Archive for December, 2013

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“December 1st,” I say to Mom, stating the obvious, a habit I pick up when I go home. “Last year went by so slowly, and it’s already December 1st. It was so hot last year, I couldn’t wait for winter.” Mom’s on the computer, and she gives me the look—out of the corner of her eye—that people give me when I say how much I love winter. But really she’s just trying to read an email and looking at me out of politeness, and possibly concern, since I told her that I dreamed about the kids again.  In Billings I rarely dream about them. But I haven’t had a kid-less dream since I’ve been here.

In the first dream the Center was bigger, much different, and when I arrived for work there were kids in every possible room, unsupervised, and I had to round them up and put them in one room, and I was the only staff there until one new staff arrived with her boyfriend and calmly watched the proceedings from a table in the corner.

Then another new staff arrived, with the same long, sandy-colored hair as the first, and stood ineffectually in the middle of a churning group of kids. A third arrived, another plump, sandy-haired girl. At one point the boyfriend disappeared and the three new staff stood together in the middle of the kids and chatted to one another about their futures, staring with uninterested eyes at the chaos around them, and I felt like crying but instead went up to them with the hope of showing them how to do intakes. Our boss was somewhere, but couldn’t be accessed.

The second dream was a happy dream. Two kids I know well were doing something at the public library, printing off some designs they wanted, and somebody whose identity kept shifting and I were there with them. Eventually we had to close the library down, and I locked up but had to go back in and shut off the lights, and the kids came back and helped me. The shifting person turned into somebody with a cell phone and a distracted manner who existed the way a cardboard cutout of a person exists; eventually she left. Then the two kids and I were walking together through an icy alley, and since we were finally alone, I asked them them how they were doing and we had a very long conversation. Then my aunt met us in the alley and we walked the kids to the place they were staying and then went home ourselves. My aunt told me something in confidence.

In my last dream many people were gathered at the spillway by my parents’ house. The crowd had the air of lipsticked women waving handkerchiefs at a departing ship; they were celebrating and saying goodbye at the same time. On one side of the spillway, people were dumping things in the high, dark water. The stuff swirled around with bits of driftwood and garbage and snakes and dirty foam before being sucked underground. I realized the things were suitcases. I walked to the other side, where more people were gathered. The canal was dry on this side and the suitcases were being spat out of the spillway and thumping on the sandy bottom of the canal. One of the kids from the Center, a girl I haven’t seen in a long time, appeared with a pink umbrella. She picked up a heavy brown suitcase from the pile and started gliding down the canal with it, as if skating on ice, the umbrella over her head. Everyone applauded and someone said to me, “Last year she was so good.”

Yesterday I went with my dad and grandpa to set lines on Dinwoody Lake. My dad gave me some crampons to pull over my boots and we shuffled out onto the ice together, pulling sleds that contained our tools: sticks with line and hooks attached, an auger, an ice-bar, a minnow bucket, a dented metal pan to scoop ice from the holes. The ice was smooth as glass and the wind blew our sleds sideways. My grandpa went ahead of us with the auger, drilling holes. Some holes were superior to others. Grandpa looked into one hole he had drilled and said, “Disregard that.” My dad hadn’t heard him over the wind. “DISREGARD IT!” Grandpa shouted, and moved on. The ice wasn’t nearly as thick as my dad had said it would be; tiny cracks sprang between our feet.

It’s the next morning, and in an hour we’ll go check the lines. We’ll pull the slick green bodies of ling from the water. Or we won’t. Grandpa doesn’t think we’ll get anything. He thinks we set the lines too far out. Dad disagrees.

On the drive home yesterday Dad told me about the time he went out to check lines on the upper lake, by the picture-rocks with the fading petroglyphs of elk and bighorn sheep and human-like figures, and looked down through the ice to see a set of antlers. The antlers were attached to a mule deer. The buck had fallen through the ice and the hole had closed back up. The tips of his antlers were sticking through the ice. The water there was deep and the deer had kept striving for the surface until he froze and my dad came along and found him. This was before I was born. This was back when Dad can remember there being only two houses on the lake. One of the houses, the log one, they’d stay in overnight, and his parents and uncle would play cards. They’d play Pitch and drink Mogen David or Pink Catawba and go check the lines in the dark with flashlights so they wouldn’t lose any fish.

Today the ice will be shifting. It will coo like the pigeons that nest on top of my air conditioning unit in Billings. It will moan and crack and pop. Sometimes the opposite ends of the lake will speak to one another. We’ll be able to see bottom today. We’ll see weeds and rocks and minnows. We’ll see the fish we’ve caught. Seven ling, some bigger than others but all eating-size, save two we throw back alive. Dad and Grandpa will argue amiably, and at each hole Dad will say, “I told you! This is a hot-spot!” Grandpa will carve his brand into the ice next to one of the holes. Though the ice cracks and wobbles below our feet, Dad and Grandpa will take every opportunity to stomp on it, to stab it with the ice-bar for no reason. The ice will wail like a woman, and something will tap and then knock against the ice below my sled, where the fish lay belly-up, mostly dead but some pulsing still. I’ll keep my eyes on the ice today, looking beyond the millions of tiny bubbles, into the green core of the lake. I’ll look for whatever might be locked inside.


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