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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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The Oracle Of Curry County
 

by Beth Thomas

 

 

Amid monsoon, Gentry foretells ruthless drought. Cloistered around him, the farmers try to keep their offerings dry. Apple pies, bags of beans, ears of corn. Gentry kneels in the rutted earth. He glosses his lips with red-brown mud.

“Your crops will go to seed overnight,” he declares out over the sideways rain, “despite your watchful eyes and drops of sugar water on the tops.” His meaty fingers twitch like divining rods. The rain slaps
in sheets against the barn sides and the house’s long-vacant windows.

“It will begin on a Saturday, then forty days of neither rain nor cloud.” He caresses one of the plants, brushing dirt away from the budding tissue-thin onion skin. He sits back. “They will flower and then
dry up right there on the spot.”

The farmers murmur and cock their heads and rain pours from their hatbrims. Gentry lowers his head, thumb to tongue, tasting. “You will plow and dig, but there will be no yield, only tangled roots and void. You will go deeper, but the fruit can not be found, or maybe was never there at all.” Green stalks wrap around his legs like irons.

 

 



Lingering in Casitas Negras

 

by Beth Thomas

 

 

In Casitas Negras, women wait at windows. Marisól surveys her dried-up gardens, knowing how they invite swift conquering and purification. Black smoke coming in the windows brings tears to her eyes.

The voice on the radio says trucks and planes full of water are coming. The spirits in the eaves urge: hurry.

The men dig in their heels and bring down their hatchets, rake off tinder by the bushel. They hose down a champagne Monte Carlo that has been passed down, kept and polished, but rarely driven. They cast blessed dirt around the foundations, around turquoise doors and window shutters. Bow to the fire in a silent genuflection.

Marisól dumps her tea in the sink and leaves the dirty dish. She passes through the door, the sage, the ocotillo fence. A freed yellow canary sings on the top of a piñon tree. Fire dances like nymphs through the trees; voices from the woods sound like singing.

There are names swimming in these songs of the dead. Marisól’s dart in and out like a swift fish. In a whirlwind of soot and ash, she looks down and sees her grandmother’s hands, ready to gather the flowing waters.