Animal Dreams Page 1

Author: Barbara Kingsolver

Genres: Classic

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Chapter 1

HOMERO

1 The Night of All Souls

His two girls are curled together like animals whose habit is to sleep underground, in the smallest space possible. Cosima knows she's the older, even when she's unconscious: one of her arms lies over Halimeda's shoulder as if she intends to protect them both from their bad dreams. Dr. Homer Noline holds his breath, trying to see movement there in the darkness, the way he's watched pregnant women close their eyes and listen inside themselves trying to feel life.

A slice of white moon from the window divides their bodies deeply into light and shadow, but not one from the other. No light could show where one body ends and the other begins when they're sleeping like this. Maybe a mother's eye could tell, but that is the one possibility that can't be tried.

Halimeda's bed is still made. In the morning she'll rumple it so he'll believe she slept by herself, and then the girls will make it again. Their labors at deceiving him are as careful as surgery. But morning is worlds away now, it's still early night on the Day of All Souls. The two of them spent the whole day playing in the cemetery with neighbor children, Pocha and Juan Teobaldo and Cristobal and the twin babies, helping Viola Domingos build a bower of marigolds over the grave of a great-grandmother who is no part of this family.

For a long time he stands gripping the door frame, which is exactly the width of a newborn's skull and curves similarly against his palm. He watches his daughters, though there's nothing to watch, and thinks these words: "A great-grandmother who isn't their business." He decides this will be their last year for the cemetery and the Day of All Souls. There are too many skeletons down there. People count too long on the oblivion of children.

They're deep in the corpselike collapse that takes hold of children when they are exhausted, but still he won't risk going in to stand over the bed the way he once would have. He would see the usual things: unraveled braids and the scraped shins hidden from his punishing antiseptics. Tonight he would also see cheeks and eyelids stained bright yellow from marigold pollen. He's spent a lifetime noticing small details from a distance. From the doorway he smells the bitterness of crushed marigold petals on their skin.

There is a deeper draft of breath and they both move a little. Their long hair falls together across the sheet, the colors blending, the curled strands curving gently around the straight. He feels a constriction around his heart that isn't disease but pure simple pain, and he knows he would weep if he could. Not for the river he can't cross to reach his children, not for distance, but the opposite. For how close together these two are, and how much they have to lose. How much they've already lost in their lives to come.

Chapter 2

COSIMA

2 Hallie's Bones

I am the sister who didn't go to war. I can only tell you my side of the story. Hallie is the one who went south, with her pickup truck and her crop-disease books and her heart dead set on a new world.

Who knows why people do what they do? I stood on a battle-ground once too, but it was forty years after the fighting was all over: northern France, in 1982, in a field where the farmers plow blades kept turning up the skeletons of cows. They were the first casualties of the German occupation. In the sudden quiet after the evacuation the cows had died by the thousands in those pastures, slowly, lowing with pain from unmilked udders. But now the farmers who grew sugar beets in those fields were blessed, they said, by the bones. The soil was rich in calcium.

Three years later when my sister talked about leaving Tucson to work in the cotton fields around Chinandega, where farmers were getting ambushed while they walked home with their minds on dinner, all I could think of was France. Those long, flat fields of bonefed green. Somehow we protect ourselves; it's the nearest I could come to imagining Nicaragua. Even though I know the bones in that ground aren't animal bones.

She left in August after the last rain of the season. Summer storms in the desert are violent things, and clean, they leave you feeling like you have cried. Hallie had never left me before. It was always the other way around, since I'm three years older and have had to do things first. She would just be catching up when I'd go again, swimming farther out into life because I still hadn't found a rock to stand on. Never because I wanted to leave. Hallie and I were so attached, like keenly mismatched Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the mind. We parted again and again and still each time it felt like a medical risk, as if we were being liberated at some terrible cost: the price of a shared organ. We never stopped feeling that knife.

But she went. And true to the laws of family physics, the equal and opposite reaction, I was soon packed up too and headed north-east on a Greyhound bus. In our divergent ways, I believe we were both headed home. I was bound for Grace, Arizona, where Hallie and I were born and raised, and where our father still lived and was said to be losing his mind. It was a Sunday. I had a window seat, and in a Greyhound you're up high. You pass through the land like some rajah on an elephant looking down on your kingdom, which in this case was a scorched bristling landscape and the tops of a lot of cars. It wasn't all that different from my usual view of life, because I'm tall, like my father and Hallie. I don't look like who I am. They do, but I don't.

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