Three years old and Mama is beside me watching for my eyes to shut. The wild plum trees in the distance blur the streetlight beyond the backyard, the open window ushering in the familiar perfumes, the purple flower clusters, and yellow golden fairy hats with strings, which we pull and sip. My father flicks the light switch separating us from the outside world. “A splinter in your foot?” he asks. He holds up a potato slice he sets against my sole, then Mama wraps it tight with a strip of cloth and pulls a sock over it. Their voices intertwine, like vines that mesh. “Where’d you ever hear of that?” she asks. “Listening to the old-timers.” he replies. I start to shift and rouse. Daddy shuts the light off again. “Listen! Listen!” he says in loud whispers. He says it’s a whippoorwill. Then he whistles his own version. Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will! He can make me believe anything. I fall into slumber as it pierces the sweet and sour, roosting on a prickly fruit tree pecking on a plum. I will go out tomorrow and find the prodded plum, search for the bird in the flickering leafy shadows. * The next morning, my parents hover over me again, pulling off the sock, pressing my foot. “That drew it out a little,” Mama says as she hands him the tweezers. I draw back my chubby foot. “She’s not having that!” Mama responds. Daddy pulls over the big glass ashtray, where I tossed orange peels yesterday, dug away in bits by tiny hands, along with the smushed Lucky Strikes and peanut shells. “Look what I pulled out of your foot!” he exclaims. He holds up an orange peel in the tweezers. Then, a peanut shell. “Even an orange seed in your foot!” “A cigarette butt? What! In my foot?” “It’s gone,” they sigh. “It worked.” I breathe in the wafting summer magic, which Mama deems lilac and honeysuckle at their finest. I am healed.
Mitzi Dorton is author of the book, Chief Corn Tassel from Finishing Line Press. Her poetry is in Willowdown Books, the Women of Appalachia Project anthology Women Speak, Rattle, SEMO Press and others. Her writing is forthcoming in Poetry South and Arachne Press.