I see these omens in the smallest things. Torn off toe nails scattered in skeleton patterns, blood spots on sun-blanched concrete, and broken clothes line strings, hanging down like strands of drowned maiden hair. That patch of yellow dust lawn where the dog likes to bury his old marrow-sucked bones. I see them in the way the paint peels off our weather boards, how they make shapes like cave paintings, like the ring-barked tree graffiti in the park behind the parking lot. These are marks cut with blunt knives, chicken scratchings carved into the hard clay soil. I couldn’t make them, not with my hands all messed up as they are, but I can read them well enough.
I shout across the front garden at my sister, who is picking at the paint on the west wall with her bitten off fingernails.
“Don’t mess with those messages from God, Matilda Jayde,”
Tilly looks up from her absent-minded work, and scowls at me as if I were the sun or something; she turns away to face the broken back fence and lets them fall from her hand, opening like those flowers do in fast motion. The paint chips scatter across the dead-dust lawn like flakes of snow, colouring the yellow earth with specks of robin’s-egg blue. I sigh.
Tilly doesn’t take much notice of my story-telling. She likes the world to run a straight shot into the future, she wakes in the dawn light with her arms and her mouth wide, ready and waiting for the day to fill her up, to make her fuller, and taller and take her on into the next one, where she might find all of her growing done, where she might find that she is finally a full-fledged, belly-bleeding woman.
“But it’s the looking back that make you wiser, Matilda Jayde,” I tell her, “you’ve got to let the stories weave their magic, and cast nets over the hollow places in your heart.”
“I’m not going to be a wise woman,” Tilly says, arms crossed over her bare, flat chest, “I’m never going to get old. My heart is whole.” She beats her sternum with her rosey clenched fist, a heavy thud of flesh on bone, like the running of flat feet on clay.
Today is a good day for omen-hunting. The wind is up, pushing the soft cotton clouds into the shapes I have found on the west wall, and shaking down the rose bushes. The fallen petals, plush peach and red kisses in the yellow dust, are gathering too, to make the Queens Cup’s and the Hanged Man, and now it is clear that today, the earth and sky are telling secrets. I sit on the porch with my notebook open on my knees, chewing on the end of my pencil until I break the wood and can taste the graphite-lead. I am trying, best as I can, to keep up with the conversation, to trace the symbols, to have them speak to me. But today, I’m not having much luck with deciphering their synchronicity. Today, the earth and sky have dropped their voices down to whispers, today they have drawn their circle, and I am on the outside. Today, just like my Tilly-girl, peeling paint and digging earth and running on towards womanhood, the world has turned it’s back.