Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I’m eighteen and it’s early summer, steamy hot, and 1974. The Eagles are scheduled to perform at the state fairgrounds, an outside concert. I tell my boyfriend *Ricky, I want to go. He wants to go, too. His parents are out of town and he decides to “borrow” their pickup camper so we can be there the night before. Ricky’s best friend *Billy wants to go.
I’m the only one with a real job, so I contribute gas and buy some of the food. Billy also brings food. We arrive at the fairgrounds late afternoon where I see mostly pup tents, vans and people prepared to sleep under the stars. My boyfriend is nervous about using his parent’s camper and announces that we can’t use the camper bathroom; we cannot leave any evidence that we’ve used the camper. I’m not a happy camper about this decision.
The boys and I sit inside for a couple of hours talking until they decide to use the campground restrooms. I wait for them outside and watch hundreds of people morph into a thousand people, mostly under the age of thirty. Day is turning to night. Campfires light the grounds. When the boys return, we stay outside to talk and watch our new world unfold and the camp’s dynamics change.
“I’m going to the bathroom before it gets any darker,” I say. Neither boy offers to escort me. I go alone.
I find a path to walk on until it ends then change my course. I have to weave through people who are sitting and standing who seem high and happy. Some are clothed, some are naked. My upbringing tells me not to look, but of course, I do.
I walk into a thick haze of marijuana smoke that covers me and I cough. I hold my breath and realize that the building is still too far away and lift the lower half of my smock shirt to cover my nose and mouth. Now, my stomach is exposed which invites another problem, unwanted attention.
“Come here, baby,” one guy says.
“Where you goin’?” Another reaches for me.
I feel more annoyed than scared and let my shirt fall back down. I hold my breath again until I meet a group of people dancing around a campfire chanting something. For some reason, this scene reminds me of the book Lord of the Flies. I’m holding back my laugh when a man grabs my arm and motions for me to join them. I shake my head and pull away.
Ahead, I see the restroom and follow a skinny girl with long straight hair, wearing a tank top and jeans, into the women’s side. Once inside, the girl turns around and I see she’s a dude with a beard. I walk back outside again to see if I’m in the right place. I am. As stall doors open other men, as well as women, exit. I want to look like I’m ok with it, but I’m shocked. I hurry in and out vowing not to return to the restroom until morning.
Back at the camper, we go in and lock the door. I can’t sleep much because there’s lots of loud unrelated music playing and people noise. Around 1 a.m., I hear a scream and look out every window, but see nothing. A couple of hours later, the camp roar goes silent and I sleep for a couple of hours.
The next morning, the boys and I are up early. We eat our junk food and decide to visit the restroom. Most of the time, things seem to look better in the daylight, but this time it’s only different. Bodies still litter the landscape—lying flat and still. The fires are out, but leave behind glowing and blackened embers.
We need something to do and head for the concert area to claim a seat. Hours later we join thousands of people to listen to The Eagles in concert. It was worth it.
*Names changed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Perfect Timing

by Teresa Powell Coltrin

My little brother is four. I am seven. I’m in our kitchen walking past my mom who’s been washing clothes all morning, in a ringer washer. I look out the screen door and push it open—slightly.  Flies are lined up on the screen waiting to come in, some fly up, but with perfect timing I close it before they do.
 “Stay in or out—the flies.” Mom reminds me again since I’d been running in and out, of the house, all morning.
Through the screen, I watch my brother jump off the low back porch to the grass and climb back on. He does this two more times. He has strapped around his belly, a holster. In the holster, he carries a shiny cap gun. He sees me, pulls it out of the holster and shoots. I’m not offended because he’s been shooting everything in his path all morning. He jumps off the porch again and disappears around the corner of the house.
It’s summer, mid morning and hot. I open the screen door again—wide this time. With my eyes squinting from the sun, I step out on the planked porch. I let go of the screen door and it slams behind me.
“Teresa, stop letting the door slam,” Mom says, emphasizing the syllables in my name. I hear impatience hovering in her quiet voice.
My brother jumps out of nowhere and shoots me again. “Play cowboys and Indians with me.”
I shake my head.
“Play with me.”
He jumps off the porch and shoots the sky. I’m hot and walk back inside again, letting the door slam. “I’m thirsty.”  
 Mom frowns and stops what she’s doing. “Get a drink.”
I go to the water bucket on the table against the wall. We’re not allowed to yet, but my parents draw the water from the well outside the back door. They use a long metal cylinder attached to a rope and a pulley that is lowered into the deep well. The cylinder collects the water and after it is pulled up out of the well it is centered over the bucket and the water is released by pulling a lever at the top.
I stand on tiptoes to reach inside the bucket to grab the cold metal dipper full of water and lift it up and over. Familiarity helps me expect the cool crisp taste before it reaches my lips.  Later when we move to the city, I’ll discover how fresh our well water tasted compared to tap water. I try to steady the dipper and aim for my mouth, but it sloshes, spilling drops on my everyday dress and on the floor before I get to drink it. After I gulp down the water, I use the back of my hand to wipe my mouth and my dusty bare toes to wipe the floor, leaving a muddy streak where the water had been. I drop the dipper back in the bucket and walk to the screen door again.  This time, I remember to close the door carefully behind me.
When I step onto the porch, my brother shoots me again. “Play with me,” he yells.
I’m feeling annoyed, but say, “I’ll play cowboys and Indians if first you play dress up with me.”
My brother is thinking, probably remembering that dress up means dish towels tied on his head with a ribbon to simulate long girl hair. He shakes his head no. I’m thinking on how to convince him to play what I want to play. I hear a gunshot in the distance and watch my brother collapse to the porch floor, his little gun falling beside his body. I run to the door and scream that he’s been shot—that he’s dead. My mother shoves the screen door wide open and runs to her little boy lying on the porch. As I watch him, my arms become weak and tears have rushed to my eyes. Then I notice his mouth twitches slightly and becomes a grin. His eyes pop open. Then just as fast as he had fallen, he jumps to his feet.
Perfect timing for a four-year-old cowboy.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Good Deal

As unwilling captives, we breathed in exhaust fumes mixed with dust and a little fresh air that blew through the open windows, in clouds. The school bus sailed along the gravel road until it hit a pot hole which sent its occupants half a foot in the air and back down again, in their seats. At the front of the bus, a small child flew into the aisle and sat there.

My friend, *Jack Tate, with his back to the bus driver and feet in the aisle, faced me from the seat diagonal to mine. I sat on the edge of mine leaning in, while holding onto the bar at the top, to hear what he was saying. I could see Jack’s mouth forming words, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying.

“I have baby rabbits for sale.”

We’d left childhood behind and blindly walked into adolescence without much warning. Jack was a year younger, a nice kid, easy on the eyes with dark blond hair and beaming smile. He was my bus friend.

“How much?”  
“Two dollars.”

“That’s a good deal,” I said, not knowing if it was or not. Our conversation ended when Jack waded through the kids in the aisle and got off the bus.
I don’t remember how much bargaining or pleading I did that night at home, to be able to buy a bunny, but the next thing I remember I was at Jack’s house buying one of his rabbits. I named her Suzy. 

Suzy was a doe with soft white fur and pink eyes. Her front feet were dainty, but her back feet were long with sharp claws. I learned fast how to hold her to avoid injury. For me, it was love at first sight. Suzy did her rabbit thing and I provided most of what she needed to grow into an adult. That summer, I planted a garden just for Suzy so she’d have fresh lettuce every day. When her trust in me grew, we bonded and soon I had introduced her to a leash (baling twine) so that we could take short walks together--girl and rabbit.
I spent hours sitting in shaded clover patches, my long skinny legs outstretched, with my rabbit grazing from the safety of a rope. Even though she seemed content, I recognized wanderlust in Suzy's pink eyes. Maybe she longed for another rabbit or a greener yard. I knew the instinct was there and how one clover could lure her to another, without a thought of me or the consequences.

One dew covered morning, I rushed outside to feed Suzy grabbing a handful of lettuce on the way. That day, I planned to do something that young pet owners often neglect, clean her cage and go for another walk after that. But, as I walked up the hill, I could see Suzy’s cage and that she wasn’t waiting for me at the door as usual. I ran over the slick grass to her hutch only to find that the door was not latched and Suzy was gone.
The door wasn’t mangled and there was no evidence of a struggle, only a door left unlatched by me. I believed that Suzy was still alive and with a racing heart full of panic I started searching, our mini-farm, high and low for my bunny rabbit. After that, my family helped in the search walking the open fields behind our barn and the woods surrounding us.

We didn’t find Suzy. But, for weeks after that and even the next spring and summer, I watched for white spotted baby rabbits that would give evidence that Suzy had indeed survived and was a part of the wild rabbit community, but there were none.
Rabbit love is complicated—but only for the human.

*Name changed