Squat, beige, sand-blasted and windowless in the same way that men loose teeth. I stare at the abandoned house from the road, bicycle slanted. On this road I am small and the sun shimmers from behind a rind of burnt orange clouds. As the light fades on mesquite bushes and petrified cow shit, I lead my bicycle like a reluctant foal.
The house once closed in on children. Perched atop the flaking green basement door, a rare vantage point in the Southwest because we are not basement people. What children chattered rapid Spanish or a languid string of English or a rush clipped powerful Navajo? I wonder if they were spanked like I was. There is a doll, gurgling with its face half-submerged in caliche. I want to scratch out what remains of her lead-paint eyes because at home Logan is probably right now oozing out of our shared space because this is the point at which we begin to fracture.
The house is littered with garbage, overflowing from the lip of the door like foamy whiskey vomit. There are empty, rusted cans of pinto beans and powdered milk. I kick one and it goes howling into a dark corner. Shuffle back and forth over yellowed newspaper and muted streams of refuse.
They must have all slept here, in this one room of a two-room house, arms wrapped around each other under blankets made of wool. Or maybe not—maybe the youngest boy wet himself long into adolescence. Maybe it was like how my Ma used to offer sympathy with half open eyes and simply said flip over the mattress. Even here, even now—the faint, sick-sweet scent of urine.
Kitchen suffered a fire. Maybe blistering oil. Maybe a roasted towel, tossed too close to a naked flame. Plumbing, inside guts, the piping has been ripped looted and plucked from the walls to be sold as scrap. Walls eviscerated, an explosion of bones and blackened gristle. The sink is gone— a crater remains. Spit down into its throat and I don't wait to hear the splatter.
Go outside because I can't breathe. Spooked. Maybe it's the encroaching night, staining my legs a bruised purple. A large, crooked tree, its spine twisted and rotten--lunge, skitter, and then pounce. Scrape and gouge wooden flesh, pawing my way up. Ghosts tug on my shoelaces. I am sure they all died, skin blistered and cracked.
Swing and then strain, clinging to a branch almost ten feet from the ground. Clenching my eyes, listen to the moans, first English and then Spanish and then something in between. The phantom brush of fingers against my left ankle and that's when I fall.
My ankle cracks, the one tickled by the dead. Now it's a roaring owand wet hot tears liquid pearly from my eyes and this moment intangible.
Alexandra Itzi. Former editor of El Portal (2013-2015) and assistant director of ENMU’s Writers’ Retreat (2014-2015). Earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern New Mexico University. Recently finished a Master’s Degree in English. Originally from Pennsylvania, she migrated to New Mexico in the summer of 2008.