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Momma and the Mountain

The rain just kept coming, running through the cracked fields like tiny, roaring rivers that swept away the stunted corn with foamy wonder. Squatting under the wooden porch, we squeezed our toes in the mud and drew figures with sticks.

I made a house, one with windows of real glass like in the magazines. My windows even had screens so Momma wouldn't have to hang the torn tarps to keep the bugs out.

Momma had been preparing all day. She cleaned and packed,
taking time to tie hard bread and the wrinkled apples in the checkered tablecloth. Beside the lunch stood four old milk cartons, faded now but still usable to carry the water.

And we all watched her and waited for Poppa and the brothers to come back from the mines in the creaky Ford with its shaky tires. The lights never worked for Poppa, so we stared blindly out through the wall of rain and -listened like old men for the groan of the tired engine.

"Would you please get outta that mud. You're not a frog, Maddie. You, too, John-child. Into the house, the three of you, and wide your feet on the cardboard. Don't be tracking up my floor."

We had awoken that morning to the rain, a startling change after so many days of hot sun and cloudless sky. The force of the water now made it seem like the whole world was rushing at our house at once.

For months, ever since Poppa had promised us a trip across the mountain to Larkston for Mommals birthday, we would wake up and pull the tarps,aside to stare out the windows. Across the field it stood--that massive mountain which marked the beginning of the canyon and the Northern River. Behind sixty miles of cliff, rock and waterfall hid Larkston.

"How many more days, Momma? Do we go today?"

"No, you asked me that yesterday, and the day before. Now get outta my kitchen and take your naps. And take Josie with you."

But Momma's birthday brought the rain. The water sounded angry as it pinged against the tin chimney, so unlike the spring sprinkles that fell as soft as snow on my eyelashes. We kept lifting the tarp--carefully so not to get the floor wet and have Momma scold us--and we peered out into the storm.

As haunting as the mountain could be overshadowing the barren fields, it was somehow worse not to see it all, now invisible behind a shield of cloud and rain. I knew it was still there lurking with its mysterious crevices, but Maddie had the idea that it was gone. We asked Momma but she wouldn't answer. She just kept shaking her head at the rain and packing things, unpacking and packing.

We got bored after awhile. We usually played outside away from Mommals scrubbing and cooking, so to be indoors was a treat. But soon we needed to stretch our legs. Momma wouldn't let us out; she didn't have time to tan our hides if we got ourselves and her floors muddy. Still, Maddie wanted to go out and look for the mountain, just to make sure it was.there.

"Who moved it, Momma? Whereld it go? We can't get to Larkston if ...

"Would you kids get outta my hair--skedaddle--or I won't have my work done by the time Poppa and your brothers come-"

"When're they gonna get here, Momma, when?"

Annoyed, Momma finally sent us to bed. With Maddie and John-child asleep on either side of me, I stayed awake and listened to the rain, waiting for the moan of the Ford. Momma hummed in the kitchen, and I could smell beans cooking over the fire as they sizzled and bubbled over the black kettle.

When the old Ford finally rattled up the muddy road, we jumped out of bed so fast that I tripped over John-child and hit my head on the floor. I didn't even bother to complain; Poppa and the brothers had come. Momma opened the door to let them in and warn them to wipe their feet--she wouldn't have time to wash those floors again before we left.

Poppa shook off the drops, looked at Momma and sighed.

"It's that rain. Half the road between here and the mountain is already washed out. Maybe next month, by Josie's birthday, we can go. If only the rain would've stopped. Dry for two months and then pours on your day, Momma, wouldn't you figure?"

And Momma hung their wet clothes in the kitchen to dry over the fire while the beans hissed and popped. The tablecloth was carefully untied, and the bread and apples were placed on the table.

We would wait for next month, my birthday, and hope it wouldn't rain.
- Mary O. Fumento, 1990

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