by Brenda Ordonez
This is the America Jilly Raven still remembers, holds sweet in her musings: A wooden one-story house on stilt legs rooted against a sloped hill with mountains at its back. A front yard of no use because it fell away from the stilt legs and dropped quickly to a dirt road that paralleled the railroad tracks. Tracks that dogged a creek running curliques beside a blacktop highway laid down like a lovely licorice twist winding up, down and around mountains with the sole purpose of bringing all the men, women and children it could entice to the coal mines and their grayed towns. Mines perched on the flanks of precipitous mountainous outcroppings, punched up millennia ago from the innards of a seething earth.
Always in those hills growing up, Jilly sought the outcroppings, flying, it seemed, above the forests, over all that blinding beauty, bringing her perilously close to death if she misstepped. With all the richness below and above ground laid out for her wanderings wherever she turned, what else was she to know how to do but set down the feet of words in those fertile places where they could grow into stories.
The mountains left Jilly Raven when self-doubt glazed her eyes. Abandoned her finally to the flatlands when fear crimped her fingers and the pen fell in a long drumroll across every desk or table she sat at.
The skin, the bones, the makeshift body survives, ages. What about remorse? She will tell you that regret was a scorpion's stinger left in her heart to rankle without killing until shafts of light from a somewhere future enticed her and she crushed the old shell of herself.
Re-created, Jilly Raven lives now among the untamed. They come to her door rattling, whispering at the windows, tapping on the roof. Bits of wind, sizzles of rain, bowling-over sun. The feral ones pin her to the earth like a lover. She lies in the company of the quick and raw wildness of furs and feathers, skins, carapaces and the crowds of legs that live in the grass and climb her like the mountain she was.
She opens all her pores and is filled up with tropics blue, cloud towers, fringes of palms, the patient lapping of blue-green Gulf water. Even the faraway pip, pip, pip of the osprey comes to her.
She laughs at this, thinking herself a wise magician.
A name kept coming to me: Jilly Raven. At first, I thought she would be a character in another story I was working on. I didn’t know what she wanted, but she wouldn’t go away. We all need a listener, so I just let her tell her story.
Brenda Ordonez writes both fiction and poetry, some of which has appeared in matchbook, Poppy Road Review, and Dark Matter. She lives on Florida's Gulf Coast with her husband and tuxedo cat. She cares about all things and all people on this wee blue marble.