We Were Dirt Clumped Together: All that We Wanted
We were dirt clumped
Together: all that we wanted — Shome Dasgupta
We were dirt clumped together the way holler living is different than river living and Marcus has never forgotten the difference. Mountain freezes feel different than Ohio cold but that never stopped Marcus and Steve from their knife game, invented out of the need to displace. Later, Marcus would learn the word dissonance, but in the back yard in Sedamsville, all he had was his brother, a set of Ginny’s used-to-be good Kmart steak knives, and questions lodged like dry cornbread. This winter, like all winters, no fat back to make things smooth.
Outside, their fingers numbed first and then their toes, icicles inside thrift store socks. Feet for walking, walking for leaving, leaving for escape. Marcus knew it but Steve did not. To play the game, the brothers plucked a knife from the counter, testing to find one with spring left in its thin blade. The goal: to flip the knife off their palms first, and then their wrists, elbows, and shoulders so that it landed in the dirt, blade piercing the almost frozen river ground. Steve was best at the game. Maybe that started his affection for knives. If they hadn’t played, maybe he wouldn’t have sat in for ten, no knives in sight.
They measured their skill based on who could sit the longest, who could perfect the arc to catch a glint of sun on the blade, a life reflected. Dirt yards make dirt people, that’s what Ginny always said when Hazel would come for a visit and the two were feeling mighty, proud to be mountain people. But visits were for summer when there was no chance the Plymouth would stall out. The game underscored patience, who could sit the longest, who could ignore Ginny getting drunk on wine she kept under the sink, who could block out Pap’s absence, his presence missing the way tops of mountains don’t exist in West Virginia. Together: all that we wanted.
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