“Gone. Gone ‘cross the middle sea on their cobble boats.”
“All for that life they seen in pictures.”
They sit comfortably, reiterating to each other what they live every day. At the sun’s highest, hottest, and driest, they sit on the porch. At the sound of their voices Renneyeh’s first daughter comes up from the dust, rounding the corner of their three-room house. She has wilted brackens in her fist – for a game of some sort.
“They say at school they was never so many here in Murca. Always been more girl-uns than boy-uns here.”
Renneyeh smiles. Her daughter’s eyes are odd-green like hers.
“Them as took the boats, they were an’ they went.”
“Maybe, maybe-so,” Nulbah rejoins, but diffidently. “Could be long legend. That once there was boats, not like us-uns who go dead to the wolves an’ the mites an’ such. But here we are.”
“No one ever seen boats. No one gone ‘cross the middle sea,” Renneyah’s daughter bursts out. Yet Renneyeh is placid.
“Your grammother ‘membered them going. Don’t you mind her telling, odd-green? An’ as I’m minded, I seen more boy-uns in my young days than today. More birthed an’ more already walking.”
“Maybe there was, a measure.” Nulba is looking off into the dust, hands upon sturdy knees.
“Still, them at school says it all story.”
The long cicada trills, and ripples of heat up in the sky make Renneyeh sigh.
“You-on going back to the classroom?”
“They say we done.”
“Always done sooner an’ sooner. Always less noting an’ figuring.” Nulba frowns. “No mind for old warnings. Never any good for woman to be less noting an’ figuring than the womans before her.”
Renneyah keeps her smile. “A sign of end days, that? Oh, we got them end-days, spite of all noting an’ figuring, an’ we stretched them out. There’s the man who always took steps one half of the last. He done this without end, even though there shoulda been an end.”
That raises a snort. “You all comfort in the sun.”
And Renneyeh and her daughter laugh, pairs of odd-green eyes, the mother not minding and the daughter thinking it true. Her mother was all comfort in the sun, whose heavy rays made everyone mad under the skin, but it was a gentle madness.
“Pualan, he comin’ soon?” the girl asked.
“Liken be. A thirdday, it is.” Nulba hefts herself to her feet, and she is made of thick limbs and a solid body that hold steady even when everybody else starts running skinny, her hands built for carrying the chaff.
“Off’n you go.” Renneyeh, leaning forward but not yet standing up on the boards, waves at her daughter. “Thirdday affernoon, like Nulba be saying.”
The girl jumps down from the porch, no argument now. But Nulba’s seeing a germ in her eye. Now and then.
“Girl’s getting older,” she murmurs, when Renneyeh has gotten to her feet and the girl has gone. “Pualan, he coming at odd times now-then?”
Renneyeh only seems to hear the half of what Nulba says. “Once or twice, maybe-so.”
Nulba, seeing that Renneyah is untroubled, “You all too comfort in the sun.”
“Us-uns live under the sun, don’ we?”
Elizabeth Cook, 2017