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
 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
 summer, and I won’t come in for anything, not even
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
 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?”
 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.
 “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
 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
 (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
 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
 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,
 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.
 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
 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
 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.
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
 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
 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
 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
 inside glass sky and the outside sky matched.
In a few days he’d be inside, and he wouldn’t
mind at all.