PROSE FICTION: This passage was adapted from the short story “Golden Glass” by Alma Villanueva (copyright 1982 by Bilingual Press).

 

It was his fourteenth summer.  He was thinning

out, becoming angular and clumsy, but the cautiousness,

the old-man seriousness he’d had as a baby, kept

him contained, ageless and safe.  His humor, always dry

[5] and to the bone since a small child, let you know he 

was watching everything.

 

He seemed always to be at the center of his own

universe, so it was no surprise to his mother to hear Ted

say: “I’m building a fort and sleeping out in it all

[10] summer, and I won’t come in for anything, not even

food. Okay?”

 

This had been their silent communion, the steady

presence of love that flowed regularly, daily — food.

The presence of his mother preparing it, his great

[15] appetite and obvious enjoyment of it — his nose smelling

everything, seeing his mother more vividly than

with his eyes.

 

He watched her now for signs of offense, alarm,

and only saw interest.  “Where will you put the fort?”

[20] Vida asked.

 

She trusted him to build well and not ruin things,

but of course she had to know where.

 

“I’ll build it by the redwoods, in the cypress trees.

Okay?”

 

[25] “Make sure you keep your nails together and don’t

dig into trees.  I’ll be checking.  If the tree get damaged,

it’ll have to come down.”

 

The cypress was right next to the redwoods,

making it seem very remote.  Redwoods do that — they

[30] suck up sound and time and smell like another place.  So

he counted the footsteps, when no one was looking,

from the fort to the house.  He couldn’t believe it was so

close;  it seemed so separate, alone — especially in the

dark, when the only safe way of travel seemed flight

[35] (invisible at best).

 

Ted had seen his mother walk out to the bridge at

night, looking into the water, listening to it.  He knew

she loved to see the moon’s reflection in the water.

 She’d pointed it out to him once by a river where they

[40] camped, her face full of longing.  Then, she swam out

into the water, at night, as though trying to touch the

moon.  He wouldn’t look at her.  He sat and glared at the

fire and roasted another marshmallow the way he liked

it: bubble, soft and brown (maybe six if he could get

[45] away with it).  Then she’d be back, chilled and bright,

and he was glad she went.  Maybe I like the moon

too, he thought, involuntarily, as though she thought

weren’t his own — but it was.

 

He built the ground floor directly on the earth,

[50] with a cover of old plywood, then scattered remnant

rugs that he’d asked Vida to get for him.  He concocted

a latch and a door.  He brought his sleeping bag, some

pillows, a transistor radio, some clothes, and moved in

for the summer.

 

[55] He began to build the top floor now but he had to

prune some limbs out of the way.  Well, that was okay

as long as he was careful.  So he stacked them to one

side for kindling and began to brace things in place.  It

felt weird going up into the tree, not as safe as his

[60] small, contained place on the ground.

 

Vida noticed Ted had become cheerful and would

stand next to her, to her left side, talking sometimes.

 But she realized she mustn’t face him or he’d become

silent and wander away.  So she stood listening, in the

[65] same even breath and heart beat she kept when she

spotted the wild pheasants with their long, lush tails

trailing the grape arbor, picking delicately and greedily

at the unpicked grapes in the early autumn light.  So

sharp, so perfect, so rare to see a wild thing at peace.

 

[70]Ted was taking a makeup course and one in

stained glass.  There, he talked and acted relaxed; no

one expected any more or less.  The colors of the

stained glass were deep and beautiful, and special — you

couldn’t waste this glass.  The sides were sharp, the cuts

[75] were slow and meticulous with a steady pressure.  The

design’s plan had to be absolutely followed or the beautiful

glass would go to waste, and he’d curse himself.

 

The stained glass was finished and he decided to

place it in his fort facing the back fields.  In fact, it

[80] looked like the back fields — trees and the sun in a dark

sky.  During the day the glass sun shimmered a beautiful

yellow, the blue a much better color than the sky outside:

deeper, like night.

 

He was so used to sleeping outside now he didn’t

[85] wake up during the night, just like in the house.  One

night, toward the end when he’d have to move back

with everyone (school was starting, frost was coming

and the rains), Ted woke up to see the stained glass full

of light.  The little sun was a golden moon and the

[90] inside glass sky and the outside sky matched.

 

In a few days he’d be inside, and he wouldn’t

mind at all.