The Blue Mountain Review Issue 14

Page 94

Meagan Lucas Excerpt from Song Birds and Stray Dogs (Forthcoming, Spring 2019, Main Street Rag Press) October, 1982 The air was stifling despite the pumpkins lined up on her neighbors’ porches signaling the approach of Halloween. Her customers at the cafe kept calling it Indian Summer, but Jolene knew that switching the calendar to October meant it was fall, and time was running out. The pew was hard beneath her and dampness collected between her back and the wood. She'd long since stopped caring whether she left wet marks on seats. This goddamned-never-ending-hot weather and her eternal morning sickness were a miserable combination. The smallest of mercies was that all the toilet hugging kept her size under control and her secret under wraps. Jolene’s lips stuck to her teeth, and her tongue became a soured towel, at the thought of eventually having to tell her Aunt Rachel. The pastor’s voice was a radio station only half in tune. Jolene watched a bird making a nest in the tree just outside the church window; the tiny brown thing dragging impossibly large pieces of debris and knitting them into a home. It was the wrong time of year to be building. Jolene wondered what happened to the bird’s previous home, if she’d chosen to leave, or if she’d been pushed out. The minutes passed slowly, the morning light slipping through the yellowing leaves to form pleasing patterns on the old wood floor. Jolene was drifting so thoroughly she didn't notice the service was finally over until Aunt Rachel was standing with her hands on her hips. "Come on now, Jolene, you know we have to get a move on if we're going to get to Bitty's in time. Pastor Rowe really outdid himself today. Bless his heart." Jolene followed Rachel into the aisle, watching the bright floral print of her aunt's skirt ripple across her ample hips and sway against her thick calves. Jolene knew she had that to look forward to; this baby ruining what figure she had before she'd even really had a chance to use it. The relative cool of the church steps refreshed Jolene and she found that she was almost hungry for Bitty's fried chicken, or famous shrimp and grits. They would need to get a move on if they hoped to get a table. Arms linked, they strolled down the sun street to the tune of Rachel's rendition of "Old Rugged Cross." Not exactly meandering music, but Jolene was happy to slip back into her own thoughts. She went back to that afternoon in David’s living room; she’d blown out her hair silky smooth and worn his favorite dress to tell him the news. “I don’t know why you gotta be like this,” he’d said. “Just. Jesus, lemme think, would you. We don’t got to make any decisions right now.” Winning the lottery would have been less surprising than his reaction. “Yes we do. I’m gonna start showing soon. And when Rachel finds out, she's going to kick me out.” When he wouldn’t even look at her, she tried a different tactic. “Let me come live with you. I won't have to quit my job for at least six more months, and I could cook and clean for you. We don't have to get married or nothing.”

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