first against his sweaty chest, where he made sound with his fist then pushed out his open down turned hand. "I have need, go." He said plainly and leaned back on the lintel while he pulled off the heavy boots and placed them together on the hard packed floor. Slowly the woman crossed the room to retrieve his buckskins from behind the wood box.
"I had hoped there would be no more need of these, but I saved them just the same." Her expression was hard and she managed to say no more. They stood for a long spell, each thinking what the other was trying not to say. "You'll want some food for your trip." She finally announced and pulled the corners of a cloth that held the days biscuits in a wood bowl set at table center. Then turning to make a knot in the ends she slipped a large piece of jerky between the slits in the clutch.
"We can't thank you enough for all the help you've given us. It is not possible to manage all that needs done by a body." The farmer said and stood to place a hard scratchy palm on the boy's shoulder.
Josh stood holding his belongings and took up the clutch with a hooked finger. It banged against the door as he turned to leave, bouncing off his knee while he walked briskly toward the far gate. The farmer watched as the boy paused at the enclosure, reaching to stroke the gray. Secretly wishing to mount her and ride on and away. But his admiration was too great for those who had done him no disrespect. The work was of no consequence to him even as he knew the farmer had done good trades for his work. His body was young and the tools felt good in his hands. There were many things the farmer had taught him and the books with pictures had left him amazed at all the unbelievable creatures and palaces in the other worlds. Paduta knew what he must now do for his people, and the Fathers that went before.
The farmer watched as Josh Paduta climbed the grassy slope to the crest of the hill and onto the lane moving South and not a glance back. With the buckskins over his shoulder he marveled as a lone crow dropped down and settled there. That with out missing a step, Josh reached up to the bird with a piece of biscuit and passed out over the hill.
"Did you see that?" He asked his wife. But she was busy over the dry sink, washing the day's dishes where she hoped a few extra drops would not be noticed.

The Repurposed Male
therepurposedmale.blogspot.com

? By JdSchooley On 8/22/2017 8:41:12 PM

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