“The only way to get it together…is together.”
Maggie stared at the tattoo on her ankle the same moment a boy with a baseball cap hoists her on his skateboard.
Her breasts are buttoned to his back.
Together they speed past car door handles.
A stop light at a traffic signal turns purplish.
She looks down.
Where is it?
Gone and so is he.
Before coming to occupy the bone of her ankle the tattoo had appeared on her grandmother’s in-step until it flapped and peeled off like a patch of denim from a pair of jeans.
Grandma always knew where herbs grew behind fallen oak trees, could read signs from migrating geese, a real mavin.
Maggie wants an officer to file a report. Get someone to draw a character sketch. Post pictures on the Internet.
Instead, an off-duty cop slides a skateboard beneath her feet with golden wheels
confiscated from the street.
He tells her to handle the board like a certificate of completion and to go forth to find the thief.
Now she is inside a video game, hands clammy with a thin coat of luck.
On her left, she sees a mountain as sharp as a swear word, sails her carpet to its peak, looks again to the tabla rasa of her foot where in former times, her grandmother's tattoo had encircled her ankle. Now robbed, bare, uncertain, Maggie is the last live link in a line of women.
She hears an echo. Your eyes are open like a cow on a hillside, hillside.
All she can see is a slope pimpled with rocks. What a mish-mosh.
Yoo-hoo! Girlie! What's the big rush like you've got a date or something? There's no one here to give you the right time of day,and in case you're wondering, I'm the voice of the graveyard, alive, but not in your 1-2-3. Capice?
So much for introductions.
So much for this and that.
Let's get real and nail the coffin.You're Maggie of the Misfit Foot. Here's what to do: Under the lidless eyeball of the sun, keep riding until you find Section P. When you hear a kid playing music, ask him to help you find your Granny. Maybe he will.
That was it? Really? To trust a voice filtered through leaves? Somewhere she hears a railroad car screech. Or maybe a dog barking.
Maggie rolls the skateboard beneath her head and dreams:
Crumbs require little water to grow.
At an airport security checkpoint:
Everyone must remove all belts and empty pockets.
A host asks during a game show:
What do most people want to see before they die?
There is a light above her head. She never asked to be here, alone as the tongue in a mouth.
Chewing on words like camp, railroad, gold teeth.
Little snot go wipe your nose
or Mr. Potato Head will plant a carrot between your toes.
She wakes up to a day that is half night, morning throws off its purple covers.
Birch tree branches point like arthritic fingers in different directions. Hungry. She combs her hair with two fingers, jumps on the skateboard to hunt for breakfast. Mountains breathe an ancient cold in her face, which makes her think of dollar-sized pancakes.
She steers down an aisle and hopes to find a food court, bends her knees and waves her hands, a thrasher who leans toward a clearing with white tents surrounded by grave markers and peacocks.
Her golden wheels screech to a halt. A woman whose flesh is attached to her arms in pasty lumps steps out to meet her. Maggie throws caution through a window. She asks for food.
So. Hungry Girl got money?
Maggie is only a poor girl without an allowance. And why is hunger, she asks herself,
not its own winning argument? She knows her fingers will find only lint, but digs insideher pocket anyway. Her hand strikes an empty seam bed.
Not so fast, says the Pasty Lump Lady.
Not so Lackawanna Railroad.
If Maggie removes a wheel from its axle, and gives it to the Pasty Lump Lady,
breakfast will be served.
She feeds her pancakes, eggs, syrup, until it is time to fold up shop, uses the golden wheel to wrap sunlight inside her apron and holds it there for all afternoon to see. Facing west, there are aisles through gravestones, cottonwood trees blaze yellow.
A little pisher peacock sweeps the ground with his tail.
Hi-ho, he says, and flutters his fanny.
Maggie thinks this is a 3-D animation
or maybe the Pasty Lump Lady with more tricks.
I'm lost, she tells the peacock.
The peacock plucks a feather from his tail. Gua-ron-teed to take you where you need to go. He closes his fan of feathers, disappears into the cottonwoods.
She taps the ground with her wand, hopes for magic. Nothing doing.
Maggie wants to return to square one, to pop-up from the middle of the street
like a seed from a plum. But the Pasty Lump Lady has stolen her hunger. But there’s more to Maggie than dollar-sized pancakes.
At Sections I and M, trees embrace vines like a relative who has won the lottery. The sun escapes from the Pasty Lump Lady’s apron, and burns a hole in the sky. Maggie wraps warmth around her like a hand-knit sweater.
She sees a boy playing a fiddle. His fingerboard has a ketchup label, his instrument displays a Norwegian Codfish company. He’s tall. The boy sees the feather at her sideand speaks, says his name is Sal for short.
My name is Maggie of the Misfit Foot.
And Sal: I make instruments from yesterday’s news no one cares to hear.
She wants to hear him. She wants him to join her, offers what’s left of the skateboard.and like a man about to buy a new car, he considers--
Solid wood. Gold rims. No financing. Sweet.
He plays the fiddle until his music fills the grove with sunlight. His notes dapple the cottonwoods with sadness and laughter.
Sal raises his face from the chin rest. He says she must find Section P. He points the way with his bow and keeps playing his part.
Maggie says good-bye and walks along a rock wall covered with moss.She is afraid of getting lost.
Steps wind down. There is a woman whose skin is the color of moonlight.
In shopping aisles of the dead, the woman says, waving her fingers at a swarm of fruit flies, some of us get marked up and some of us get marked down. We all get buried in the same storehouse. Now that’s what I call a bargain!
Her grandmother’s silver hair is pinned back with stingers from bees.
Life is a seasoning that tenderizes us. Breaks down our rough edges so we can bend. Tell me, dear, how have you been?
Maggie tells her about the tattoo.
Does grandma fill up like a water balloon and burst?
Grandma explains how during the war, she buried herself beneath a haystack. There were tattooed numbers above her wrist. Until a messenger boy, some mench, exchanged them for others. He and helped her to escape.
Two sets of numbers joined each other and shared bloodlines. Where each number began and the other one stopped,they stuck like teeth to candy and peeled off.
Grandma scooped something from the dirt, fixed it above Maggie’s ankle.
It’s one world, Grandma said.There on her ankle, a glowing orb. No countries, boundaries. Go back, mameleh, and tell them. Game Begin Again
About the author:
Lenore Weiss's collections include Tap Dancing on the Silverado Trail (2011) from Finishing Line Press, Sh’ma Yis’rael (2007) from Pudding House Publications, and Cutting Down the Last Tree on Easter Island (West End Press, 2012). Her new poetry collection, Two Places is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in 2014. Her writing has won recognition from Poets & Writers (finalist in California Voices contest) and as a finalist for Pablo Neruda Prize, Nimrod International Journal. The Society for Technical Communication has recognized her work regarding Technical Literacy in the schools.