An IN THE AIR Excerpt: “Just Another Word For” by Deanna Smith

“This world was a wild and turbulent place when I was your age. Younger than you. I wanted all of it, body and soul. So I threw myself to the wind.”

“Throwing to the wind noted.” His voice was almost pious, letting his cloak briefly flutter open for a brief glimpse of his skin.

“You think you know. You don’t. My life had already been planned out, school, marriage, kids, work. There wasn’t any room in there for joy and madness. So I had to leave.”Her upper lip snagged at the memory of what had been.

“How horribly ordinary.” His piety stumbled into sarcasm.

“I left Momma and Daddy and my brothers and sisters a note when I left that night. And all the time I was walking away, I was thinking how proud they were going to be of me. How happy they were gonna be that I lifted myself up and flew away. I was an inspiration. I was going to learn how to be free. I was throwing off the shackles of every tradition and prejudice and preconceived notion of who and what I was, and they were going to be thrilled.”

The strange mixture of reverence and revulsion mildly surprised her. She ticked her gaze to the dancer. He remained eerily still, though once more, his cloak slipped open just long enough to display his body.

“I danced on stages, I walked through the mud. I sang backing vocals, I flattened out for the band. I slung hash, I made bouquets of wildflowers. I floated from one end of the country to the other, letting the wind keep me moving. Everywhere I went, I preached. I preached the gospel of Muse. Don’t let them bind you down, don’t let them tie you up, don’t be a slave to what you’re supposed to be.” She stared beyond the man into her past.

“Not a bad gospel,” he said.

“It’s the only one I got. I preached it wherever I was. And my devotions brought me to the perfection of my dreams. I found a boy, oh, he was something. Tall, thin, handsome. So damn handsome. On his way to college, he’s going to be a doctor or something. I told him, the world needs more lovers, more poets, more dreamers. We talked for hours, and when I was ready to go, he came with me. Then, it was we two.”

Her lips curved as she gazed into those cold memories of heat. The boy’s features turned sardonic, falsely adoring.

“The grand romance. Every good story has one. So, what was it? He catch you free-spiritedly screwing someone else? He go and bang a waitress instead of giving her a tip?”

“You don’t understand much about love and romance,”she said, almost laughing. At her own naivety or his, she didn’t know which. “When you have that other soul in yours, who all else you screw doesn’t mean a damn thing, unless they’re sharing it with you.”

“Ah, free love.” He mouthed the words prettily while scorn screamed in his voice, a lazily lewd draw of his cloak to the side showing off a hip, though he never moved.

“It was.”

Muse fell silent, engulfed in her memories.

“So, what happened?” he asked, impatient, unsympathetic to the distant yearning in her eyes. His words struck her like unpleasant reality.

“He left me,” Muse said, harsh.

He made a slight and annoyed gesture of agreement. “Clearly. And?”

“We were traveling through the Grand Canyon, and his sister was there. Waiting for us. He stared at her for a long time, then turned to me and said it was time for him to go home, to pick up his life if he could. Asked me to go with him.”

Muse drew in a slow breath, trying to taste those old emotions once more. They were long ago eroded into dismal flats. When she spoke again, there was no heat, no pain.

“He betrayed me. After all those years of finding a home in the wind, he stopped and put his feet back down on the ground and said he wanted for me to be his little wife and watch him work himself into a shadow of himself and squirt out babies that we would feed to the same machine.”

 

 

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A desert rat from California, Deanna has spent most of her life writing and making art. She loves history and animals.

 

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