When he is done he sends you to the shower alone where the water flowing down the inside of your legs is pink, and you have never been so alone and so in pain in your whole life. Your confusion is monumental. Your father and mother teach you the Gospel and take you to church. You father gives you special blessings and you should be pure and clean, and they should love you, and God should love you, and Jesus should love you. And then … there was tonight … and who was there to protect you tonight? Who really loves you? Your mother? God? Jesus? That is the unfathomable, eternal mystery of the Universe. The ones who are supposed to love you put you right in perdition. You experience a mountain of confusion. Your mind and spirit are paralyzed because you can’t sort it out. You are ashamed, frightened, guilty, sore, and it’s all mixed in a brew of pain and confusion that will not congeal into something you can understand. You are powerless to unwind the confusion. And that night you experience the dream for the first time but not the last by a long shot.

You are walking along a meandering, gravel pathway on a warm summer evening. A hummingbird is humming and dipping into a bright red feeder with four small perches and four yellow, plastic flowers wherein the nectar is waiting. Another hummingbird is on a twig in a nearby lilac bush preening, his bright red throat glistening in the sun. The aroma of the lilacs fills the air. On your left is a broad meadow covered in dark green grass. Dark purple irises with bright yellow trim line the border of the grass. The soil on your right forms a round-topped mound that meanders with the pathway. The aforementioned mound is decorated with patterns created with pansies of differing colors, roses, and varying shades of green herbs. The edge of the pathway is lined with tulips of many colors. There is a knocking sound, and your attention is drawn to the movement of a woodpecker banging on an old pine behind the mound. You feel that this must be what Heaven is like, and God smiles on you and your world. As you walk, the pathway beckons you to a small grove of Christmas tree sized pines. The aroma of pine fills you as you crunch along the pathway. At the end there is a door.

You open the door and start to step in. Suddenly, you are pulled in by a mystic, magnetic force that holds you suspended in midair without any visible means of constraint. The door disappears and the walls are bare, and it is tight like a closet. Just as you begin to respond to the confinement, the walls suddenly expand away from you. At the same instant, you begin to shrink. In just seconds you are smaller than an atom, and the room is larger than a universe. You are petrified, and you want to scream, but you cannot, and you realize—this is your descent into oblivion.

Just in the nick of time, you awaken and open your eyes. Your room is around you. In the dim glow of the nightlight you see the door, the dresser, the ceiling light fixture. Suddenly, the room accelerates away in all directions, and you shrivel in the bed. The unfathomable mystery here is that your eyes tell you nothing is changing, the door is still there, your feet hold the covers in an unmoving mound, but it is undeniably happening! You are aware of your arm and you know you could lift it if you wanted to, only you do not necessarily want to. Your heart is banging against your ribs like a frightened bird in a cage, and the room is fading into a darker darkness. A fear is expanding that the bird will escape the cage, and you will cease to live and you will become a miniscule part of a damp fog over a stale swamp … forever. You could stop this if you lift your arm, and you do not know why you do not do it. You see the string of beads you got at Mardi Gras two years ago hanging on the wall. You concentrate on them, and the room stops expanding, and you stop shrinking. You tip your head back and observe the headboard of your bed, and it is absolutely still and violently spinning at the same time, making you dizzy and almost sick to your stomach.

You become aware you are breathing very shallow and fast, and you cannot get enough air. You concentrate on breathing slowly—deeply, and you focus on your fiercely beating heart, mentally tying it to the pace of the air you breathe. You breathe in and out againagainagain-again-again, again … again … … again … … again … … … again; and your breathing and the beating of your heart pace down together. The headboard stabilizes; the dizziness subsides. You look down, and your arm is floating about eight inches above your chest.

You remain motionless, looking at the beads. You are so tired. You close your eyes to go to sleep, but the instant you do, you are standing in the pines and the garden door bursts open. You fling up your eyelids so hard and wide that you feel the skin on your forehead wrinkle and air moving across your bare eyeballs, but with your eyes open your panic subsides. You close them, and the pines and the door spring at you, and you open your eyes. You repeat this repeatedly all night; each closing of your eyes brings the pines and the door. Colors gradually fill in the shades of gray as dawn pushes darkness from the bedroom where you stare unflinchingly through scratchy, dry eyes at the beads … the purple beads.

You robotically dress yourself for school. Downstairs, the adults in the house are sitting at the table over eggs and toast. Your bottom is sore, and you worry more blood might trickle out. The female adult says you look terrible and should see a doctor, and you focus your eyes on the emblem on the side of the Meadow Gold milk carton. The male adult is having none of the doctor, and as he talks, you focus on the sound of the compressor in the fridge, and then it turns off and the fridge shudders, and so do you, and the male insists you go to school. And you go.

Darlene heard the crunch of the tires on the gravel as her mother pulled the car from the shoulder onto the narrow asphalt strip, but she didn’t look to see her drive away. Not far away, the grass had recently been watered, and it sparkled in the early morning sun. A robin hopped rapidly four hops, stopped, and cocked its head—searching. Suddenly, it slashed its beak into the soft ground and pulled out a worm.

Darlene walked up the low slope from the road, laid the roses on the ground beside her, pulled open the canvas director’s chair, and sat down. She laid her arms on the flat, wooden arms of the chair and grabbed the ends with her hands, tipping her head back. A lone cloud hung in the southwestern sky approximately over the Utah State Prison in Draper. She stared at the cloud wondering if she could see the face of God, or Jesus, or Joseph Smith. Seeing nothing but the cloud, she closed her eyes. The cloud would soon change but not the stone at her feet. With her eyes closed, she leaned forward out of the chair onto her knees and stretched her hand out to the stone; it was cold and smooth, like glass. A hot pain seared in her left hip joint—another reminder of the accident. She curled her fingers and dragged them across the stone into the engraving. She didn’t have to feel it or see it to know what it said:

Cindy Godwin
Beloved Daughter and Granddaughter
Born November 6, 1983 - Died February 9, 1984

More than a year had passed since the terrible accident. So much had changed. Through therapy Darlene discovered the dark secret that was ripping the family apart. She didn’t bring a camera—a photograph of the marker would be as cold as the stone. She would make a mental picture, wrapped with her feelings of love and lost hopes; one that would last the rest of her life. It would include the memory of tiny, pink fingers wrapped around her finger and the smell of fresh roses and Cindy’s sweet, milk breath, the contented cooing of her little voice after nourishing herself from her mother’s body, and her sore nipples that she so hated then, but longed for now.

Her father had paid for the stone. She knew that if he could, he would have added a postscript, “Killed by a Drunken Mexican.” Fernando was illegal, didn’t have a driver’s license, didn’t have insurance, and was drunk when he ran the red light, but he was not a Mexican. He had come up from Argentina to earn money for his family. To her father, all Spanish-speaking Latinos were Mexicans, and he had no use for Mexicans. Fernando was not injured in the accident. He was arrested, released, and then ran away before he could be deported. She never met Fernando. At first she hated him as much as her father did, but now, she realized nothing could undo this stone or what lay beneath it; she would never again feel the warm breath of her baby girl on her cheek.

She heard the faint call of wild geese in flight. Above her, their V formation headed north to their summer nesting grounds, the west leg several geese longer than the east leg. Everything changes, she thought, and then she wondered if her winter would ever welcome spring. Her mind drifted back in time.

She ran away the first time in 1977 when she was fifteen. Derek taught her how use her hands to make him feel good a year earlier. Other boys taught her other things, and she learned she could get anything with that knowledge. Then Mr. Falcone kept her after school. He knew her reputation. What he demanded, she had never given, and she told him so. He only became more insistent, and when he was done, he said she was not a virgin.

After Mr. Falcone, she ran away; away from stupid rules at home, away from religion crammed down her throat. Or was it away from Mr. Falcone? It was winter, so she hitchhiked south down the I-15. She didn’t see Provo when she passed with her head in the lap of the man in the station wagon, doing what he wanted her to and listening to “Dancing Queen” by ABBA on his radio. She listened as the lyrics accused her of being a teaser who turns men on and leaves them burning and all she really wanted was to be young and sweet and dance and jive and have the time of her life, but it just wasn’t that simple.

When I got my boobs and period, I thought I was bitchin’ awesome. I was a top student, and figured I’d go to college and get into the medical field. At that same time I had a crush on the pastor at our church. Of course, he was a married church dude, so nothing between us could be kosher. Still, I guess I was scoping him out in my fantasies, and maybe he was getting my vibes. I liked to be around him, so I stayed after to help clean up at a church social. I wanted … I’m not even sure what … but for sure, I wasn’t thinking about actually getting it on with him. But that’s what he was thinking. He first touched me on my thigh, and I was freakin’ about that. He told me it was nothing … we were just friends. But he just stayed focused and led me right down the garden path. We ended up boinkin’ before that night was over. I didn’t know if it was my fault or his. I was really freaked out about the whole thing. The next day I told him we should, like, tell someone or repent or something. He wasn’t cool with that. He said it was all my fault for leading him on to start with.

That’s when I began to get into trouble. I skipped school, and hung out with what my parents called the “disreputables.” They were totally cool with me. They taught me about drugs. The drugs were rockin’. Sure, I started having sex too. It was plastic, not like with his holiness. I was mondo cool with my new mellow friends. My grades went in the toilet. Well, I could see I was just getting deeper into the shit. I knew better than to give the lowdown about Pastor Bowden—he was a minister—no one would believe me. So I decided the only thing to do was split the scene. I ran away to San Fran. I found more drugs. I earned my moolah on my back and on my knees … if you get my drift.

I started scarfin’ the food down and getting fat up in San Fran. I need to be able to see a space between my legs at the crotch when my knees are together. The boys like that. My goal was to stay below a hundred pounds. I realized all that eating was nowhere. I trimmed it back. By the time the fuzz arrested me, I was in perfect shape.

They sent me home to Riverside, Cal, and crapola, my mother cried and got all bent out of shape when she saw me. They told me I had to eat, but they couldn’t force me. They wanted to make me into a pig so I’d have to stay home. The doctor said I had anorexia nervosa. What a stupid name! I knew I was on the verge of getting fat. I had to control my life.

The prying shrink guessed I’d been raped before this all started. The prying shrink told her suspicions to my family and my pastor. What a lame brain she turned out to be. She was hoping that, as a minister, Pastor Bowden could help. When I found out she spilled the beans, I told her to stop drinking my Kool-Aid and refused to see her any more. But the cat was out of the bag with Pastor Bowden. He talked to me, and he begged me to forgive him, begged me to keep his sucky secret—for his sweet wife’s sake—for his darling children’s sake. He had no interest in what would be good for my sake. There was no way out for me. So I made like a chicken and flew the coop. And they’re not taking me back there again. I’ll die first.

Robyn climbed up and sat beside Carol on the top set of cubes. It seemed like they were on top of the world. As they sat up there talking about one of their girlfriends, Jake Carter appeared and called up to them, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing on the monkey bars?”

Jake was in the grade above Robyn and Carol. Robyn didn’t know him personally, but she had seen him bullying a number of boys on the playground. “You leave us alone, Jake Carter,” Carol shouted down.

“First you come down from there.”

“Why should we?” Carol replied.

“Girls shouldn’t be allowed on the monkey bars.”

 “I never heard of that before? Why?”

“Cause girls wear dresses, and guys can look up at their underwear.”

Robyn could see Jake’s nasty smirk.

“Well, if you don’t want to see their underwear, don’t look. Besides we aren’t wearing dresses,” Carol said.

“Girls are weaklings, and they could get hurt playing that high off the ground. You should stick with hopscotch.”

“You want to race to see who can climb up and back the fastest?” Carol challenged.

“I don’t race girls.”

“Of course you don’t. You’re afraid to lose,” Robyn interjected.

“Fraidy cat, fraidy cat,” Carol chanted.

“You want me to come up there and knock your block off?”

“Come on up and try it, if you think you can catch us,” Robyn said.

“You better get down here right now, if you know what’s good for you.”

“Come on up and get us,” Carol said.

“I don’t want to, because I might knock you off and you could break your leg. Come down if you’re not afraid.”

Carol started down. “Don’t go down there, Carol. He’s a lot bigger than you,” Robyn warned.

“He’s not going to do anything. He’d be in trouble with everyone if he hit a girl.”

Robyn started down with her.

When Carol got down, Jake walked up to her. “So, who to you think you are, Mulan?”

“Who do you think you are, Shan Yu?” Carol responded.

“You shouldn’t mix up silly cartoons with real life.” Jake put a foot behind Carol’s feet and shoved her shoulders hard with both hands. She screamed and fell backward with a dusty thud on the playground.

Robyn shouted, “Hey!” and made a move toward him. Just then a lady in a green dress came from nowhere and grabbed Jake by the ear. He kicked and shouted at the lady. She gave his ear a twist and he settled down.

The lady looked like she was dressed for dinner. She wore a long, green dress and a wide-brimmed green hat low over her forehead. Under it she was wearing dark sunglasses. The little that showed of her face was pretty.

The boy was screaming like a smashed cat. In a few seconds his father came running across the street. He was a burly man a full head taller than the lady. He wore faded jeans and a sweat-stained T-shirt. “What the fuck is going on here? You let go o’ my son!”

The lady immediately let Jake go, and he dodged away toward the man. “Why certainly. And I won’t ever touch him again if you teach him not to attack girls that are littler than he is.”

“Nobody pushes my son around and gets away with it.” The man took a step toward the woman.

The lady took a half step to meet him and they stood face to face, her eyes coming even with his Adam’s apple. She stared up into his eyes and said just as serious as possible, “Really? No one?”

“Don’t get smart with me.”

“Or what?” She didn’t give ground.

“Or you could find your fucking block knocked off.”

“Like son, like father.” The lady stood a little taller.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, bitch.”

“I … am … just … sure.” Each word was emphasized as if it were a separate sentence. “You didn’t see him push this little girl down? Pretty strange, because as soon as I pulled him back, you were right over here.”

“Don’t get smart with me, bitch.”

The lady turned her back on the man, took a couple of steps toward Robyn, and then turned deliberately back. “I can see where your son gets it.”

“Gets what?” the man demanded.

“Why, his courage to push a little girl down, of course.” Her voice was cold and defiant.

Robyn could see the man double his fists. He was shaking angrily. “Fuck you.”

The lady looked at his fists. She took off her glasses. “You even try to lay a finger on me and one of two things will happen. Either you will get a painful lesson in the use of Kung Fu as a defense … in front of your son … or number two, I will own your house, your boat, your car, and your pension, but most probably both of the above.” She said it with such force Robyn immediately knew she could make her threats happen.

Apparently the man got the same feeling. He looked at her for several seconds as his hands opened up. She didn’t flinch or say another word. “I don’t hit women … not even bitches.”

She slowly nodded her head. “It’d be a fine thing if you could teach that to your son.”
He looked at her, and his eyes narrowed. Robyn couldn’t imagine what was going to happen, but it wasn’t something she wanted to see. The man grabbed his son and started back across the street.

The lady relaxed, but she didn’t take her eyes off the man until he was across the street. “What’s your name?” she asked Carol. Carol told her and the lady looked at Robyn. “And yours?”