Dust Choked and Sore

Issue 38 by Erin Conway

Dust Choked and Sore
Synopsis

Etta always dreamed of pursuing a career in the music industry as a means to reconnect with her father, but through her freshman year of college, he remained distant. Unable to find a summer job working in the music industry and compelled by her lack of inaction after her grandfather’s apparent suicide, Etta decides to spend the summer after her freshman year on her father’s farm.

It’s a buzz and a bump. Etta laid her head back on a torn seat cushion.

And a flip and a thump.

No air conditioning in the truck cab meant duct tape stuck to her neck in the heat. Tang. She was almost... The phrase began but she couldn’t end it. Twang. Where was she?

“This way?” Jeni confirmed. “I didn’t catch the directions from my phone.”

Etta turned her head to the right as the pickup truck slowed coming into town. She wasn’t sure if they had to pass through town in order to get to Dad’s farm, but that was the route she had always known. Etta tried to picture the elderly residents quietly sipping coffee at diners. She sensed herself hover over them, attempting to view the difference between those hardened fingers clutching mugs and the lithe ones belonging to musicians. Thumbs steady and spread wide, a doorway to all the ways the fingers can bend. Which fingers clung to life? Which came up short?

They came to newer houses first, of which there were few. Slick siding on houses slowly gave way to what her music professor had called “the broken windows effect.” Etta had been intrigued by the idea that each problem that went unaddressed in an environment affected people’s attitudes towards their surroundings, a vicious cycle that lead to more problems. Her professor had shown photos in a presentation of the types of, what Etta would not even call, towns. However, she valued those spaces as deeply rooted voices that American folk musicians used to sing about. “The more neglect to the paint, the greater tension that could be used on the strings,” her professor had said. For most of her life, Etta had felt she possessed all the tension of strings and none of the tone. Life played in tune. She laughed, silently.

“What did you download this time? What are we listening to?” she asked Jeni, her house mate-to-be, if Etta survived the summer spent on her father’s farm.

“Joseph Kekuku. Inventor of the steel guitar,” Jeni responded.

“Part of your final paper?” Etta asked without really wondering.

Despite family histories cast in bullets or plows, their friendship was steeled in strings. Today, that steel had taken the structure of the awkward futon frame that Etta needed to store in her dad’s barn until she and Jeni moved into their apartment near school in late summer. Jeni’s pickup was the only means Etta had to transport the frame. Etta still dwelled on the regret of not getting a summer job somehow related to music of any kind. But, then again, maybe that was meant to be too, after how her grandfather had died so suddenly.

“Not entirely,” Jeni answered. “What grade did you get on your paper about M. W. Billingsley and the Hopi Indian Chanters?”

“Don’t know yet. She hasn’t posted grades.” Etta had struggled to find sources about Billingsley so she wasn’t confident she had done well, but the story still called her in some way.

“That guy, Billingsley, grew up on a farm too, right?” Jeni kept the conversation rolling.

“Yeah. In Iowa. He ran away from home to join the Hopi tribe. Adopted the culture. Learned the language.”

“Sounds kind of like what you want to do this summer, not going home to see your mom I mean. Kind of running away, but to your roots. Your dad’s farm.”

“Maybe, but Billingsley’s actions are seen as controversial today, despite his intentions. Like he didn’t understand them enough to be an activist for them.”

“Hey, you’ll get there, learn to speak ‘farmer’. Be great for songwriting.”

“Maybe. At least I’ll speak as good as my mom does, or did, before they got divorced. As long as the language is percussion based I’ll be fine. You know I have no pitch.”

“You better fix that if you’re going into song editing or marketing.” Jeni glanced over at Etta. “You know, pitch?”

“Very funny. You’re really hot today. On fire.”

“You know how much I love to be told I’m hot.” She winked.

“Your guy Kekuku, the steel strings, sounds like a better match for my dad.” Most people and things were a better fit for him than Etta was, that was how it had seemed growing up, at least from her mother’s point of view. Etta squinted out the windows and pretended to wipe a tear away as sweat. Maybe it was only sweat. She wasn’t sure she could tell the difference. Father, daughter, strangers, roommates, friends. Right note. Right word. Strike the right chord. All eluded her. If everyone was a better match for her father than she was, Etta must take after her mother too much. She tilted the rearview mirror towards herself and stared into her only slightly reddened, slim eyes. She saw her dad’s eyes, minus his thick eyebrows and rumpled hair incapable of enthusiasm.

“I’m still jealous. That you guys still have your farm, I mean.” Jeni continued, “Not of your relationship, obviously.” Jeni leaned back and hung her left arm out the truck window as they drove through town. Her elbow framed several farm machines keeping guard in a vacant lot.

Clang. Tang. Squeak. Hardware store.

Jeni’s hair, a fret of jet-black, whipped and wove between as strings generating the guitar sound vibrating from the speakers.

Swish. Clip. Whirrrrr.

Butterfly mural with paint on its antennae that dusted away instead of pollen. Etta’s hairs’ movements wavered somewhere between the formal rise and fall of a baton in the fingertips of the conductor Etta’s mother had told her she shouldn’t be, and the unpredictable flap of duct tape attempting to break away from broken windows on the houses still dotting their path.

Movie theater. High school. Church.

Which denomination had the church been? Etta craned her neck. What did it matter? It definitely hadn’t been a synagogue. The music swelled. Dusty gravel clipped under the wheels each time Jeni became too intent on the movement of the songs instead of the truck.

“How do you get all these songs? You paying for the music?” Etta quipped, anxious, her voice sharp in the heat.

“Copyright, as we know too well, is sketchy for anything real. Like seeds that have a real connection to land and people. I make up for it, though, you know I do.”

“Right, your donation jar.”

“I would never take advantage of disadvantage,” Jeni confirmed. “That’s how ‘they’ turn us against each other.” Jeni had recounted her family’s story to Etta as many times as Etta asked, usually late at night when Etta was considering submitting her own DNA to ancestry.com. Jeni’s family had immigrated from Japan to Hawai’i, in the early 1900s where the first “American” relatives were born next to sugar fields. Then, they’d moved from Hawai’i to California as farm labor in fruit orchards like those trees Jeni’s mother still tended religiously in her own backyard. In California, Jeni’s family had acquired land under the names of the Hawaiian-born children who had lived fewer years in the U.S., but were more American, at least on paper. That meant they could buy land unrestricted by law as their parents had been. It also meant they could die for that land in World War II, but they couldn’t keep it.

Etta had finally at least stopped repeating, “I can’t believe they could just take it from you like that.”

“Turn left, 100 feet,” Jeni’s map app spoke before Etta could. Of course, a computer knew the way home better than she did. Only cats met them in the driveway. Not one head lifted until the wheels were almost upon them. Then the furry bodies scattered and spread out under tree branches that reached over the worn path. After the truck slipped by, the cats returned to their spots unfazed. Their movements were a momentary acknowledgment of a disruption. The cats reminded Etta of her interactions with her dad throughout the school year.

“Which barn does this futon go in?” Jeni’s question made Etta realize that Jeni had put the gear in first and put her foot on the clutch, waiting. Etta looked around the yard at five buildings.

“He said the cow barn. That one. At least I know that much.” She pointed at the largest building towards the back of the yard. It was a long, two-story building. Bright red boards, white window frames and green shingles sat straight in their correct positions. A bit of novelty was the square milk parlor built on the far right side. Its shape cast shade over Etta’s favorite spot to sit with her grandfather while they had shared sweet ice tea.

“You know enough about living here. Remember, you can write a lot of songs with just G, C, and D chords. Don’t overwhelm yourself with what you don’t know.” Jeni removed her foot from the brake and coasted a few more yards then killed the engine. Her eyes scanned. “This is great. You could do so much here. That, that old milk room. You could make that a cooler easily. Sell at a Farmer’s Market. I am so jealous.” Which Etta knew wasn’t true. Jeni was never jealous of anyone. Jeni had the tendency to lean forward, hands on her knees, to give a “what’s going to happen next” kind of smile. Her expressions were smooth, never stretched, like they should rest between a five-year-old’s pigtail curls. Jeni did a full lap of gazing at flower beds and barn wood while Etta made her way to the back of the truck. Etta clasped the metal of the truck bed and pressed up on the handle. Then, she shrugged forcefully to tug the tailgate so it opened downward.

“Are you helping?” she yelled at Jeni.

Jeni responded in a sprint.

“I think you stepped in cat shit. You stink.”

“Don’t be negative. This is going to be great. I wore the boots with no treads. It comes right out.” She slid her foot quickly on the grass.

Jeni carried one end of the frame and walked backwards. Etta stared at her own reflection in sunglasses. She marveled at the tan the dark lenses gave her really pale skin edged by hair that had once been light like her father’s. Sometime around puberty it darkened into an unknown, yet bland shade, courtesy of her mother’s mostly rolling dark curls. The barn door wasn’t locked. It slid open under her palm and the past opened with a squeak. Inside, the barn smelled like mold and dust. The temperature of stored years was cooler than she expected. No guitar strings, no banjo hum, but this was country. Etta didn’t like country music, mostly because she was pretty sure she wasn’t supposed to.

“So? Where to?” Jeni raised her eyebrows, stepping through the door heels first.

Under the weight of the futon’s frame, Etta stiffened, locked both arms and braced her back. Dad said she could store the futon frame in the cow barn, “in the back.” Etta looked left, then right down the empty aisles. Momentarily, she surveyed the far wall that supported the ladder to the haymow. Where was “the back”? With an even press, Etta lifted two sides of the dismantled futon that fit less awkwardly in her palms. A mosquito, fly or something else bit back her mom’s words about always giving vague instructions. Etta attempted to imagine her mother here, holding cow tails or lugging straw bales. These would have been actions that meant being a “good” wife. What had happened?

If Etta found “the back,” she wasn’t sure how she would get there. Stuff was littered in the aisles. She didn’t think this was all theirs. Renters? Etta felt Jeni’s continued movement forward. She didn’t need answers to keep moving down the ramp. Etta exhaled, disgusted, though not sure why. Really, after being absent from the inside of the barn for ten years, she had no idea which things belonged and which didn’t. Belonging or not, all that seemed to be left was in her line of sight on the wall just under the opening in the ceiling that led to the haymow. She returned her gaze to the ladder she had once been so proud to be able to scale. Only three nails supporting tools held strong. A rope and pulley, a pitchfork, and hung together, a broom and aisle scraper.

Etta had expected to see the rusted metal frames of stanchions drooping in front of and away from her, or at least the chipped paint still swirling around the calf pen bars. When she had last seen the aisles, they contained the evenly spaced triangular frames used to keep the heads of the cows in place during milking. Chilled milk didn’t smell, she remembered for no particular reason. Warm milk did. The milk dripping onto her fingers from a thick nipple that a calf with no mother sucked at vigorously. The warm milk steamed and foamed alongside the calf’s spit. That had been her job, feeding baby calves. She had been too young to learn anything else, too puny to lift anything else before the cows had been sold and the barn abandoned to storage of her family’s things and others’, apparently.

“Let’s just set it here,” Etta suggested. They leaned the frame against the calf pen. Jeni remained silent, waiting for Etta to give direction.

Most of what the barn had been was no longer visible. She hoped a green stain was mold and not a toxic spill left by one of the many chemicals Etta hated. The eerie color gleamed along the upper walkway. The stain stopped just short of the metal ledge tied up tight against the wall. As a child, her grandfather had let her unhook the slat of metal when he needed to make notes about feed or draw cattle markings. When her father had worked alone in the barn, he had rested a radio there. That piece of metal had felt the last impression of her grandfather’s pen marks years ago. When had the barn last felt music?

Etta wiped her hand across her forehead and felt spider webs still with her from the door handle. Musty clouds infiltrated her pores. She wondered if after a summer the smooth black metal in her hands would look the same.

“I’m going to look for my dad. I want to make sure we put everything in the right place.” Etta turned towards the door.

Back outside, Etta saw him. Half in tree shadow, Dad walked across the grass center of the yard. His dog Dusty, some type of collie mix, followed. His head was encircled by brim, a fisherman’s cap, not his traditional baseball hat. Odd. At the truck, Etta observed him pause. He lifted out the futon stilts.

“You made it,” he yelled. He attempted a smile, illustrating wrinkles across his face that matched the creases in his pants.

Etta met him at the truck. Her instinct was always to make conversation by repeating his general style of noticing the obvious. “You have paint on your face,” she offered with a false lightness.

“I’ll pay more attention after the job is over. Not going anywhere besides the job site this week anyway. You gonna’ to come? You can, if you want.”

“My skill is abysmal and I’m slow. I’m not much help.”

“Do what you want.”

Etta took a deep breath. She couldn’t smell lilacs. She couldn’t smell silage. She smelled manure. Etta wrinkled her nose.

“I know. Neighbor cut hay, then took advantage to spread liquid shit. He has an arrangement with another farmer.”

Etta heard his words in his voice, but not his mood. She tried to read him. The angle of his head tilt reminded Etta she had read somewhere that upward slant in someone’s handwriting meant a positive outlook. Did that apply here? Etta tried again, “I did smell cut hay on the way here.”

“First hay cut. It’s as good as fall now.”

“Fall? But it’s May.”

“That’s what your grandpa always said.”

Etta didn’t know who realized first, that those were the first words he had spoken about her grandfather since Dad had found his father’s body. Dad’s eyes lifted up to stare south across the field that hadn’t seen hay in years. He continued to mumble something about deals and fertilizer application. Etta needed a moment and she dropped to stroke the collie where she had spread on her side in the cool grass. At the funeral too, Etta had dug for conversation by mentioning the obvious. She had noted, “This is not good coffee.”

Dad had stared at her over his cup saying only, “Not the kind of cup you put money in, my Uncle Hughey always said.”

Dad had shrugged. Sipped. His mustache had held the frown back, an attempt by his lips to remain even-tempered. His conversation hadn’t evolved into a favorite topic such as the politics of government assistance. His gaze looked past hers like he had been looking at, no maybe for, someone else.

After the funeral meal, Etta had tried again. “You have a scab under your eye. What happened?”

“Don’t know.” He had sniffed. “You’ll see, when you get old.” He had turned his back to her to wash dishes. “Excuse me. Got to get the paperwork done.” The faucet had sputtered. Etta had dropped her eyes to her feet and hadn’t moved until someone walked between them to leave a dish. She had claimed homework and drove back to her dorm that night.

That was what Jeni had meant about speaking “farmer.” Etta was continuously frustrated by vocabulary consisting of memories and things “he’d always heard.” The descriptions were vibrant but didn’t help her understand how he felt or what she should do. Those endless phrases heard and then repeated made great lines for songs but weren’t helpful in building relationships.

“Hey. This it?” Dad asked.

“Uh, yeah. Jeni helped me carry the frame to the barn already.” Etta forced herself to stand up. She was conscious not to add, “It’s in ‘the back’.” She’d rather not have heard his instruction than to not have understood. Etta inhaled deeply again. She sneezed then stepped in the direction of the barn. Dad followed.

Just inside the door, Etta stopped. “What are you waiting for?” Dad asked from just behind her.

“Milk it or move it, right?” she tried to smile at a shared phrase from her childhood. Phrases like that one allowed her to feign fluency in a language she did not speak, and in many ways, a culture to which she didn’t belong.

“I told you where to put that thing.”

Etta stiffened at Dad’s voice, but she wasn’t clear if the tone was disapproval or indifference. Etta looked over at the frame leaning against the pen. White clumped in the gate’s hinges but it wasn’t freshly spread lime. A few stalks of straw somehow remained.

“How am I supposed to know where ‘back’ is? And there’s so much stuff.”

“Your grandpa made decent money renting space. I don’t know if I like it, maybe I won’t do it now he’s gone, but for now the contract is at least until the end of the year.”

“It’s ugly,” Etta noted.

“What difference does it make? You don’t come here.”

She heard his footsteps stop just behind her. Etta walked down the ramp to at least show some initiative towards forward progress. Just as quickly she jerked back. Her knee and then the metal bars in her hands banged against an unseen object.

“Whoa. Careful.” Jeni looked up from her phone. She had perched herself on someone’s foosball table. “If you want my help moving something, just say so.”

Etta shook her forearm out.

“You tired?” Dad asked.

“My grip gets tired.”

“Nothin’ quite like giving up.” He smirked darkly. “My grip’s about all I’ve got left. Used to be a time when I knew I could hold onto anything.”

“Cool tractor,” Jeni interrupted. “Is that the tractor Etta used to sit on and pretend to drive? She has that photo at school. Too cute.”

“The Ford. I’d like to get that fixed up.” Dad brightened, inviting follow-up questions. Etta remembered her mom’s words, “when he has an audience.”

“What, like paint it?” Jeni flashed straight teeth. Hair. Teeth. Body. Straight. Nothing about Etta was straight; it was flat, from her bangs to her voice. Straight was a word that meant correct. Flat meant lacking, off-key.

“Hasn’t been driven. Tune-up. Be like $7,000. It’s kind of the least of my problems right now.”

Dad didn’t turn around. “Over there, on the other side of the ping pong table, Etta. You can set the frame and stilts there.”

“Won’t they get stuff on them? You know I have to use these again. Don’t want to be embarrassed.”

“Go get a sheet from the house then. Do something to help me.”

“I—” Etta didn’t try to answer. The metal in her hands clanged and echoed down the middle of the barn when she took a step towards him. “Do we have old sheets that you don’t mind if they get ruined?”

“Everything is old. Use the king-sized ones. You know I don’t use that size bed anymore. I’ll work on this.” He began to shove piles around. Clatter and cussing smacked against the souls of her feet as she scrambled up the ramp and out the door. Jeni sauntered after her. They paused at the truck door briefly.

“I can stay and help,” Jeni offered.

“No. I can do this. I want to do this.”

“What do you want to do, exactly?”

“Be her husband’s best friend.” The words wrote themselves, had written themselves when Etta had tossed and turned the night before.

“Sounds like a country song.” Jeni narrowed her eyes through her long eyelashes and climbed into the cab. “I’ll text you.”

“Include music.”

“Obviously.”

“Pay for the copyright or you’ll be no better than Monsanto.”

“Obviously.” Jeni started the engine and rolled alongside Etta until she reached the back steps.

Etta closed her eyes and waited until any vibration she could associate with the truck or Jeni’s music had dissipated. Etta stamped her feet and checked them before walking inside for the sheet from the bathroom closet. Etta’s fingers slid over her own sweat and the tiny handle that refused both to open and close all the way. The warped plywood door stuck. She sat down on the cool tile, pressing her skin against the full-length mirror inconveniently hung on the front of the door. Even with her knees tucked up against her chest, her feet could almost touch the table in front of her. There wasn’t a way to get a good look at all of herself here she had noticed during the funeral potluck when she had spent a good deal of time in the bathroom. Etta waited for her fingers to dry and tried again. Standing up this close to the door, all mirror angles were unflattering. She could see flakes of white paint on the upper half of the mirror. Paint was somewhere everywhere.

Etta wondered what decisions her mother had made when she moved in with Dad. Maybe this was her mirror, but the placement of it couldn’t have been her choice. Would her mother have been as frustrated with paint chips as she had been with cow chips or straw wisps that got tracked into the house? No, not straw, hay, that was what used to be strewn everywhere in the house, especially in the summer. Just on the other side of the bathroom wall was the porch where her mother had required Etta to undress after a day spent traipsing behind the men baling. Etta had struggled to remove each piece of clothing after errant spray from the hose had sealed her shorts and T-shirts like glue to sweaty summer skin.

After a successful grasp at the closet handle, Etta finally removed a rolled-up sheet. A breeze from the open door in the next room asked Etta to turn left out of the bathroom onto the screen porch instead of right, back through the house to the barn where the futon and her dad waited. Etta perched instead on the edge of the old couch that had found a final resting place on the porch. She scanned the field across the road filtered through the metal porch screen. Out of the corner of her eye, the frame of her father’s guitar case jutted into view. She eased nearer to the guitar case, slouching lower into the lumpy cushion. Stuffing spilled out in the shape of torn noodles. This must be the dog’s favorite spot. Turning her head to the side, she caught hints of detergent and moist earth. How could the air seem so thick if it hadn’t rained? Etta closed her eyes, attempting to hear one of the songs worn into the memories she and the guitar’s wood shared.

Engines grumbled down the road a few hundred feet to her right. She turned the other ear. Birds. Orioles. Red-winged blackbirds. A harsh twit of bluebirds. Industrious robins. Hoo-eee. Bird song. Song. Song that could stay. Piano. Song that could get up and just fly away. Guitar. Her mother had tried to make her a musician for college applications. Etta had complied but never excelled. Instead her own lack of melody left her paying more attention to her classmates’ talents. When she had suggested to her mother that she write songs, the answer had been less than enthusiastic.

“But the story in the song,” Etta had protested. “The sharing of voices.”

“Songs are confusing. You can get away with anything. With saying nothing. You have more to offer than a song,” her mother had said. Selling music had been the compromise. A business degree.

Etta ran the fingers of her right hand over the fingers of her left. She didn’t feel strings. She imagined record albums. The ridges of the rows of records she knew stood upright along the wall of her father’s bedroom on the second floor. She had snuck away upstairs during the funeral and found comfort tracing those record sleeves instead of the skin wrapped around condolence handshakes. Etta hadn’t removed any of the albums from the shelf. She was afraid she wouldn’t put them back quite right. Somehow their story wasn’t hers to hear without asking first.

Without warning Dusty pushed Etta’s legs into the couch. Etta had named her father’s dog after Dusty Springfield, and the fact the dog’s coloring was two shades of brown that made her look spattered with dirt. Dusty stopped just short of the thin screen stretched over the somewhat rotting wood of the porch door and kept barking. Etta watched as the sway of a large mobile home turned into the driveway. It provided a silent drumbeat to the dog’s yips and strung-out howls.

“Oh, ssshh. You don’t need to bark. Just someone renting probably.” Etta dropped to the dog’s side and rubbed the bridge of her nose. The driver misjudged the width of the split driveway and rolled over a section of flowers. It was annoying. She knew they paid rent. Money was money. But, it was constant encroachment. Maybe just symbolic of everything else. Rent was low. How his painting business was going she didn’t know.

“You have a nice nap?” Dad’s voice slapped her head. Dusty had not arrived alone.

“I didn’t nap.” Etta scrambled to her feet.

She thought she heard him mumble, “Life’s good for women and dogs. Hard on a man and a horse.” Who had he heard that phrase from?

Dad clumped the folds of the sheet in a fist. “I thought you were coming back out with this.”

“I was. I was just—” Etta lost her nerve to ask him to play something for her on the guitar later.

“Let’s do it then.”

They moved through the house in slow motion. Dining room. Kitchen. Mud room. Back steps.

“Shut that door tight. We don’t want flies or mosquitos getting in.” Dad left Etta leaning against the screen door. She could hear the twittering of the radio in the mobile home still parked in the driveway. Etta peered around the corner. The driver leaned on the open window. He pulled around to the empty space just to the left where the old garage used to stand. Etta heard the driver comment, “Nice place you got here.”

Etta took the long way to the cow barn in order to avoid walking through the conversation. She rapidly tossed the sheet over the futon frame. When she returned across the yard, she could still hear conversation. Etta paused another moment at the screen door. “Gotta water all the time. Drought year. But...” he paused.

The driver continued, “Old buildings look great. Really kept up.”

Her eyes caught Dad’s frame straighten slightly before it sunk again at the shoulders.

Etta went inside to the room where she had left the suitcases she dropped off with her car the day before. She tried to distract herself folding and refolding clothes until the phone rang. Etta answered and heard a familiar voice.

“Did you get moved back okay?”

“Yeah, Mom. Everything’s fine. It’s hot.”

“What are you listening to?”

“Nothing.”

“I have a recommendation for you. Lydia Mendoza.”

“Never heard of her.” All of a sudden, her mother cared? She never gave music recommendations. “What genre of music?”

“She was an American guitarist. Sang Tejano and traditional Mexican-American music. They called her ‘lark of the border.’ Don’t tell your dad. He always critiques my taste.” Was Mom threatened? Etta wondered. She would ask Jeni later.

“Well, I do like singers equated to songbirds.”

“I know. I know you, Etta.” Mom’s voice sounded less distracted than normal.

Uncomfortable with plays for loyalty, Etta asked a more superficial question, “Do larks migrate?”

“I don’t know. I guess you can Google it.”

“No Internet here.”

“Go to the library. Then you can get some music too.”

“Sure.”

“I just wanted to check in. I have to go. I have a food critic this evening.”

“You’ll be fine. I’m sure you have a plan,” Etta said to her mother, but more to reassure herself. “Love you, Mom. Talk soon.”

“Bye.”

Click. Switch. Twist.

Etta spread herself over the twin mattress in the spare bedroom downstairs. She slid her finger over her tongue to remove a strand of dog hair. These sheets must not have been washed. Out of sight, out of mind. Even reaching to the four corners of the bed with her body, summer thickness smoldered under her.

“Soon,” her mother’s word lingered. It was too soon. The heat. It was too soon. May. To judge if things would change between her father and her. June. Under her window, plucked notes chirped. July. Etta fell asleep trying to remember what a lark looked like. She was sure her dad used to tell about the way they landed on fence posts in the pasture fields. August.

It’s a buzz and a bump. Etta laid her head back on a torn seat cushion.

And a flip and a thump.

No air conditioning in the truck cab meant duct tape stuck to her neck in the heat. Tang. She was almost... The phrase began but she couldn’t end it. Twang. Where was she?

“This way?” Jeni confirmed. “I didn’t catch the directions from my phone.”

Etta turned her head to the right as the pickup truck slowed coming into town. She wasn’t sure if they had to pass through town in order to get to Dad’s farm, but that was the route she had always known. Etta tried to picture the elderly residents quietly sipping coffee at diners. She sensed herself hover over them, attempting to view the difference between those hardened fingers clutching mugs and the lithe ones belonging to musicians. Thumbs steady and spread wide, a doorway to all the ways the fingers can bend. Which fingers clung to life? Which came up short?

They came to newer houses first, of which there were few. Slick siding on houses slowly gave way to what her music professor had called “the broken windows effect.” Etta had been intrigued by the idea that each problem that went unaddressed in an environment affected people’s attitudes towards their surroundings, a vicious cycle that lead to more problems. Her professor had shown photos in a presentation of the types of, what Etta would not even call, towns. However, she valued those spaces as deeply rooted voices that American folk musicians used to sing about. “The more neglect to the paint, the greater tension that could be used on the strings,” her professor had said. For most of her life, Etta had felt she possessed all the tension of strings and none of the tone. Life played in tune. She laughed, silently.

“What did you download this time? What are we listening to?” she asked Jeni, her house mate-to-be, if Etta survived the summer spent on her father’s farm.

“Joseph Kekuku. Inventor of the steel guitar,” Jeni responded.

“Part of your final paper?” Etta asked without really wondering.

Despite family histories cast in bullets or plows, their friendship was steeled in strings. Today, that steel had taken the structure of the awkward futon frame that Etta needed to store in her dad’s barn until she and Jeni moved into their apartment near school in late summer. Jeni’s pickup was the only means Etta had to transport the frame. Etta still dwelled on the regret of not getting a summer job somehow related to music of any kind. But, then again, maybe that was meant to be too, after how her grandfather had died so suddenly.

“Not entirely,” Jeni answered. “What grade did you get on your paper about M. W. Billingsley and the Hopi Indian Chanters?”

“Don’t know yet. She hasn’t posted grades.” Etta had struggled to find sources about Billingsley so she wasn’t confident she had done well, but the story still called her in some way.

“That guy, Billingsley, grew up on a farm too, right?” Jeni kept the conversation rolling.

“Yeah. In Iowa. He ran away from home to join the Hopi tribe. Adopted the culture. Learned the language.”

“Sounds kind of like what you want to do this summer, not going home to see your mom I mean. Kind of running away, but to your roots. Your dad’s farm.”

“Maybe, but Billingsley’s actions are seen as controversial today, despite his intentions. Like he didn’t understand them enough to be an activist for them.”

“Hey, you’ll get there, learn to speak ‘farmer’. Be great for songwriting.”

“Maybe. At least I’ll speak as good as my mom does, or did, before they got divorced. As long as the language is percussion based I’ll be fine. You know I have no pitch.”

“You better fix that if you’re going into song editing or marketing.” Jeni glanced over at Etta. “You know, pitch?”

“Very funny. You’re really hot today. On fire.”

“You know how much I love to be told I’m hot.” She winked.

“Your guy Kekuku, the steel strings, sounds like a better match for my dad.” Most people and things were a better fit for him than Etta was, that was how it had seemed growing up, at least from her mother’s point of view. Etta squinted out the windows and pretended to wipe a tear away as sweat. Maybe it was only sweat. She wasn’t sure she could tell the difference. Father, daughter, strangers, roommates, friends. Right note. Right word. Strike the right chord. All eluded her. If everyone was a better match for her father than she was, Etta must take after her mother too much. She tilted the rearview mirror towards herself and stared into her only slightly reddened, slim eyes. She saw her dad’s eyes, minus his thick eyebrows and rumpled hair incapable of enthusiasm.

“I’m still jealous. That you guys still have your farm, I mean.” Jeni continued, “Not of your relationship, obviously.” Jeni leaned back and hung her left arm out the truck window as they drove through town. Her elbow framed several farm machines keeping guard in a vacant lot.

Clang. Tang. Squeak. Hardware store.

Jeni’s hair, a fret of jet-black, whipped and wove between as strings generating the guitar sound vibrating from the speakers.

Swish. Clip. Whirrrrr.

Butterfly mural with paint on its antennae that dusted away instead of pollen. Etta’s hairs’ movements wavered somewhere between the formal rise and fall of a baton in the fingertips of the conductor Etta’s mother had told her she shouldn’t be, and the unpredictable flap of duct tape attempting to break away from broken windows on the houses still dotting their path.

Movie theater. High school. Church.

Which denomination had the church been? Etta craned her neck. What did it matter? It definitely hadn’t been a synagogue. The music swelled. Dusty gravel clipped under the wheels each time Jeni became too intent on the movement of the songs instead of the truck.

“How do you get all these songs? You paying for the music?” Etta quipped, anxious, her voice sharp in the heat.

“Copyright, as we know too well, is sketchy for anything real. Like seeds that have a real connection to land and people. I make up for it, though, you know I do.”

“Right, your donation jar.”

“I would never take advantage of disadvantage,” Jeni confirmed. “That’s how ‘they’ turn us against each other.” Jeni had recounted her family’s story to Etta as many times as Etta asked, usually late at night when Etta was considering submitting her own DNA to ancestry.com. Jeni’s family had immigrated from Japan to Hawai’i, in the early 1900s where the first “American” relatives were born next to sugar fields. Then, they’d moved from Hawai’i to California as farm labor in fruit orchards like those trees Jeni’s mother still tended religiously in her own backyard. In California, Jeni’s family had acquired land under the names of the Hawaiian-born children who had lived fewer years in the U.S., but were more American, at least on paper. That meant they could buy land unrestricted by law as their parents had been. It also meant they could die for that land in World War II, but they couldn’t keep it.

Etta had finally at least stopped repeating, “I can’t believe they could just take it from you like that.”

“Turn left, 100 feet,” Jeni’s map app spoke before Etta could. Of course, a computer knew the way home better than she did. Only cats met them in the driveway. Not one head lifted until the wheels were almost upon them. Then the furry bodies scattered and spread out under tree branches that reached over the worn path. After the truck slipped by, the cats returned to their spots unfazed. Their movements were a momentary acknowledgment of a disruption. The cats reminded Etta of her interactions with her dad throughout the school year.

“Which barn does this futon go in?” Jeni’s question made Etta realize that Jeni had put the gear in first and put her foot on the clutch, waiting. Etta looked around the yard at five buildings.

“He said the cow barn. That one. At least I know that much.” She pointed at the largest building towards the back of the yard. It was a long, two-story building. Bright red boards, white window frames and green shingles sat straight in their correct positions. A bit of novelty was the square milk parlor built on the far right side. Its shape cast shade over Etta’s favorite spot to sit with her grandfather while they had shared sweet ice tea.

“You know enough about living here. Remember, you can write a lot of songs with just G, C, and D chords. Don’t overwhelm yourself with what you don’t know.” Jeni removed her foot from the brake and coasted a few more yards then killed the engine. Her eyes scanned. “This is great. You could do so much here. That, that old milk room. You could make that a cooler easily. Sell at a Farmer’s Market. I am so jealous.” Which Etta knew wasn’t true. Jeni was never jealous of anyone. Jeni had the tendency to lean forward, hands on her knees, to give a “what’s going to happen next” kind of smile. Her expressions were smooth, never stretched, like they should rest between a five-year-old’s pigtail curls. Jeni did a full lap of gazing at flower beds and barn wood while Etta made her way to the back of the truck. Etta clasped the metal of the truck bed and pressed up on the handle. Then, she shrugged forcefully to tug the tailgate so it opened downward.

“Are you helping?” she yelled at Jeni.

Jeni responded in a sprint.

“I think you stepped in cat shit. You stink.”

“Don’t be negative. This is going to be great. I wore the boots with no treads. It comes right out.” She slid her foot quickly on the grass.

Jeni carried one end of the frame and walked backwards. Etta stared at her own reflection in sunglasses. She marveled at the tan the dark lenses gave her really pale skin edged by hair that had once been light like her father’s. Sometime around puberty it darkened into an unknown, yet bland shade, courtesy of her mother’s mostly rolling dark curls. The barn door wasn’t locked. It slid open under her palm and the past opened with a squeak. Inside, the barn smelled like mold and dust. The temperature of stored years was cooler than she expected. No guitar strings, no banjo hum, but this was country. Etta didn’t like country music, mostly because she was pretty sure she wasn’t supposed to.

“So? Where to?” Jeni raised her eyebrows, stepping through the door heels first.

Under the weight of the futon’s frame, Etta stiffened, locked both arms and braced her back. Dad said she could store the futon frame in the cow barn, “in the back.” Etta looked left, then right down the empty aisles. Momentarily, she surveyed the far wall that supported the ladder to the haymow. Where was “the back”? With an even press, Etta lifted two sides of the dismantled futon that fit less awkwardly in her palms. A mosquito, fly or something else bit back her mom’s words about always giving vague instructions. Etta attempted to imagine her mother here, holding cow tails or lugging straw bales. These would have been actions that meant being a “good” wife. What had happened?

If Etta found “the back,” she wasn’t sure how she would get there. Stuff was littered in the aisles. She didn’t think this was all theirs. Renters? Etta felt Jeni’s continued movement forward. She didn’t need answers to keep moving down the ramp. Etta exhaled, disgusted, though not sure why. Really, after being absent from the inside of the barn for ten years, she had no idea which things belonged and which didn’t. Belonging or not, all that seemed to be left was in her line of sight on the wall just under the opening in the ceiling that led to the haymow. She returned her gaze to the ladder she had once been so proud to be able to scale. Only three nails supporting tools held strong. A rope and pulley, a pitchfork, and hung together, a broom and aisle scraper.

Etta had expected to see the rusted metal frames of stanchions drooping in front of and away from her, or at least the chipped paint still swirling around the calf pen bars. When she had last seen the aisles, they contained the evenly spaced triangular frames used to keep the heads of the cows in place during milking. Chilled milk didn’t smell, she remembered for no particular reason. Warm milk did. The milk dripping onto her fingers from a thick nipple that a calf with no mother sucked at vigorously. The warm milk steamed and foamed alongside the calf’s spit. That had been her job, feeding baby calves. She had been too young to learn anything else, too puny to lift anything else before the cows had been sold and the barn abandoned to storage of her family’s things and others’, apparently.

“Let’s just set it here,” Etta suggested. They leaned the frame against the calf pen. Jeni remained silent, waiting for Etta to give direction.

Most of what the barn had been was no longer visible. She hoped a green stain was mold and not a toxic spill left by one of the many chemicals Etta hated. The eerie color gleamed along the upper walkway. The stain stopped just short of the metal ledge tied up tight against the wall. As a child, her grandfather had let her unhook the slat of metal when he needed to make notes about feed or draw cattle markings. When her father had worked alone in the barn, he had rested a radio there. That piece of metal had felt the last impression of her grandfather’s pen marks years ago. When had the barn last felt music?

Etta wiped her hand across her forehead and felt spider webs still with her from the door handle. Musty clouds infiltrated her pores. She wondered if after a summer the smooth black metal in her hands would look the same.

“I’m going to look for my dad. I want to make sure we put everything in the right place.” Etta turned towards the door.

Back outside, Etta saw him. Half in tree shadow, Dad walked across the grass center of the yard. His dog Dusty, some type of collie mix, followed. His head was encircled by brim, a fisherman’s cap, not his traditional baseball hat. Odd. At the truck, Etta observed him pause. He lifted out the futon stilts.

“You made it,” he yelled. He attempted a smile, illustrating wrinkles across his face that matched the creases in his pants.

Etta met him at the truck. Her instinct was always to make conversation by repeating his general style of noticing the obvious. “You have paint on your face,” she offered with a false lightness.

“I’ll pay more attention after the job is over. Not going anywhere besides the job site this week anyway. You gonna’ to come? You can, if you want.”

“My skill is abysmal and I’m slow. I’m not much help.”

“Do what you want.”

Etta took a deep breath. She couldn’t smell lilacs. She couldn’t smell silage. She smelled manure. Etta wrinkled her nose.

“I know. Neighbor cut hay, then took advantage to spread liquid shit. He has an arrangement with another farmer.”

Etta heard his words in his voice, but not his mood. She tried to read him. The angle of his head tilt reminded Etta she had read somewhere that upward slant in someone’s handwriting meant a positive outlook. Did that apply here? Etta tried again, “I did smell cut hay on the way here.”

“First hay cut. It’s as good as fall now.”

“Fall? But it’s May.”

“That’s what your grandpa always said.”

Etta didn’t know who realized first, that those were the first words he had spoken about her grandfather since Dad had found his father’s body. Dad’s eyes lifted up to stare south across the field that hadn’t seen hay in years. He continued to mumble something about deals and fertilizer application. Etta needed a moment and she dropped to stroke the collie where she had spread on her side in the cool grass. At the funeral too, Etta had dug for conversation by mentioning the obvious. She had noted, “This is not good coffee.”

Dad had stared at her over his cup saying only, “Not the kind of cup you put money in, my Uncle Hughey always said.”

Dad had shrugged. Sipped. His mustache had held the frown back, an attempt by his lips to remain even-tempered. His conversation hadn’t evolved into a favorite topic such as the politics of government assistance. His gaze looked past hers like he had been looking at, no maybe for, someone else.

After the funeral meal, Etta had tried again. “You have a scab under your eye. What happened?”

“Don’t know.” He had sniffed. “You’ll see, when you get old.” He had turned his back to her to wash dishes. “Excuse me. Got to get the paperwork done.” The faucet had sputtered. Etta had dropped her eyes to her feet and hadn’t moved until someone walked between them to leave a dish. She had claimed homework and drove back to her dorm that night.

That was what Jeni had meant about speaking “farmer.” Etta was continuously frustrated by vocabulary consisting of memories and things “he’d always heard.” The descriptions were vibrant but didn’t help her understand how he felt or what she should do. Those endless phrases heard and then repeated made great lines for songs but weren’t helpful in building relationships.

“Hey. This it?” Dad asked.

“Uh, yeah. Jeni helped me carry the frame to the barn already.” Etta forced herself to stand up. She was conscious not to add, “It’s in ‘the back’.” She’d rather not have heard his instruction than to not have understood. Etta inhaled deeply again. She sneezed then stepped in the direction of the barn. Dad followed.

Just inside the door, Etta stopped. “What are you waiting for?” Dad asked from just behind her.

“Milk it or move it, right?” she tried to smile at a shared phrase from her childhood. Phrases like that one allowed her to feign fluency in a language she did not speak, and in many ways, a culture to which she didn’t belong.

“I told you where to put that thing.”

Etta stiffened at Dad’s voice, but she wasn’t clear if the tone was disapproval or indifference. Etta looked over at the frame leaning against the pen. White clumped in the gate’s hinges but it wasn’t freshly spread lime. A few stalks of straw somehow remained.

“How am I supposed to know where ‘back’ is? And there’s so much stuff.”

“Your grandpa made decent money renting space. I don’t know if I like it, maybe I won’t do it now he’s gone, but for now the contract is at least until the end of the year.”

“It’s ugly,” Etta noted.

“What difference does it make? You don’t come here.”

She heard his footsteps stop just behind her. Etta walked down the ramp to at least show some initiative towards forward progress. Just as quickly she jerked back. Her knee and then the metal bars in her hands banged against an unseen object.

“Whoa. Careful.” Jeni looked up from her phone. She had perched herself on someone’s foosball table. “If you want my help moving something, just say so.”

Etta shook her forearm out.

“You tired?” Dad asked.

“My grip gets tired.”

“Nothin’ quite like giving up.” He smirked darkly. “My grip’s about all I’ve got left. Used to be a time when I knew I could hold onto anything.”

“Cool tractor,” Jeni interrupted. “Is that the tractor Etta used to sit on and pretend to drive? She has that photo at school. Too cute.”

“The Ford. I’d like to get that fixed up.” Dad brightened, inviting follow-up questions. Etta remembered her mom’s words, “when he has an audience.”

“What, like paint it?” Jeni flashed straight teeth. Hair. Teeth. Body. Straight. Nothing about Etta was straight; it was flat, from her bangs to her voice. Straight was a word that meant correct. Flat meant lacking, off-key.

“Hasn’t been driven. Tune-up. Be like $7,000. It’s kind of the least of my problems right now.”

Dad didn’t turn around. “Over there, on the other side of the ping pong table, Etta. You can set the frame and stilts there.”

“Won’t they get stuff on them? You know I have to use these again. Don’t want to be embarrassed.”

“Go get a sheet from the house then. Do something to help me.”

“I—” Etta didn’t try to answer. The metal in her hands clanged and echoed down the middle of the barn when she took a step towards him. “Do we have old sheets that you don’t mind if they get ruined?”

“Everything is old. Use the king-sized ones. You know I don’t use that size bed anymore. I’ll work on this.” He began to shove piles around. Clatter and cussing smacked against the souls of her feet as she scrambled up the ramp and out the door. Jeni sauntered after her. They paused at the truck door briefly.

“I can stay and help,” Jeni offered.

“No. I can do this. I want to do this.”

“What do you want to do, exactly?”

“Be her husband’s best friend.” The words wrote themselves, had written themselves when Etta had tossed and turned the night before.

“Sounds like a country song.” Jeni narrowed her eyes through her long eyelashes and climbed into the cab. “I’ll text you.”

“Include music.”

“Obviously.”

“Pay for the copyright or you’ll be no better than Monsanto.”

“Obviously.” Jeni started the engine and rolled alongside Etta until she reached the back steps.

Etta closed her eyes and waited until any vibration she could associate with the truck or Jeni’s music had dissipated. Etta stamped her feet and checked them before walking inside for the sheet from the bathroom closet. Etta’s fingers slid over her own sweat and the tiny handle that refused both to open and close all the way. The warped plywood door stuck. She sat down on the cool tile, pressing her skin against the full-length mirror inconveniently hung on the front of the door. Even with her knees tucked up against her chest, her feet could almost touch the table in front of her. There wasn’t a way to get a good look at all of herself here she had noticed during the funeral potluck when she had spent a good deal of time in the bathroom. Etta waited for her fingers to dry and tried again. Standing up this close to the door, all mirror angles were unflattering. She could see flakes of white paint on the upper half of the mirror. Paint was somewhere everywhere.

Etta wondered what decisions her mother had made when she moved in with Dad. Maybe this was her mirror, but the placement of it couldn’t have been her choice. Would her mother have been as frustrated with paint chips as she had been with cow chips or straw wisps that got tracked into the house? No, not straw, hay, that was what used to be strewn everywhere in the house, especially in the summer. Just on the other side of the bathroom wall was the porch where her mother had required Etta to undress after a day spent traipsing behind the men baling. Etta had struggled to remove each piece of clothing after errant spray from the hose had sealed her shorts and T-shirts like glue to sweaty summer skin.

After a successful grasp at the closet handle, Etta finally removed a rolled up sheet. A breeze from the open door in the next room asked Etta to turn left out of the bathroom onto the screen porch instead of right, back through the house to the barn where the futon and her dad waited. Etta perched instead on the edge of the old couch that had found a final resting place on the porch. She scanned the field across the road filtered through the metal porch screen. Out of the corner of her eye, the frame of her father’s guitar case jutted into view. She eased nearer to the guitar case, slouching lower into the lumpy cushion. Stuffing spilled out in the shape of torn noodles. This must be the dog’s favorite spot. Turning her head to the side, she caught hints of detergent and moist earth. How could the air seem so thick if it hadn’t rained? Etta closed her eyes, attempting to hear one of the songs worn into the memories she and the guitar’s wood shared.

Engines grumbled down the road a few hundred feet to her right. She turned the other ear. Birds. Orioles. Red-winged blackbirds. A harsh twit of bluebirds. Industrious robins. Hoo-eee. Bird song. Song. Song that could stay. Piano. Song that could get up and just fly away. Guitar. Her mother had tried to make her a musician for college applications. Etta had complied but never excelled. Instead her own lack of melody left her paying more attention to her classmates’ talents. When she had suggested to her mother that she write songs, the answer had been less than enthusiastic.

“But the story in the song,” Etta had protested. “The sharing of voices.”

“Songs are confusing. You can get away with anything. With saying nothing. You have more to offer than a song,” her mother had said. Selling music had been the compromise. A business degree.

Etta ran the fingers of her right hand over the fingers of her left. She didn’t feel strings. She imagined record albums. The ridges of the rows of records she knew stood upright along the wall of her father’s bedroom on the second floor. She had snuck away upstairs during the funeral and found comfort tracing those record sleeves instead of the skin wrapped around condolence handshakes. Etta hadn’t removed any of the albums from the shelf. She was afraid she wouldn’t put them back quite right. Somehow their story wasn’t hers to hear without asking first.

Without warning Dusty pushed Etta’s legs into the couch. Etta had named her father’s dog after Dusty Springfield, and the fact the dog’s coloring was two shades of brown that made her look spattered with dirt. Dusty stopped just short of the thin screen stretched over the somewhat rotting wood of the porch door and kept barking. Etta watched as the sway of a large mobile home turned into the driveway. It provided a silent drumbeat to the dog’s yips and strung-out howls.

“Oh, ssshh. You don’t need to bark. Just someone renting probably.” Etta dropped to the dog’s side and rubbed the bridge of her nose. The driver misjudged the width of the split driveway and rolled over a section of flowers. It was annoying. She knew they paid rent. Money was money. But, it was constant encroachment. Maybe just symbolic of everything else. Rent was low. How his painting business was going she didn’t know.

“You have a nice nap?” Dad’s voice slapped her head. Dusty had not arrived alone.

“I didn’t nap.” Etta scrambled to her feet.

She thought she heard him mumble, “Life’s good for women and dogs. Hard on a man and a horse.” Who had he heard that phrase from?

Dad clumped the folds of the sheet in a fist. “I thought you were coming back out with this.”

“I was. I was just—” Etta lost her nerve to ask him to play something for her on the guitar later.

“Let’s do it then.”

They moved through the house in slow motion. Dining room. Kitchen. Mud room. Back steps.

“Shut that door tight. We don’t want flies or mosquitos getting in.” Dad left Etta leaning against the screen door. She could hear the twittering of the radio in the mobile home still parked in the driveway. Etta peered around the corner. The driver leaned on the open window. He pulled around to the empty space just to the left where the old garage used to stand. Etta heard the driver comment, “Nice place you got here.”

Etta took the long way to the cow barn in order to avoid walking through the conversation. She rapidly tossed the sheet over the futon frame. When she returned across the yard, she could still hear conversation. Etta paused another moment at the screen door. “Gotta water all the time. Drought year. But,” he paused.

The driver continued, “Old buildings look great. Really kept up.”

Her eyes caught Dad’s frame straighten slightly before it sunk again at the shoulders.

Etta went inside to the room where she had left the suitcases she dropped off with her car the day before. She tried to distract herself folding and refolding clothes until the phone rang. Etta answered and heard a familiar voice.

“Did you get moved back okay?”

“Yeah, Mom. Everything’s fine. It’s hot.”

“What are you listening to?”

“Nothing.”

“I have a recommendation for you. Lydia Mendoza.”

“Never heard of her.” All of a sudden, her mother cared? She never gave music recommendations. “What genre of music?”

“She was an American guitarist. Sang Tejano and traditional Mexican-American music. They called her ‘lark of the border.’ Don’t tell your dad. He always critiques my taste.” Was Mom threatened? Etta wondered. She would ask Jeni later.

“Well, I do like singers equated to songbirds.”

“I know. I know you, Etta.” Mom’s voice sounded less distracted than normal.

Uncomfortable with plays for loyalty, Etta asked a more superficial question, “Do larks migrate?”

“I don’t know. I guess you can Google it.”

“No Internet here.”

“Go to the library. Then you can get some music too.”

“Sure.”

“I just wanted to check in. I have to go. I have a food critic this evening.”

“You’ll be fine. I’m sure you have a plan,” Etta said to her mother, but more to reassure herself. “Love you, Mom. Talk soon.”

“Bye.”

Click. Switch. Twist.

Etta spread herself over the twin mattress in the spare bedroom downstairs. She slid her finger over her tongue to remove a strand of dog hair. These sheets must not have been washed. Out of sight, out of mind. Even reaching to the four corners of the bed with her body, summer thickness smoldered under her.

“Soon,” her mother’s word lingered. It was too soon. The heat. It was too soon. May. To judge if things would change between her father and her. June. Under her window, plucked notes chirped. July. Etta fell asleep trying to remember what a lark looked like. She was sure her dad used to tell about the way they landed on fence posts in the pasture fields. August.

About the Author

Erin Conway

Website

Erin Conway is an experienced classroom teacher, nonprofit staff trainer and curriculum designer who has worked both locally and abroad, specifically ten years in indigenous villages in Guatemala. She consults on outreach programs that utilize diverse texts and currently works for UW-Madison, Division of Extension Rock County. Her primary social platforms are Facebook and LinkedIn and she also manages a website and blog at erinconway.com. Previous publishing credits include the Midwest Review, The Sonder Review, Vine Leaves Press, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Cleaning Up Glitter, The Hopper, and Kind Writers.