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How to Do the Twist
The Landscape of Destiny
Pillars of the Community
Story Time

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Winter 1997
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I never thought much about it. Just another of Mother's peculiarities, nothing obvious and embarrassing, nothing my friends could see like her busted seams and unraveling hems, or her fat brown arms. More in line with her Indian stories, her talk about spirits and Old Uncle, that relative who disappeared one day and then returned singing in all of creation.

"Do you hear him singing, Iris?"

I told her no, once and for all, after an enormous rattlesnake it was supposed to be Old Uncle did nothing more that I could see than slither under some oak leaves and scare the life out of me while I was helping pick acorns. She finally quit asking.

Two weeks from Christmas, and two days from the spelling bee, Mary Beth asked me if I thought my mother was weird. It was after school and we were sitting at the table going over the word list, which we had gained a great command of, me noticeably so. I was shocked. I thought first of the piece of Angelica root I'd stuck in my dresser drawer, then I thought better: Mother helping me late at night after Mary Beth went back to her house. Had she hung around outside the door and listened? Could she see through her window into our house?

"What do you mean?" I asked.

She'd been scanning a page of the open dictionary and didn't look up. "Like my mother," she said finally. "She's weird."

"What?" I was genuinely perplexed now.

With her finger she marked the word she'd been looking for, then slowly lifted her eyes from the book. "She has this thing in the bathroom," she said. "It's this rubber bag Allison says her mother has one, too. It's to wash out their you-know-whats." She gestured with the thumb of her free hand to her lap.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Because I saw it. It was hanging over her shower door and Allison told me what they do with it."

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