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Spring Branch, River Ridge, ridgeline, spring branch, bobwhite, loss. And the long, black-green strands of water moss growing in the spring branch, the whole length of the dark, icy water filled with it, streaming toward the river, the warm brown odorous Big Piney, clogged at its edges with water lilies and memory: the fishermen who floated by our camp and stopped to give us orange juice, my father when he smoked cigars, the wild green swelling cloud of leaves around us, the echo spot my brother found, dragonflies and minnows, the overpowering smell of river in the sun, my brother skipping stones, how we stood at that one place where you could hear the echo and took turns calling out: Hello! Hello! Hello! Fast Food Sometimes after piano lessons on Capp Street or ballet class in the Richmond, my two young daughters and I would drive in our red Toyota station wagon to the Jack in the Box on Lombard, then wait our turn in the line up to the window, where I, the mother, would ask for what we wanted: one grilled chicken sandwich, four tacos, three French fries, three orange sodas, and just like that, they were handed to me—hot, icy, salty, sweet— and we parked in a nearby alley and opened the crisp red-and-white paper sacks and the small containers of ketchup and sauce, smell of food blooming in the closed room of the car, paper cups of soda and little squares of ice clinking, dark outside the windows, ceiling light on inside. My Mother, Watering the Flowers She grew flowers out of the rocky Missouri soil. She made flowerbeds ringed with rocks dug from the hillside: a round one for spring bulbs, one for canna lilies and zinnias, another for petunias and pansies, and a peony bed by the sun room, plus two long beds of snapdragons and tiger lilies and naked ladies, then red floribunda roses by the garage and all along the concrete-block retaining wall, and a dahlia bed edged with Iceland poppies out by blacktop road, flowers that flickered and glowed in the summer sun, great shaggy heads of dahlias flaming against the sky over the valley, so that people stopped their cars near the gravel driveway just to sit and look. And in the evening, after the sun had set and the birds were alighting in the trees, my mother, in her housedress and apron and cheap leather shoes and my father’s dress socks, went out to water the flowers with the green rubber hose, visiting each bed in turn in the fading light, priestess of the sacred offerings, keeper of the holy flames.
Copyright 2021 Carolyn Miller