Tafari Nugent, born in Brooklyn, New York in the United States 1976. First going to pursue an Associate in English at E.P.C.C. at Valle Verde. Later on pursed a B.A. and then a M.F.A. in Creative Writing, at the University of Texas at El Paso, and attained both the B.A. in 2013 followed by the M.F.A.in 2015, while focusing on the complex idea of narrative construction.
This writer has worked as an editor on the Rio Grande, a publication at The University of Texas at El Paso. As well, this writer has been published in the Chrysalis, a publication of the El Paso Community College.
Anna stared at her mudded black shoe, curious as to how it had come off and came to rest in the riverbed. Gazing back and forth from the shoe to her feet, Anna wondered where her other shoe could be. A deafening silence fell over the banks of the Rio Grande. The sun hung heavy in the gray noon sky, still in a daze, she gradually struggled to her feet. She wondered how long had she been there?
Anna shaken from her trance, by the screeching caw, of a large blackbird perched on the skeletal remnants of a dilapidated bridge, suddenly she remembered her Papa was coming home today! As Anna’s vision began to adjust to the mid-day light, she made her way over to the shoe not far off, tangled in weeds, floating close to the shore.
Drawn to the lone soaked shoe, Anna took it up and pushed her foot in, indifferent to the muddled ooze that it replaced. Checking that her pink and purple flowered book bag was still secure, she quickly headed towards home.
Anna was a classic middle child, always in the center of trouble. Her oldest sibling, Jacob, at seventeen was the spitting image of her Papa. Jake was tall, with dark brown eyes, and bronze Aztec skin; everyone thought that he even laughed the same way as Papa, a full hearty laugh that filled a room, it seemed as infectious as it was loud, you couldn’t help being caught up in its path.
Next in line was Alfred, three years younger than Jake, Alfie got his looks from Ma’s side of the family they were French, and had been in this part of the country for over sixty years. He had grandpa’s cool gray eyes, Uncle William’s dimples, and Aunty Rachel’s light-colored hair.
Anna, the only girl of five siblings; had always been the apple of her father’s eye. Her features were a blend of Aztec Warriors crossed with French Travelers. She had just passed her sixth birthday when her Ma announced that she was again with child. It turned out to be twins much to everyone’s surprise, everyone except Anna. She always had a sense for things like that.
Alex and Monte were born near the end of an extremely dry and frigid winter, things were rough at home, and Papa was drinking more than usual. Papa, being a trucker, depended on the routine delivery routes to market. Most of which had all but dried up that winter, and with no work all that he did in his spare time was drink. Nevertheless, the birth of the twins seemed to signal the spring, bringing a double blessing of life into the house. A time of prosperity followed for the family, and, memories of the bad times fell away as such things do in the gladder days of life.
Anna was haunted by the thought of where the other shoe could be. It was her favorite pair; Papa had purchased them for her on one of his delivery trips out of town. Anna seemed to glide over the sharp gravel road, it was more important that she get home before her older siblings, then to worry about the loss of a shoe. Anna thought it wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t her fault that Dutch, a black and brown Pointer, and her Papa’s favorite dog, had not returned after chasing off a coyote.
It was Alfie’s job to lock up the dogs. If he had just locked Dutch’s collar properly he wouldn’t have been able to run after the coyote in the first place. Anna being the last out hadn’t noticed that Dutch had worked his way free of the fence. When Jacob yelled to Anna to grab Dutch it was too late, he was too big and had already built up too much speed for Anna to stop him. Dutch just rushed passed her and bound over the fence after the coyote. Which had stirred up Anna’s father’s dogs (a hobby of Anna’s father was raising Blue Blood Pointers). All she could do was scream for Dutch to stop, but he wouldn’t listen, he just kept after the coyote into the night.
Now Jake and Alfie would tell Papa that it was her fault. That Anna’s mistake allowed Dutch to get away. Mama wouldn’t be any help, Anna thought, she always took the boys side, she would always say, “boys will be boys.” Every time Anna wanted to go out with her brother’s, Mama would say
“Let them go ahead, you’re a girl and anyway you’re too young.”
When her Papa got home he would ask where Dutch was, Anna thought. Since Dutch wasn’t there to greet him as he came up the front walkway as he always did, Papa would immediately know that something was wrong, Anna kept thinking. He would run in to check on Mama and ask what had happened; Mama being Mama will have remained silent, and Jake would blame me of course, with Alfie to back him up Papa most certainly would take their sides. Anna knew she had to make her case first, than Papa would understand; he wouldn’t shine those deep-set eyes of disappointment on her.
Anna felt heaviness in each step forward, she was happy, and yet for some reason as she got closer to her home she felt as if something was pulling her away. The road to her home wasn’t a busy one, yet today there seemed to be no traffic at all. The road seemed oddly empty and unwelcoming, Anna put this out of her mind, as she hurriedly trudged forward she thought back to how the day began.
As soon as class started, Anna ran up to tell Miss Orañado that her Papa was coming home today, and that she had to leave early to help her Mama prepare the house. Miss Orañado knowing how close Anna was to her father, smiled brightly, and then told her she’d let her out early, if she helped clean the blackboard erasers during lunch, instead of going with the other kids to play. Anna happy to concede agreed to their bargain and skipped off to her desk.
Lunchtime couldn’t come fast enough, as the other children called to Anna to join them; she simply smiled and told them to go on without her. Anna went about the task set for her at a methodic pace; it was as if she were possessed. Placing the pile of erasers set out by her teacher into a large steel basin of hot water. Anna began furiously beating the erasers against each other in the water.
After completing the third set of erasers, Anna pulled her arms from the now whitened water and found that her arms up to her elbows were caked with powder. Anna laughed at the sight; she thought she looked like some kind of monster.
When Anna had enough erasers, she arranged them into an imaginary castle. After, Anna began gathering the erasers and bringing them inside the classroom.
Miss Orañado, still sitting at her desk instructed Anna to place the erasers along the bottom of the blackboard. Going back outside, Anna hurriedly gathered up the rest of the erasers cleaned and dirty alike, and began placing them on the bottom of the chalkboard. Anna took her seat and awaited the eminent bell signaling the end of lunch.
Anna sat anxiously watching the minutes go by on the hands of the clock that rested on the wall behind Miss Orañado’s desk, peering up from her notes Miss Orañado took notice of Anna and said,
“Anna it’s alright you can leave now.”
A feeling of relief fell over Anna, as she rose from her desk she reached for her pink and purple flowered book bag and secured it to her back. Giving a last goodbye to her teacher Anna rushed out of class intent to reach home before her brothers.
As she ran out the schoolyard Anna had to decide to either take the old footbridge home or to take the bus route that would take her past her brother’s school. Anna knew that her Mama would see the direction she came home from and not approve of her crossing the foot bridge, but, she didn’t care she had to reach home before Papa. Her decision had been made.
Reaching the footbridge out of breath from running, Anna began making her way out across the creaking structure. She had seen her brothers do it plenty of times, Anna confidently edged her way further grasping what was left of the bridges railing to support her weight under the aged bridged. Finally reaching the center of the bridged Anna stopped and began to look sheepishly at the tattered planks beneath her feet. Regaining her courage Anna continued to cross the bridge. Seeing a missing partition on the bridge Anna takes a deep breath before lunging forward.
The ancient bridge holds under her landing, however as she recovers and takes a step the bridge gives way and Anna finds herself dangling with one hand from a section of wood. As Anna began to reach up, she hears a snapping sound as the wood breaks away from the bridge.
Falling towards the Rio Grande below Anna sees Alex and Monte in their backyard playing cops and robbers, she sees her Mama watching out the back window as the twins run around and play happily, she sees Jake and Alfie throwing a football back and forth to each other the older telling the younger to run further out, she sees Papa as he makes his way through the front door with open arms, suddenly all is darkness.
Seeing the house in the distance Anna began trying to pick up her step, she couldn’t understand it, what was this feeling? It was as if some force were trying to keep her from getting home. Arriving at the steps of her home Anna began to feel dizzy again.
Anna pushes in the door to see her mother sitting at the kitchen table holding her other shoe, and surrounded by candles. Anna looks at her mother and realizes that she’s been crying. There is a strange woman dressed in black standing behind Mama who Anna doesn’t know, Anna doesn’t like the woman, for some reason the woman brings fear to Anna, and she slowly points to her.
“Who is this woman Mama?” “Why is she her?” asked Anna.
“Come to me little one!” was the only command that that the woman dressed in black would give, holding a vigil behind Anna’s mother.
As Anna took another step into the house, she could now clearly see the horror on her Mothers face.
“What is it Mama, is Papa ok?”
Anna began to feel frightened, had something happened to Papa.
“No Anna, your Papa is fine. How are you my daughter? How have you been?”
Anna found the question strange, not in her mother asking how she was, but in the way, she asked the question what had did her mother meant.
“Mama, what do you mean, why do you look so sad?”
“Anna, why have you come back? You are scaring your brothers and your father he cries every night for you.”
“Mama what do you mean why did I come back, I’m sorry about Dutch. Is Papa very angry with me?” asked Anna now distraught.
“No child your father is not angry with you,” said the mother.
“Then why did you ask, why did I come home, did I do something wrong Mama?”
“No child but why, why did you try to cross that bridge? You broke your father’s heart that day.”
“I’m sorry Mama, I just wanted to get here before Papa got home, is he here already?”
“Anna the day that you fell from that bridge and died, your father changed, he hasn’t been the same again.”
The words hit Anna like a train and she began to feel dizzy again. As her eyes began to close, Anna could see the strange woman dressed in black moving towards her, she seemed to glide towards Anna with her arms open. Anna begins to back away from the woman dressed in black. Anna’s dizziness forces her to close her eyes.
Anna’s eyes opened slowly, still in a daze she gradually struggled to her feet. She wondered how long had she been there?