68 Chapters
Medium 9780253000958

The Common Life

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

One delicious afternoon while my daughter, Eva, was home from college for spring vacation, she invited two neighbor girls to help her make bread. The girls are sisters, five-year-old Alexandra and ten-year-old Rachel, both frolicky, with eager dark eyes and shining faces. They live just down the street from us here in Bloomington, Indiana, and whenever they see me pass by, on bicycle or on foot, they ask about Eva, whom they adore.

I was in the yard that afternoon mulching flower beds with compost, and I could hear the girls chattering as Eva led them up the sidewalk to our door. I had plenty of other chores to do in the yard, where every living thing was urgent with April. But how could I stay outside, when so much beauty and laughter and spunk were gathered in the kitchen?

I kept looking in on the cooks, until Eva finally asked, “Daddy, you wouldn’t like to knead some dough, would you?”

“I’d love to,” I said. “You sure there’s room for me?”

“There’s room,” Eva replied, “but you’ll have to wash in the basement.”

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253000958

Staying Put

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Two friends arrived at our house for supper one May evening along with the first rumblings of thunder. As my wife, Ruth, and I sat talking with them on our front porch, we had to keep raising our voices a notch to make ourselves heard above the gathering storm. The birds, more discreet, had already hushed. The huge elm beside our door began to sway, limbs creaking, leaves hissing. Black sponges of clouds blotted up the light, fooling the street lamps into coming on early. Above the trees and rooftops, the murky southern sky crackled with lightning. Now and again we heard the pop of a transformer as a bolt struck the power lines in our neighborhood. The pulses of thunder came faster and faster, until they merged into a continuous roar.

We gave up on talking. The four of us, all midwesterners teethed on thunderstorms, sat down there on the porch to our meal of lentil soup, cheddar cheese, bread warm from the oven, sliced apples and strawberries. We were lifting the first spoonfuls to our mouths when a stroke of lightning burst so nearby that it seemed to suck away the air, and the lights flickered out, plunging the whole street into darkness.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253000958

Beauty

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

In memory, I wait beside Eva in the vestibule of the church to play my bit part as father of the bride. She is supposed to remain hidden from the congregation until her queenly entrance, but in her eagerness to see what’s going on up front she leans forward to peek around the edge of the half-closed door. The satin roses appliquéd to her gown catch the light as she moves, and the toes of her pale silk shoes peep out from beneath the hem. The flower girls watch her every motion. Twins a few days shy of their third birthday, they flounce their unaccustomed frilly skirts, twirl their bouquets, and stare with wide eyes down the great length of carpet leading through the avenue of murmuring people.

Eva hooks a hand on my elbow while the three bridesmaids fuss over her, fixing the gauzy veil, spreading the long ivory train of her gown, tucking into her bun a loose strand of hair, which glows the color of honey filled with sunlight. Clumsy in my rented finery—patent leather shoes that are a size too small and starched shirt and stiff black tuxedo—I stand among these gorgeous women like a crow among doves. I realize they are gorgeous not because they carry bouquets or wear silk dresses, but because the festival of marriage has slowed time down until any fool can see their glory.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253329561

Chapter Twenty-One

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Patience, patience, Teeg kept reminding herself. You have waited seventeen years, you can wait a few days longer. But she grew more and more edgy as the trip to Portland was delayed, first by rainy weather, then by a series of mishaps at Jonah Colony. While testing dirt samples, Indy cut a finger and fell ill with blood poisoning. She had no sooner recovered than Jurgen came down with a fever, broke out in a rash, and spent three days writhing on his sleepcushion while Hinta and two helpers pinned him down. Soon after his fever broke, Arda discovered all the bluegill floating belly-up in the fish-tanks, casualties of some chemical imbalance, and several people had to go out hunting for wild stock to replace them.

And so departure was put off day by day. Phoenix seemed glad of the delay. “Give you time to think it over,” he told her. She thought of little else. Every kilometer of the route was mapped out. She could visualize each range of hills, each river and thicket, right up to Portland. But there she drew a blank. What would the place look like? When she had first arrived in Portland with her mother, the city had been abandoned for three years. Here and there a roof had caved in, weeds and saplings had burst the pavements, fires had devoured a few old neighborhoods of wooden houses. But most of the city was built of metal and plastic, and so had endured, which was why her mother had been sent there. Dismantling a city, her mother used to say, was like plucking a chicken, and then carving the meat off its bones, and then whittling away at the skeleton. There was very little left of Portland at the end. Since the wooden houses were useless, they were spared along with the brick-paved streets. Most of the stone buildings were framed in steel, which meant they had come down, and the towers came down, wires and pipes were dug up from the ground, every appliance that had not been stolen was melted, thousands of abandoned vehicles were shredded, and the city at last was stripped bare.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253000958

Voyageurs

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

In morning mist on a northern river, a slab of stone tumbled from a boulder into the water, where it came to life and floated, turning into a sleek black head that swam in circles dragging a V of ripples behind it. A beaver, I thought, as I watched from shore. But no sooner had I named it than the creature bobbed up and then dove, exposing a long neck and humped back and pointed tail. Not a beaver, I realized, but an otter. I was pleased to find a label for this animate scrap, as though by pinning the right word on the shape-shifter I could hold it still.

Presently a second otter, then a third and fourth broke free of the boulder and slithered down into the mercury sheen of the river. They dove without a splash, their tails flipping up to gleam like wands in the early sunlight, and they surfaced so buoyantly that their forepaws and narrow shoulders lifted well out of the water. Then one after another they clambered back onto the rock and dove again, over and over, like tireless children taking turns on a playground slide.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters