Jenny from Concho was confused. The trees around her house were getting blacker from the moonless night. They were staring at her. They were getting ready to turn into the night color whereby they melted into the night and moved closer to her door. She peeked out the window where the blinds were bent from her constant running to them just to see how close the trees had gotten. Her hands went cold. Her face was white porcelain saucer English dish color; she has a book page bare face with red tears dropping down her nose. She grabbed some red grapes bit into them and spit the seeds into her palm.
Tony hadn’t come home yet. The motor on his pickup truck was easy to hear even for the deaf, or “the dead,” she would say. After Julianne died she wasn’t afraid of death. But the idea of dying turned her blood flesh colors into cow-drain pale. If she could only hear his truck, she thought. She couldn’t remember what day it was and the thought of him going to work late was running her mind toward Julianne. Julianne’s daddy had been working late and when she was lost and missing Jenny became a mental imprint of fear. Any change from what was normal or routine from that day on would torment Jenny into sleeplessness.
On her deck in the purple hued morning she watched the White Mountains wake up. They shimmered with fog; they took steps toward her and then she ran inside her place and locked the door. She wouldn’t stare at them directly when that happened, but from the periphery…pretending that it wasn’t happening. But it was. The mountains were watching her and the people with no faces who lived in the juniper bushes during the day were getting closer and closer. She took the seeds and threw them out the window into the sandy soil. Then she took the left over grapes and in fistfuls threw them toward the mountains and the people who would appear in the bushes. Two of the people were typing on computers and using telephones. It must be uncomfortable for them to sit in a tree and work, she thought. But the grapes will feed them and give them what they want. If they eat they will go away…go away…everyone has to stay away from her.
The sun took deep breaths through the blinds in her living room window. Air blew into her ears and she heard the phone.
“Hello,” she said, pushing her face closer to the phone on the table trying to hear better.
“Tony home? It’s his boss, the Almighty…Juan…Juan you remember we met at the Christmas party.”
“No Tony’s not home, what time is it?”
“Three minutes past ten.”
“He never came home. The people in the trees are still here so he’s not home or they would go away.”
“Probably out with a woman. He was going to work some overtime…tell him I was hoping to see him when he gets in.”
“Do you have the people in your trees? No one believes me…”
The phone buzzed with a disconnection from Tony into the air in her quiet world. There were no voices from Julianne from the bathroom or the stoop in the front of her house. She stepped outside into the daylight. The trees and weeds were tall for hiding roaming families that posted pictures of themselves in borderless frames.
Dogs tied up all year long watched the old lady roam her property. One man dressed black with no face showed his teeth. He snarled at her. Her heart was sweating; her hands rattling. “What do you want from me? I only want to make the yard nice,” she said. The figure did not stop so she ran again into her house away from the strangers and visitors who would not stay out of the trees and she believed wanted to kill her.
The sun dropped gold in her yard. Two small boulder rocks pushed out from the weeds. She trimmed the weeds that grew like bushes so she could see the people, the families who lived in the trees, the children that attached themselves to the strings of their parents. She watched them fold up at night like morning glory’s in the summer. They laughed at her and the lids of her eyes turned red.
“I’d rather have a windy day in the mountains than a wet day,” George said. Tony was shaking inside his systems all except the excretory which needed to be moved quickly. His arms were covered in bites from the insects that found his salty pores to be a feast. He covered them in rubbing alcohol but all that did was burn his skin more.
“I need a damn shower,” Tony said looking at George in a squint. Tony, with his black hair and red skin looked more Indian than George. “Arms is all bitten up ‘an stuff…”
The roof on the small barn was splintering into the hills. It belonged to the Banks family that migrated from Utah. The original owner in 1887 was a Mormon with three wives; he left with two of them and the one wife left behind was unable to take care of the property. She named Snake Ranch Road after the man who was supposed to take care of her forever, left. The Thompson’s bought it from her in the 1940’s. They left a photograph of her in the main dining room. Her dower face stared at them. They forgave her. The Thompson’s were Catholics who understood the bitter and the lost. Hiring Margarita the widow with the son Juanito who became their Almighty after Margarita’s illness took her to the next life…and they had too many animals. They’d have to hire someone to kill the cows they named. The chickens that they said smiled at them were not to be eaten, but the eggs were ok to scramble. Little Juan learned by watching the for-hire animal slaughterers how to hold the head of the cow and where to place it so the blood didn’t splatter in all directions. The boy enjoyed the lessons. Cleaning and cutting the ribs and getting prime red meat for cooking with salt was rewarding for him. The tiny Almighty Juanito was quiet then. The world of farming and his mother were his eye-opening explanations of what the world is. He followed it; he never asked about his father after they buried him even though he wished into the mashed white clouds for his reappearance. But he kept that inside. He prayed with his hands under the table during meals. There was shame attached to the praying act as then he felt like a little girl; he felt like his mother; he felt like a mama’s boy. It was better to stab into the flesh of an animal and not to cry. He followed Mr. Thompson around the cactus and tumbleweeds while the old man slopped through the mud of wet land pockets and when he climbed to the top of the big hill on the ranch. Juanito, the little boy of Margarita, who would become the owner of the 800 acres, was still a duckling behind the steps of his elders.
But his unrest and buried anger would get released into the surface of a longhorn. With a machete in his hands he was distant to the coddling of his mother. He was in those moments, the Almighty. Trying on the role for power and identity he could swing the blade into the body of a creature much larger than himself. All of the little boy’s thoughts and feelings were imbedded into the knife…the sharper the better.