Rain droplets stippled her glasses and partially obscured her vision as she ran. Her bare legs pumped beneath her, falling out of synchronicity with her arms whenever her toes encountered a rut in the asphalt. The white and pink cotton dress clung to her. Mama wouldn’t be happy. It was her newest dress.
I can fly. She said this to no one in particular. It was her mantra. It had sustained her from the creek to the Johnston Diary, and that had to be a whole mile. She had another mile to go. Maybe. She wasn’t sure. She’d ask Dad to clock it the very next time they drove home from the mill. No matter. She swallowed back a lump and pulled off her eyeglasses, slipping them into her dress pocket where they jangled alongside some fishing weights and the tiny bottle Grandpa had handed to her.
She could have sworn her legs belonged on a sock monkey by time she crested the hill. She set off across the pasture, the humid air saturating her lungs. Feels like the oil on the news, she thought. She’d watched it plume in the Gulf and become fascinated by all the fuss. Now she felt like one of those birds, breathing heavy and wishing someone would come along and make the air come in the right way again. No matter, her mind whispered. I can fly.
A bark of thunder heralded the floodgates of heaven opening above her head. It was like sprinting through the world’s biggest waterfall, or maybe like running in a swimming pool. Water pressed weeds and grass to earth and her toes couldn’t find traction. She took to scrambling, tiny arms pulling and pushing, a water bug dance gone horribly wrong. She doubted herself. She felt her strength waning. She felt those weights rattling around her pocket and knew they would pull her into the earth, down, far down below where even the worms were afraid to go.
“Lori!” Mama’s voice carried across the yard and into the field. The house loomed behind Mama and Dad’s truck sat in the drive. Suddenly the ground didn’t matter. The humidity and the water couldn’t touch her. She really could fly, just because Mama was so close, and nothing in the whole world would be able to stop her. She reached the fence separating the yard from field, and then was across the yard, and before she could draw a breath, she felt Mama’s warm hug.
“Where’s your grandfather?” the woman asked.
The child pointed back the way she’d come, feeling stupid, feeling worn thin like old cloth, unable to articulate what happened, and afraid to say what she thought might have happened while she was running. She clutched at her dress and felt those horrible lead weights grinding against her glasses. Her finger touched something else. Her eyes widened. The bottle. Grandpa’s heart pills. She held it up for her mother to see.
The paramedics had proclaimed her a superhero. Dad and Uncle sat in the parlor that evening and took turns trying to come up with a proper name to go with her various powers, each more wild than the next. She lay with her head in Mama’s lap, sleep flicking at the edges of her mind as Mama stroked her hair.
“What do you think, Lori?” Mama murmured. “What’s your superpower?”
“Love,” she whispered back. “Grandpa always says that nothing was more powerful than that.” And then she allowed herself to smile. Grandpa was alive because love gave her wings.
Reprinted from my Pembroke Cottage blog (14 June, 2010). I'm cleaning it out to re-purpose it into a home blog.