them ashen gray. She was the darkest of her siblings because her mother swallowed spoonfuls of russet Georgia clay to calm her stomach during her first pregnancy. The city of Decatur sent the old woman several letters requesting to dig up one of the trees in her yard because its roots ran too close to an underground water line. But the old woman refused. She knows that if you kill one tree, you will ruin the other. The same way that after the family mule kicked her brother Gabe in the chest and crushed his lungs, his twin Elias never breathed another word for the rest of his life. The city sent another letter saying they couldn’t be held responsible for any flooding that occurred in the yard. And that was fine for the old woman. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. Her Baptist father made sure that she knew of floods well before the city of Decatur stuffed those pink envelopes with squares of plastic like sweet-wrappers into her mailbox. The old woman looks up at the pecan trees and smacks her lips. She will pour some bourbon on those glazed pecans as well, the way that Daddy used to do on Easter. She eyes the heavy fruit dangling from the branches. They will drop in late September or early October. The old woman hears another crow. This one louder. Searching. Maybe Queenie is expecting an answer. She will not get one. This is the only house in this cul-de-sac—the only one the contractors finished before running out of money and enthusiasm. She had picked this house after settling back in Georgia because she found the dirt yards and bare-boned structures that surrounded her familiar. Her only visitor is the fire marshal who reminds her that the piles of junk in her yard are a hazard. That the property is unliveable and should be condemned. But if she ever let him into her house, he would find that the insides smelled of ginger and lemon. He would hear salmon cakes crackling on the stove. He would feel the slick polish of the wooden floors underneath the pinks of his feet. Pine—the same type of wood that her father cut and sanded into a crib for his first child and a coffin for his last. The old woman smells her mother as she steps through a FICTION | 39
Fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and art selected for phoebe's Winter 2019 issue.