FROM RIM TO RIVER AND BACK
I never wanted to tell a story, just show you something.
I lay at my brothers’ feet, tight and trussed by blankets. Burnt maroon seats guarded me, timeless
in a ninety’s conversion van, safe in the sequestered solitude, the natural roll of the road. Desert
heat seeped through metal, plastic, carpet and rug, blanket and body—a cotton cocoon. Above,
my brothers spoke of shotguns and soldiers.
Our waitress smiled, thanking us for the rain like we were gods. Candle light soothed her sharp
jaw while lashes cast wispy shadows on her brow. People will believe anything that satisfies, but
I didn’t want to think we brought the rain from the east coast, even to a thirsty land, even if we
ate for free because the storm knocked out power and dad never carried cash.
Water pooled in low places, and when the dry earth couldn’t swallow quickly enough, I slept
with nature. Nighttime rain disappeared in my hair and mingled in hollow spaces, beneath the
small of my back, between the angle of my thighs. My sister woke me before the sun had a
chance. Slinging our navy sleeping bags, sodden over an Arizona Walnut branch, it wasn’t far to
the edge, so we walked.
Our feet dangled over the rim, while the sun peered, petulant over the Kaibab cap, and at the
bottom of the aged sediments, the river twisted fast like a thin, agitated snake. We left the canyon
dry, all lit with accent shadows hiding behind jutting rock and inside cracked crevices.
The heat inside the rock walls wrapped skin dangerously like a wet, electric blanket. Water
quickly evaporates there and my feet kicked up dust as I took two steps for every one of my
father’s. My family stretched back, in switching order, except for my mom, always left behind.
Red, rectangle signs worried our way, dotting the path with white letters that warned, DO NOT
attempt to hike from rim to river and back in one day. Next to one of these, I stood, sucking in
air. Sweat congregated in the thin blonde hairs of my brow, and when it grew too heavy, slid
down to mingle with a few jealous tears. But my oldest brother, Don, his red hair, longer on top,
looked almost orange in the sun’s glare while he promised me we’d climb down and boat out
someday, skimming on rafts across the smooth reflective snake skin.
I scurried up packed red clay until Mom’s voice would reach through the shimmering heat,
dropping me, exhausted on some rock until her plodding pace drew her near, but then I’d dart
off; we played this again and again, a game at least to me. Cresting the rim, my legs trembled
like a dry leaf in wind, barely hanging onto life. My throat felt like the dusty air, and I trailed at
my mother’s heels.
My skinny arms rose against the cool underbelly of a balanced rock. I’m squinting hard, pulling
in a smile, taking my turn as superman. Darren’s white shirt is shaped over his skull and tied in
the back. We were all there, shaded, protected, together, perfect.
I soar on scorched air, far back to Arizona heat, level land, backseat cocoons, and a trip that
drained us good and tired. This is one place I go—that second week where each member of my
family moved, weary but happy.
I paint these memory places and climb beneath their canvases. Under here, the truth doesn’t
matter. So maybe my brothers argued instead of spoke and water came every night and drove us
to a hotel. Maybe the waitress didn’t smile, but these spaces are mine, and no one else will know
that clouds hid the sun the morning my sister woke me up and we slipped to the edge together—
unless I tell, but I like the sun rising, burning rocks crimson, rising, rising, and illuminating my
J. Davis recently finished an Language Arts Education degree at Cedarville University. Still sequestered in the tiny Midwestern village where her university is located, she is scheduled to return to the life and landscape she loves best in Denver, Colorado. With too few publications to brag, you can check out her work in Heavy Feather Review or S/tick magazine.