Especially in the pause of dawn, Megan often wondered why Moon and Cherry-Blossom
were her friends. Cherry-Blossom was really Hannah, but Moon was Moon or depending on her
mood she might be Moon-shadow, or Moonshine, or Moon-Dust. In certain situations Moon
was The-Man-on-the-Moon, but that was mostly when she was high. Once Megan asked Moon, “Why not the woman or the chick on the moon?” Moon
just threw back her yellow hair and giggled, “Because I am The Man.” Megan thought
that was dumb and she decided not to smoke dope anymore because of it. Cherry-Blossom was more specific. She’d been to Sarajevo in the early 80’s
as a rotary exchange student. In the spring she had fallen in love with a Muslim schoolmate.
The cherry blossoms were in full bloom at the time and she’d never been able to shake
the passion ignited and then contained between old-world, plaster walls and cobbled
streets. Cherry-Blossom loved to tell this story: Once, she and her lover went to
the Cathedral of Jesus’ Heart to make out. They’d slouched down on the wooden pew
in the gloomy back row. Her lover felt like a warm, wool blanket wrapped around her.
The gigantic door creaked open and a wedge of hazy light sliced down the
center aisle. An old woman dressed in black shuffled in. The woman dipped her fingers
in the baptismal pool, father-son-and-holy-ghosted herself, then shuffled forward
to a pew. The rhythmic sound of rosary beads clinked off the mural-painted walls.
Cherry-Blossom and her boyfriend pulled away from each other and froze.
On the far side of the church was a shrine with flickering votive candles. The old
woman rose up and moved to the shrine. There she crossed herself again, muttered another
prayer, and lit a candle. “They do this to remind their prayers to continue praying.
As if! They pray and cross themselves non-stop. They need reminders like they needed
a siege.” Still, Megan thought the image of old ladies praying non-stop was sweet.
Every time she heard Cherry Blossom tell the story, she imagined the old woman’s reminders
manifesting as filament prayer ghosts. They floated away from the shrine like the
cottonwood seeds used to float through the summer air in Idaho when she was a kid.
The prayer ghosts floated up past the larger-than-life crucified Jesus, tickling his
sinewy legs, rubbing his stomach and chest, and then, finally, curling around his
face before they disappeared in the shadows that obscured the cathedral ceiling.
Megan liked to hike up a steep gully behind town. In a few blocks the
streets ended at the wooded incline of Grotto Mountain. Today she hiked with Moon and two bottles of wine. Moon had been fired from her deli job the day before, so Megan called
in sick, which was halfway true. They hiked up the narrowing gully, stepping over
water-worn boulders and making a trail of footprints in the sand until they reached
a small cliff that blocked the way. A waterfall with the volume of a garden hose streamed
over the cliff. The waterfall filled a shallow pool amongst dark limestone rocks.
They removed their shoes and held their bare feet under the clear water.
Megan poured wine into pastel-colored, plastic wine glasses. Moon said, “I hated that job anyway.” Megan nodded and started to talk: She used to live on the second floor
of an abandoned warehouse in San Francisco. A clan of cranksters occupied the ground
floor. The cranksters stayed up all night, every night tending to their campfire,
which they built to rage on the cement floor. They kept the fire contained in a cinderblock
ring and fed it with wooden panels from the walls. Megan didn’t like their speed, their high-pitched madness, their teeth
grinding, their lip-splitting grins. She kept quietly to herself and for the most
part they ignored her when she passed along the outer perimeter of their space to
reach the stairway at the far end of the room. Some of the steps of the staircase had been broken and removed for the
fire. The whole structure had a tendency to sway away from the wall if she didn’t
step and balance her weight correctly as she ascended. “One night one of them got loose,” she continued shifting her place on
the flat rock she’d taken for a seat. The guy somehow made it up the stairs with out her hearing him. She always
slept lightly but that night she awoke from the deepest sleep to find a radial arm
saw blade held against her neck. He was stick skinny but strong as God. The speed
pitched through his nervous system and fired his fast twitch muscles in a continuous
convulsion. Megan didn’t resist when he picked her up. She didn’t resist when he yanked
at her waistband. The button above her zipper popped off and rolled away on the old
linoleum-covered floor. “You know,” Megan said stretching her neck by leaning her head over to
the left and pulling down on the top of her head, “It was actually a turn on, the
saw…” Moon stared at her. “Jesus,” she said. “I haven’t had an orgasm since.” “Jesus,” Moon said again.
When Megan and Moon got back to the house, Cherry-Blossom was cutting
the grass with a rusty old push mower. When she saw them approaching she stopped and
waited. She pulled her ball cap off and rewrapped her hair into a bun before deftly
sticking the cap back on. Megan and Moon sidled up. “Megan got raped by some punk ass on speed.” Moon said. Cherry-Blossom frowned. She leaned on the mower and looked closely at
her two roommates. “What?” she said. Megan noticed the sky above Cherry-Blossom was the same color the water
had been in the gully pool. “Don’t worry. It was sexy,” she said. “Jesus.” Cherry-Blossom pushed an escaped strand of thick, red hair behind
her ear. “Jesus. You’re drunk. Get me a bottle while I finish this.”
That night Megan, Moon and Cherry-Blossom sat around on the deck smashed
and arguing. “What if Islam isn’t a peaceful religion?” Megan said. “Some old Shiite
dude gets virgin pussy into eternity ‘cause he blew a bunch of Sunnis to bits. WTF?” “Well I should know. I sucked some Muslim lips.” Cherry-Blossom slurred
and crawled across the floor to the coffee table to pour more wine. “Religion’s violence!” “Yeah I’m a legend. My saw-guy OD’d the next day; dead as a rat. The
cops came and kicked us all out. They pulled the building down the next week. I’m
snow woman, ghost princess.” Moon and Cherry-Blossom stared at her again. “Wow Megan that is … well, where does that shit come from?” Moon staggered to open
a window. The smell of damp, blooming plum flowers drifted in.
Megan remembered a hole in the door with a light shining through, but
there wasn’t a hole now. She ran her hands over the surface. It felt like a mass of
wet fishing line. She thought she heard her grandmother whispering from behind. She
strained to understand. She woke up soaked. She wiped her hairline with a corner of her pillowcase.
Her t-shirt stuck to her back. She stood, heavy sweat rolled down her inner thighs. Outside, cricket song was like rushing water. A huge summer moon took
up the sky. She sat at her desk on an old wooden chair. The hemline of her underwear
pinched between her sharp sit bones and hard oak. She heard her Grandmother whisper again. This time her words were clear
in the cool, moon air, “Use imagination to conjure truth.” Megan frowned and put her pen down, but then she said, “What the hell.”
She picked it back up and imagined it blowing a whistle. The pen became a ruddy-faced
cop. The cop’s cheeks puffed out and his eyes bulged. But he was a kind cop and not
stupid like most. His whistle was magic. “That’s strange,” she thought, but she focused
on the tip of her pen as it scribbled across the page. “It’s the least I can do.”
The pen raged up into the annals of her hidden things. When it tore toward
the blooms in her dusk, she held back against the moon and watched from across her
proprioceptive gap: the pen pushed across her pages, gently at first, then more strongly
as night progressed and pushed into dawn. Then dawn pushed into daybreak and Megan’s
imagination fell back to her body. Out spilled her cherry lips; grey eyes as clear
as spring water; skin, soft as forgotten snow; a notebook and a pen in hand; her reflection
solid and everywhere in the morning dew.
The next day was Sunday, the 3rd of July. Megan, Cherry-B (as Hannah was
now calling herself) and Moon sat on the front porch wilting in the first hours of
a hundred degrees for the summer. “My feet are sweaty. They never sweat. Shit, usually they’re frozen,”
Moon said in a way that expected no comment. She sat with her back against the brick
wall of the house. Her feet were gray-black grimy and she slid them back an forth
on her flip-flops smearing the toe jam and flip flop scum back and forth across the
spongy pink plastic. Cherry-B lay prone in an old lawn chair. She stared straight down through
the plastic webbing. “When you think of, who do you think of?” she asked. “What do you mean?” Moon said. “I mean, when you think of, who do you think of?” “Think of who?” “I’m asking you.” “What?” Moon shoved her feet all the way forward in her flip-flops and
stood up. “You don’t …” “I think of my dad,” Megan said. She was half-asleep in the hammock slung
between a brick porch beam and the trunk of the plum tree. “My dad. I wrote fifteen
pages about him last night. How…finally. He thinks he hates me but he doesn’t.” From somewhere on the other side of the house a single grasshopper began
a high-pitched scream. Nobody spoke. The scream modulated. A whole troupe of grasshoppers
joined in: an artful big band of wings and stiff legged instruments. “Did you write some poems?” Cherry-B said from her still prone and completely
relaxed position. Her unkempt hair spread out from around her head like an Aztec sculpture
of the sun. “No.” Megan’s hair was unkempt too. Actually all three of them were a
mess but Megan had only slept for a drunken hour before her strange dream about the
weird door. Then her writing gush had kept her up the rest of the night. “No. No poems.
Just word vomit. I don’t know what I wrote. I had a weird dream. I couldn’t sleep.”
She felt stoned, completely spent. “I had a weird dream too,” Moon said. She’d moved now to the other side
of the deck, the shady side where a pine tree grew. She stroked her fingers across
the needles. “I was stressed out that all my tobacco was gone. When I went to get
some money, I thought this must be a sign because all the cabinets in the kitchen
were open.” “Ha, that’s because all the cabinets in the kitchen are always open because
you leave them open,” Cherry-B said. “I’m feeling really angry,” Megan interrupted. She stretched and yawned. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know I’ve got this thing about doors.” Moon
said. “No not you! My dad.” “Oh.” “Fuck it. We won’t think about that.” Suddenly Cherry-B jumped up. Let’s
look at these. She pulled a small cardboard box of animal cards out of her pocket.
“The art work is worth it no matter what.” She slid her fingers under the cards, cut
the deck and held them out in a fan for Megan to chose. Megan chose the closest: a
blue firefly flying against purple dawn clouds.