“Jacob and I are going on a long walk, a thru-hike, from Canada to Mexico.” I say.
My grandmother fails to catch the words.
“What kind of hike?” she asks.
“A thru-hike,” I say,
“we will start walking on the border with Canada and Montana, and walk south along trails and roads and paths near the Continental Divide until we get to a place near the border with Mexico and New Mexico, hopefully before the snow flys down south.” I try to keep my voice steady.
Grandma Haley is a skittish rattler whose space I’ve invaded.
Her steely eyes narrow beneath a white tuft that puts her a hair over five feet tall.
She slashes the distance across the table,
“What wouldya wanna do that for?”
The words scatter into the air between a pull on her cigarette. Her middle and pointer fingers balance the burning tobacco in her left hand while her right hand’s digits deftly manipulate her cards.
My shoulders slouch, my long legs push my knees up against the table, and my eyes wander and plead,
I want to be anywhere but here.
I ask myself why?
Time passes and Grandma Haley draws strength with each inhale and exhale.
Let’s see, as I skitter into the recesses in my mind for the why, I find the whys that I usually tell people,
to challenge limits,
because it’s fun,
because Jacob and I like hiking together.
I catch each why and hastily discard it, all are empty fluff.
I search for the why that this depression [the first] era woman in front of me would understand. She, of the quick wit, wry humor, flick of the wrist, and a switch to get the young in line.
Her no-nonsense mythology blankets me in a choking cloud of smoke.
How do I say,
I want to sleep on the hard ground.
“Uh, well, because it’s important” I say instead.
“Important.” Tobacco in.
“What makes it so damn important?” Smoke out.
Physical stature be damned, says the stretch of her spine, which also says,
What makes you so damned important.
I sigh, I submit,
“It’s an engaging errand.”
‘If you want to walk, then go walk. Don’t make a big production out of it.”
She smiles as she plays her hand.
*Grandma Haley died a few years ago, but I still hear her, and see her occasionally. She was a very large small woman, and I carry her.