a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
The first time Elijah Rose Donne helped someone die, she was two years old and did not remember. She felt the coils of it sometimes, contracting at the base of her skull. Her sister Nana, who was much older, and who did remember, told her the story over and over the year Elijah Rose turned six, and Elijah Rose craved emphasis on different parts every time: “Tell about the bag of hers with the other bags in it” or “You didn’t say about her elbows enough.” Often, they shared a clumsy cigarette while Nana talked, sitting on the staircase made of nailed-together doors. From there, they could hear the foot traffic in their grandmother’s pawn shop.
“She was a customer,” Nana said. “And she was old. I mean, she had grave moss in her cuticles; that’s how old she was.”
“Skip to the part where she faints.”
“She had this bag full of other bags that she wanted to hock,” Nana said. “She bellied up to the counter, and Grampat told her that she didn’t buy purses. So then she said, ‘This isn’t just a purse.’ And Grampat said, ‘Oh yeah?’ And the woman said, ‘It’s several purses,’ and then she knocked them on the floor and fainted dead away.”
“Only she wasn’t dead yet,” Elijah Rose said, in a dire whisper. Through the pawn shop door, a bagpipe vented one long, bleakly nasal note.
Nana blew smoke at the snake’s-head chandelier. “So Grampat took her to the room with the spare beds and hatboxes. She told me to get some cardamom seeds for the lady to chew on when she woke up, and when I got back, you were standing in the doorway.”
Elijah Rose always felt the coils then, when she pictured herself standing in that doorway. Sometimes she wondered what would happen if she let those coils have their ophidian way with her.
“When I went to give Grampat the seeds, she told me to open all the windows, because the woman was going to die, and we had to make sure she could get out. But some of the windows were stuck, so while we were dead-set on them, we forgot you were there.”
“Tell about the kite.”
Nana waited a moment in smoky silence. “It was like you were flying a kite. You couldn’t have understood what we’d said about the windows, but whatever you were holding onto, a window is where it needed to go. You had both hands clenched on top of each other, and you jerked around in a generally window-ward direction, keeping your eyes on something just above your head. When you got to the wall, Grampat lifted you up to the sill, and whatever it was you had a hold of, you leaned half your body out into the wind and let it go.”
Elijah Rose canted her head to the right.
“And then all those cardamom seeds split open at once,” Nana said.
Jamie Flathers holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Idaho, where she taught composition, professional writing, fiction, and personal essay writing. She has no previously published work outside her college literary magazine and her parents’ refrigerator. If she goes long enough without writing, she has dreams about spiders. That’s how she knows she’s in the right business—if she stops, her subconscious sends a metaphor after her.