Ed Laird “Crazy”
At unholy conception it was no more threatening than a preemie’s clinched fist, a defiant imperfection against a determined September sun. By the time she had scattered last night’s cornbread to the chickens, it had become an ominous cloud of unknowing, the size of a rawboned child-woman with tears drifting eastward in the jet stream.
A resolute breeze, with no leaves to rustle, agitated wisps of hair in front of her eyes, strands of hair that assumed familiar tree shapes on the ridgeline. But images only of her own making, cruel and evaporating mirages.
“Looks like we got it all cut in a nick of time,” he said, taking a seat at the kitchen table. He looked at her backside, expecting, demanding agreement. She said nothing and placed the remaining dishes in the cupboard. “It’ll grow back.” He lifted a shoebox full of currency, counted it again with satisfaction, and replaced it in the bottom of the pie safe. “I had to have it to pay taxes.”
“Didn’t have to cut every one,” she said. “The ridge looks like a bald hussy with nary a stitch on. Ain’t right.”
“Getting dark,” he said. “Going to rain.”
The remainder was not a memorial day, except for the rain music, an inharmonious, deafening rhythm requiring timed exchanges. He yelled between competing wind shears. “What you thinking?”
“I hope you’re thinking that I won’t ever allow you to leave. You know that, don’t you?”
She reckoned there was never a time it was not raining. The tympanic cabin roof played Patsy Cline. Every song. All night.
“Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely. I’m crazy for feeling so blue.”
Daybreak was indiscernible. She struggled with lighting the stove. Drafts from the chimney teased puffs of smoke back into the room. She reached carefully, silently into the cupboard to check the forecast. A full bottle of Old Grand-Dad last night was now below the label. Stormy weather ahead.
“Worry, why do I let myself worry? Wond’ring what in the world to do?”
She touched the vibrating window. “Bill, the wind has blow’d the barn door open and Bossy is out.” Naked and shaky, he opened the bedroom door and sank to his knees, holding onto the door knob for support. She was kind.
“You’re not dressed. I’ll go look for her.” She put on his boots and parka. He stared at her, not comprehending, watching her struggle to open and shut the door behind her. The wind siphoned her lungs. The mud suck at her boots.
The path up to the summer pasture was reduced to gashes and percolating springs of silt-laden brew. Saplings she reached out to for support yielded to her grasp like spring onions. Soil, saturated by twenty-four hours of drenching abuse, was waiting, looking for any excuse.
Bossy, the wise, was inside the three-sided shed, lying contentedly on loose hay, chewing her cud, as if hurricane-spawned monsoons were daily occurrences. She longed for Bossy’s assurance. She stood just under the shed cover, observing chimney smoke that swirled around the cabin in the holler, an Aladdin’s lamp with no good choices.
“Oh, God,” she said. A rumble from the bowels of the ridge answered. A small instability. Another clap of thunder. A greater slippage. And like a discarded rug, stained with a legion of sin, it rolled upon itself and down the ridge, gathering speed. Twenty acres of mud, rocks and tree stumps. It billowed like the flying carpet it had become, waving around the cabin, knocking it from its foundation, turning the barn on it side, and baptizing all in thirty feet of redeeming sludge.
Her legs buckled. She crawled next to Bossy’s warmth and pulled hay over them both. She cried for the duration of a long day’s night, all night. Patsy sang.
“I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying and I’m crazy for loving you.”
By morning sunlight, she had cried it out, worked it out. She brushed hay from her hair and clothes, tightened a rope around Bossy’s neck and led her from the summer pasture toward Marion. The knitting mill was hiring, she had heard. She would trade Bossy for room and board and a couple of new dresses until her first paycheck.
“Crazy? Maybe,” she said to Bossy, “but Patsy has finished her song. And I ain’t even started to sing my own yet.”