by Marcallina James

Runestone, Volume 1


On Second Avenue lilac bushes grew along side our house that wasn’t really our house. Sister and I hopped along like baby chicks on crackling twigs.

Late spring 1976-We live on the bottom floor of a duplex on the south side of Minneapolis. Our daddy’s younger sister lives upstairs with her two kids, our cousins. They often have black eyes and bruises on their arms and legs. Momma and Daddy don’t yell at us or hit us like that, they only scream at each other. When Momma gets real mad, she starts throwing whatever is close to her: forks, plates, books, shoes…lots of stuff. Daddy ducks and yells in a loud voice. Then he runs toward momma and shakes her. “Woman are you crazy? You almost hit the kids!”

At first it used to scare us when they argued, but they do it so much my sister and I just go outside. We play on the side of the house where sour rhubarb and lilac bushes grow. We cup our ears and listen to the tweet, tweet of the robins in the trees. We don’t care if the grass only grows in patches or that the mud dirties our white tennis shoes.

The sun’s rays shimmered through ruffled leaves and gentle winds dispersed lavender. We inhale-d–it tickled our throats. Branches swayed and lilac bunches bounced. We plucked the purple flowers.

I love the smell of lilacs. I also love the smell of Daddy’s Old Spice Cologne. Just like the breeze blows the lavender past my nose, Daddy’s cologne floats up my nostrils when he swings me in circles up and down. He can hold two kids on his flexed, rocky arm muscles. Daddy says that he got strong while bustin’ rocks with a sledgehammer down in Arizona. A man on a horse used to watch him and make sure he didn’t stop until he blew the whistle. My stomach tickles so much tears roll down my cheeks. Daddy has froggy eyes and with his thick black moustache he roars, “Who’s the kiiiing!!” I laugh super hard and scream, “You are!” I wish he always smelled like Old Spice and smiled that way.

Crows cackled in trees up high as our parents came down…
We didn’t notice the screams–of cars speeding along the highway.

It’s Sunday morning. Momma and Daddy are still asleep because they were up late. I put my Dino slippers on and slide over to the kitchen. I look around. Where are the Cheerios? On the counter there’s a small white box with stuff in it. I get up on a chair to see what’s in it: strips of tin foil with burn marks, Pepsi Cola bottle tops, spoons that look burnt like the tin foil and long rubber bands. There’s also spilled baking soda that I’ve seen Momma use in her cookies. Yuck, I don’t want to pour my cereal near that stuff on the counter ‘coz it stinks. Where’s the sugar?

Sweet honeysuckle on our tongues sent us twirling giddily in circles.
We fell…we laid…eyes wide, as clouds raced across the sky

I help my sister put on her blue and white pokadot pants and white shirt with the little pink bowtie, then we go outside. The sun shines on the lilac bushes. We pick little flowers and suck on the stems while we skip toward the front yard.

On Second Avenue where the lilac bushes grow, we soar over rainbows and eat marshmallow clouds.

Marcallina James

Augsburg College

Marcallina James is an Augsburg College senior who is majoring in English with a concentration in English literature, language and theory. She has written articles highlighting Somali music performances on the Cedar Cultural Center’s Midnimo blog site. Marcallina’s primary aspirations are to become a published writer specializing in creative nonfiction and poetry. She also strives to attain a high level of skill in her craft and is dedicated to continuous development as a writer.

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