Tuesday, May 25, 2010

warrior princess - part two

  Zadie and Scotty saved Big Sky America for last.  Even though the rain had water logged the wood of the tree house, putting out most of the sparks with a little singe, they knew that Big Sky America would be different.
      Scotty stood poised over the fuse, waiting for Zadie to start their traditional fireworks song.
      “You have to sing it or it’s bad luck,” Scotty said. “And if you don’t, I won’t let you come back in my tree house.”
      So she stood up on the thick wrung of the tree house railing, where they had positioned the red white & blue rocket. With arms outstretched, she sang a non-sense aria she knew by heart.
      Scotty clapped and then steadied himself with the lighter he had taken from his dad. “Ready? One, two, now”
      The fire geyser of sparks knocked the whole thing off balance and it fell of the railing onto the wet wood of the tree house deck. Instead of shooting upwards, it spun streams of fire in colored circles around the children’s bare legs. Zadie could feel it singing her little legs and she smelled burnt hair. They both screamed and jumped, while the firework itself screeched and hissed it’s way dead.

       A moment later, Zadie saw her mother and Mr. Booter come running from Scotty’s house. Zadie’s mother looked like a dwarf below when she yelled, “Don’t make me come up there and get you. You know I don’t like heights.”
      Mr. Booter had already started climbing the ladder. “Are you kids okay?” he asked. When he got to the top, he stood staring at the burnt-out carcass of the Big Sky America.
      “You two are lucky this wood is so wet or else you might have burnt this house down with you in it.”
      Zadie knew she was in real trouble. Her mother would start yelling at Mr. Booter, and then later, she would yell at Zadie. And she’d really never ever be allowed to Scotty again this time. Scotty’s last memory of her would be a screaming girl with a horrible, ugly mullet.
      Zadie followed her mother with her head bent low, trying not to look at Scotty. But instead of going to their own house, her mother walked with Mr. Booter into Scotty’s house. After a confused moment, Zadie followed her mother in as well.

      Mr. Booter and Zadie’s mother went into the living room while Scotty got two juice boxes out of the refrigerator.
      “You two go play upstairs,” her mother called to them.
      Scotty threw a pink juice box at Zadie. She caught it and they followed their instructions. They stayed upstairs for a long time. The rain drizzled along the slanted ceiling windows in the third story room. The sky was already gray by 4 o’clock and once it was dark, it was hard to tell how much time had passed. They watched a movie and sometime during a game of pirates, Zadie decided to tell Scotty about her legend.
      “My uncle Michael writes stories for me. They’re about a warrior princess and she’s me.”
      Scotty shrugged.
      “One day,” Zadie said, removing her pirate’s eye patch, “when the fishing tour is done, Michael is going to stay home and type all of them. Even mom said she might help. They’ll be in book stores and everyone will buy them and read about me.”
      “That’s dumb,” Scotty said. “Even when he’s home from the boats, he still has stuff to do. My dad works all the time. That’s why my mom lives in Idaho.”
      “I don’t know where my dad lives, but Michael likes to be at home with us. He comes home on Monday and gets to stay for two weeks.”
      Zadie noticed her mother standing in the doorway.
      “It’s time for bed, kids,” Zadie’s mother said.
      Zadie stood, expecting to go home. She walked towards her mother, but stopped when her mother said, “You can wear some of Scotty’s pajamas, Zadie. We’re just going to sleep here tonight. I don’t want to walk home in the rain.”
      She remained silent before her mother, event though she didn’t want to stay. Besides, it wasn’t that late- earlier than her normal bed time. Scotty fell asleep right away, but she tossed and turned all night in boys’ pajamas on the bottom bunk of Scotty’s bed. Zadie never slept well anyway, and no one had told her a story. No one had even made her brush her teeth.
      Zadie wanted to be near her mother. But she had gone into Mr. Booter’s room and shut the door. Zadie decided to get up for a drink anyhow. Scotty was snoring.
      She tracked, flat-footed, down the hall, staring at the red cuffed leg of the racecar pajamas onesie. Baby pajamas. As she was about to pass Mr. Booter’s door, she could tell they were still awake because she heard noises. She paused for a moment, wondering if she should knock. But the shadows in the hallway scared her. This house was all big sharp angles that pointed at you. Not friendly or warm like her house at all. So she ran downstairs.
      Zadie sat for a while on a stool in the kitchen, sipping her juice box in the dark, when she looked up to see her mother. Zadie squeaked a little.
      “Shh!” Her mother said, “Don’t be so loud. It’s only me.”
      “Mommy, I want to go home right now.”
      “Well, it’s too late. We’re staying here tonight. If you hadn’t gone and gotten into trouble…But Mommy needs a favor from you, Zadie. Okay? No matter what, remember when Uncle Michael comes home, you can’t tell him we stayed at Uncle Ron’s house, okay?
      “Why, Mommy?”
      “Why? You know why. Because Uncle Michael doesn’t like Uncle Ron. Michael doesn’t want me to be friends with Uncle Ron. And most importantly, Michael would be mad at you if he knew that you were playing with Scotty when we told you not to.”
      Zadie was so confused as her mother stroked her hair.
      “Do you promise?”
      Zadie nodded. “I promise, Mommy.”
      Then Zadie wandered back up the stairs to bed. Her mother stayed in the kitchen. 
                  *   *   * 
      It was nearing sunset when Michael called to say he would be home soon. Zadie’s mom told her not to wait in the driveway because it was dangerous after dark, but Zadie ran out the front door anyway.
      She flew up into Michael’s arms as soon as she saw him.
      “Do you have a story for me? Do you?” She asked.
      He tossed her up onto his shoulders with such ease, even though he also had his duffle bag with him. Zadie could smell the saltiness on his hands.
      “I do. I promise it’s a good one,” Michael said. “Princess Zadie makes a noble sacrifice of her long hair to the Queen of the Bugs in exchange for their banishment from the forest.”
      “Why do I hear crickets, then?”
      “Ha! Well… there’s a good reason for that… it’s all in the story, but you won’t get to hear the rest until bedtime,” he said. “Until then, you can tell me stories. What did you do while I was gone?”
      “So many things. Last week we rode past a cemetery, and I said, ‘that’s where all the dead people live’ and Mom laughed so hard! And this big rocket called the Big Sky America exploded all over the tree house and I thought we were in big trouble, but we weren’t.”
      They walked the long distance back to the house, Zadie nipping at Michael’s heels.
      “And I talked to Grandma in Portland and she said she wants to read the Zadie stories. And Me and Mom stayed at Uncle Ron’s house and I stayed in Scotty’s bunk beds. I don’t know why everyone likes bunk beds so much. And I made up a ballet dance from watching TV. You have to let me--”
      Michael stopped a few feet from the house. “Zadie, why did you stay at Uncle Ron’s house?”
      “I don’t know. I wasn’t supposed to tell you.”
      He knelt down to her. “This is very important, Zadie. It’s good that you told me.”
      But he didn’t pick her up and carry her in. He walked away with big strides into the house and something had changed in his face. Zadie didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t say anything. She just followed Michael into the house.
      “Is Mommy in trouble?”
      But as Zadie stood in the living room, Michael’s long legs had already carried him into the kitchen. The room seemed so big around her, yellow and dizzy from the lights, and Zadie heard a slap.
      They were fighting. Her mother was yelling and stammering. Michael was almost totally silent until her mother yelled, “Zadie!”
      “Don’t bring her into this,” he ordered. “Zadie, go upstairs.”
      She inched, never blinking, to the stairway, but didn’t go up. Michael had her mother by the wrists and he was yanking her into the living room. Zadie hid behind the banister. Her ears seemed to ache and burn so bad she thought they might explode. The wet hissing seemed to go on forever as Michael kicked her mother’s legs over and over. He threw her mother on the ground near the fireplace. Zadie’s mother tried to hit his long legs, but he knelt down very slowly and looked at her. She stopped for a moment, too. And then Michael hit her very hard across the face. It knocked her back towards the fireplace again.
      Zadie only watched, until her mother grabbed at the fire poker and stood up again. Then Zadie ran to the couch in the middle of the room and stood up on the back of it. She didn’t know who to protect. Zadie screamed something at them, but she couldn’t even hear her own voice, the hissing in her ears was so loud. It was like her mother didn’t even see her and just kept moving towards Michael. He grabbed her wrist again and tried to knock the poker out of her hands and as he yanked her towards him, they both spun, knocking Zadie off her perch to the ground in crash.
      After the police had gone, taking Michael away to jail, Zadie didn’t want to talk to her mother. In the doctor’s office, Zadie was examined to make sure she didn’t have a concussion and she helped take Polaroids of her mother’s bruises.
      Zadie and her mother drove back to Portland as soon as they could to stay with Zadie’s grandmother. Her mother said she wanted to be gone by the time Michael got out on bail. That was the last thing Zadie’s mother ever said to her daughter about that night, about Michael, and about what Zadie had told Michael. Zadie never apologized for breaking her promise. She couldn’t explain why she had told him and why, for so many things, she could never forgive her mother.
      One day, Zadie got a package with a far away return address. Inside was a book, bound in leather, and all the pages were parchment. It was every Zadie story bound and printed in old English script. Over half of them were new ones that he had written in the years since he had beaten her mother. There were even color illustrations that were dark and beautiful and frightening. And yet, she loved them.

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousMay 25, 2010

    Littlewow. This is such a Big Wow, just like the babies and james stories. This just seared my heart. Powerful and beautiful and poignant and telling. Loving you.


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