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Educated: A Memoir / . , (by Tara Westover, 2018) -

Educated: A Memoir / . ,    (by Tara Westover, 2018) -

Educated: A Memoir / . , (by Tara Westover, 2018) -

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Educated: A Memoir / . , (by Tara Westover, 2018) -
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2018
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Tara Westover
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Julia Whelan
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upper-intermediate
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12:10:35
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62 kbps
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m4b, pdf, doc

Educated: A Memoir / . , :

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: Educated: A Memoir

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The past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we dont have complete emotions about the present, only about the past. VIRGINIA WOOLF I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing. JOHN DEWEY This story is not about Mormonism. Neither is it about any other form of religious belief. In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two. The following names, listed in alphabetical order, are pseudonyms: Aaron, Audrey, Benjamin, Emily, Erin, Faye, Gene, Judy, Peter, Robert, Robin, Sadie, Shannon, Shawn, Susan, Vanessa. Im standing on the red railway car that sits abandoned next to the barn. The wind soars, whipping my hair across my face and pushing a chill down the open neck of my shirt. The gales are strong this close to the mountain, as if the peak itself is exhaling. Down below, the valley is peaceful, undisturbed. Meanwhile our farm dances: the heavy conifer trees sway slowly, while the sagebrush and thistles quiver, bowing before every puff and pocket of air. Behind me a gentle hill slopes upward and stitches itself to the mountain base. If I look up, I can see the dark form of the Indian Princess. The hill is paved with wild wheat. If the conifers and sagebrush are soloists, the wheat field is a corps de ballet, each stem following all the rest in bursts of movement, a million ballerinas bending, one after the other, as great gales dent their golden heads. The shape of that dent lasts only a moment, and is as close as anyone gets to seeing wind. Turning toward our house on the hillside, I see movements of a different kind, tall shadows stiffly pushing through the currents. My brothers are awake, testing the weather. I imagine my mother at the stove, hovering over bran pancakes. I picture my father hunched by the back door, lacing his steel-toed boots and threading his callused hands into welding gloves. On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping. I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we dont go to school. Dad worries that the Government will force us to go but it cant, because it doesnt know about us. Four of my parents seven children dont have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse.* We have no school records because weve never set foot in a classroom. When I am nine, I will be issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth, but at this moment, according to the state of Idaho and the federal government, I do not exist. Of course I did exist. I had grown up preparing for the Days of Abomination, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. I spent my summers bottling peaches and my winters rotating supplies. When the World of Men failed, my family would continue on, unaffected. I had been educated in the rhythms of the mountain, rhythms in which change was never fundamental, only cyclical. The same sun appeared each morning, swept over the valley and dropped behind the peak. The snows that fell in winter always melted in the spring. Our lives were a cyclethe cycle of the day, the cycle of the seasonscircles of perpetual change that, when complete, meant nothing had changed at all. I believed my family was a part of this immortal pattern, that we were, in some sense, eternal. But eternity belonged only to the mountain. Theres a story my father used to tell about the peak. She was a grand old thing, a cathedral of a mountain. The range had other mountains, taller, more imposing, but Bucks Peak was the most finely crafted. Its base spanned a mile, its dark form swelling out of the earth and rising into a flawless spire. From a distance, you could see the impression of a womans body on the mountain face: her legs formed of huge ravines, her hair a spray of pines fanning over the northern ridge. Her stance was commanding, one leg thrust forward in a powerful movement, more stride than step. My father called her the Indian Princess. She emerged each year when the snows began to melt, facing south, watching the buffalo return to the valley. Dad said the nomadic Indians had watched for her appearance as a sign of spring, a signal the mountain was thawing, winter was over, and it was time to come home. All my fathers stories were about our mountain, our valley, our jagged little patch of Idaho. He never told me what to do if I left the mountain, if I crossed oceans and continents and found myself in strange terrain, where I could no longer search the horizon for the Princess. He never told me how Id know when it was time to come home. * Except for my sister Audrey, who broke both an arm and a leg when she was young. She was taken to get a cast. PART ONE My strongest memory is not a memory. Its something I imagined, then came to remember as if it had happened. The memory was formed when I was five, just before I turned six, from a story my father told in such detail that I and my brothers and sister had each conjured our own cinematic version, with gunfire and shouts. Mine had crickets. Thats the sound I hear as my family huddles in the kitchen, lights off, hiding from the Feds whove surrounded the house. A woman reaches for a glass of water and her silhouette is lighted by the moon. A shot echoes like the lash of a whip and she falls. In my memory its always Mother who falls, and she has a baby in her arms. The baby doesnt make senseIm the youngest of my mothers seven childrenbut like I said, none of this happened. A YEAR AFTER MY FATHER told us that story, we gathered one evening to hear him read aloud from Isaiah, a prophecy about Immanuel. He sat on our mustard-colored sofa, a large Bible open in his lap. Mother was next to him. The rest of us were strewn across the shaggy brown carpet. Butter and honey shall he eat, Dad droned, low and monotone, weary from a long day hauling scrap. That he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. There was a heavy pause. We sat quietly. My father was not a tall man but he was able to command a room. He had a presence about him, the solemnity of an oracle. His hands were thick and leatherythe hands of a man whod been hard at work all his lifeand they grasped the Bible firmly. He read the passage aloud a second time, then a third, then a fourth. With each repetition the pitch of his voice climbed higher. His eyes, which moments before had been swollen with fatigue, were now wide and alert. There was a divine doctrine here, he said. He would inquire of the Lord. The next morning Dad purged our fridge of milk, yogurt and cheese, and that evening when he came home, his truck was loaded with fifty gallons of honey. Isaiah doesnt say which is evil, butter or honey, Dad said, grinning as my brothers lugged the white tubs to the basement. But if you ask, the Lord will tell you! When Dad read the verse to his mother, she laughed in his face. I got some pennies in my purse, she said. You better take them. Theyll be all the sense you got. Grandma had a thin, angular face and an endless store of faux Indian jewelry, all silver and turquoise, which hung in clumps from her spindly neck and fingers. Because she lived down the hill from us, near the highway, we called her Grandma-down-the-hill. This was to distinguish her from our mothers mother, who we called Grandma-over-in-town because she lived fifteen miles south, in the only town in the county, which had a single stoplight and a grocery store. Dad and his mother got along like two cats with their tails tied together. They could talk for a week and not agree about anything, but they were tethered by their devotion to the mountain. My fathers family had been living at the base of Bucks Peak for half a century. Grandmas daughters had married and moved away, but my father stayed, building a shabby yellow house, which he would never quite finish, just up the hill from his mothers, at the base of the mountain, and plunking a junkyardone of severalnext to her manicured lawn. They argued daily, about the mess from the junkyard but more often about us kids. Grandma thought we should be in school and not, as she put it, roaming the mountain like savages. Dad said public school was a ploy by the Government to lead children away from God. I may as well surrender my kids to the devil himself, he said, as send them down the road to that school. God told Dad to share the revelation with the people who lived and farmed in the shadow of Bucks Peak. On Sundays, nearly everyone gathered at the church, a hickory-colored chapel just off the highway with the small, restrained steeple common to Mormon churches. Dad cornered fathers as they left their pews. He started with his cousin Jim, who listened good-naturedly while Dad waved his Bible and explained the sinfulness of milk. Jim grinned, then clapped Dad on the shoulder and said no righteous God would deprive a man of homemade strawberry ice cream on a hot summer afternoon. Jims wife tugged on his arm. As he slid past us I caught a whiff of manure. Then I remembered: the big dairy farm a mile north of Bucks Peak, that was Jims. AFTER DAD TOOK UP preaching against milk, Grandma jammed her fridge full of it. She and Grandpa only drank skim but pretty soon it was all theretwo percent, whole, even chocolate. She seemed to believe this was an important line to hold. Breakfast became a test of loyalty. Every morning, my family sat around a large table of reworked red oak and ate either seven-grain cereal, with honey and molasses, or seven-grain pancakes, also with honey and molasses. Because there were nine of us, the pancakes were never cooked all the way through. I didnt mind the cereal if I could soak it in milk, letting the cream gather up the grist and seep into the pellets, but since the revelation wed been having it with water. It was like eating a bowl of mud. It wasnt long before I began to think of all that milk spoiling in Grandmas fridge. Then I got into the habit of skipping breakfast each morning and going straight to the barn. Id slop the pigs and fill the trough for the cows and horses, then Id hop over the corral fence, loop around the barn and step through Grandmas side door. On one such morning, as I sat at the counter watching Grandma pour a bowl of cornflakes, she said, How would you like to go to school? I wouldnt like it, I said. How do you know, she barked. You aint never tried it. She poured the milk and handed me the bowl, then she perched at the bar, directly across from me, and watched as I shoveled spoonfuls into my mouth. Were leaving tomorrow for Arizona, she told me, but I already knew. She and Grandpa always went to Arizona when the weather began to turn. Grandpa said he was too old for Idaho winters; the cold put an ache in his bones. Get yourself up real early, Grandma said, around five, and well take you with us. Put you in school. I shifted on my stool. I tried to imagine school but couldnt. Instead I pictured Sunday school, which I attended each week and which I hated. A boy named Aaron had told all the girls that I couldnt read because I didnt go to school, and now none of them would talk to me. Dad said I can go? I said. No, Grandma said. But well be long gone by the time he realizes youre missing. She set my bowl in the sink and gazed out the window. Grandma was a force of natureimpatient, aggressive, self-possessed. To look at her was to take a step back. She dyed her hair black and this intensified her already severe features, especially her eyebrows, which she smeared on each morning in thick, inky arches. She drew them too large and this made her face seem stretched. They were also drawn too high and draped the rest of her features into an expression of boredom, almost sarcasm. You should be in school, she said. Wont Dad just make you bring me back? I said. Your dad cant make me do a damned thing. Grandma stood, squaring herself. If he wants you, hell have to come get you. She hesitated, and for a moment looked ashamed. I talked to him yesterday. He wont be able to fetch you back for a long while. Hes behind on that shed hes building in town. He cant pack up and drive to Arizona, not while the weather holds and he and the boys can work long days. Grandmas scheme was well plotted. Dad always worked from sunup until sundown in the weeks before the first snow, trying to stockpile enough money from hauling scrap and building barns to outlast the winter, when jobs were scarce. Even if his mother ran off with his youngest child, he wouldnt be able to stop working, not until the forklift was encased in ice. Ill need to feed the animals before we go, I said. Hell notice Im gone for sure if the cows break through the fence looking for water. I DIDNT SLEEP THAT NIGHT. I sat on the kitchen floor and watched the hours tick by. One A.M. Two. Three. At four I stood and put my boots by the back door. They were caked in manure, and I was sure Grandma wouldnt let them into her car. I pictured them on her porch, abandoned, while I ran off shoeless to Arizona. I imagined what would happen when my family discovered I was missing. My brother Richard and I often spent whole days on the mountain, so it was likely no one would notice until sundown, when Richard came home for dinner and I didnt. I pictured my brothers pushing out the door to search for me. Theyd try the junkyard first, hefting iron slabs in case some stray sheet of metal had shifted and pinned me. Then theyd move outward, sweeping the farm, crawling up trees and into the barn attic. Finally, theyd turn to the mountain. It would be past dusk by thenthat moment just before night sets in, when the landscape is visible only as darkness and lighter darkness, and you feel the world around you more than you see it. I imagined my brothers spreading over the mountain, searching the black forests. No one would talk; everyones thoughts would be the same. Things could go horribly wrong on the mountain. Cliffs appeared suddenly. Feral horses, belonging to my grandfather, ran wild over thick banks of water hemlock, and there were more than a few rattlesnakes. Wed done this search before when a calf went missing from the barn. In the valley youd find an injured animal; on the mountain, a dead one. I imagined Mother standing by the back door, her eyes sweeping the dark ridge, when my father came home to tell her they hadnt found me. My sister, Audrey, would suggest that someone ask Grandma, and Mother would say Grandma had left that morning for Arizona. Those words would hang in the air for a moment, then everyone would know where Id gone. I imagined my fathers face, his dark eyes shrinking, his mouth clamping into a frown as he turned to my mother. You think she chose to go? Low and sorrowful, his voice echoed. Then it was drowned out by sounds from another conjured remembrancecrickets, then gunfire, then silence. THE EVENT WAS A FAMOUS ONE, I would later learnlike Wounded Knee or Wacobut when my father first told us the story, it felt like no one in the world knew about it except us. It began near the end of canning season, which other kids probably called summer. My family always spent the warm months bottling fruit for storage, which Dad said wed need in the Days of Abomination. One evening, Dad was uneasy when he came in from the junkyard. He paced the kitchen during dinner, hardly touching a bite. We had to get everything in order, he said. There was little time. We spent the next day boiling and skinning peaches. By sundown wed filled dozens of Mason jars, which were set out in perfect rows, still warm from the pressure cooker. Dad surveyed our work, counting the jars and muttering to himself, then he turned to Mother and said, Its not enough. That night Dad called a family meeting, and we gathered around the kitchen table, because it was wide and long, and could seat all of us. We had a right to know what we were up against, he said. He was standing at the head of the table; the rest of us perched on benches, studying the thick planks of red oak. Theres a family not far from here, Dad said. Theyre freedom fighters. They wouldnt let the Government brainwash their kids in them public schools, so the Feds came after them. Dad exhaled, long and slow. The Feds surrounded the familys cabin, kept them locked in there for weeks, and when a hungry child, a little boy, snuck out to go hunting, the Feds shot him dead. I scanned my brothers. Id never seen fear on Lukes face before. Theyre still in the cabin, Dad said. They keep the lights off, and they crawl on the floor, away from the doors and windows. I dont know how much food they got. Might be theyll starve before the Feds give up. No one spoke. Eventually Luke, who was twelve, asked if we could help. No, Dad said. Nobody can. Theyre trapped in their own home. But they got their guns, you can bet thats why the Feds aint charged in. He paused to sit, folding himself onto the low bench in slow, stiff movements. He looked old to my eyes, worn out. We cant help them, but we can help ourselves. When the Feds come to Bucks Peak, well be ready. That night, Dad dragged a pile of old army bags up from the basement. He said they were our head for the hills bags. We spent that night packing them with suppliesherbal medicines, water purifiers, flint and steel. Dad had bought several boxes of military MREsMeals Ready-to-Eatand we put as many as we could fit into our packs, imagining the moment when, having fled the house and hiding ourselves in the wild plum trees near the creek, wed eat them. Some of my brothers stowed guns in their packs but I had only a small knife, and even so my pack was as big as me by the time wed finished. I asked Luke to hoist it onto a shelf in my closet, but Dad told me to keep it low, where I could fetch it quick, so I slept with it in my bed. I practiced slipping the bag onto my back and running with itI didnt want to be left behind. I imagined our escape, a midnight flight to the safety of the Princess. The mountain, I understood, was our ally. To those who knew her she could be kind, but to intruders she was pure treachery, and this would give us an advantage. Then again, if we were going to take cover on the mountain when the Feds came, I didnt understand why we were canning all these peaches. We couldnt haul a thousand heavy Mason jars up the peak. Or did we need the peaches so we could bunker down in the house, like the Weavers, and fight it out? Fighting it out seemed likely, especially a few days later when Dad came home with more than a dozen military-surplus rifles, mostly SKSs, their thin silver bayonets folded neatly under their barrels. The guns arrived in narrow tin boxes and were packed in Cosmoline, a brownish substance the consistency of lard that had to be stripped away. After theyd been cleaned, my brother Tyler chose one and set it on a sheet of black plastic, which he folded over the rifle, sealing it with yards of silvery duct tape. Hoisting the bundle onto his shoulder, he carried it down the hill and dropped it next to the red railroad car. Then he began to dig. When the hole was wide and deep, he dropped the rifle into it, and I watched him cover it with dirt, his muscles swelling from the exertion, his jaw clenched. Soon after, Dad bought a machine to manufacture bullets from spent cartridges. Now we could last longer in a standoff, he said. I thought of my head for the hills bag, waiting in my bed, and of the rifle hidden near the railcar, and began to worry about the bullet-making machine. It was bulky and bolted to an iron workstation in the basement. If we were taken by surprise, I figured we wouldnt have time to fetch it. I wondered if we should bury it, too, with the rifle. We kept on bottling peaches. I dont remember how many days passed or how many jars wed added to our stores before Dad told us more of the story. Randy Weavers been shot, Dad said, his voice thin and erratic. He left the cabin to fetch his sons body, and the Feds shot him. Id never seen my father cry, but now tears were dripping in a steady stream from his nose. He didnt wipe them, just let them spill onto his shirt. His wife heard the shot and ran to the window, holding their baby. Then came the second shot. Mother was sitting with her arms folded, one hand across her chest, the other clamped over her mouth. I stared at our speckled linoleum while Dad told us how the baby had been lifted from its mothers arms, its face smeared with her blood. Until that moment, some part of me had wanted the Feds to come, had craved the adventure. Now I felt real fear. I pictured my brothers crouching in the dark, their sweaty hands slipping down their rifles. I pictured Mother, tired and parched, drawing back away from the window. I pictured myself lying flat on the floor, still and silent, listening to the sharp chirp of crickets in the field. Then I saw Mother stand and reach for the kitchen tap. A white flash, the roar of gunfire, and she fell. I leapt to catch the baby. Dad never told us the end of the story. We didnt have a TV or radio, so perhaps he never learned how it ended himself. The last thing I remember him saying about it was, Next time, it could be us. Those words would stay with me. I would hear their echo in the chirp of crickets, in the squish of peaches dropping into a glass jar, in the metallic chink of an SKS being cleaned. I would hear them every morning when I passed the railroad car and paused over the chickweed and bull thistle growing where Tyler had buried the rifle. Long after Dad had forgotten about the revelation in Isaiah, and Mother was again hefting plastic jugs of Western Family 2% into the fridge, I would remember the Weavers. IT WAS ALMOST FIVE A.M. I returned to my room, my head full of crickets and gunfire. In the lower bunk, Audrey was snoring, a low, contented hum that invited me to do the same. Instead I climbed up to my bed, crossed my legs and looked out the window. Five passed. Then six. At seven, Grandma appeared and I watched her pace up and down her patio, turning every few moments to gaze up the hill at our house. Then she and Grandpa stepped into their car and pulled onto the highway. When the car was gone, I got out of bed and ate a bowl of bran with water. Outside I was greeted by Lukes goat, Kamikaze, who nibbled my shirt as I walked to the barn. I passed the go-kart Richard was building from an old lawnmower. I slopped the pigs, filled the trough and moved Grandpas horses to a new pasture. After Id finished I climbed the railway car and looked out over the valley. It was easy to pretend the car was moving, speeding away, that any moment the valley might disappear behind me. Id spent hours playing that fantasy through in my head but today the reel wouldnt take. I turned west, away from the fields, and faced the peak. The Princess was always brightest in spring, just after the conifers emerged from the snow, their deep green needles seeming almost black against the tawny browns of soil and bark. It was autumn now. I could still see her but she was fading: the reds and yellows of a dying summer obscured her dark form. Soon it would snow. In the valley that first snow would melt but on the mountain it would linger, burying the Princess until spring, when she would reappear, watchful. Do you have calendula? the midwife said. I also need lobelia and witch hazel. She was sitting at the kitchen counter, watching Mother rummage through our birchwood cabinets. An electric scale sat on the counter between them, and occasionally Mother would use it to weigh dried leaves. It was spring. There was a morning chill despite the bright sunlight. I made a fresh batch of calendula last week, Mother said. Tara, run and fetch it. I retrieved the tincture, and my mother packed it in a plastic grocery bag with the dried herbs. Anything else? Mother laughed. The pitch was high, nervous. The midwife intimidated her, and when intimidated my mother took on a weightless quality, whisking about every time the midwife made one of her slow, solid movements. The midwife surveyed her list. That will do. She was a short, plump woman in her late forties, with eleven children and a russet-colored wart on her chin. She had the longest hair Id ever seen, a cascade the color of field mice that fell to her knees when she took it out of its tight bun. Her features were heavy, her voice thick with authority. She had no license, no certificates. She was a midwife entirely by the power of her own say-so, which was more than enough. Mother was to be her assistant. I remember watching them that first day, comparing them. Mother with her rose-petal skin and her hair curled into soft waves that bounced about her shoulders. Her eyelids shimmered. Mother did her makeup every morning, but if she didnt have time shed apologize all day, as if by not doing it, she had inconvenienced everyone. The midwife looked as though she hadnt given a thought to her appearance in a decade, and the way she carried herself made you feel foolish for having noticed. The midwife nodded goodbye, her arms full of Mothers herbs. The next time the midwife came she brought her daughter Maria, who stood next to her mother, imitating her movements, with a baby wedged against her wiry nine-year-old frame. I stared hopefully at her. I hadnt met many other girls like me, who didnt go to school. I edged closer, trying to draw her attention, but she was wholly absorbed in listening to her mother, who was explaining how cramp bark and motherwort should be administered to treat post-birth contractions. Marias head bobbed in agreement; her eyes never left her mothers face. I trudged down the hall to my room, alone, but when I turned to shut the door she was standing in it, still toting the baby on her hip. He was a meaty box of flesh, and her torso bent sharply at the waist to offset his bulk. Are you going? she said. I didnt understand the question. I always go, she said. Have you seen a baby get born? No. I have, lots of times. Do you know what it means when a baby comes breech? No. I said it like an apology. THE FIRST TIME MOTHER assisted with a birth she was gone for two days. Then she wafted through the back door, so pale she seemed translucent, and drifted to the couch, where she stayed, trembling. It was awful, she whispered. Even Judy said she was scared. Mother closed her eyes. She didnt look scared. Mother rested for several minutes, until she regained some color, then she told the story. The labor had been long, grueling, and when the baby finally came the mother had torn, and badly. There was blood everywhere. The hemorrhage wouldnt stop. Thats when Mother realized the umbilical cord had wrapped around the babys throat. He was purple, so still Mother thought he was dead. As Mother recounted these details, the blood drained from her face until she sat, pale as an egg, her arms wrapped around herself. Audrey made chamomile tea and we put our mother to bed. When Dad came home that night, Mother told him the same story. I cant do it, she said. Judy can, but I cant. Dad put an arm on her shoulder. This is a calling from the Lord, he said. And sometimes the Lord asks for hard things. Mother didnt want to be a midwife. Midwifery had been Dads idea, one of his schemes for self-reliance. There was nothing he hated more than our being dependent on the Government. Dad said one day we would be completely off the grid. As soon as he could get the money together, he planned to build a pipeline to bring water down from the mountain, and after that hed install solar panels all over the farm. That way wed have water and electricity in the End of Days, when everyone else was drinking from puddles and living in darkness. Mother was an herbalist so she could tend our health, and if she learned to midwife she would be able to deliver the grandchildren when they came along. The midwife came to visit Mother a few days after the first birth. She brought Maria, who again followed me to my room. Its too bad your mother got a bad one her first time, she said, smiling. The next one will be easier. A few weeks later, this prediction was tested. It was midnight. Because we didnt have a phone, the midwife called Grandma-down-the-hill, who walked up the hill, tired and ornery, and barked that it was time for Mother to go play doctor. She stayed only minutes but woke the whole house. Why you people cant just go to a hospital like everyone else is beyond me, she shouted, slamming the door on her way out. Mother retrieved her overnight bag and the tackle box shed filled with dark bottles of tincture, then she walked slowly out the door. I was anxious and slept badly, but when Mother came home the next morning, hair deranged and dark circles under her eyes, her lips were parted in a wide smile. It was a girl, she said. Then she went to bed and slept all day. Months passed in this way, Mother leaving the house at all hours and coming home, trembling, relieved to her core that it was over. By the time the leaves started to fall shed helped with a dozen births. By the end of winter, several dozen. In the spring she told my father shed had enough, that she could deliver a baby if she had to, if it was the End of the World. Now she could stop. Dads face sank when she said this. He reminded her that this was Gods will, that it would bless our family. You need to be a midwife, he said. You need to deliver a baby on your own. Mother shook her head. I cant, she said. Besides, who would hire me when they could hire Judy? Shed jinxed herself, thrown her gauntlet before God. Soon after, Maria told me her father had a new job in Wyoming. Mom says your mother should take over, Maria said. A thrilling image took shape in my imagination, of me in Marias role, the midwifes daughter, confident, knowledgeable. But when I turned to look at my mother standing next to me, the image turned to vapor. Midwifery was not illegal in the state of Idaho, but it had not yet been sanctioned. If a delivery went wrong, a midwife might face charges for practicing medicine without a license; if things went very wrong, she could face criminal charges for manslaughter, even prison time. Few women would take such a risk, so midwives were scarce: on the day Judy left for Wyoming, Mother became the only midwife for a hundred miles. Women with swollen bellies began coming to the house and begging Mother to deliver their babies. Mother crumpled at the thought. One woman sat on the edge of our faded yellow sofa, her eyes cast downward, as she explained that her husband was out of work and they didnt have money for a hospital. Mother sat quietly, eyes focused, lips tight, her whole expression momentarily solid. Then the expression dissolved and she said, in her small voice, Im not a midwife, just an assistant. The woman returned several times, perching on our sofa again and again, describing the uncomplicated births of her other children. Whenever Dad saw the womans car from the junkyard, hed often come into the house, quietly, through the back door, on the pretense of getting water; then hed stand in the kitchen taking slow, silent sips, his ear bent toward the living room. Each time the woman left Dad could hardly contain his excitement, so that finally, succumbing to either the womans desperation or to Dads elation, or to both, Mother gave way. The birth went smoothly. Then the woman had a friend who was also pregnant, and Mother delivered her baby as well. Then that woman had a friend. Mother took on an assistant. Before long she was delivering so many babies that Audrey and I spent our days driving around the valley with her, watching her conduct prenatal exams and prescribe herbs. She became our teacher in a way that, because we rarely held school at home, shed never been before. She explained every remedy and palliative. If So-and-sos blood pressure was high, she should be given hawthorn to stabilize the collagen and dilate the coronary blood vessels. If Mrs. Someone-or-other was having premature contractions, she needed a bath in ginger to increase the supply of oxygen to the uterus. Midwifing changed my mother. She was a grown woman with seven children, but this was the first time in her life that she was, without question or caveat, the one in charge. Sometimes, in the days after a birth, I detected in her something of Judys heavy presence, in a forceful turn of her head, or the imperious arch of an eyebrow. She stopped wearing makeup, then she stopped apologizing for not wearing it. Mother charged about five hundred dollars for a delivery, and this was another way midwifing changed her: suddenly she had money. Dad didnt believe that women should work, but I suppose he thought it was all right for Mother to be paid for midwifing, because it undermined the Government. Also, we needed the money. Dad worked harder than any man I knew, but scrapping and building barns and hay sheds didnt bring in much, and it helped that Mother could buy groceries with the envelopes of small bills she kept in her purse. Sometimes, if wed spent the whole day flying about the valley, delivering herbs and doing prenatal exams, Mother would use that money to take me and Audrey out to eat. Grandma-over-in-town had given me a journal, pink with a caramel-colored teddy bear on the cover, and in it I recorded the first time Mother took us to a restaurant, which I described as real fancy with menus and everything. According to the entry, my meal came to $3.30. Mother also used the money to improve herself as a midwife. She bought an oxygen tank in case a baby came out and couldnt breathe, and she took a suturing class so she could stitch the women who tore. Judy had always sent women to the hospital for stitches, but Mother was determined to learn. Self-reliance, I imagine her thinking. With the rest of the money, Mother put in a phone line.* One day a white van appeared, and a handful of men in dark overalls began climbing over the utility poles by the highway. Dad burst through the back door demanding to know what the hell was going on. I thought you wanted a phone, Mother said, her eyes so full of surprise they were irreproachable. She went on, talking fast. You said there could be trouble if someone goes into labor and Grandma isnt home to take the call. I thought, Hes right, we need a phone! Silly me! Did I misunderstand? Dad stood there for several seconds, his mouth open. Of course a midwife needs a phone, he said. Then he went back to the junkyard and thats all that was ever said about it. We hadnt had a telephone for as long as I could remember, but the next day there it was, resting in a lime-green cradle, its glossy finish looking out of place next to the murky jars of cohosh and skullcap. LUKE WAS FIFTEEN WHEN he asked Mother if he could have a birth certificate. He wanted to enroll in Drivers Ed because Tony, our oldest brother, was making good money driving rigs hauling gravel, which he could do because he had a license. Shawn and Tyler, the next oldest after Tony, had birth certificates; it was only the youngest fourLuke, Audrey, Richard and mewho didnt. Mother began to file the paperwork. I dont know if she talked it over with Dad first. If she did, I cant explain what changed his mindwhy suddenly a ten-year policy of not registering with the Government ended without a strugglebut I think maybe it was that telephone. It was almost as if my father had come to accept that if he were really going to do battle with the Government, he would have to take certain risks. Mothers being a midwife would subvert the Medical Establishment, but in order to be a midwife she needed a phone. Perhaps the same logic was extended to Luke: Luke would need income to support a family, to buy supplies and prepare for the End of Days, so he needed a birth certificate. The other possibility is that Mother didnt ask Dad. Perhaps she just decided, on her own, and he accepted her decision. Perhaps even hecharismatic gale of a man that he waswas temporarily swept aside by the force of her. Once she had begun the paperwork for Luke, Mother decided she might as well get birth certificates for all of us. It was harder than she expected. She tore the house apart looking for documents to prove we were her children. She found nothing. In my case, no one was sure when Id been born. Mother remembered one date, Dad another, and Grandma-down-the-hill, who went to town and swore an affidavit that I was her granddaughter, gave a third date. Mother called the church headquarters in Salt Lake City. A clerk there found a certificate from my christening, when I was a baby, and another from my baptism, which, as with all Mormon children, had occurred when I was eight. Mother requested copies. They arrived in the mail a few days later. For Petes sake! Mother said when she opened the envelope. Each document gave a different birth date, and neither matched the one Grandma had put on the affidavit. That week Mother was on the phone for hours every day. With the receiver wedged against her shoulder, the cord stretched across the kitchen, she cooked, cleaned, and strained tinctures of goldenseal and blessed thistle, while having the same conversation over and over. Obviously I should have registered her when she was born, but I didnt. So here we are. Voices murmured on the other end of the line. Ive already told youand your subordinate, and your subordinates subordinate, and fifty other people this weekshe doesnt have school or medical records. She doesnt have them! They werent lost. I cant ask for copies. They dont exist! Her birthday? Lets say the twenty-seventh. No, Im not sure. No, I dont have documentation. Yes, Ill hold. The voices always put Mother on hold when she admitted that she didnt know my birthday, passing her up the line to their superiors, as if not knowing what day I was born delegitimized the entire notion of my having an identity. You cant be a person without a birthday, they seemed to say. I didnt understand why not. Until Mother decided to get my birth certificate, not knowing my birthday had never seemed strange. I knew Id been born near the end of September, and each year I picked a day, one that didnt fall on a Sunday because its no fun spending your birthday in church. Sometimes I wished Mother would give me the phone so I could explain. I have a birthday, same as you, I wanted to tell the voices. It just changes. Dont you wish you could change your birthday? Eventually, Mother persuaded Grandma-down-the-hill to swear a new affidavit claiming Id been born on the twenty-seventh, even though Grandma still believed it was the twenty-ninth, and the state of Idaho issued a Delayed Certificate of Birth. I remember the day it came in the mail. It felt oddly dispossessing, being handed this first legal proof of my personhood: until that moment, it had never occurred to me that proof was required. In the end, I got my birth certificate long before Luke got his. When Mother had told the voices on the phone that she thought Id been born sometime in the last week of September, theyd been silent. But when she told them she wasnt exactly sure whether Luke had been born in May or June, that set the voices positively buzzing. THAT FALL, WHEN I was nine, I went with Mother on a birth. Id been asking to go for months, reminding her that Maria had seen a dozen births by the time she was my age. Im not a nursing mother, she said. I have no reason to take you. Besides, you wouldnt like it. Eventually, Mother was hired by a woman who had several small children. It was arranged; I would tend them during the birth. The call came in the middle of the night. The mechanical ring drilled its way down the hall, and I held my breath, hoping it wasnt a wrong number. A minute later Mother was at my bedside. Its time, she said, and together we ran to the car. For ten miles Mother rehearsed with me what I was to say if the worst happened and the Feds came. Under no circumstances was I to tell them that my mother was a midwife. If they asked why we were there, I was to say nothing. Mother called it the art of shutting up. You just keep saying you were asleep and you didnt see anything and you dont know anything and you cant remember why were here, she said. Dont give them any more rope to hang me with than they already have. Mother fell into silence. I studied her as she drove. Her face was illuminated by the lights in the dashboard, and it appeared ghostly white set against the utter blackness of country roads. Fear was etched into her features, in the bunching of her forehead and the tightening of her lips. Alone with just me, she put aside the persona she displayed for others. She was her old self again, fragile, breathy. I heard soft whispers and realized they were coming from her. She was chanting what-ifs to herself. What if something went wrong? What if there was a medical history they hadnt told her about, some complication? Or what if it was something ordinary, a common crisis, and she panicked, froze, failed to stop the hemorrhage in time? In a few minutes we would be there, and she would have two lives in her small, trembling hands. Until that moment, Id never understood the risk she was taking. People die in hospitals, she whispered, her fingers clenching the wheel, wraithlike. Sometimes God calls them home, and theres nothing anyone can do. But if it happens to a midwife She turned, speaking directly to me. All it takes is one mistake, and youll be visiting me in prison. We arrived and Mother transformed. She issued a string of commands, to the father, to the mother, and to me. I almost forgot to do what she asked, I couldnt take my eyes off her. I realize now that that night I was seeing her for the first time, the secret strength of her. She barked orders and we moved wordlessly to follow them. The baby was born without complications. It was mythic and romantic, being an intimate witness to this turn in lifes cycle, but Mother had been right, I didnt like it. It was long and exhausting, and smelled of groin sweat. I didnt ask to go on the next birth. Mother returned home pale and shaking. Her voice quivered as she told me and my sister the story: how the unborn babys heart rate had dropped dangerously low, to a mere tremor; how shed called an ambulance, then decided they couldnt wait and taken the mother in her own car. Shed driven at such speed that by the time she made it to the hospital, shed acquired a police escort. In the ER, shed tried to give the doctors the information they needed without seeming too knowledgeable, without making them suspect that she was an unlicensed midwife. An emergency cesarean was performed. The mother and baby remained in the hospital for several days, and by the time they were released Mother had stopped trembling. In fact, she seemed exhilarated and had begun to tell the story differently, relishing the moment shed been pulled over by the policeman, who was surprised to find a moaning woman, obviously in labor, in the backseat. I slipped into the scatterbrained-woman routine, she told me and Audrey, her voice growing louder, catching hold. Men like to think theyre saving some brain-dead woman whos got herself into a scrape. All I had to do was step aside and let him play the hero! The most dangerous moment for Mother had come minutes later, in the hospital, after the woman had been wheeled away. A doctor stopped Mother and asked why shed been at the birth in the first place. She smiled at the memory. I asked him the dumbest questions I could think of. She put on a high, coquettish voice very unlike her own. Oh! Was that the babys head? Arent babies supposed to come out feet-first? The doctor was persuaded that she couldnt possibly be a midwife. THERE WERE NO HERBALISTS in Wyoming as good as Mother, so a few months after the incident at the hospital, Judy came to Bucks Peak to restock. The two women chatted in the kitchen, Judy perched on a barstool, Mother leaning across the counter, her head resting lazily in her hand. I took the list of herbs to the storeroom. Maria, lugging a different baby, followed. I pulled dried leaves and clouded liquids from the shelves, all the while gushing about Mothers exploits, finishing with the confrontation in the hospital. Maria had her own stories about dodging Feds, but when she began to tell one I interrupted her. Judy is a fine midwife, I said, my chest rising. But when it comes to doctors and cops, nobody plays stupid like my mother. * While everyone agrees that there were many years in which my parents did not have a phone, there is considerable disagreement in the family about which years they were. Ive asked my brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, but I have not been able to definitively establish a timeline, and have therefore relied on my own memories. My mother, Faye, was a mailmans daughter. She grew up in town, in a yellow house with a white picket fence lined with purple irises. Her mother was a seamstress, the best in the valley some said, so as a young woman Faye wore beautiful clothes, all perfectly tailored, from velvet jackets and polyester trousers to woolen pantsuits and gabardine dresses. She attended church and participated in school and community activities. Her life had an air of intense order, normalcy, and unassailable respectability. That air of respectability was carefully concocted by her mother. My grandmother, LaRue, had come of age in the 1950s, in the decade of idealistic fever that burned after World War II. LaRues father was an alcoholic in a time before the language of addiction and empathy had been invented, when alcoholics werent called alcoholics, they were called drunks. She was from the wrong kind of family but embedded in a pious Mormon community that, like many communities, visited the crimes of the parents on the children. She was deemed unmarriageable by the respectable men in town. When she met and married my grandfathera good-natured young man just out of the navyshe dedicated herself to constructing the perfect family, or at least the appearance of it. This would, she believed, shield her daughters from the social contempt that had so wounded her. One result of this was the white picket fence and the closet of handmade clothes. Another was that her eldest daughter married a severe young man with jet-black hair and an appetite for unconventionality. That is to say, my mother responded willfully to the respectability heaped upon her. Grandma wanted to give her daughter the gift she herself had never had, the gift of coming from a good family. But Faye didnt want it. My mother was not a social revolutionaryeven at the peak of her rebellion she preserved her Mormon faith, with its devotion to marriage and motherhoodbut the social upheavals of the 1970s did seem to have at least one effect on her: she didnt want the white picket fence and gabardine dresses. My mother told me dozens of stories of her childhood, of Grandma fretting about her oldest daughters social standing, about whether her piqu? dress was the proper cut, or her velvet slacks the correct shade of blue. These stories nearly always ended with my father swooping in and trading out the velvet for blue jeans. One telling in particular has stayed with me. I am seven or eight and am in my room dressing for church. I have taken a damp rag to my face, hands and feet, scrubbing only the skin that will be visible. Mother watches me pass a cotton dress over my head, which I have chosen for its long sleeves so I wont have to wash my arms, and a jealousy lights her eyes. If you were Grandmas daughter, she says, wed have been up at the crack of dawn preening your hair. Then the rest of the morning would be spent agonizing over which shoes, the white or the cream, would give the right impression. Mothers face twists into an ugly smile. Shes grasping for humor but the memory is jaundiced. Even after we finally chose the cream, wed be late, because at the last minute Grandma would panic and drive to Cousin Donnas to borrow her cream shoes, which had a lower heel. Mother stares out the window. She has retreated into herself. White or cream? I say. Arent they the same color? I owned only one pair of church shoes. They were black, or at least theyd been black when they belonged to my sister. With the dress on, I turn to the mirror and sand away the crusty dirt around my neckline, thinking how lucky Mother is to have escaped a world in which there was an important difference between white and cream, and where such questions might consume a perfectly good morning, a morning that might otherwise be spent plundering Dads junkyard with Lukes goat. MY FATHER, GENE, WAS one of those young men who somehow manage to seem both solemn and mischievous. His physical appearance was strikingebony hair, a strict, angular face, nose like an arrow pointing toward fierce, deep-set eyes. His lips were often pressed together in a jocular grin, as if all the world were his to laugh at. Although I passed my childhood on the same mountain that my father had passed his, slopping pigs in the same iron trough, I know very little about his boyhood. He never talked about it, so all I have to go on are hints from my mother, who told me that, in his younger years, Grandpa-down-the-hill had been violent, with a hair-trigger temper. Mothers use of the words had been always struck me as funny. We all knew better than to cross Grandpa. He had a short fuse, that was just fact and anybody in the valley could have told you as much. He was weatherworn inside and out, as taut and rugged as the horses he ran wild on the mountain. Dads mother worked for the Farm Bureau in town. As an adult, Dad would develop fierce opinions about women working, radical even for our rural Mormon community. A womans place is in the home, he would say every time he saw a married woman working in town. Now Im older, I sometimes wonder if Dads fervor had more to do with his own mother than with doctrine. I wonder if he just wished that she had been home, so he wouldnt have been left for all those long hours with Grandpas temper. Running the farm consumed Dads childhood. I doubt he expected to go to college. Still, the way Mother tells it, back then Dad was bursting with energy, laughter and panache. He drove a baby-blue Volkswagen Beetle, wore outlandish suits cut from colorful fabrics, and showcased a thick, fashionable mustache. They met in town. Faye was waitressing at the bowling alley one Friday night when Gene wandered in with a pack of his friends. Shed never seen him before, so she knew immediately that he wasnt from town and must have come from the mountains surrounding the valley. Farm life had made Gene different from other young men: he was serious for his age, more physically impressive and independent-minded. Theres a sense of sovereignty that comes from life on a mountain, a perception of privacy and isolation, even of dominion. In that vast space you can sail unaccompanied for hours, afloat on pine and brush and rock. Its a tranquillity born of sheer immensity; it calms with its very magnitude, which renders the merely human of no consequence. Gene was formed by this alpine hypnosis, this hushing of human drama. In the valley, Faye tried to stop her ears against the constant gossip of a small town, whose opinions pushed in through the windows and crept under the doors. Mother often described herself as a pleaser: she said she couldnt stop herself from speculating what people wanted her to be, and from contorting herself, compulsively, unwillingly, into whatever it was. Living in her respectable house in the center of town, crowded by four other houses, each so near anyone could peer through the windows and whisper a judgment, Faye felt trapped. Ive often imagined the moment when Gene took Faye to the top of Bucks Peak and she was, for the first time, unable to see the faces or hear the voices of the people in the town below. They were far away. Dwarfed by the mountain, hushed by the wind. They were engaged soon after. MOTHER USED TO TELL a story from the time before she was married. She had been close to her brother Lynn, so she took him to meet the man she hoped would be her husband. It was summer, dusk, and Dads cousins were roughhousing the way they did after a harvest. Lynn arrived and, seeing a room of bowlegged ruffians shouting at each other, fists clenched, swiping at the air, thought he was witnessing a brawl straight out of a John Wayne film. He wanted to call the police. I told him to listen, Mother would say, tears in her eyes from laughing. She always told this story the same way, and it was such a favorite that if she departed in any way from the usual script, wed tell it for her. I told him to pay attention to the actual words they were shouting. Everyone sounded mad as hornets, but really they were having a lovely conversation. You had to listen to what they were saying, not how they were saying it. I told him, Thats just how Westovers talk! By the time shed finished we were usually on the floor. Wed cackle until our ribs hurt, imagining our prim, professorial uncle meeting Dads unruly crew. Lynn found the scene so distasteful he never went back, and in my whole life I never saw him on the mountain. Served him right, we thought, for his meddling, for trying to draw Mother back into that world of gabardine dresses and cream shoes. We understood that the dissolution of Mothers family was the inauguration of ours. The two could not exist together. Only one could have her. Mother never told us that her family had opposed the engagement but we knew. There were traces the decades hadnt erased. My father seldom set foot in Grandma-over-in-towns house, and when he did he was sullen and stared at the door. As a child I scarcely knew my aunts, uncles or cousins on my mothers side. We rarely visited themI didnt even know where most of them livedand it was even rarer for them to visit the mountain. The exception was my aunt Angie, my mothers youngest sister, who lived in town and insisted on seeing my mother. What I know about the engagement has come to me in bits and pieces, mostly from the stories Mother told. I know she had the ring before Dad served a missionwhich was expected of all faithful Mormon menand spent two years proselytizing in Florida. Lynn took advantage of this absence to introduce his sister to every marriageable man he could find this side of the Rockies, but none could make her forget the stern farm boy who ruled over his own mountain. Gene returned from Florida and they were married. LaRue sewed the wedding dress. IVE ONLY SEEN A single photograph from the wedding. Its of my parents posing in front of a gossamer curtain of pale ivory. Mother is wearing a traditional dress of beaded silk and venetian lace, with a neckline that sits above her collarbone. An embroidered veil covers her head. My father wears a cream suit with wide black lapels. They are both intoxicated with happiness, Mother with a relaxed smile, Dad with a grin so large it pokes out from under the corners of his mustache. It is difficult for me to believe that the untroubled young man in that photograph is my father. Fearful and anxious, he comes into focus for me as a weary middle-aged man stockpiling food and ammunition. I dont know when the man in that photograph became the man I know as my father. Perhaps there was no single moment. Dad married when he was twenty-one, had his first son, my brother Tony, at twenty-two. When he was twenty-four, Dad asked Mother if they could hire an herbalist to midwife my brother Shawn. She agreed. Was that the first hint, or was it just Gene being Gene, eccentric and unconventional, trying to shock his disapproving in-laws? After all, when Tyler was born twenty months later, the birth took place in a hospital. When Dad was twenty-seven, Luke was born, at home, delivered by a midwife. Dad decided not to file for a birth certificate, a decision he repeated with Audrey, Richard and me. A few years later, around the time he turned thirty, Dad pulled my brothers out of school. I dont remember it, because it was before I was born, but I wonder if perhaps that was a turning point. In the four years that followed, Dad got rid of the telephone and chose not to renew his license to drive. He stopped registering and insuring the family car. Then he began to hoard food. This last part sounds like my father, but it is not the father my older brothers remember. Dad had just turned forty when the Feds laid siege to the Weavers, an event that confirmed his worst fears. After that he was at war, even if the war was only in his head. Perhaps that is why Tony looks at that photo and sees his father, and I see a stranger. Fourteen years after the incident with the Weavers, I would sit in a university classroom and listen to a professor of psychology describe something called bipolar disorder. Until that moment I had never heard of mental illness. I knew people could go crazytheyd wear dead cats on their heads or fall in love with a turnipbut the notion that a person could be functional, lucid, persuasive, and something could still be wrong, had never occurred to me. The professor recited facts in a dull, earthy voice: the average age of onset is twenty-five; there may be no symptoms before then. The irony was that if Dad was bipolaror had any of a dozen disorders that might explain his behaviorthe same paranoia that was a symptom of the illness would prevent its ever being diagnosed and treated. No one would ever know. GRANDMA-OVER-IN-TOWN DIED THREE YEARS ago, age eighty-six. I didnt know her well. All those years I was passing in and out of her kitchen, and she never told me what it had been like for her, watching her daughter shut herself away, walled in by phantoms and paranoias. When I picture her now I conjure a single image, as if my memory is a slide projector and the tray is stuck. Shes sitting on a cushioned bench. Her hair pushes out of her head in tight curls, and her lips are pulled into a polite smile, which is welded in place. Her eyes are pleasant but unoccupied, as if shes observing a staged drama. That smile haunts me. It was constant, the only eternal thing, inscrutable, detached, dispassionate. Now that Im older and Ive taken the trouble to get to know her, mostly through my aunts and uncles, I know she was none of those things. I attended the memorial. It was open casket and I found myself searching her face. The embalmers hadnt gotten her lips rightthe gracious smile shed worn like an iron mask had been stripped away. It was the first time Id seen her without it and thats when it finally occurred to me: that Grandma was the only person who might have understood what was happening to me. How the paranoia and fundamentalism were carving up my life, how they were taking from me the people I cared about and leaving only degrees and certificatesan air of respectabilityin their place. What was happening now had happened before. This was the second severing of mother and daughter. The tape was playing in a loop. No one saw the car leave the road. My brother Tyler, who was seventeen, fell asleep at the wheel. It was six in the morning and hed been driving in silence for most of the night, piloting our station wagon through Arizona, Nevada and Utah. We were in Cornish, a farming town twenty miles south of Bucks Peak, when the station wagon drifted over the center line into the other lane, then left the highway. The car jumped a ditch, smashed through two utility poles of thick cedar, and was finally brought to a stop only when it collided with a row-crop tractor. THE TRIP HAD BEEN Mothers idea. A few months earlier, when crisp leaves had begun slipping to the ground, signaling the end of summer, Dad had been in high spirits. His feet tapped show tunes at breakfast, and during dinner he often pointed at the mountain, his eyes shining, and described where he would lay the pipes to bring water down to the house. Dad promised that when the first snow fell, hed build the biggest snowball in the state of Idaho. What hed do, he said, was hike to the mountain base and gather a small, insignificant ball of snow, then roll it down the hillside, watching it triple in size each time it raced over a hillock or down a ravine. By the time it reached the house, which was atop the last hill before the valley, itd be big as Grandpas barn and people on the highway would stare up at it, amazed. We just needed the right snow. Thick, sticky flakes. After every snowfall, we brought handfuls to him and watched him rub the flakes between his fingers. That snow was too fine. This, too wet. After Christmas, he said. Thats when you get the real snow. But after Christmas Dad seemed to deflate, to collapse in on himself. He stopped talking about the snowball, then he stopped talking altogether. A darkness gathered in his eyes until it filled them. He walked with his arms limp, shoulders slumping, as if something had hold of him and was dragging him to the earth. By January Dad couldnt get out of bed. He lay flat on his back, staring blankly at the stucco ceiling with its intricate pattern of ridges and veins. He didnt blink when I brought his dinner plate each night. Im not sure he knew I was there. Thats when Mother announced we were going to Arizona. She said Dad was like a sunflowerhed die in the snowand that come February he needed to be taken away and planted in the sun. So we piled into the station wagon and drove for twelve hours, winding through canyons and speeding over dark freeways, until we arrived at the mobile home in the parched Arizona desert where my grandparents were waiting out the winter. We arrived a few hours after sunrise. Dad made it as far as Grandmas porch, where he stayed for the rest of the day, a knitted pillow under his head, a callused hand on his stomach. He kept that posture for two days, eyes open, not saying a word, still as a bush in that dry, windless heat. On the third day he seemed to come back into himself, to become aware of the goings-on around him, to listen to our mealtime chatter rather than staring, unresponsive, at the carpet. After dinner that night, Grandma played her phone messages, which were mostly neighbors and friends saying hello. Then a womans voice came through the speaker to remind Grandma of her doctors appointment the following day. That message had a dramatic effect on Dad. At first Dad asked Grandma questions: what was the appointment for, who was it with, why would she see a doctor when Mother could give her tinctures. Dad had always believed passionately in Mothers herbs, but that night felt different, like something inside him was shifting, a new creed taking hold. Herbalism, he said, was a spiritual doctrine that separated the wheat from the tares, the faithful from the faithless. Then he used a word Id never heard before: Illuminati. It sounded exotic, powerful, whatever it was. Grandma, he said, was an unknowing agent of the Illuminati. God couldnt abide faithlessness, Dad said. Thats why the most hateful sinners were those who wouldnt make up their minds, who used herbs and medication both, who came to Mother on Wednesday and saw their doctor on Fridayor, as Dad put it, Who worship at the altar of God one day and offer a sacrifice to Satan the next. These people were like the ancient Israelites because theyd been given a true religion but hankered after false idols. Doctors and pills, Dad said, nearly shouting. Thats their god, and they whore after it. Mother was staring at her food. At the word whore she stood, threw Dad an angry look, then walked into her room and slammed the door. Mother didnt always agree with Dad. When Dad wasnt around, Id heard her say things that heor at least this new incarnation of himwould have called sacrilege, things like, Herbs are supplements. For something serious, you should go to a doctor. Dad took no notice of Mothers empty chair. Those doctors arent trying to save you, he told Grandma. Theyre trying to kill you. When I think of that dinner, the scene comes back to me clearly. Im sitting at the table. Dad is talking, his voice urgent. Grandma sits across from me, chewing her asparagus again and again in her crooked jaw, the way a goat might, sipping from her ice water, giving no indication that shes heard a word Dad has said, except for the occasional vexed glare she throws the clock when it tells her its still too early for bed. Youre a knowing participant in the plans of Satan, Dad says. This scene played every day, sometimes several times a day, for the rest of the trip. All followed a similar script. Dad, his fervor kindled, would drone for an hour or more, reciting the same lines over and over, fueled by some internal passion that burned long after the rest of us had been lectured into a cold stupor. Grandma had a memorable way of laughing at the end of these sermons. It was a sort of sigh, a long, drawn-out leaking of breath, that finished with her eyes rolling upward in a lazy imitation of exasperation, as if she wanted to throw her hands in the air but was too tired to complete the gesture. Then shed smilenot a soothing smile for someone else but a smile for herself, of baffled amusement, a smile that to me always seemed to say, Aint nothin funnier than real life, I tell you what. IT WAS A SCORCHING AFTERNOON, so hot you couldnt walk barefoot on the pavement, when Grandma took me and Richard for a drive through the desert, having wrestled us into seatbelts, which wed never worn before. We drove until the road began to incline, then kept driving as the asphalt turned to dust beneath our tires, and still we kept going, Grandma weaving higher and higher into the bleached hills, coming to a stop only when the dirt road ended and a hiking trail began. Then we walked. Grandma was winded after a few minutes, so she sat on a flat red stone and pointed to a sandstone rock formation in the distance, formed of crumbling spires, each a little ruin, and told us to hike to it. Once there, we were to hunt for nuggets of black rock. Theyre called Apache tears, she said. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small black stone, dirty and jagged, covered in veins of gray and white like cracked glass. And this is how they look after theyve been polished a bit. From her other pocket she withdrew a second stone, which was inky black and so smooth it felt soft. Richard identified both as obsidian. These are volcanic rock, he said in his best encyclopedic voice. But this isnt. He kicked a washed-out stone and waved at the formation. This is sediment. Richard had a talent for scientific trivia. Usually I ignored his lecturing but today I was gripped by it, and by this strange, thirsty terrain. We hiked around the formation for an hour, returning to Grandma with our shirtfronts sagging with stones. Grandma was pleased; she could sell them. She put them in the trunk, and as we made our way back to the trailer, she told us the legend of the Apache tears. According to Grandma, a hundred years ago a tribe of Apaches had fought the U.S. Cavalry on those faded rocks. The tribe was outnumbered: the battle lost, the war over. All that was left to do was wait to die. Soon after the battle began, the warriors became trapped on a ledge. Unwilling to suffer a humiliating defeat, cut down one by one as they tried to break through the cavalry, they mounted their horses and charged off the face of the mountain. When the Apache women found their broken bodies on the rocks below, they cried huge, desperate tears, which turned to stone when they touched the earth. Grandma never told us what happened to the women. The Apaches were at war but had no warriors, so perhaps she thought the ending too bleak to say aloud. The word slaughter came to mind, because slaughter is the word for it, for a battle when one side mounts no defense. Its the word we used on the farm. We slaughtered chickens, we didnt fight them. A slaughter was the likely outcome of the warriors bravery. They died as heroes, their wives as slaves. As we drove to the trailer, the sun dipping in the sky, its last rays reaching across the highway, I thought about the Apache women. Like the sandstone altar on which they had died, the shape of their lives had been determined years beforebefore the horses began their gallop, their sorrel bodies arching for that final collision. Long before the warriors leap it was decided how the women would live and how they would die. By the warriors, by the women themselves. Decided. Choices, numberless as grains of sand, had layered and compressed, coalescing into sediment, then into rock, until all was set in stone. I HAD NEVER BEFORE left the mountain and I ached for it, for the sight of the Princess etched in pine across the massif. I found myself glancing at the vacant Arizona sky, hoping to see her black form swelling out of the earth, laying claim to her half of the heavens. But she was not there. More than the sight of her, I missed her caressesthe wind she sent through canyons and ravines to sweep through my hair every morning. In Arizona, there was no wind. There was just one heat-stricken hour after another. I spent my days wandering from one side of the trailer to the other, then out the back door, across the patio, over to the hammock, then around to the front porch, where Id step over Dads semiconscious form and back inside again. It was a great relief when, on the sixth day, Grandpas four-wheeler broke down and Tyler and Luke took it apart to find the trouble. I sat on a large barrel of blue plastic, watching them, wondering when we could go home. When Dad would stop talking about the Illuminati. When Mother would stop leaving the room whenever Dad entered it. That night after dinner, Dad said it was time to go. Get your stuff, he said. Were hitting the road in a half hour. It was early evening, which Grandma said was a ridiculous time to begin a twelve-hour drive. Mother said we should wait until morning, but Dad wanted to get home so he and the boys could scrap the next morning. I cant afford to lose any more work days, he said. Mothers eyes darkened with worry, but she said nothing. I AWOKE WHEN THE CAR HIT the first utility pole. Id been asleep on the floor under my sisters feet, a blanket over my head. I tried to sit up but the car was shaking, lungingit felt like it was coming apartand Audrey fell on top of me. I couldnt see what was happening but I could feel and hear it. Another loud thud, a lurch, my mother screaming, Tyler! from the front seat, and a final violent jolt before everything stopped and silence set in. Several seconds passed in which nothing happened. Then I heard Audreys voice. She was calling our names one by one. Then she said, Everyones here except Tara! I tried to shout but my face was wedged under the seat, my cheek pressed to the floor. I struggled under Audreys weight as she shouted my name. Finally, I arched my back and pushed her off, then stuck my head out of the blanket and said, Here. I looked around. Tyler had twisted his upper body so that he was practically climbing into the backseat, his eyes bulging as he took in every cut, every bruise, every pair of wide eyes. I could see his face but it didnt look like his face. Blood gushed from his mouth and down his shirt. I closed my eyes, trying to forget the twisted angles of his bloodstained teeth. When I opened them again, it was to check everyone else. Richard was holding his head, a hand over each ear like he was trying to block out a noise. Audreys nose was strangely hooked and blood was streaming from it down her arm. Luke was shaking but I couldnt see any blood. I had a gash on my forearm from where the seats frame had caught hold of me. Everyone all right? My fathers voice. There was a general mumble. There are power lines on the car, Dad said. Nobody gets out till theyve shut them off. His door opened, and for a moment I thought hed been electrocuted, but then I saw hed pitched himself far enough so that his body had never touched the car and the ground at the same time. I remember peering at him through my shattered window as he circled the car, his red cap pushed back so the brim reached upward, licking the air. He looked strangely boyish. He circled the car then stopped, crouching low, bringing his head level with the passenger seat. Are you okay? he said. Then he said it again. The third time he said it, his voice quivered. I leaned over the seat to see who he was talking to, and only then realized how serious the accident had been. The front half of the car had been compressed, the engine arched, curving back over itself, like a fold in solid rock. There was a glare on the windshield from the morning sun. I saw crisscrossing patterns of fissures and cracks. The sight was familiar. Id seen hundreds of shattered windshields in the junkyard, each one unique, with its particular spray of gossamer extruding from the point of impact, a chronicle of the collision. The cracks on our windshield told their own story. Their epicenter was a small ring with fissures circling outward. The ring was directly in front of the passenger seat. You okay? Dad pleaded. Honey, can you hear me? Mother was in the passenger seat. Her body faced away from the window. I couldnt see her face, but there was something terrifying in the way she slumped against her seat. Can you hear me? Dad said. He repeated this several times. Eventually, in a movement so small it was almost imperceptible, I saw the tip of Mothers ponytail dip as she nodded. Dad stood, looking at the active power lines, looking at the earth, looking at Mother. Looking helpless. Do you thinkshould I call an ambulance? I think I heard him say that. And if he did, which surely he must have, Mother must have whispered a reply, or maybe she wasnt able to whisper anything, I dont know. Ive always imagined that she asked to be taken home. I was told later that the farmer whose tractor wed hit rushed from his house. Hed called the police, which we knew would bring trouble because the car wasnt insured, and none of us had been wearing seatbelts. It took perhaps twenty minutes after the farmer informed Utah Power of the accident for them to switch off the deadly current pulsing through the lines. Then Dad lifted Mother from the station wagon and I saw her faceher eyes, hidden under dark circles the size of plums, and the swelling distorting her soft features, stretching some, compressing others. I dont know how we got home, or when, but I remember that the mountain face glowed orange in the morning light. Once inside, I watched Tyler spit streams of crimson down the bathroom sink. His front teeth had smashed into the steering wheel and been displaced, so that they jutted backward toward the roof of his mouth. Mother was laid on the sofa. She mumbled that the light hurt her eyes. We closed the blinds. She wanted to be in the basement, where there were no windows, so Dad carried her downstairs and I didnt see her for several hours, not until that evening, when I used a dull flashlight to bring her dinner. When I saw her, I didnt know her. Both eyes were a deep purple, so deep they looked black, and so swollen I couldnt tell whether they were open or closed. She called me Audrey, even after I corrected her twice. Thank you, Audrey, but just dark and quiet, thats fine. Dark. Quiet. Thank you. Come check on me again, Audrey, in a little while. Mother didnt come out of the basement for a week. Every day the swelling worsened, the black bruises turned blacker. Every night I was sure her face was as marked and deformed as it was possible for a face to be, but every morning it was somehow darker, more tumid. After a week, when the sun went down, we turned off the lights and Mother came upstairs. She looked as if she had two objects strapped to her forehead, large as apples, black as olives. There was never any more talk of a hospital. The moment for such a decision had passed, and to return to it would be to return to all the fury and fear of the accident itself. Dad said doctors couldnt do anything for her anyhow. She was in Gods hands. In the coming months, Mother called me by many names. When she called me Audrey I didnt worry, but it was troubling when we had conversations in which she referred to me as Luke or Tony, and in the family it has always been agreed, even by Mother herself, that shes never been quite the same since the accident. We kids called her Raccoon Eyes. We thought it was a great joke, once the black rings had been around for a few weeks, long enough for us to get used to them and make them the subject of jokes. We had no idea it was a medical term. Raccoon eyes. A sign of serious brain injury. Tylers guilt was all-consuming. He blamed himself for the accident, then kept on blaming himself for every decision that was made thereafter, every repercussion, every reverberation that clanged down through the years. He laid claim to that moment and all its consequences, as if time itself had commenced the instant our station wagon left the road, and there was no history, no context, no agency of any kind until he began it, at the age of seventeen, by falling asleep at the wheel. Even now, when Mother forgets any detail, however trivial, that look comes into his eyesthe one he had in the moments after the collision, when blood poured from his own mouth as he took in the scene, raking his eyes over what he imagined to be the work of his hands and his hands only. Me, I never blamed anyone for the accident, least of all Tyler. It was just one of those things. A decade later my understanding would shift, part of my heavy swing into adulthood, and after that the accident would always make me think of the Apache women, and of all the decisions that go into making a lifethe choices people make, together and on their own, that combine to produce any single event. Grains of sand, incalculable, pressing into sediment, then rock. The mountain thawed and the Princess appeared on its face, her head brushing the sky. It was Sunday, a month after the accident, and everyone had gathered in the living room. Dad had begun to expound a scripture when Tyler cleared his throat and said he was leaving. Im g-g-going to c-college, he said, his face rigid. A vein in his neck bulged as he forced the words out, appearing and disappearing every few seconds, a great, struggling snake. Everyone looked at Dad. His expression was folded, impassive. The silence was worse than shouting. Tyler would be the third of my brothers to leave home. My oldest brother, Tony, drove rigs, hauling gravel or scrap, trying to scrape together enough money to marry the girl down the road. Shawn, the next oldest, had quarreled with Dad a few months before and taken off. I hadnt seen him since, though Mother got a hurried call every few weeks telling her he was fine, that he was welding or driving rigs. If Tyler left too, Dad wouldnt have a crew, and without a crew he couldnt build barns or hay sheds. He would have to fall back on scrapping. Whats college? I said. College is extra school for people too dumb to learn the first time around, Dad said. Tyler stared at the floor, his face tense. Then his shoulders dropped, his face relaxed and he looked up; it seemed to me that hed stepped out of himself. His eyes were soft, pleasant. I couldnt see him in there at all. He listened to Dad, who settled into a lecture. Theres two kinds of them college professors, Dad said. Those who know theyre lying, and those who think theyre telling the truth. Dad grinned. Dont know which is worse, come to think of it, a bona fide agent of the Illuminati, who at least knows hes on the devils payroll, or a high-minded professor who thinks his wisdom is greater than Gods. He was still grinning. The situation wasnt serious; he just needed to talk some sense into his son. Mother said Dad was wasting his time, that nobody could talk Tyler out of anything once his mind was made up. You may as well take a broom and start sweeping dirt off the mountain, she said. Then she stood, took a few moments to steady herself, and trudged downstairs. She had a migraine. She nearly always had a migraine. She was still spending her days in the basement, coming upstairs only after the sun had gone down, and even then she rarely stayed more than an hour before the combination of noise and exertion made her head throb. I watched her slow, careful progress down the steps, her back bent, both hands gripping the rail, as if she were blind and had to feel her way. She waited for both feet to plant solidly on one step before reaching for the next. The swelling in her face was nearly gone, and she almost looked like herself again, except for the rings, which had gradually faded from black to dark purple, and were now a mix of lilac and raisin. An hour later Dad was no longer grinning. Tyler had not repeated his wish to go to college, but he had not promised to stay, either. He was just sitting there, behind that vacant expression, riding it out. A man cant make a living out of books and scraps of paper, Dad said. Youre going to be the head of a family. How can you support a wife and children with books? Tyler tilted his head, showed he was listening, and said nothing. A son of mine, standing in line to get brainwashed by socialists and Illuminati spies The s-s-schools run by the ch-ch-church, Tyler interrupted. How b-bad can it b-be? Dads mouth flew open and a gust of air rushed out. You dont think the Illuminati have infiltrated the church? His voice was booming; every word reverberated with a powerful energy. You dont think the first place theyd go is that school, where they can raise up a whole generation of socialist Mormons? I raised you better than that! I will always remember my father in this moment, the potency of him, and the desperation. He leans forward, jaw set, eyes narrow, searching his sons face for some sign of agreement, some crease of shared conviction. He doesnt find it. THE STORY OF HOW TYLER decided to leave the mountain is a strange one, full of gaps and twists. It begins with Tyler himself, with the bizarre fact of him. It happens sometimes in families: one child who doesnt fit, whose rhythm is off, whose meter is set to the wrong tune. In our family, that was Tyler. He was waltzing while the rest of us hopped a jig; he was deaf to the raucous music of our lives, and we were deaf to the serene polyphony of his. Tyler liked books, he liked quiet. He liked organizing and arranging and labeling. Once, Mother found a whole shelf of matchboxes in his closet, stacked by year. Tyler said they contained his pencil shavings from the past five years, which he had collected to make fire starters for our head for the hills bags. The rest of the house was pure confusion: piles of unwashed laundry, oily and black from the junkyard, littered the bedroom floors; in the kitchen, murky jars of tincture lined every table and cabinet, and these were only cleared away to make space for even messier projects, perhaps to skin a deer carcass or strip Cosmoline off a rifle. But in the heart of this chaos, Tyler had half a decades pencil shavings, cataloged by year. My brothers were like a pack of wolves. They tested each other constantly, with scuffles breaking out every time some young pup hit a growth spurt and dreamed of moving up. When I was young these tussles usually ended with Mother screaming over a broken lamp or vase, but as I got older there were fewer things left to break. Mother said wed owned a TV once, when I was a baby, until Shawn had put Tylers head through it. While his brothers wrestled, Tyler listened to music. He owned the only boom box I had ever seen, and next to it he kept a tall stack of CDs with strange words on them, like Mozart and Chopin. One Sunday afternoon, when he was perhaps sixteen, he caught me looking at them. I tried to run, because I thought he might wallop me for being in his room, but instead he took my hand and led me to the stack. W-which one do y-you like best? he said. One was black, with a hundred men and women dressed in white on the cover. I pointed to it. Tyler eyed me skeptically. Th-th-this is ch-ch-choir music, he said. He slipped the disc into the black box, then sat at his desk to read. I squatted on the floor by his feet, scratching designs into the carpet. The music began: a breath of strings, then a whisper of voices, chanting, soft as silk, but somehow piercing. The hymn was familiar to mewed sung it at church, a chorus of mismatched voices raised in worshipbut this was different. It was worshipful, but it was also something else, something to do with study, discipline and collaboration. Something I didnt yet understand. The song ended and I sat, paralyzed, as the next played, and the next, until the CD finished. The room felt lifeless without the music. I asked Tyler if we could listen to it again, and an hour later, when the music stopped, I begged him to restart it. It was very late, and the house quiet, when Tyler stood from his desk and pushed play, saying this was the last time. W-w-we can l-l-listen again tomorrow, he said. Music became our language. Tylers speech impediment kept him quiet, made his tongue heavy. Because of that, he and I had never talked much; I had not known my brother. Now, every evening when he came in from the junkyard, I would be waiting for him. After hed showered, scrubbing the days grime from his skin, hed settle in at his desk and say, W-w-what shall we l-l-listen t-t-to tonight? Then I would choose a CD, and he would read while I lay on the floor next to his feet, eyes fixed on his socks, and listened. I was as rowdy as any of my brothers, but when I was with Tyler I transformed. Maybe it was the music, the grace of it, or maybe it was his grace. Somehow he made me see myself through his eyes. I tried to remember not to shout. I tried to avoid fights with Richard, especially the kind that ended with the two of us rolling on the floor, him pulling my hair, me dragging my fingernails through the softness of his face. I should have known that one day Tyler would leave. Tony and Shawn had gone, and theyd belonged on the mountain in a way that Tyler never did. Tyler had always loved what Dad called book learning, which was something the rest of us, with the exception of Richard, were perfectly indifferent to. There had been a time, when Tyler was a boy, when Mother had been idealistic about education. She used to say that we were kept at home so we could get a better education than other kids. But it was only Mother who said that, as Dad thought we should learn more practical skills. When I was very young, that was the battle between them: Mother trying to hold school every morning, and Dad herding the boys into the junkyard the moment her back was turned. But Mother would lose that battle, eventually. It began with Luke, the fourth of her five sons. Luke was smart when it came to the mountainhe worked with animals in a way that made it seem like he was talking to thembut he had a severe learning disability and struggled to learn to read. Mother spent five years sitting with him at the kitchen table every morning, explaining the same sounds again and again, but by the time he was twelve, it was all Luke could do to cough out a sentence from the Bible during family scripture study. Mother couldnt understand it. Shed had no trouble teaching Tony and Shawn to read, and everyone else had just sort of picked it up. Tony had taught me to read when I was four, to win a bet with Shawn, I think. Once Luke could scratch out his name and read short, simple phrases, Mother turned to math. What math I was ever taught I learned doing the breakfast dishes and listening to Mother explain, over and over, what a fraction is or how to use negative numbers. Luke never made any progress, and after a year Mother gave up. She stopped talking about us getting a better education than other kids. She began to echo Dad. All that really matters, she said to me one morning, is that you kids learn to read. That other twaddle is just brainwashing. Dad started coming in earlier and earlier to round up the boys until, by the time I was eight, and Tyler sixteen, wed settled into a routine that omitted school altogether. Mothers conversion to Dads philosophy was not total, however, and occasionally she was possessed of her old enthusiasm. On those days, when the family was gathered around the table, eating breakfast, Mother would announce that today we were doing school. She kept a bookshelf in the basement, stocked with books on herbalism, along with a few old paperbacks. There were a few textbooks on math, which we shared, and an American history book that I never saw anyone read except Richard. There was also a science book, which must have been for young children because it was filled with glossy illustrations. It usually took half an hour to find all the books, then we would divide them up and go into separate rooms to do school. I have no idea what my siblings did when they did school, but when I did it I opened my math book and spent ten minutes turning pages, running my fingers down the center fold. If my finger touched fifty pages, Id report to Mother that Id done fifty pages of math. Amazing! shed say. You see? That pace would never be possible in the public school. You can only do that at home, where you can sit down and really focus, with no distractions. Mother never delivered lectures or administered exams. She never assigned essays. There was a computer in the basement with a program called Mavis Beacon, which gave lessons on typing. Sometimes, when she was delivering herbs, if wed finished our chores, Mother would drop us at the Carnegie library in the center of town. The basement had a room full of childrens books, which we read. Richard even took books from upstairs, books for adults, with heavy titles about history and science. Learning in our family was entirely self-directed: you could learn anything you could teach yourself, after your work was done. Some of us were more disciplined than others. I was one of the least disciplined, so by the time I was ten, the only subject I had studied systematically was Morse code, because Dad insisted that I learn it. If the lines are cut, well be the only people in the valley who can communicate, he said, though I was never quite sure, if we were the only people learning it, who wed be communicating with. The older boysTony, Shawn and Tylerhad been raised in a different decade, and it was almost as if theyd had different parents. Their father had never heard of the Weavers; he never talked about the Illuminati. Hed enrolled his three oldest sons in school, and even though hed pulled them out a few years later, vowing to teach them at home, when Tony had asked to go back, Dad had let him. Tony had stayed in school through high school, although he missed so many days working in the junkyard that he wasnt able to graduate. Because Tyler was the third son, he barely remembered school and was happy to study at home. Until he turned thirteen. Then, perhaps because Mother was spending all her time teaching Luke to read, Tyler asked Dad if he could enroll in the eighth grade. Tyler stayed in school that whole year, from the fall of 1991 through the spring of 1992. He learned algebra, which felt as natural to his mind as air to his lungs. Then the Weavers came under siege that August. I dont know if Tyler would have gone back to school, but I know that after Dad heard about the Weavers, he never again allowed one of his children to set foot in a public classroom. Still, Tylers imagination had been captured. With what money he had he bought an old trigonometry textbook and continued to study on his own. He wanted to learn calculus next but couldnt afford another book, so he went to the school and asked the math teacher for one. The teacher laughed in his face. You cant teach yourself calculus, he said. Its impossible. Tyler pushed back. Give me a book, I think I can. He left with the book tucked under his arm. The real challenge was finding time to study. Every morning at seven, my father gathered his sons, divided them into teams and sent them out to tackle the tasks of the day. It usually took about an hour for Dad to notice that Tyler was not among his brothers. Then hed burst through the back door and stride into the house to where Tyler sat studying in his room. What the hell are you doing? hed shout, tracking clumps of dirt onto Tylers spotless carpet. I got Luke loading I-beams by himselfone man doing a two-man joband I come in here and find you sitting on your ass? If Dad had caught me with a book when I was supposed to be working, Id have skittered, but Tyler was steady. Dad, hed say. Ill w-w-work after l-l-lunch. But I n-n-need the morning to s-st-study. Most mornings theyd argue for a few minutes, then Tyler would surrender his pencil, his shoulders slumping as he pulled on his boots and welding gloves. But there were other morningsmornings that always astonished mewhen Dad huffed out the back door, alone. I DIDNT BELIEVE TYLER would really go to college, that he would ever abandon the mountain to join the Illuminati. I figured Dad had all summer to bring Tyler to his senses, which he tried to do most days when the crew came in for lunch. The boys would putter around the kitchen, dishing up seconds and thirds, and Dad would stretch himself out on the hard linoleumbecause he was tired and needed to lie down, but was too dirty for Mothers sofaand begin his lecture about the Illuminati. One lunch in particular has lodged in my memory. Tyler is assembling tacos from the fixings Mother has laid out: he lines up the shells on his plate, three in a perfect row, then adds the hamburger, lettuce and tomatoes carefully, measuring the amounts, perfectly distributing the sour cream. Dad drones steadily. Then, just as Dad reaches the end of his lecture and takes a breath to begin again, Tyler slides all three of the flawless tacos into Mothers juicer, the one she uses to make tinctures, and turns it on. A loud roar howls through the kitchen, imposing a kind of silence. The roar ceases; Dad resumes. Tyler pours the orange liquid into a glass and begins to drink, carefully, delicately, because his front teeth are still loose, still trying to jump out of his mouth. Many memories might be summoned to symbolize this period of our lives, but this is the one that has stayed with me: of Dads voice rising up from the floor while Tyler drinks his tacos. As spring turned to summer, Dads resolve turned to denialhe acted as if the argument were over and he had won. He stopped talking about Tylers leaving and refused to hire a hand to replace him. One warm afternoon, Tyler took me to visit Grandma- and Grandpa-over-in-town, who lived in the same house where theyd raised Mother, a house that could not have been more different from ours. The decor was not expensive but it was well cared forcreamy white carpet on the floors, soft floral paper on the walls, thick, pleated curtains in the windows. They seldom replaced anything. The carpet, the wallpaper, the kitchen table and countertopseverything was the same as it was in the slides Id seen of my mothers childhood. Dad didnt like us spending time there. Before he retired Grandpa had been a mailman, and Dad said no one worth our respect would have worked for the Government. Grandma was even worse, Dad said. She was frivolous. I didnt know what that word meant, but he said it so often that Id come to associate it with herwith her creamy carpet and soft petal wallpaper. Tyler loved it there. He loved the calm, the order, the soft way my grandparents spoke to each other. There was an aura in that house that made me feel instinctively, without ever being told, that I was not to shout, not to hit anyone or tear through the kitchen at full speed. I did have to be told, and told repeatedly, to leave my muddy shoes by the door. Off to college! Grandma said once we were settled onto the floral-print sofa. She turned to me. You must be so proud of your brother! Her eyes squinted to accommodate her smile. I could see every one of her teeth. Leave it to Grandma to think getting yourself brainwashed is something to celebrate, I thought. I need the bathroom, I said. Alone in the hall I walked slowly, pausing with each step to let my toes sink into the carpet. I smiled, remembering that Dad had said Grandma could keep her carpet so white only because Grandpa had never done any real work. My hands might be dirty, Dad had said, winking at me and displaying his blackened fingernails. But its honest dirt. WEEKS PASSED AND IT was full summer. One Sunday Dad called the family together. Weve got a good supply of food, he said. Weve got fuel and water stored away. What we dont got is money. Dad took a twenty from his wallet and crumpled it. Not this fake money. In the Days of Abomination, this wont be worth a thing. People will trade hundred-dollar bills for a roll of toilet paper. I imagined a world where green bills littered the highway like empty soda cans. I looked around. Everyone else seemed to be imagining that too, especially Tyler. His eyes were focused, determined. Ive got a little money saved, Dad said. And your mothers got some tucked away. Were going to change it into silver. Thats what people will be wishing they had soon, silver and gold. A few days later, Dad came home with the silver, and even some gold. The metal was in the form of coins, packed in small, heavy boxes, which he carried through the house and piled in the basement. He wouldnt let me open them. They arent for playing, he said. Some time after, Tyler took several thousand dollarsnearly all the savings he had left after hed paid the farmer for the tractor and Dad for the station wagonand bought his own pile of silver, which he stacked in the basement next to the gun cabinet. He stood there for a long time, considering the boxes, as if suspended between two worlds. Tyler was a softer target: I begged and he gave me a silver coin as big as my palm. The coin soothed me. It seemed to me that Tylers buying it was a declaration of loyalty, a pledge to our family that despite the madness that had hold of him, that made him want to go to school, ultimately he would choose us. Fight on our side when The End came. By the time the leaves began to change, from the juniper greens of summer to the garnet reds and bronzed golds of autumn, that coin shimmered even in the lowest light, polished by a thousand finger strokes. Id taken comfort in the raw physicality of it, certain that if the coin was real, Tylers leaving could not be. I AWOKE ONE MORNING in August to find Tyler packing his clothes, books and CDs into boxes. Hed nearly finished by the time we sat down to breakfast. I ate quickly, then went into his room and looked at his shelves, now empty except for a single CD, the black one with the image of the people dressed in white, which I now recognized as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Tyler appeared in the doorway. Im l-l-leaving that f-f-for you, he said. Then he walked outside and hosed down his car, blasting away the Idaho dust until it looked as though it had never seen a dirt road. Dad finished his breakfast and left without a word. I understood why. The sight of Tyler loading boxes into his car made me crazed. I wanted to scream but instead I ran, out the back door and up through the hills toward the peak. I ran until the sound of blood pulsing in my ears was louder than the thoughts in my head; then I turned around and ran back, swinging around the pasture to the red railroad car. I scrambled onto its roof just in time to see Tyler close his trunk and turn in a circle, as if he wanted to say goodbye but there was no one to say goodbye to. I imagined him calling my name and pictured his face falling when I didnt answer. He was in the drivers seat by the time Id climbed down, and the car was rumbling down the dirt road when I leapt out from behind an iron tank. Tyler stopped, then got out and hugged menot the crouching hug that adults often give children but the other kind, both of us standing, him pulling me into him and bringing his face close to mine. He said he would miss me, then he let me go, stepping into his car and speeding down the hill and onto the highway. I watched the dust settle. Tyler rarely came home after that. He was building a new life for himself across enemy lines. He made few excursions back to our side. I have almost no memory of him until five years later, when I am fifteen, and he bursts into my life at a critical moment. By then we are strangers. It would be many years before I would understand what leaving that day had cost him, and how little he had understood about where he was going. Tony and Shawn had left the mountain, but theyd left to do what my father had taught them to do: drive semis, weld, scrap. Tyler stepped into a void. I dont know why he did it and neither does he. He cant explain where the conviction came from, or how it burned brightly enough to shine through the black uncertainty. But Ive always supposed it was the music in his head, some hopeful tune the rest of us couldnt hear, the same secret melody hed been humming when he bought that trigonometry book, or saved all those pencil shavings. SUMMER WANED, SEEMING TO evaporate in its own heat. The days were still hot but the evenings had begun to cool, the frigid hours after sunset claiming more of each day. Tyler had been gone a month. I was spending the afternoon with Grandma-over-in-town. Id had a bath that morning, even though it wasnt Sunday, and Id put on special clothes with no holes or stains so that, scrubbed and polished, I could sit in Grandmas kitchen and watch her make pumpkin cookies. The autumn sun poured in through gossamer curtains and onto marigold tiles, giving the whole room an amber glow. After Grandma slid the first batch into the oven, I went to the bathroom. I passed through the hallway, with its soft white carpet, and felt a stab of anger when I remembered that the last time Id seen it, Id been with Tyler. The bathroom felt foreign. I took in the pearly sink, the rosy tint of the carpet, the peach-colored rug. Even the toilet peeked out from under a primrose covering. I took in my own reflection, framed by creamy tiles. I looked nothing like myself, and I wondered for a moment if this was what Tyler wanted, a pretty house with a pretty bathroom and a pretty sister to visit him. Maybe this was what hed left for. I hated him for that. Near the tap there were a dozen pink and white soaps, shaped like swans and roses, resting in an ivory-tinted shell. I picked up a swan, feeling its soft shape give under pressure from my fingers. It was beautiful and I wanted to take it. I pictured it in our basement bathroom, its delicate wings set against the coarse cement. I imagined it lying in a muddy puddle on the sink, surrounded by strips of curling yellowed wallpaper. I returned it to its shell. Coming out, I walked into Grandma, whod been waiting for me in the hall. Did you wash your hands? she asked, her tone sweet and buttery. No, I said. My reply soured the cream in her voice. Why not? They werent dirty. You should always wash your hands after you use the toilet. It cant be that important, I said. We dont even have soap in the bathroom at home. Thats not true, she said. I raised your mother better than that. I squared my stance, ready to argue, to tell Grandma again that we didnt use soap, but when I looked up, the woman I saw was not the woman I expected to see. She didnt seem frivolous, didnt seem like the type whod waste an entire day fretting over her white carpet. In that moment she was transformed. Maybe it was something in the shape of her eyes, the way they squinted at me in disbelief, or maybe it was the hard line of her mouth, which was clamped shut, determined. Or maybe it was nothing at all, just the same old woman looking like herself and saying the things she always said. Maybe her transformation was merely a temporary shift in my perspectivefor that moment, perhaps the perspective was his, that of the brother I hated, and loved. Grandma led me into the bathroom and watched as I washed my hands, then directed me to dry them on the rose-colored towel. My ears burned, my throat felt hot. Dad picked me up soon after on his way home from a job. He pulled up in his truck and honked for me to come out, which I did, my head bent low. Grandma followed. I rushed into the passenger seat, displacing a toolbox and welding gloves, while Grandma told Dad about my not washing. Dad listened, sucking on his cheeks while his right hand fiddled with the gearshift. A laugh was bubbling up inside him. Having returned to my father, I felt the power of his person. A familiar lens slid over my eyes and Grandma lost whatever strange power shed had over me an hour before. Dont you teach your children to wash after they use the toilet? Grandma said. Dad shifted the truck into gear. As it rolled forward he waved and said, I teach them not to piss on their hands. The winter after Tyler left, Audrey turned fifteen. She picked up her drivers license from the county courthouse and, on her way home, got a job flipping burgers. Then she took a second job milking cows at four A.M. every morning. For a year shed been fighting with Dad, bucking under the restraints he put on her. Now she had money; she had her own car; we hardly saw her. The family was shrinking, the old hierarchy compressing. Dad didnt have enough of a crew to build hay sheds, so he went back to scrapping. With Tyler gone, the rest of us were promoted: Luke, at sixteen, became the eldest son, my fathers right hand, and Richard and I took his place as grunts. I remember the first morning I entered the junkyard as one of my fathers crew. The earth was ice, even the air felt stiff. We were in the yard above the lower pasture, which was overrun by hundreds of cars and trucks. Some were old and broken down but most had been wrecked and they looked itbent, arched, twisted, the impression they gave was of crumpled paper, not steel. In the center of the yard there was a lake of debris, vast and deep: leaking car batteries, tangles of insulated copper wire, abandoned transmissions, rusted sheets of corrugated tin, antique faucets, smashed radiators, serrated lengths of luminous brass pipe, and on and on. It was endless, a formless mass. Dad led me to its edge. You know the difference between aluminum and stainless steel? he said. I think so. Come here. His tone was impatient. He was used to dictating to grown men. Having to explain his trade to a ten-year-old girl somehow made us both feel small. He yanked out a chunk of shimmering metal. This heres aluminum, he said. See how it shines? Feel how light it is? Dad put the piece into my hand. He was right; it was not as heavy as it looked. Next Dad handed me a dented pipe. This heres steel, he said. We began to sort the debris into pilesaluminum, iron, steel, copperso it could be sold. I picked up a piece of iron. It was dense with bronze rust, and its jagged angles nibbled at my palms. I had a pair of leather gloves, but when Dad saw them he said theyd slow me down. Youll get calluses real quick, he promised as I handed them over. Id found a hard hat in the shop, but Dad took that, too. Youll move slower trying to balance this silly thing on your head, he said. Dad lived in fear of time. He felt it stalking him. I could see it in the worried glances he gave the sun as it moved across the sky, in the anxious way he appraised every length of pipe or cut of steel. Dad saw every piece of scrap as the money it could be sold for, minus the time needed to sort, cut and deliver it. Every slab of iron, every ring of copper tubing was a nickel, a dime, a dollarless if it took more than two seconds to extract and classifyand he constantly weighed these meager profits against the hourly expense of running the house. He figured that to keep the lights on, the house warm, he needed to work at breakneck speed. I never saw Dad carry anything to a sorting bin; he just chucked it, with all the strength he had, from wherever he was standing. The first time I saw him do it, I thought it was an accident, a mishap that would be corrected. I hadnt yet grasped the rules of this new world. I had bent down, and was reaching for a copper coil, when something massive cut through the air next to me. When I turned to see where it had come from, I caught a steel cylinder full in the stomach. The impact knocked me to the ground. Oops! Dad hollered. I rolled over on the ice, winded. By the time Id scrambled to my feet, Dad had launched something else. I ducked but lost my footing and fell. This time I stayed down. I was shaking but not from cold. My skin was alive and tingling with the certainty of danger, yet when I looked for the source of that danger, all I could see was a tired old man, tugging on a broken light fixture. I remembered all the times Id seen one of my brothers burst through the back door, howling, pinching some part of his body that was gashed or squashed or broken or burned. I remembered two years before, when a man named Robert, who worked for Dad, had lost a finger. I remembered the otherworldly pitch of his scream as he ran to the house. I remembered staring at the bloody stump, and then at the severed finger, which Luke brought in and placed on the counter. It looked like a prop from a magic trick. Mother put it on ice and rushed Robert to town so the doctors could sew it back on. Roberts was not the only finger the junkyard had claimed. A year before Robert, Shawns girlfriend, Emma, had come through the back door shrieking. Shed been helping Shawn and lost half her index. Mother had rushed Emma to town, too, but the flesh had been crushed, and there was nothing they could do. I looked at my own pink fingers, and in that moment the junkyard shifted. As children, Richard and I had passed countless hours in the debris, jumping from one mangled car to the next, looting some, leaving others. It had been the backdrop for a thousand imagined battlesbetween demons and wizards, fairies and goons, trolls and giants. Now it was changed. It had ceased to be my childhood playground and had become its own reality, one whose physical laws were mysterious, hostile. I was remembering the strange pattern the blood had made as it streaked down Emmas wrist, smearing across her forearm, when I stood and, still shaking, tried to pry loose the small length of copper tubing. I almost had it when Dad flung a catalytic converter. I leapt aside, cutting my hand on the serrated edge of a punctured tank. I wiped the blood on my jeans and shouted, Dont throw them here! Im here! Dad looked up, surprised. Hed forgotten I was there. When he saw the blood, he walked over to me and put a hand on my shoulder. Dont worry, honey, he said. God and his angels are here, working right alongside us. They wont let you be hurt. I WASNT THE ONLY ONE whose feet were searching for solid ground. For six months after the car accident, Mother had improved steadily and wed thought she would fully recover. The headaches had become less frequent, so that she was shutting herself in the basement only two or three days a week. Then the healing had slowed. Now it had been nine months. The headaches persisted, and Mothers memory was erratic. At least twice a week shed ask me to cook breakfast long after everyone had eaten and the dishes had been cleared. Shed tell me to weigh a pound of yarrow for a client, and Id remind her that wed delivered the yarrow the day before. Shed begin mixing a tincture, then a minute later couldnt remember which ingredients shed added, so that the whole batch had to be tossed. Sometimes she would ask me to stand next to her and watch, so I could say, You already added the lobelia. Next is the blue vervain. Mother began to doubt whether she would ever midwife again, and while she was saddened by this, Dad was devastated. His face sagged every time Mother turned a woman away. What if I have a migraine when she goes into labor? she told him. What if I cant remember what herbs Ive given her, or the babys heart rate? In the end it wasnt Dad who convinced Mother to midwife again. She convinced herself, perhaps because it was a part of herself she couldnt surrender without some kind of struggle. That winter, she midwifed two babies that I remember. After the first she came home sickly and pale, as if bringing that life into the world had taken a measure of her own. She was shut in the basement when the second call came. She drove to the birth in dark glasses, trying to peer through the waves distorting her vision. By the time she arrived the headache was blinding, pulsing, driving out all thought. She locked herself in a back room and her assistant delivered the baby. After that, Mother was no longer the Midwife. On the next birth, she used the bulk of her fee to hire a second midwife, to supervise her. Everyone was supervising her now, it seemed. She had been an expert, an uncontested power; now she had to ask her ten-year-old daughter whether shed eaten lunch. That winter was long and dark, and I wondered if sometimes Mother was staying in bed even when she didnt have a migraine. At Christmas, someone gave her an expensive bottle of blended essential oils. It helped her headaches, but at fifty dollars for a third of an ounce, we couldnt afford it. Mother decided to make her own. She began buying single, unmixed oilseucalyptus and helichrysum, sandalwood and ravensaraand the house, which for years had smelled of earthy bark and bitter leaves, suddenly smelled of lavender and chamomile. She spent whole days blending oils, making adjustments to achieve specific fragrances and attributes. She worked with a pad and pen so she could record every step as she took it. The oils were much more expensive than the tinctures; it was devastating when she had to throw out a batch because she couldnt remember whether shed added the spruce. She made an oil for migraines and an oil for menstrual cramps, one for sore muscles and one for heart palpitations. In the coming years she would invent dozens more. To create her formulas, Mother took up something called muscle testing, which she explained to me as asking the body what it needs and letting it answer. Mother would say to herself, aloud, I have a migraine. What will make it better? Then she would pick up a bottle of oil, press it to her chest and, with her eyes closed, say, Do I need this? If her body swayed forward it meant yes, the oil would help her headache. If her body swayed backward it meant no, and she would test something else. As she became more skilled, Mother went from using her whole body to only her fingers. She would cross her middle and index fingers, then flex slightly to try to uncross them, asking herself a question. If the fingers remained entwined that meant yes; if they parted it was no. The sound produced by this method was faint but unmistakable: each time the pad of her middle finger slipped across the nail of her index, there was a fleshy click. Mother used muscle testing to experiment with other methods of healing. Diagrams of chakras and pressure points appeared around the house, and she began charging clients for something called energy work. I didnt know what that meant until one afternoon when Mother called me and Richard into the back room. A woman named Susan was there. Mothers eyes were closed and her left hand was resting on Susans. The fingers on her other hand were crossed, and she was whispering questions to herself. After a few she turned to the woman and said, Your relationship with your father is damaging your kidneys. Think of him while we adjust the chakra. Mother explained that energy work is most effective when several people are present. So we can draw from everyones energy, she said. Mother pointed to my forehead and told me to tap the center, between my eyebrows, while with my other hand I was to grab Susans arm. Richard was to tap a pressure point on his chest while reaching out to me with his other hand, and Mother was to hold a point in her palm while touching Richard with her foot. Thats it, she said as Richard took my arm. We stood in silence for ten minutes, a human chain. When I think of that afternoon, what I remember first is the awkwardness of it: Mother said she could feel the hot energy moving through our bodies, but I felt nothing. Mother and Richard stood still, eyes shut, breath shallow. They could feel the energy and were transported by it. I fidgeted. I tried to focus, then worried that I was ruining things for Susan, that I was a break in the chain, that Mother and Richards healing power would never reach her because I was failing to conduct it. When the ten minutes were up, Susan gave Mother twenty dollars and the next customer came in. If I was skeptical, my skepticism was not entirely my fault. It was the result of my not being able to decide which of my mothers to trust. A year before the accident, when Mother had first heard of muscle testing and energy work, shed dismissed both as wishful thinking. People want a miracle, shed told me. Theyll swallow anything if it brings them hope, if it lets them believe theyre getting better. But theres no such thing as magic. Nutrition, exercise and a careful study of herbal properties, thats all there is. But when theyre suffering, people cant accept that. Now Mother said that healing was spiritual and limitless. Muscle testing, she explained to me, was a kind of prayer, a divine supplication. An act of faith in which God spoke through her fingers. In some moments I believed her, this wise woman with an answer to every question; but I could never quite forget the words of that other woman, that other mother, who was also wise. Theres no such thing as magic. One day Mother announced that she had reached a new skill level. I no longer need to say the question aloud, she said. I can just think it. Thats when I began to notice Mother moving around the house, her hand resting lightly on various objects as she muttered to herself, her fingers flexing in a steady rhythm. If she was making bread and wasnt sure how much flour shed added. Click click click. If she was mixing oils and couldnt remember whether shed added frankincense. Click click click. Shed sit down to read her scriptures for thirty minutes, forget what time shed started, then muscle-test how long it had been. Click click click. Mother began to muscle-test compulsively, unaware she was doing it, whenever she grew tired of a conversation, whenever the ambiguities of her memory, or even just those of normal life, left her unsatisfied. Her features would slacken, her face become vacant, and her fingers would click like crickets at dusk. Dad was rapturous. Them doctors cant tell whats wrong just by touching you, he said, glowing. But Mother can! THE MEMORY OF TYLER haunted me that winter. I remembered the day he left, how strange it was to see his car bumping down the hill loaded with boxes. I couldnt imagine where he was now, but sometimes I wondered if perhaps school was less evil than Dad thought, because Tyler was the least evil person I knew, and he loved schoolloved it more, it seemed, than he loved us. The seed of curiosity had been planted; it needed nothing more than time and boredom to grow. Sometimes, when I was stripping copper from a radiator or throwing the five hundredth chunk of steel into the bin, Id find myself imagining the classrooms where Tyler was spending his days. My interest grew more acute with every deadening hour in the junkyard, until one day I had a bizarre thought: that I should enroll in the public school. Mother had always said we could go to school if we wanted. We just had to ask Dad, she said. Then we could go. But I didnt ask. There was something in the hard line of my fathers face, in the quiet sigh of supplication he made every morning before he began family prayer, that made me think my curiosity was an obscenity, an affront to all hed sacrificed to raise me. I made some effort to keep up my schooling in the free time I had between scrapping and helping Mother make tinctures and blend oils. Mother had given up homeschooling by then, but still had a computer, and there were books in the basement. I found the science book, with its colorful illustrations, and the math book I remembered from years before. I even located a faded green book of history. But when I sat down to study I nearly always fell asleep. The pages were glossy and soft, made softer by the hours Id spent hauling scrap. When Dad saw me with one of those books, hed try to get me away from them. Perhaps he was remembering Tyler. Perhaps he thought if he could just distract me for a few years, the danger would pass. So he made up jobs for me to do, whether they needed doing or not. One afternoon, after hed caught me looking at the math book, he and I spent an hour hauling buckets of water across the field to his fruit trees, which wouldnt have been at all unusual except it was during a rainstorm. But if Dad was trying to keep his children from being overly interested in school and booksfrom being seduced by the Illuminati, like Tyler had beenhe would have done better to turn his attention to Richard. Richard was also supposed to spend his afternoons making tinctures for Mother, but he almost never did. Instead, hed disappear. I dont know if Mother knew where he went, but I did. In the afternoons, Richard could nearly always be found in the dark basement, wedged in the crawl space between the couch and the wall, an encyclopedia propped open in front of him. If Dad happened by hed turn the light off, muttering about wasted electricity. Then Id find some excuse to go downstairs so I could turn it back on. If Dad came through again, a snarl would sound through the house, and Mother would have to sit through a lecture on leaving lights on in empty rooms. She never scolded me, which makes me wonder if she did know where Richard was. If I couldnt get back down to turn on the light, Richard would pull the book to his nose and read in the dark; he wanted to read that badly. He wanted to read the encyclopedia that badly. TYLER WAS GONE. There was hardly a trace hed ever lived in the house, except one: every night, after dinner, I would close the door to my room and pull Tylers old boom box from under my bed. Id dragged his desk into my room, and while the choir sang I would settle into his chair and study, just as Id seen him do on a thousand nights. I didnt study history or math. I studied religion. I read the Book of Mormon twice. I read the New Testament, once quickly, then a second time more slowly, pausing to make notes, to cross-reference, and even to write short essays on doctrines like faith and sacrifice. No one read the essays; I wrote them for myself, the way I imagined Tyler had studied for himself and himself only. I worked through the Old Testament next, then I read Dads books, which were mostly compilations of the speeches, letters and journals of the early Mormon prophets. Their language was of the nineteenth centurystiff, winding, but exactand at first I understood nothing. But over time my eyes and ears adjusted, so that I began to feel at home with those fragments of my peoples history: stories of pioneers, my ancestors, striking out across the American wilderness. While the stories were vivid, the lectures were abstract, treatises on obscure philosophical subjects, and it was to these abstractions that I devoted most of my study. In retrospect, I see that this was my education, the one that would matter: the hours I spent sitting at a borrowed desk, struggling to parse narrow strands of Mormon doctrine in mimicry of a brother whod deserted me. The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand. BY THE TIME THE SNOW on the mountain began to melt, my hands were thickly callused. A season in the junkyard had honed my reflexes: Id learned to listen for the low grunt that escaped Dads lips whenever he tossed something heavy, and when I heard it I hit the dirt. I spent so much time flat in the mud, I didnt salvage much. Dad joked I was as slow as molasses running uphill. The memory of Tyler had faded, and with it had faded his music, drowned out by the crack of metal crashing into metal. Those were the sounds that played in my head at night nowthe jingle of corrugated tin, the short tap of copper wire, the thunder of iron. I had entered into the new reality. I saw the world through my fathers eyes. I saw the angels, or at least I imagined I saw them, watching us scrap, stepping forward and catching the car batteries or jagged lengths of steel tubing that Dad launched across the yard. Id stopped shouting at Dad for throwing them. Instead, I prayed. I worked faster when I salvaged alone, so one morning when Dad was in the northern tip of the yard, near the mountain, I headed for the southern tip, near the pasture. I filled a bin with two thousand pounds of iron; then, my arms aching, I ran to find Dad. The bin had to be emptied, and I couldnt operate the loadera massive forklift with a telescopic arm and wide, black wheels that were taller than I was. The loader would raise the bin some twenty-five feet into the air and then, with the boom extended, tilt the forks so the scrap could slide out, raining down into the trailer with a tremendous clamor. The trailer was a fifty-foot flatbed rigged for scrapping, essentially a giant bucket. Its walls were made of thick iron sheets that reached eight feet from the bed. The trailer could hold between fifteen and twenty bins, or about forty thousand pounds of iron. I found Dad in the field, lighting a fire to burn the insulation from a tangle of copper wires. I told him the bin was ready, and he walked back with me and climbed into the loader. He waved at the trailer. Well get more in if you settle the iron after its been dumped. Hop in. I didnt understand. He wanted to dump the bin with me in it? Ill climb up after youve dumped the load, I said. No, thisll be faster, Dad said. Ill pause when the bins level with the trailer wall so you can climb out. Then you can run along the wall and perch on top of the cab until the dump is finished. I settled myself on a length of iron. Dad jammed the forks under the bin, then lifted me and the scrap and began driving, full throttle, toward the trailers head. I could barely hold on. On the last turn, the bucket swung with such force that a spike of iron was flung toward me. It pierced the inside of my leg, an inch below my knee, sliding into the tissue like a knife into warm butter. I tried to pull it out but the load had shifted, and it was partially buried. I heard the soft groaning of hydraulic pumps as the boom extended. The groaning stopped when the bin was level with the trailer. Dad was giving me time to climb onto the trailer wall but I was pinned. Im stuck! I shouted, only the growl of the loaders engine was too loud. I wondered if Dad would wait to dump the bin until he saw me sitting safely on the semis cab, but even as I wondered I knew he wouldnt. Time was still stalking. The hydraulics groaned and the bin raised another eight feet. Dumping position. I shouted again, higher this time, then lower, trying to find a pitch that would pierce through the drone of the engine. The bin began its tilt, slowly at first, then quickly. I was pinned near the back. I wrapped my hands around the bins top wall, knowing this would give me a ledge to grasp when the bin was vertical. As the bin continued to pitch, the scrap at the front began to slide forward, bit by bit, a great iron glacier breaking apart. The spike was still embedded in my leg, dragging me downward. My grip had slipped and Id begun to slide when the spike finally ripped from me and fell away, smashing into the trailer with a tremendous crash. I was now free, but falling. I flailed my arms, willing them to seize something that wasnt plunging downward. My palm caught hold of the bins side wall, which was now nearly vertical. I pulled myself toward it and hoisted my body over its edge, then continued my fall. Because I was now falling from the side of the bin and not the front, I hopedI prayedthat I was falling toward the ground and not toward the trailer, which was at that moment a fury of grinding metal. I sank, seeing only blue sky, waiting to feel either the stab of sharp iron or the jolt of solid earth. My back struck iron: the trailers wall. My feet snapped over my head and I continued my graceless plunge to the ground. The first fall was seven or eight feet, the second perhaps ten. I was relieved to taste dirt. I lay on my back for perhaps fifteen seconds before the engine growled to silence and I heard Dads heavy step. What happened? he said, kneeling next to me. I fell out, I wheezed. The wind had been knocked out of me, and there was a powerful throbbing in my back, as if Id been cut in two. Howd you manage that? Dad said. His tone was sympathetic but disappointed. I felt stupid. I should have been able to do it, I thought. Its a simple thing. Dad examined the gash in my leg, which had been ripped wide as the spike had fallen away. It looked like a pothole; the tissue had simply sunk out of sight. Dad slipped out of his flannel shirt and pressed it to my leg. Go on home, he said. Mother will stop the bleeding. I limped through the pasture until Dad was out of sight, then collapsed in the tall wheatgrass. I was shaking, gulping mouthfuls of air that never made it to my lungs. I didnt understand why I was crying. I was alive. I would be fine. The angels had done their part. So why couldnt I stop trembling? I was light-headed when I crossed the last field and approached the house, but I burst through the back door, as Id seen my brothers do, as Robert and Emma had done, shouting for Mother. When she saw the crimson footprints streaked across the linoleum, she fetched the homeopathic she used to treat hemorrhages and shock, called Rescue Remedy, and put twelve drops of the clear, tasteless liquid under my tongue. She rested her left hand lightly on the gash and crossed the fingers of her right. Her eyes closed. Click click click. Theres no tetanus, she said. The wound will close. Eventually. But itll leave a nasty scar. She turned me onto my stomach and examined the bruisea patch of deep purple the size of a human headthat had formed a few inches above my hip. Again her fingers crossed and her eyes closed. Click click click. Youve damaged your kidney, she said. Wed better make a fresh batch of juniper and mullein flower. THE GASH BELOW MY knee had formed a scabdark and shiny, a black river flowing through pink fleshwhen I came to a decision. I chose a Sunday evening, when Dad was resting on the couch, his Bible propped open in his lap. I stood in front of him for what felt like hours, but he didnt look up, so I blurted out what Id come to say: I want to go to school. He seemed not to have heard me. Ive prayed, and I want to go, I said. Finally, Dad looked up and straight ahead, his gaze fixed on something behind me. The silence settled, its presence heavy. In this family, he said, we obey the commandments of the Lord. He picked up his Bible and his eyes twitched as they jumped from line to line. I turned to leave, but before I reached the doorway Dad spoke again. You remember Jacob and Esau? I remember, I said. He returned to his reading, and I left quietly. I did not need any explanation; I knew what the story meant. It meant that I was not the daughter he had raised, the daughter of faith. I had tried to sell my birthright for a mess of pottage. It was a rainless summer. The sun blazed across the sky each afternoon, scorching the mountain with its arid, desiccating heat, so that each morning when I crossed the field to the barn, I felt stalks of wild wheat crackle and break beneath my feet. I spent an amber morning making the Rescue Remedy homeopathic for Mother. I would take fifteen drops from the base formulawhich was kept in Mothers sewing cupboard, where it would not be used or pollutedand add them to a small bottle of distilled water. Then I would make a circle with my index finger and my thumb, and push the bottle through the circle. The strength of the homeopathic, Mother said, depended on how many passes the bottle made through my fingers, how many times it drew on my energy. Usually I stopped at fifty. Dad and Luke were on the mountain, in the junkyard above the upper pasture, a quarter mile from the house. They were preparing cars for the crusher, which Dad had hired for later that week. Luke was seventeen. He had a lean, muscular build and, when outdoors, an easy smile. Luke and Dad were draining gasoline from the tanks. The crusher wont take a car with the fuel tank attached, because theres a risk of explosion, so every tank had to be drained and removed. It was slow work, puncturing the tank with a hammer and stake, then waiting for the fuel to drip out so the tank could be safely removed with a cutting torch. Dad had devised a shortcut: an enormous skewer, eight feet tall, of thick iron. Dad would lift a car with the forklift, and Luke would guide him until the cars tank was suspended directly over the spike. Then Dad would drop the forks. If all went well, the car would be impaled on the spike and gasoline would gush from the tank, streaming down the spike and into the flat-bottom container Dad had welded in place to collect it. By noon, they had drained somewhere between thirty and forty cars. Luke had collected the fuel in five-gallon buckets, which he began to haul across the yard to Dads flatbed. On one pass he stumbled, drenching his jeans in a gallon of gas. The summer sun dried the denim in a matter of minutes. He finished hauling the buckets, then went home for lunch. I remember that lunch with unsettling clarity. I remember the clammy smell of beef-and-potato casserole, and the jingle of ice cubes tumbling into tall glasses, which sweated in the summer heat. I remember Mother telling me I was on dish duty, because she was leaving for Utah after lunch to consult for another midwife on a complicated pregnancy. She said she might not make it home for dinner but there was hamburger in the freezer. I remember laughing the whole hour. Dad lay on the kitchen floor cracking jokes about an ordinance that had recently passed in our little farming village. A stray dog had bitten a boy and everyone was up in arms. The mayor had decided to limit dog ownership to two dogs per family, even though the attacking dog hadnt belonged to anybody at all. These genius socialists, Dad said. Theyd drown staring up at the rain if you didnt build a roof over them. I laughed so hard at that my stomach ached. Luke had forgotten all about the gasoline by the time he and Dad walked back up the mountain and readied the cutting torch, but when he jammed the torch into his hip and struck flint to steel, flames burst from the tiny spark and engulfed his leg. The part we would remember, would tell and retell so many times it became family folklore, was that Luke was unable to get out of his gasoline-soaked jeans. That morning, like every morning, he had hitched up his trousers with a yard of baling twine, which is smooth and slippery, and needs a horsemans knot to stay in place. His footwear didnt help, either: bulbous steel-toed boots so tattered that for weeks hed been duct-taping them on each morning, then cutting them off each night with his pocketknife. Luke might have severed the twine and hacked through the boots in a matter of seconds, but he went mad with panic and took off, dashing like a marked buck, spreading fire through the sagebrush and wheat grass, which were baked and brittle from the parched summer. ID STACKED THE DIRTY dishes and was filling the kitchen sink when I heard ita shrill, strangled cry that began in one key and ended in another. There was no question it was human. Id never heard an animal bellow like that, with such fluctuations in tone and pitch. I ran outside and saw Luke hobbling across the grass. He screamed for Mother, then collapsed. Thats when I saw that the jeans on his left leg were gone, melted away. Parts of the leg were livid, red and bloody; others were bleached and dead. Papery ropes of skin wrapped delicately around his thigh and down his calf, like wax dripping from a cheap candle. His eyes rolled back in his head. I bolted back into the house. Id packed the new bottles of Rescue Remedy, but the base formula still sat on the counter. I snatched it and ran outside, then dumped half the bottle between Lukes twitching lips. There was no change. His eyes were marble white. One brown iris slipped into view, then the other. He began to mumble, then to scream. Its on fire! Its on fire! he roared. A chill passed through him and his teeth clattered; he was shivering. I was only ten, and in that moment I felt very much a child. Luke was my big brother; I thought he would know what to do, so I grabbed his shoulders and shook him, hard. Should I make you cold or make you hot? I shouted. He answered with a gasp. The burn was the injury, I reasoned. It made sense to treat it first. I fetched a pack of ice from the chest freezer on the patio, but when the pack touched his leg he screameda back-arching, eye-popping scream that made my brain claw at my skull. I needed another way to cool the leg. I considered unloading the chest freezer and putting Luke inside it, but the freezer would work only if the lid was shut, and then hed suffocate. I mentally searched the house. We had a large garbage can, a blue whale of a bin. It was splattered with bits of rotted food, so rank we kept it shut away in a closet. I sprinted into the house and emptied it onto the linoleum, noting the dead mouse Richard had tossed in the day before, then I carried the bin outside and sprayed it out with the garden hose. I knew I should clean it more thoroughly, maybe with dish soap, but looking at Luke, the way he was writhing on the grass, I didnt feel I had time. With the last bit of slop blasted away, I righted the bin and filled it with water. Luke was scrambling toward me to put his leg in when I heard an echo of my mothers voice. She was telling someone that the real worry with a burn isnt the damaged tissue, but infection. Luke! I shouted. Dont! Dont put your leg in! He ignored me and continued crawling toward the bin. He had a cold look in his eye that said nothing mattered except the fire burning from his leg into his brain. I moved quickly. I shoved the bin, and a great wave of water heaved over the grass. Luke made a gargled noise, as if he were choking. I ran back into the kitchen and found the bags that fit the can, then held one open for Luke and told him to put his leg in. He didnt move, but he allowed me to pull the bag over the raw flesh. I righted the can and stuffed the garden hose inside. While the bin filled, I helped Luke balance on one foot and lower his burned leg, now wrapped in black plastic, into the garbage can. The afternoon air was sweltering; the water would warm quickly; I tossed in the pack of ice. It didnt take longtwenty minutes, maybe thirtybefore Luke seemed in his right mind, calm and able to prop himself up. Then Richard wandered up from the basement. The garbage can was smack in the middle of the lawn, ten feet from any shade, and the afternoon sun was strong. Full of water, the can was too heavy for us to move, and Luke refused to take out his leg, even for a minute. I fetched a straw sombrero Grandma had given us in Arizona. Lukes teeth were still chattering so I also brought a wool blanket. And there he stood, a sombrero on his head, a wool blanket around his shoulders, and his leg in a garbage can. He looked something between homeless and on vacation. The sun warmed the water; Luke began to shift uncomfortably. I returned to the chest freezer but there was no more ice, just a dozen bags of frozen vegetables, so I dumped them in. The result was a muddy soup with bits of peas and carrots. Dad wandered home sometime after this, I couldnt say how long, a gaunt, defeated look on his face. Quiet now, Luke was resting, or as near to resting as he could be standing up. Dad wheeled the bin into the shade because, despite the hat, Lukes hands and arms had turned red with sunburn. Dad said the best thing to do was leave the leg where it was until Mother came home. Mothers car appeared on the highway around six. I met her halfway up the hill and told her what had happened. She rushed to Luke and said she needed to see the leg, so he lifted it out, dripping. The plastic bag clung to the wound. Mother didnt want to tear the fragile tissue, so she cut the bag away slowly, carefully, until the leg was visible. There was very little blood and even fewer blisters, as both require skin and Luke didnt have much. Mothers face turned a grayish yellow, but she was calm. She closed her eyes and crossed her fingers, then asked aloud whether the wound was infected. Click click click. You were lucky this time, Tara, she said. But what were you thinking, putting a burn into a garbage can? Dad carried Luke inside and Mother fetched her scalpel. It took her and Dad most of the evening to cut away the dead flesh. Luke tried not to scream, but when they pried up and stretched bits of his skin, trying to see where the dead flesh ended and the living began, he exhaled in great gusts and tears slid from his eyes. Mother dressed the leg in mullein and comfrey salve, her own recipe. She was good with burnsthey were a specialty of hersbut I could tell she was worried. She said shed never seen one as bad as Lukes. She didnt know what would happen. MOTHER AND I STAYED by Lukes bed that first night. He barely slept, he was so delirious with fever and pain. For the fever we put ice on his face and chest; for the pain we gave him lobelia, blue vervain and skullcap. This was another of Mothers recipes. Id taken it after Id fallen from the scrap bin, to dull the throbbing in my leg while I waited for the gash to close, but as near as I could tell it had no effect. I believed hospital drugs were an abomination to God, but if Id had morphine that night, Id have given it to Luke. The pain robbed him of breath. He lay propped up in his bed, beads of sweat falling from his forehead onto his chest, holding his breath until he turned red, then purple, as if depriving his brain of oxygen was the only way he could make it through the next minute. When the pain in his lungs overtook the pain of the burn, he would release the air in a great, gasping crya cry of relief for his lungs, of agony for his leg. I tended him alone the second night so Mother could rest. I slept lightly, waking at the first sounds of fussing, at the slightest shifting of weight, so I could fetch the ice and tinctures before Luke became fully conscious and the pain gripped him. On the third night, Mother tended him and I stood in the doorway, listening to his gasps, watching Mother watch him, her face hollow, her eyes swollen with worry and exhaustion. When I slept, I dreamed. I dreamed about the fire I hadnt seen. I dreamed it was me lying in that bed, my body wrapped in loose bandages, mummified. Mother knelt on the floor beside me, pressing my plastered hand the way she pressed Lukes, dabbing my forehead, praying. Luke didnt go to church that Sunday, or the Sunday after that, or the one after that. Dad told us to tell people Luke was sick. He said thered be trouble if the Government found out about Lukes leg, that the Feds would take us kids away. That they would put Luke in a hospital, where his leg would get infected and he would die. About three weeks after the fire, Mother announced that the skin around the edges of the burn had begun to grow back, and that she had hope for even the worst patches. By then Luke was sitting up, and a week later, when the first cold spell hit, he could stand for a minute or two on crutches. Before long, he was thumping around the house, thin as a string bean, swallowing buckets of food to regain the weight hed lost. By then, the twine was a family fable. A man ought to have a real belt, Dad said at breakfast on the day Luke was well enough to return to the junkyard, handing him a leather strap with a steel buckle. Not Luke, Richard said. He prefers twine, you know how fashionable he is. Luke grinned. Beautys everything, he said. FOR EIGHTEEN YEARS I never thought of that day, not in any probing way. The few times my reminiscing carried me back to that torrid afternoon, what I remembered first was the belt. Luke, I would think. You wild dog. I wonder, do you still wear twine? Now, at age twenty-nine, I sit down to write, to reconstruct the incident from the echoes and shouts of a tired memory. I scratch it out. When I get to the end, I pause. Theres an inconsistency, a ghost in this story. I read it. I read it again. And there it is. Who put out the fire? A long-dormant voice says, Dad did. But Luke was alone when I found him. If Dad had been with Luke on the mountain, he would have brought him to the house, would have treated the burn. Dad was away on a job somewhere, thats why Luke had had to get himself down the mountain. Why his leg had been treated by a ten-year-old. Why it had ended up in a garbage can. I decide to ask Richard. Hes older than I, and has a sharper memory. Besides, last I heard, Luke no longer has a telephone. I call. The first thing Richard remembers is the twine, which, true to his nature, he refers to as a baling implement. Next he remembers the spilled gasoline. I ask how Luke managed to put out the fire and get himself down the mountain, given that he was in shock when I found him. Dad was with him, Richard says flatly. Right. Then why wasnt Dad at the house? Richard says, Because Luke had run through the weeds and set the mountain afire. You remember that summer. Dry, scorching. You cant go starting forest fires in farm country during a dry summer. So Dad put Luke in the truck and told him to drive to the house, to Mother. Only Mother was gone. Right. I think it over for a few days, then sit back down to write. Dad is there in the beginningDad with his funny jokes about socialists and dogs and the roof that keeps liberals from drowning. Then Dad and Luke go back up the mountain, Mother drives away and I turn the tap to fill the kitchen sink. Again. For the third time it feels like. On the mountain something is happening. I can only imagine it but I see it clearly, more clearly than if it were a memory. The cars are stacked and waiting, their fuel tanks ruptured and drained. Dad waves at a tower of cars and says, Luke, cut off those tanks, yeah? And Luke says, Sure thing, Dad. He lays the torch against his hip and strikes flint. Flames erupt from nowhere and take him. He screams, fumbles with the twine, screams again, and takes off through the weeds. Dad chases him, orders him to stand still. Its probably the first time in his whole life that Luke doesnt do something when Dad is telling him to. Luke is fast but Dad is smart. He takes a shortcut through a pyramid of cars and tackles Luke, slamming him to the ground. I cant picture what happens next, because nobody ever told me how Dad put out the fire on Lukes leg. Then a memory surfacesof Dad, that night in the kitchen, wincing as Mother slathers salve on his hands, which are red and blisteringand I know what he must have done. Luke is no longer on fire. I try to imagine the moment of decision. Dad looks at the weeds, which are burning fast, thirsty for flame in that quivering heat. He looks at his son. He thinks if he can choke the flames while theyre young, he can prevent a wildfire, maybe save the house. Luke seems lucid. His brain hasnt processed whats happened; the pain hasnt set in. The Lord will provide, I imagine Dad thinking. God left him conscious. I imagine Dad praying aloud, his eyes drawn heavenward, as he carries his son to the truck and sets him in the drivers seat. Dad shifts the engine into first, the truck starts its roll. Its going at a good speed now, Luke is gripping the wheel. Dad jumps from the moving truck, hits the ground hard and rolls, then runs back toward the brushfire, which has spread wider and grown taller. The Lord will provide, he chants, then he takes off his shirt and begins to beat back the flames.* * Since the writing of this story, I have spoken to Luke about the incident. His account differs from both mine and Richards. In Lukes memory, Dad took Luke to the house, administered a homeopathic for shock, then put him in a tub of cold water, where he left him to go fight the fire. This goes against my memory, and against Richards. Still, perhaps our memories are in error. Perhaps I found Luke in a tub, alone, rather than on the grass. What everyone agrees upon, strangely, is that somehow Luke ended up on the front lawn, his leg in a garbage can. I wanted to get away from the junkyard and there was only one way to do that, which was the way Audrey had done it: by getting a job so I wouldnt be at the house when Dad rounded up his crew. The trouble was, I was eleven. I biked a mile into the dusty center of our little village. There wasnt much there, just a church, a post office and a gas station called Papa Jays. I went into the post office. Behind the counter was an older lady whose name I knew was Myrna Moyle, because Myrna and her husband Jay (Papa Jay) owned the gas station. Dad said theyd been behind the city ordinance limiting dog ownership to two dogs per family. Theyd proposed other ordinances, too, and now every Sunday Dad came home from church shouting about Myrna and Jay Moyle, and how they were from Monterey or Seattle or wherever and thought they could impose West Coast socialism on the good people of Idaho. I asked Myrna if I could put a card up on the board. She asked what the card was for. I said I hoped I could find jobs babysitting. What times are you available? she said. Anytime, all the time. You mean after school? I mean all the time. Myrna looked at me and tilted her head. My daughter Mary needs someone to tend her youngest. Ill ask her. Mary taught nursing at the school, which Dad said was just about as brainwashed as a person could get, to be working for the Medical Establishment and the Government both. I thought maybe he wouldnt let me work for her, but he did, and pretty soon I was babysitting Marys daughter every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. Then Mary had a friend, Eve, who needed a babysitter for her three children on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A mile down the road, a man named Randy ran a business out of his home, selling cashews, almonds and macadamias. He stopped by the post office one afternoon and chatted with Myrna about how tired he was of packing the boxes himself, how he wished he could hire some kids but they were all tied up with football and band. Theres at least one kid in this town who isnt, Myrna said. And I think shed be real eager. She pointed to my card, and soon I was babysitting from eight until noon Monday to Friday, then going to Randys to pack cashews until supper. I wasnt paid much, but as Id never been paid anything before, it felt like a lot. People at church said Mary could play the piano beautifully. They used the word professional. I didnt know what that meant until one Sunday when Mary played a piano solo for the congregation. The music stopped my breath. Id heard the piano played countless times before, to accompany hymns, but when Mary played it, the sound was nothing like that formless clunking. It was liquid, it was air. It was rock one moment and wind the next. The next day, when Mary returned from the school, I asked her if instead of money she would give me lessons. We perched on the piano bench and she showed me a few finger exercises. Then she asked what else I was learning besides the piano. Dad had told me what to say when people asked about my schooling. I do school every day, I said. Do you meet other kids? she asked. Do you have friends? Sure, I said. Mary returned to the lesson. When wed finished and I was ready to go, she said, My sister Caroline teaches dance every Wednesday in the back of Papa Jays. There are lots of girls your age. You could join. That Wednesday, I left Randys early and pedaled to the gas station. I wore jeans, a large gray T-shirt, and steel-toed boots; the other girls wore black leotards and sheer, shimmering skirts, white tights and tiny ballet shoes the color of taffy. Caroline was younger than Mary. Her makeup was flawless and gold hoops flashed through chestnut curls. She arranged us in rows, then showed us a short routine. A song played from a boom box in the corner. Id never heard it before but the other girls knew it. I looked in the mirror at our reflection, at the twelve girls, sleek and shiny, pirouetting blurs of black, white and pink. Then at myself, large and gray. When the lesson finished, Caroline told me to buy a leotard and dance shoes. I cant, I said. Oh. She looked uncomfortable. Maybe one of the girls can lend you one. Shed misunderstood. She thought I didnt have money. It isnt modest, I said. Her lips parted in surprise. These Californian Moyles, I thought. Well, you cant dance in boots, she said. Ill talk to your mother. A few days later, Mother drove me forty miles to a small shop whose shelves were lined with exotic shoes and strange acrylic costumes. Not one was modest. Mother went straight to the counter and told the attendant we needed a black leotard, white tights and jazz shoes. Keep those in your room, Mother said as we left the store. She didnt need to say anything else. I already understood that I should not show the leotard to Dad. That Wednesday, I wore the leotard and tights with my gray T-shirt over the top. The T-shirt reached almost to my knees, but even so I was ashamed to see so much of my legs. Dad said a righteous woman never shows anything above her ankle. The other girls rarely spoke to me, but I loved being there with them. I loved the sensation of conformity. Learning to dance felt like learning to belong. I could memorize the movements and, in doing so, step into their minds, lunging when they lunged, reaching my arms upward in time with theirs. Sometimes, when I glanced at the mirror and saw the tangle of our twirling forms, I couldnt immediately discern myself in the crowd. It didnt matter that I was wearing a gray T-shirta goose among swans. We moved together, a single flock. We began rehearsals for the Christmas recital, and Caroline called Mother to discuss the costume. The skirt will be how long? Mother said. And sheer? No, thats not going to work. I heard Caroline say something about what the other girls in the class would want to wear. Tara cant wear that, Mother said. If thats what the other girls are wearing, she will stay home. On the Wednesday after Caroline called Mother, I arrived at Papa Jays a few minutes early. The younger class had just finished, and the store was flooded with six-year-olds, prancing for their mothers in red velvet hats and skirts sparkling with sequins of deep scarlet. I watched them wiggle and leap through the aisles, their thin legs covered only by sheer tights. I thought they looked like tiny harlots. The rest of my class arrived. When they saw the outfits, they rushed into the studio to see what Caroline had for them. Caroline was standing next to a cardboard box full of large gray sweatshirts. She began handing them out. Here are your costumes! she said. The girls held up their sweatshirts, eyebrows raised in disbelief. They had expected chiffon or ribbon, not Fruit of the Loom. Caroline had tried to make the sweatshirts more appealing by sewing large Santas, bordered with glitter, on the fronts, but this only made the dingy cotton seem dingier. Mother hadnt told Dad about the recital, and neither had I. I didnt ask him to come. There was an instinct at work in me, a learned intuition. The day of the recital, Mother told Dad I had a thing that night. Dad asked a lot of questions, which surprised Mother, and after a few minutes she admitted it was a dance recital. Dad grimaced when Mother told him Id been taking lessons from Caroline Moyle, and I thought he was going to start talking about California socialism again, but he didnt. Instead he got his coat and the three of us walked to the car. The recital was held at the church. Everyone was there, with flashing cameras and bulky camcorders. I changed into my costume in the same room where I attended Sunday school. The other girls chatted cheerfully; I pulled on my sweatshirt, trying to stretch the material a few more inches. I was still tugging it downward when we lined up on the stage. Music played from a stereo on the piano and we began to dance, our feet tapping in sequence. Next we were supposed to leap, reach upward and spin. My feet remained planted. Instead of flinging my arms above my head, I lifted them only to my shoulders. When the other girls crouched to slap the stage, I tilted; when we were to cartwheel, I swayed, refusing to allow gravity to do its work, to draw the sweatshirt any higher up my legs. The music ended. The girls glared at me as we left the stageI had ruined the performancebut I could barely see them. Only one person in that room felt real to me, and that was Dad. I searched the audience and recognized him easily. He was standing in the back, the lights from the stage flickering off his square glasses. His expression was stiff, impassive, but I could see anger in it. The drive home was only a mile; it felt like a hundred. I sat in the backseat and listened to my father shout. How could Mother have let me sin so openly? Was this why shed kept the recital from him? Mother listened for a moment, chewing her lip, then threw her hands in the air and said that shed had no idea the costume would be so immodest. Im furious with Caroline Moyle! she said. I leaned forward to see Mothers face, wanting her to look at me, to see the question I was mentally asking her, because I didnt understand, not at all. I knew Mother wasnt furious with Caroline, because I knew Mother had seen the sweatshirt days before. She had even called Caroline and thanked her for choosing a costume I could wear. Mother turned her head toward the window. I stared at the gray hairs on the back of Dads head. He was sitting quietly, listening to Mother, who continued to insult Caroline, to say how shocking the costumes were, how obscene. Dad nodded as we bumped up the icy driveway, becoming less angry with every word from Mother. The rest of the night was taken up by my fathers lecture. He said Carolines class was one of Satans deceptions, like the public school, because it claimed to be one thing when really it was another. It claimed to teach dance, but instead it taught immodesty, promiscuity. Satan was shrewd, Dad said. By calling it dance, he had convinced good Mormons to accept the sight of their daughters jumping about like whores in the Lords house. That fact offended Dad more than anything else: that such a lewd display had taken place in a church. After he had worn himself out and gone to bed, I crawled under my covers and stared into the black. There was a knock at my door. It was Mother. I should have known better, she said. I should have seen that class for what it was. MOTHER MUST HAVE FELT guilty after the recital, because in the weeks that followed she searched for something else I could do, something Dad wouldnt forbid. Shed noticed the hours I spent in my room with Tylers old boom box, listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, so she began looking for a voice teacher. It took a few weeks to find one, and another few weeks to persuade the teacher to take me. The lessons were much more expensive than the dance class had been, but Mother paid for them with the money she made selling oils. The teacher was tall and thin, with long fingernails that clicked as they flew across the piano keys. She straightened my posture by pulling the hair at the base of my neck until Id tucked in my chin, then she stretched me out on the floor and stepped on my stomach to strengthen my diaphragm. She was obsessed with balance and often slapped my knees to remind me to stand powerfully, to take up my own space. After a few lessons, she announced that I was ready to sing in church. It was arranged, she said. I would sing a hymn in front of the congregation that Sunday. The days slipped away quickly, as days do when youre dreading something. On Sunday morning, I stood at the pulpit and stared into the faces of the people below. There was Myrna and Papa Jay, and behind them Mary and Caroline. They looked sorry for me, like they thought I might humiliate myself. Mother played the introduction. The music paused; it was time to sing. I might have had any number of thoughts at that moment. I might have thought of my teacher and her techniquessquare stance, straight back, dropped jaw. Instead I thought of Tyler, and of lying on the carpet next to his desk, staring at his woolen-socked feet while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir chanted and trilled. Hed filled my head with their voices, which to me were more beautiful than anything except Bucks Peak. Mothers fingers hovered over the keys. The pause had become awkward; the congregation shifted uncomfortably. I thought of the voices, of their strange contradictionsof the way they made sound float on air, of how that sound was soft like a warm wind, but so sharp it pierced. I reached for those voices, reached into my mindand there they were. Nothing had ever felt so natural; it was as if I thought the sound, and by thinking it brought it into being. But reality had never yielded to my thoughts before. The song finished and I returned to our pew. A prayer was offered to close the service, then the crowd rushed me. Women in floral prints smiled and clasped my hand, men in square black suits clapped my shoulder. The choir director invited me to join the choir, Brother Davis asked me to sing for the Rotary Club, and the bishopthe Mormon equivalent of a pastorsaid hed like me to sing my song at a funeral. I said yes to all of them. Dad smiled at everyone. There was scarcely a person in the church that Dad hadnt called a gentilefor visiting a doctor or for sending their kids to the public schoolbut that day he seemed to forget about California socialism and the Illuminati. He stood next to me, a hand on my shoulder, graciously collecting compliments. Were very blessed, he kept saying. Very blessed. Papa Jay crossed the chapel and paused in front of our pew. He said I sang like one of Gods own angels. Dad looked at him for a moment, then his eyes began to shine and he shook Papa Jays hand like they were old friends. Id never seen this side of my father, but I would see it many times afterevery time I sang. However long hed worked in the junkyard, he was never too tired to drive across the valley to hear me. However bitter his feelings toward socialists like Papa Jay, they were never so bitter that, should those people praise my voice, Dad wouldnt put aside the great battle he was fighting against the Illuminati long enough to say, Yes, God has blessed us, were very blessed. It was as if, when I sang, Dad forgot for a moment that the world was a frightening place, that it would corrupt me, that I should be kept safe, sheltered, at home. He wanted my voice to be heard. The theater in town was putting on a play, Annie, and my teacher said that if the director heard me sing, he would give me the lead. Mother warned me not to get my hopes up. She said we couldnt afford to drive the twelve miles to town four nights a week for rehearsals, and that even if we could, Dad would never allow me to spend time in town, alone, with who knows what kind of people. I practiced the songs anyway because I liked them. One evening, I was in my room singing, The sunll come out tomorrow, when Dad came in for supper. He chewed his meatloaf quietly, and listened. Ill find the money, he told Mother when they went to bed that night. You get her to that audition. The summer I sang the lead for Annie it was 1999. My father was in serious preparedness mode. Not since I was five, and the Weavers were under siege, had he been so certain that the Days of Abomination were upon us. Dad called it Y2K. On January 1, he said, computer systems all over the world would fail. There would be no electricity, no telephones. All would sink into chaos, and this would usher in the Second Coming of Christ. How do you know the day? I asked. Dad said that the Government had programmed the computers with a six-digit calendar, which meant the year had only two digits. When nine-nine becomes oh-oh, he said, the computers wont know what year it is. Theyll shut down. Cant they fix it? Nope, cant be done, Dad said. Man trusted his own strength, and his strength was weak. At church, Dad warned everyone about Y2K. He advised Papa Jay to get strong locks for his gas station, and maybe some defensive weaponry. That store will be the first thing looted in the famine, Dad said. He told Brother Mumford that every righteous man should have, at minimum, a ten-year supply of food, fuel, guns and gold. Brother Mumford just whistled. We cant all be as righteous as you, Gene, he said. Some of us are sinners! No one listened. They went about their lives in the summer sun. Meanwhile, my family boiled and skinned peaches, pitted apricots and churned apples into sauce. Everything was pressure-cooked, sealed, labeled, and stored away in a root cellar Dad had dug out in the field. The entrance was concealed by a hillock; Dad said I should never tell anybody where it was. One afternoon, Dad climbed into the excavator and dug a pit next to the old barn. Then, using the loader, he lowered a thousand-gallon tank into the pit and buried it with a shovel, carefully planting nettles and sow thistle in the freshly tossed dirt so they would grow and conceal the tank. He whistled I Feel Pretty from West Side Story while he shoveled. His hat was tipped back on his head, and he wore a brilliant smile. Well be the only ones with fuel when The End comes, he said. Well be driving when everyone else is hotfooting it. Well even make a run down to Utah, to fetch Tyler. I HAD REHEARSALS MOST NIGHTS at the Worm Creek Opera House, a dilapidated theater near the only stoplight in town. The play was another world. Nobody talked about Y2K. The interactions between people at Worm Creek were not at all what I was used to in my family. Of course Id spent time with people outside my family, but they were like us: women whod hired Mother to midwife their babies, or who came to her for herbs because they didnt believe in the Medical Establishment. I had a single friend, named Jessica. A few years before, Dad had convinced her parents, Rob and Diane, that public schools were little more than Government propaganda programs, and since then they had kept her at home. Before her parents had pulled Jessica from school, she was one of them, and I never tried to talk to her; but after, she was one of us. The normal kids stopped including her, and she was left with me. Id never learned how to talk to people who werent like uspeople who went to school and visited the doctor. Who werent preparing, every day, for the End of the World. Worm Creek was full of these people, people whose words seemed ripped from another reality. That was how it felt the first time the director spoke to me, like he was speaking from another dimension. All he said was, Go find FDR. I didnt move. He tried again. President Roosevelt. FDR. Is that like a JCB? I said. You need a forklift? Everyone laughed. Id memorized all my lines, but at rehearsals I sat alone, pretending to study my black binder. When it was my turn onstage, I would recite my lines loudly and without hesitation. That made me feel a kind of confidence. If I didnt have anything to say, at least Annie did. A week before opening night, Mother dyed my brown hair cherry red. The director said it was perfect, that all I needed now was to finish my costumes before the dress rehearsal on Saturday. In our basement I found an oversized knit sweater, stained and hole-ridden, and an ugly blue dress, which Mother bleached to a faded brown. The dress was perfect for an orphan, and I was relieved at how easy finding the costumes had been, until I remembered that in act two Annie wears beautiful dresses, which Daddy Warbucks buys for her. I didnt have anything like that. I told Mother and her face sank. We drove a hundred miles round-trip, searching every secondhand shop along the way, but found nothing. Sitting in the parking lot of the last shop, Mother pursed her lips, then said, Theres one more place we can try. We drove to my aunt Angies and parked in front of the white picket fence she shared with Grandma. Mother knocked, then stood back from the door and smoothed her hair. Angie looked surprised to see usMother rarely visited her sisterbut she smiled warmly and invited us in. Her front room reminded me of fancy hotel lobbies from the movies, there was so much silk and lace. Mother and I sat on a pleated sofa of pale pink while Mother explained why wed come. Angie said her daughter had a few dresses that might do. Mother waited on the pink sofa while Angie led me upstairs to her daughters room and laid out an armful of dresses, each so fine, with such intricate lace patterns and delicately tied bows, that at first I was afraid to touch them. Angie helped me into each one, knotting the sashes, fastening the buttons, plumping the bows. You should take this one, she said, passing me a navy dress with white braided cords arranged across the bodice. Grandma sewed this detailing. I took the dress, along with another made of red velvet collared with white lace, and Mother and I drove home. The play opened a week later. Dad was in the front row. When the performance ended, he marched right to the box office and bought tickets for the next night. It was all he talked about that Sunday in church. Not doctors, or the Illuminati, or Y2K. Just the play over in town, where his youngest daughter was singing the lead. Dad didnt stop me from auditioning for the next play, or the one after that, even though he worried about me spending so much time away from home. Theres no telling what kind of cavorting takes place in that theater, he said. Its probably a den of adulterers and fornicators. When the director of the next play got divorced, it confirmed Dads suspicions. He said he hadnt kept me out of the public school for all these years just to see me corrupted on a stage. Then he drove me to the rehearsal. Nearly every night he said he was going to put a stop to my going, that one evening hed just show up at Worm Creek and haul me home. But each time a play opened he was there, in the front row. Sometimes he played the part of an agent or manager, correcting my technique or suggesting songs for my repertoire, even advising me about my health. That winter I caught a procession of sore throats and couldnt sing, and one night Dad called me to him and pried my mouth open to look at my tonsils. Theyre swollen, all right, he said. Big as apricots. When Mother couldnt get the swelling down with echinacea and calendula, Dad suggested his own remedy. People dont know it, but the sun is the most powerful medicine we have. Thats why people dont get sore throats in summer. He nodded, as if approving of his own logic, then said, If I had tonsils like yours, Id go outside every morning and stand in the sun with my mouth openlet those rays seep in for a half hour or so. Theyll shrink in no time. He called it a treatment. I did it for a month. It was uncomfortable, standing with my jaw dropped and my head tilted back so the sun could shine into my throat. I never lasted a whole half hour. My jaw would ache after ten minutes, and Id half-freeze standing motionless in the Idaho winter. I kept catching more sore throats, and anytime Dad noticed I was a bit croaky, hed say, Well, what do you expect? I aint seen you getting treatment all week! IT WAS AT THE Worm Creek Opera House that I first saw him: a boy I didnt know, laughing with a group of public school kids, wearing big white shoes, khaki shorts and a wide grin. He wasnt in the play, but there wasnt much to do in town, and I saw him several more times that week when he turned up to visit his friends. Then one night, when I was wandering alone in the dark wings backstage, I turned a corner and found him sitting on the wooden crate that was a favorite haunt of mine. The crate was isolatedthat was why I liked it. He shifted to the right, making room for me. I sat slowly, tensely, as if the seat were made of needles. Im Charles, he said. There was a pause while he waited for me to give my name, but I didnt. I saw you in the last play, he said after a moment. I wanted to tell you something. I braced myself, for what I wasnt sure, then he said, I wanted to tell you that your singing is about the best I ever heard. I CAME HOME ONE AFTERNOON from packing macadamias to find Dad and Richard gathered around a large metal box, which theyd hefted onto the kitchen table. While Mother and I cooked meatloaf, they assembled the contents. It took more than an hour, and when theyd finished they stood back, revealing what looked like an enormous military-green telescope, with its long barrel set firmly atop a short, broad tripod. Richard was so excited he was hopping from one foot to the other, reciting what it could do. Got a range more than a mile! Can bring down a helicopter! Dad stood quietly, his eyes shining. What is it? I asked. Its a fifty-caliber rifle, he said. Wanna try it? I peered through the scope, searching the mountainside, fixing distant stalks of wheat between its crosshairs. The meatloaf was forgotten. We charged outside. It was past sunset; the horizon was dark. I watched as Dad lowered himself to the frozen ground, positioned his eye at the scope and, after what felt like an hour, pulled the trigger. The blast was thunderous. I had both palms pressed to my ears, but after the initial boom I dropped them, listening as the shot echoed through the ravines. He fired again and again, so that by the time we went inside my ears were ringing. I could barely hear Dads reply when I asked what the gun was for. Defense, he said. The next night I had a rehearsal at Worm Creek. I was perched on my crate, listening to the monologue being performed onstage, when Charles appeared and sat next to me. You dont go to school, he said. It wasnt a question. You should come to choir. Youd like choir. Maybe, I said, and he smiled. A few of his friends stepped into the wing and called to him. He stood and said goodbye, and I watched him join them, taking in the easy way they joked together and imagining an alternate reality in which I was one of them. I imagined Charles inviting me to his house, to play a game or watch a movie, and felt a rush of pleasure. But when I pictured Charles visiting Bucks Peak, I felt something else, something like panic. What if he found the root cellar? What if he discovered the fuel tank? Then I understood, finally, what the rifle was for. That mighty barrel, with its special range that could reach from the mountain to the valley, was a defensive perimeter for the house, for our supplies, because Dad said we would be driving when everyone else was hotfooting it. We would have food, too, when everyone else was starving, looting. Again I imagined Charles climbing the hill to our house. But in my imagination I was on the ridge, and I was watching his approach through crosshairs. CHRISTMAS WAS SPARSE THAT YEAR. We werent poorMothers business was doing well and Dad was still scrappingbut wed spent everything on supplies. Before Christmas, we continued our preparations as if every action, every minor addition to our stores might make the difference between surviving, and not; after Christmas, we waited. When the hour of need arises, Dad said, the time of preparation has passed. The days dragged on, and then it was December 31. Dad was calm at breakfast but under his tranquillity I sensed excitement, and something like longing. Hed been waiting for so many years, burying guns and stockpiling food and warning others to do the same. Everyone at church had read the prophecies; they knew the Days of Abomination were coming. But still theyd teased Dad, theyd laughed at him. Tonight he would be vindicated. After dinner, Dad studied Isaiah for hours. At around ten he closed his Bible and turned on the TV. The television was new. Aunt Angies husband worked for a satellite-TV company, and hed offered Dad a deal on a subscription. No one had believed it when Dad said yes, but in retrospect it was entirely characteristic for my father to move, in the space of a day, from no TV or radio to full-blown cable. I sometimes wondered if Dad allowed the television that year, specifically, because he knew it would all disappear on January 1. Perhaps he did it to give us a little taste of the world, before it was swept away. Dads favorite program was The Honeymooners, and that night there was a special, with episodes playing back to back. We watched, waiting for The End. I checked the clock every few minutes from ten until eleven, then every few seconds until midnight. Even Dad, who was rarely stirred by anything outside himself, glanced often at the clock. 11:59. I held my breath. One more minute, I thought, before everything is gone. Then it was 12:00. The TV was still buzzing, its lights dancing across the carpet. I wondered if our clock was fast. I went to the kitchen and turned on the tap. We had water. Dad stayed still, his eyes on the screen. I returned to the couch. 12:05. How long would it take for the electricity to fail? Was there a reserve somewhere that was keeping it going these few extra minutes? The black-and-white specters of Ralph and Alice Kramden argued over a meatloaf. 12:10. I waited for the screen to flicker and die. I was trying to take it all in, this last, luxurious momentof sharp yellow light, of warm air flowing from the heater. I was experiencing nostalgia for the life Id had before, which I would lose at any second, when the world turned and began to devour itself. The longer I sat motionless, breathing deeply, trying to inhale the last scent of the fallen world, the more I resented its continuing solidity. Nostalgia turned to fatigue. Sometime after 1:30 I went to bed. I glimpsed Dad as I left, his face frozen in the dark, the light from the TV leaping across his square glasses. He sat as if posed, with no agitation, no embarrassment, as if there were a perfectly mundane explanation for why he was sitting up, alone, at near two in the morning, watching Ralph and Alice Kramden prepare for a Christmas party. He seemed smaller to me than he had that morning. The disappointment in his features was so childlike, for a moment I wondered how God could deny him this. He, a faithful servant, who suffered willingly just as Noah had willingly suffered to build the ark. But God withheld the flood. When January 1 dawned like any other morning, it broke Dads spirit. He never again mentioned Y2K. He slipped into despondency, dragging himself in from the junkyard each night, silent and heavy. Hed sit in front of the TV for hours, a black cloud hovering. Mother said it was time for another trip to Arizona. Luke was serving a mission for the church, so it was just me, Richard and Audrey who piled into the old Chevy Astro van Dad had fixed up. Dad removed the seats, except the two in front, and in their place he put a queen mattress; then he heaved himself onto it and didnt move for the rest of the drive. As it had years before, the Arizona sun revived Dad. He lay out on the porch on the hard cement, soaking it up, while the rest of us read or watched TV. After a few days he began to improve, and we braced ourselves for the nightly arguments between him and Grandma. Grandma was seeing a lot of doctors these days, because she had cancer in her bone marrow. Those doctors will just kill you quicker, Dad said one evening when Grandma returned from a consultation. Grandma refused to quit chemotherapy, but she did ask Mother about herbal treatments. Mother had brought some with her, hoping Grandma would ask, and Grandma tried themfoot soaks in red clay, cups of bitter parsley tea, tinctures of horsetail and hydrangea. Those herbs wont do a damned thing, Dad said. Herbals operate by faith. You cant put your trust in a doctor, then ask the Lord to heal you. Grandma didnt say a word. She just drank her parsley tea. I remember watching Grandma, searching for signs that her body was giving way. I didnt see any. She was the same taut, undefeated woman. The rest of the trip blurs in my memory, leaving me with only snapshotsof Mother muscle-testing remedies for Grandma, of Grandma listening silently to Dad, of Dad sprawled out in the dry heat. Then Im in a hammock on the back porch, rocking lazily in the orange light of the desert sunset, and Audrey appears and says Dad wants us to get our stuff, were leaving. Grandma is incredulous. After what happened last time? she shouts. Youre going to drive through the night again? What about the storm? Dad says well beat the storm. While we load the van Grandma paces, cussing. She says Dad hasnt learned a damned thing. Richard drives the first six hours. I lie in the back on the mattress with Dad and Audrey. Its three in the morning, and we are making our way from southern to northern Utah, when the weather changes from the dry chill of the desert to the freezing gales of an alpine winter. Ice claims the road. Snowflakes flick against the windshield like tiny insects, a few at first, then so many the road disappears. We push forward into the heart of the storm. The van skids and jerks. The wind is furious, the view out the window pure white. Richard pulls over. He says we cant go any further. Dad takes the wheel, Richard moves to the passenger seat, and Mother lies next to me and Audrey on the mattress. Dad pulls onto the highway and accelerates, rapidly, as if to make a point, until he has doubled Richards speed. Shouldnt we drive slower? Mother asks. Dad grins. Im not driving faster than our angels can fly. The van is still accelerating. To fifty, then to sixty. Richard sits tensely, his hand clutching the armrest, his knuckles bleaching each time the tires slip. Mother lies on her side, her face next to mine, taking small sips of air each time the van fishtails, then holding her breath as Dad corrects and it snakes back into the lane. She is so rigid, I think she might shatter. My body tenses with hers; together we brace a hundred times for impact. It is a relief when the van finally leaves the road. I AWOKE TO BLACKNESS. Something ice-cold was running down my back. Were in a lake! I thought. Something heavy was on top of me. The mattress. I tried to kick it off but couldnt, so I crawled beneath it, my hands and knees pressing into the ceiling of the van, which was upside down. I came to a broken window. It was full of snow. Then I understood: we were in a field, not a lake. I crawled through the broken glass and stood, unsteadily. I couldnt seem to gain my balance. I looked around but saw no one. The van was empty. My family was gone. I circled the wreck twice before I spied Dads hunched silhouette on a hillock in the distance. I called to him, and he called to the others, who were spread out through the field. Dad waded toward me through the snowdrifts, and as he stepped into a beam from the broken headlights I saw a six-inch gash in his forearm and blood slashing into the snow. I was told later that Id been unconscious, hidden under the mattress, for several minutes. Theyd shouted my name. When I didnt answer, they thought I must have been thrown from the van, through the broken window, so theyd left to search for me. Everyone returned to the wreck and stood around it awkwardly, shaking, either from the cold or from shock. We didnt look at Dad, didnt want to accuse. The police arrived, then an ambulance. I dont know who called them. I didnt tell them Id blacked outI was afraid theyd take me to a hospital. I just sat in the police car next to Richard, wrapped in a reflective blanket like the one I had in my head for the hills bag. We listened to the radio while the cops asked Dad why the van wasnt insured, and why hed removed the seats and seatbelts. We were far from Bucks Peak, so the cops took us to the nearest police station. Dad called Tony, but Tony was trucking long-haul. He tried Shawn next. No answer. We would later learn that Shawn was in jail that night, having been in some kind of brawl. Unable to reach his sons, Dad called Rob and Diane Hardy, because Mother had midwifed five of their eight children. Rob arrived a few hours later, cackling. Didnt you folks damned near kill yerselves last time? A FEW DAYS AFTER the crash, my neck froze. I awoke one morning and it wouldnt move. It didnt hurt, not at first, but no matter how hard I concentrated on turning my head, it wouldnt give more than an inch. The paralysis spread lower, until it felt like I had a metal rod running the length of my back and into my skull. When I couldnt bend forward or turn my head, the soreness set in. I had a constant, crippling headache, and I couldnt stand without holding on to something. Mother called an energy specialist named Rosie. I was lying on my bed, where Id been for two weeks, when she appeared in the doorway, wavy and distorted, as if I were looking at her through a pool of water. Her voice was high in pitch, cheerful. It told me to imagine myself, whole and healthy, protected by a white bubble. Inside the bubble I was to place all the objects I loved, all the colors that made me feel at peace. I envisioned the bubble; I imagined myself at its center, able to stand, to run. Behind me was a Mormon temple, and Kamikaze, Lukes old goat, long dead. A green glow lighted everything. Imagine the bubble for a few hours every day, she said, and you will heal. She patted my arm and I heard the door close behind her. I imagined the bubble every morning, afternoon and night, but my neck remained immobile. Slowly, over the course of a month, I got used to the headaches. I learned how to stand, then how to walk. I used my eyes to stay upright; if I closed them even for a moment, the world would shift and I would fall. I went back to workto Randys and occasionally to the junkyard. And every night I fell asleep imagining that green bubble. DURING THE MONTH I was in bed I heard another voice. I remembered it but it was no longer familiar to me. It had been six years since that impish laugh had echoed down the hall. It belonged to my brother Shawn, whod quarreled with my father at seventeen and run off to work odd jobs, mostly trucking and welding. Hed come home because Dad had asked for his help. From my bed, Id heard Shawn say that he would only stay until Dad could put together a real crew. This was just a favor, he said, until Dad could get back on his feet. It was odd finding him in the house, this brother who was nearly a stranger to me. People in town seemed to know him better than I did. Id heard rumors about him at Worm Creek. People said he was trouble, a bully, a bad egg, that he was always hunting or being hunted by hooligans from Utah or even further afield. People said he carried a gun, either concealed on his body or strapped to his big black motorcycle. Once someone said that Shawn wasnt really bad, that he only got into brawls because he had a reputation for being unbeatablefor knowing all there was to know about martial arts, for fighting like a man who feels no painso every strung-out wannabe in the valley thought he could make a name for himself by besting him. It wasnt Shawns fault, really. As I listened to these rumors, he came alive in my mind as more legend than flesh. My own memory of Shawn begins in the kitchen, perhaps two months after the second accident. I am making corn chowder. The door squeaks and I twist at the waist to see whos come in, then twist back to chop an onion. You gonna be a walking Popsicle stick forever? Shawn says. Nope. You need a chiropractor, he says. Momll fix it. You need a chiropractor, he says again. The family eats, then disperses. I start the dishes. My hands are in the hot, soapy water when I hear a step behind me and feel thick, callused hands wrap around my skull. Before I can react, he jerks my head with a swift, savage motion. CRACK! Its so loud, Im sure my head has come off and hes holding it. My body folds, I collapse. Everything is black but somehow spinning. When I open my eyes moments later, his hands are under my arms and hes holding me upright. Might be a while before you can stand, he says. But when you can, I need to do the other side. I was too dizzy, too nauseous, for the effect to be immediate. But throughout the evening I observed small changes. I could look at the ceiling. I could cock my head to tease Richard. Seated on the couch, I could turn to smile at the person next to me. That person was Shawn, and I was looking at him but I wasnt seeing him. I dont know what I sawwhat creature I conjured from that violent, compassionate actbut I think it was my father, or perhaps my father as I wished he were, some longed-for defender, some fanciful champion, one who wouldnt fling me into a storm, and who, if I was hurt, would make me whole. When Grandpa-down-the-hill was a young man, thered been herds of livestock spread across the mountain, and they were tended on horseback. Grandpas ranching horses were the stuff of legend. Seasoned as old leather, they moved their burly bodies delicately, as if guided by the riders thoughts. At least, thats what I was told. I never saw them. As Grandpa got older he ranched less and farmed more, until one day he stopped farming. He had no need for horses, so he sold the ones that had value and set the rest loose. They multiplied, and by the time I was born there was a whole herd of wild horses on the mountain. Richard called them dog-food horses. Once a year, Luke, Richard and I would help Grandpa round up a dozen or so to take to the auction in town, where theyd be sold for slaughter. Some years Grandpa would look out over the small, frightened herd bound for the meat grinder, at the young stallions pacing, coming to terms with their first captivity, and a hunger would appear in his eyes. Then hed point to one and say, Dont load that un. That un well break. But feral horses dont yield easily, not even to a man like Grandpa. My brothers and I would spend days, even weeks, earning the horses trust, just so we could touch it. Then we would stroke its long face and gradually, over more weeks, work our hands around its wide neck and down its muscular body. After a month of this wed bring out the saddle, and the horse would toss its head suddenly and with such violence that the halter would snap or the rope break. Once a large copper stallion busted the corral fence, smashed through it as if it werent there, and came out the other side bloody and bruised. We tried not to name them, these beasts we hoped to tame, but we had to refer to them somehow. The names we chose were descriptive, not sentimental: Big Red, Black Mare, White Giant. I was thrown from dozens of these horses as they bucked, reared, rolled or leapt. I hit the dirt in a hundred sprawling postures, each time righting myself in an instant and skittering to the safety of a tree, tractor or fence, in case the horse was feeling vengeful. We never triumphed; our strength of will faltered long before theirs. We got some so they wouldnt buck when they saw the saddle, and a few whod tolerate a human on their back for jaunts around the corral, but not even Grandpa dared ride them on the mountain. Their natures hadnt changed. They were pitiless, powerful avatars from another world. To mount them was to surrender your footing, to move into their domain. To risk being borne away. The first domesticated horse I ever saw was a bay gelding, and it was standing next to the corral, nibbling sugar cubes from Shawns hand. It was spring, and I was fourteen. It had been many years since Id touched a horse. The gelding was mine, a gift from a great-uncle on my mothers side. I approached warily, certain that as I moved closer the horse would buck, or rear, or charge. Instead it sniffed my shirt, leaving a long, wet stain. Shawn tossed me a cube. The horse smelled the sugar, and the prickles from his chin tickled my fingers until I opened my palm. Wanna break him? Shawn said. I did not. I was terrified of horses, or I was terrified of what I thought horses werethat is, thousand-pound devils whose ambition was to dash brains against rock. I told Shawn he could break the horse. I would watch from the fence. I refused to name the horse, so we called him the Yearling. The Yearling was already broke to a halter and lead, so Shawn brought out the saddle that first day. The Yearling pawed the dirt nervously when he saw it; Shawn moved slowly, letting him smell the stirrups and nibble curiously at the horn. Then Shawn rubbed the smooth leather across his broad chest, moving steadily but without hurry. Horses dont like things where they cant see em, Shawn said. Best to get him used to the saddle in front. Then when hes real comfortable with it, with the way it smells and feels, we can move it around back. An hour later the saddle was cinched. Shawn said it was time to mount, and I climbed onto the barn roof, sure the corral would descend into violence. But when Shawn hoisted himself into the saddle, the Yearling merely skittered. His front hooves raised a few inches off the dirt, as if hed pondered rearing but thought better of it, then he dropped his head and his paws stilled. In the space of a moment, he had accepted our claim to ride him, to his being ridden. He had accepted the world as it was, in which he was an owned thing. He had never been feral, so he could not hear the maddening call of that other world, on the mountain, in which he could not be owned, could not be ridden. I named him Bud. Every night for a week I watched Shawn and Bud gallop through the corral in the gray haze of dusk. Then, on a soft summer evening, I stood next to Bud, grasping the reins while Shawn held the halter steady, and stepped into the saddle. SHAWN SAID HE WANTED out of his old life, and that the first step was to stay away from his friends. Suddenly he was home every evening, looking for something to do. He began to drive me to my rehearsals at Worm Creek. When it was just the two of us floating down the highway, he was mellow, lighthearted. He joked and teased, and he sometimes gave me advice, which was mostly Dont do what I did. But when we arrived at the theater, he would change. At first he watched the younger boys with wary concentration, then he began to bait them. It wasnt obvious aggression, just small provocations. He might flick off a boys hat or knock a soda can from his hand and laugh as the stain spread over the boys jeans. If he was challengedand he usually wasnthe would play the part of the ruffian, a hardened Whatcha gonna do about it? expression disguising his face. But after, when it was just the two of us, the mask lowered, the bravado peeled off like a breastplate, and he was my brother. It was his smile I loved best. His upper canines had never grown in, and the string of holistic dentists my parents had taken him to as a child had failed to notice until it was too late. By the time he was twenty-three, and he got himself to an oral surgeon, they had rotated sideways inside his gums and were ejecting themselves through the tissue under his nose. The surgeon who removed them told Shawn to preserve his baby teeth for as long as possible, then when they rotted out, hed be given posts. But they never rotted out. They stayed, stubborn relics of a misplaced childhood, reminding anyone who witnessed his pointless, endless, feckless belligerence, that this man was once a boy. IT WAS A HAZY summer evening, a month before I turned fifteen. The sun had dipped below Bucks Peak but the sky still held a few hours of light. Shawn and I were in the corral. After breaking Bud that spring, Shawn had taken up horses in a serious way. All summer hed been buying horses, Thoroughbreds and Paso Finos, most of them unbroken because he could pick them up cheap. We were still working with Bud. Wed taken him on a dozen rides through the open pasture, but he was inexperienced, skittish, unpredictable. That evening, Shawn saddled a new horse, a copper-coated mare, for the first time. She was ready for a short ride, Shawn said, so we mounted, him on the mare, me on Bud. We made it about half a mile up the mountain, moving deliberately so as not to frighten the horses, winding our way through the wheat fields. Then I did something foolish. I got too close to the mare. She didnt like having the gelding behind her, and with no warning she leapt forward, thrusting her weight onto her front legs, and with her hind legs kicked Bud full in the chest. Bud went berserk. Id been tying a knot in my reins to make them more secure and didnt have a firm hold. Bud gave a tremendous jolt, then began to buck, throwing his body in tight circles. The reins flew over his head. I gripped the saddle horn and squeezed my thighs together, curving my legs around his bulging belly. Before I could get my bearings, Bud took off at a dead run straight up a ravine, bucking now and then but running, always running. My foot slipped through a stirrup up to my calf. All those summers breaking horses with Grandpa, and the only advice I remembered him giving was, Whateer you do, dont git your foot caught in the stirrup. I didnt need him to explain. I knew that as long as I came off clean, Id likely be fine. At least Id be on the ground. But if my foot got caught, Id be dragged until my head split on a rock. Shawn couldnt help me, not on that unbroken mare. Hysteria in one horse causes hysteria in others, especially in the young and spirited. Of all Shawns horses, there was only onea seven-year-old buckskin named Apollowho might have been old enough, and calm enough, to do it: to explode in furious speed, a nostril-flapping gallop, then coolly navigate while the rider detached his body, lifting one leg out of the stirrup and reaching to the ground to catch the reins of another horse wild with fright. But Apollo was in the corral, half a mile down the mountain. My instincts told me to let go of the saddle hornthe only thing keeping me on the horse. If I let go Id fall, but Id have a precious moment to reach for the flapping reins or try to yank my calf from the stirrup. Make a play for it, my instincts screamed. Those instincts were my guardians. They had saved me before, guiding my movements on a dozen bucking horses, telling me when to cling to the saddle and when to pitch myself clear of pounding hooves. They were the same instincts that, years before, had prompted me to hoist myself from the scrap bin when Dad was dumping it, because they had understood, even if I had not, that it was better to fall from that great height rather than hope Dad would intervene. All my life those instincts had been instructing me in this single doctrinethat the odds are better if you rely only on yourself. Bud reared, thrusting his head so high I thought he might tumble backward. He landed hard and bucked. I tightened my grip on the horn, making a decision, based on another kind of instinct, not to surrender my hold. Shawn would catch up, even on that unbroken mare. Hed pull off a miracle. The mare wouldnt even understand the command when he shouted, Giddy-yap!; at the jab of his boot in her gut, which shed never felt before, she would rear, twisting wildly. But he would yank her head down, and as soon as her hooves touched the dirt, kick her a second time, harder, knowing she would rear again. He would do this until she leapt into a run, then he would drive her forward, welcoming her wild acceleration, somehow guiding her even though shed not yet learned the strange dance of movements that, over time, becomes a kind of language between horse and rider. All this would happen in seconds, a year of training reduced to a single, desperate moment. I knew it was impossible. I knew it even as I imagined it. But I kept hold of the saddle horn. Bud had worked himself into a frenzy. He leapt wildly, arching his back as he shot upward, then tossing his head as he smashed his hooves to the ground. My eyes could barely unscramble what they saw. Golden wheat flew in every direction, while the blue sky and the mountain lurched absurdly. I was so disoriented that I felt, rather than saw, the powerful penny-toned mare moving into place beside me. Shawn lifted his body from the saddle and tilted himself toward the ground, holding his reins tightly in one hand while, with the other, he snatched Buds reins from the weeds. The leather straps pulled taut; the bit forced Buds head up and forward. With his head raised, Bud could no longer buck and he entered a smooth, rhythmic gallop. Shawn yanked hard on his own reins, pulling the mares head toward his knee, forcing her to run in a circle. He pulled her head tighter on every pass, wrapping the strap around his forearm, shrinking the circle until it was so small, the pounding hooves stood still. I slid from the saddle and lay in the wheat, the itchy stalks poking through my shirt. Above my head the horses panted, their bellies swelling and collapsing, their hooves pawing at the dirt. My brother Tony had taken out a loan to buy his own riga semi and trailerbut in order to make the payments, he had to keep the truck on the road, so thats where he was living, on the road. Until his wife got sick and the doctor she consulted (she had consulted a doctor) put her on bed rest. Tony called Shawn and asked if he could run the rig for a week or two. Shawn hated trucking long-haul, but he said hed do it if I came along. Dad didnt need me in the junkyard, and Randy could spare me for a few days, so we set off, heading down to Las Vegas, then east to Albuquerque, west to Los Angeles, then up to Washington State. Id thought I would see the cities, but mostly I saw truck stops and interstate. The windshield was enormous and elevated like a cockpit, which made the cars below seem like toys. The sleeper cab, where the bunks were, was musty and dark as a cave, littered with bags of Doritos and trail mix. Shawn drove for days with little sleep, navigating our fifty-foot trailer as if it were his own arm. He doctored the books whenever we crossed a checkpoint, to make it seem he was getting more sleep than he was. Every other day we stopped to shower and eat a meal that wasnt dried fruit and granola. Near Albuquerque, the Walmart warehouse was backed up and couldnt unload us for two days. We were outside the citythere was nothing but a truck stop and red sand stretching out in all directionsso we ate Cheetos and played Mario Kart in the sleeper. By sunset on the second day, our bodies ached from sitting, and Shawn said he should teach me martial arts. We had our first lesson at dusk in the parking lot. If you know what youre doing, he said, you can incapacitate a man with minimal effort. You can control someones whole body with two fingers. Its about knowing where the weak points are, and how to exploit them. He grabbed my wrist and folded it, bending my fingers downward so they reached uncomfortably toward the inside of my forearm. He continued to add pressure until I twisted slightly, wrapping my arm behind my back to relieve the strain. See? This is a weak point, he said. If I fold it any more, youll be immobilized. He grinned his angel grin. I wont, though, because itd hurt like hell. He let go and said, Now you try. I folded his wrist onto itself and squeezed hard, trying to get his upper body to collapse the way mine had. He didnt move. Maybe another strategy for you, he said. He gripped my wrist a different waythe way an attacker might, he said. He taught me how to break the hold, where the fingers were weakest and the bones in my arm strongest, so that after a few minutes I could cut through even his thick fingers. He taught me how to throw my weight behind a punch, and where to aim to crush the windpipe. The next morning, the trailer was unloaded. We climbed into the truck, picked up a new load and drove for another two days, watching the white lines disappear hypnotically beneath the hood, which was the color of bone. We had few forms of entertainment, so we made a game of talking. The game had only two rules. The first was that every statement had to have at least two words in which the first letters were switched. Youre not my little sister, Shawn said. Youre my sittle lister. He pronounced the words lazily, blunting the ts to ds so that it sounded like siddle lister. The second rule was that every word that sounded like a number, or like it had a number in it, had to be changed so that the number was one higher. The word to for example, because it sounds like the number two, would become three. Siddle Lister, Shawn might say, we should pay a-eleven-tion. Theres a checkpoint ahead and I cant a-five-d a ticket. Time three put on your seatbelt. When we tired of this, wed turn on the CB and listen to the lonely banter of truckers stretched out across the interstate. Look out for a green four-wheeler, a gruff voice said, when we were somewhere between Sacramento and Portland. Been picnicking in my blind spot for a half hour. A four-wheeler, Shawn explained, is what big rigs call cars and pickups. Another voice came over the CB to complain about a red Ferrari that was weaving through traffic at 120 miles per hour. Bastard damned near hit a little blue Chevy, the deep voice bellowed through the static. Shit, theres kids in that Chevy. Anybody up ahead wanna cool this hothead down? The voice gave its location. Shawn checked the mile marker. We were ahead. Im a white Pete pulling a fridge, he said. There was silence while everybody checked their mirrors for a Peterbilt with a reefer. Then a third voice, gruffer than the first, answered: Im the blue KW hauling a dry box. I see you, Shawn said, and for my benefit pointed to a navy-colored Kenworth a few cars ahead. When the Ferrari appeared, multiplied in our many mirrors, Shawn shifted into high gear, revving the engine and pulling beside the Kenworth so that the two fifty-foot trailers were running side by side, blocking both lanes. The Ferrari honked, weaved back and forth, braked, honked again. How long should we keep him back there? the husky voice said, with a deep laugh. Until he calms down, Shawn answered. Five miles later, they let him pass. The trip lasted about a week, then we told Tony to find us a load to Idaho. Well, Siddle Lister, Shawn said when we pulled into the junkyard, back three work. THE WORM CREEK OPERA HOUSE announced a new play: Carousel. Shawn drove me to the audition, then surprised me by auditioning himself. Charles was also there, talking to a girl named Sadie, who was seventeen. She nodded at what Charles was saying, but her eyes were fixed on Shawn. At the first rehearsal she came and sat next to him, laying her hand on his arm, laughing and tossing her hair. She was very pretty, with soft, full lips and large dark eyes, but when I asked Shawn if he liked her, he said he didnt. Shes got fish eyes, he said. Fish eyes? Yup, fish eyes. Theyre dead stupid, fish. Theyre beautiful, but their headsre as empty as a tire. Sadie started dropping by the junkyard around quitting time, usually with a milkshake for Shawn, or cookies or cake. Shawn hardly even spoke to her, just grabbed whatever shed brought him and kept walking toward the corral. She would follow and try to talk to him while he fussed over his horses, until one evening she asked if he would teach her to ride. I tried to explain that our horses werent broke all the way, but she was determined, so Shawn put her on Apollo and the three of us headed up the mountain. Shawn ignored her and Apollo. He offered none of the help hed given me, teaching me how to stand in the stirrups while going down steep ravines or how to squeeze my thighs when the horse leapt over a branch. Sadie trembled for the entire ride, but she pretended to be enjoying herself, restoring her lipsticked smile every time he glanced in her direction. At the next rehearsal, Charles asked Sadie about a scene, and Shawn saw them talking. Sadie came over a few minutes later but Shawn wouldnt speak to her. He turned his back and she left crying. Whats that about? I said. Nothing, he said. By the next rehearsal, a few days later, Shawn seemed to have forgotten it. Sadie approached him warily, but he smiled at her, and a few minutes later they were talking and laughing. Shawn asked her to cross the street and buy him a Snickers at the dime store. She seemed pleased that he would ask and hurried out the door, but when she returned a few minutes later and gave him the bar, he said, What is this shit? I asked for a Milky Way. You didnt, she said. You said Snickers. I want a Milky Way. Sadie left again and fetched the Milky Way. She handed it to him with a nervous laugh, and Shawn said, Wheres my Snickers? What, you forgot again? You didnt want it! she said, her eyes shining like glass. I gave it to Charles! Go get it. Ill buy you another. No, Shawn said, his eyes cold. His baby teeth, which usually gave him an impish, playful appearance, now made him seem unpredictable, volatile. I want that one. Get it, or dont come back. A tear slid down Sadies cheek, smearing her mascara. She paused for a moment to wipe it away and pull up her smile. Then she walked over to Charles and, laughing as if it were nothing, asked if she could have the Snickers. He reached into his pocket and pulled it out, then watched her walk back to Shawn. Sadie placed the Snickers in his palm like a peace offering and waited, staring at the carpet. Shawn pulled her onto his lap and ate the bar in three bites. You have lovely eyes, he said. Just like a fish. SADIES PARENTS WERE DIVORCING and the town was awash in rumors about her father. When Mother heard the rumors, she said now it made sense why Shawn had taken an interest in Sadie. Hes always protected angels with broken wings, she said. Shawn found out Sadies class schedule and memorized it. He made a point of driving to the high school several times a day, particularly at those times when he knew shed be moving between buildings. Hed pull over on the highway and watch her from a distance, too far for her to come over, but not so far that she wouldnt see him. It was something we did together, he and I, nearly every time we went to town, and sometimes when we didnt need to go to town at all. Until one day, when Sadie appeared on the steps of the high school with Charles. They were laughing together; Sadie hadnt noticed Shawns truck. I watched his face harden, then relax. He smiled at me. I have the perfect punishment, he said. I simply wont see her. All I have to do is not see her, and she will suffer. He was right. When he didnt return her calls, Sadie became desperate. She told the boys at school not to walk with her, for fear Shawn would see, and when Shawn said he disliked one of her friends, she stopped seeing them. Sadie came to our house every day after school, and I watched the Snickers incident play out over and over, in different forms, with different objects. Shawn would ask for a glass of water. When Sadie brought it, hed want ice. When she brought that hed ask for milk, then water again, ice, no ice, then juice. This could go on for thirty minutes before, in a final test, he would ask for something we didnt have. Then Sadie would drive to town to buy itvanilla ice cream, fries, a burritoonly to have him demand something else the moment she got back. The nights they went out, I was grateful. One night, he came home late and in a strange mood. Everyone was asleep except me, and I was on the sofa, reading a chapter of scripture before bed. Shawn plopped down next to me. Get me a glass of water. You break your leg? I said. Get it, or I wont drive you to town tomorrow. I fetched the water. As I handed it over, I saw the smile on his face and without thinking dumped the whole thing on his head. I made it down the hall and was nearly to my room when he caught me. Apologize, he said. Water dripped from his nose onto his T-shirt. No. He grabbed a fistful of my hair, a large clump, his grip fixed near the root to give him greater leverage, and dragged me into the bathroom. I groped at the door, catching hold of the frame, but he lifted me off the ground, flattened my arms against my body, then dropped my head into the toilet. Apologize, he said again. I said nothing. He stuck my head in further, so my nose scraped the stained porcelain. I closed my eyes, but the smell wouldnt let me forget where I was. I tried to imagine something else, something that would take me out of myself, but the image that came to mind was of Sadie, crouching, compliant. It pumped me full of bile. He held me there, my nose touching the bowl, for perhaps a minute, then he let me up. The tips of my hair were wet; my scalp was raw. I thought it was over. Id begun to back away when he seized my wrist and folded it, curling my fingers and palm into a spiral. He continued folding until my body began to coil, then he added more pressure, so that without thinking, without realizing, I twisted myself into a dramatic bow, my back bent, my head nearly touching the floor, my arm behind my back. In the parking lot, when Shawn had shown me this hold, Id moved only a little, responding more to his description than to any physical necessity. It hadnt seemed particularly effective at the time, but now I understood the maneuver for what it was: control. I could scarcely move, scarcely breathe, without breaking my own wrist. Shawn held me in position with one hand; the other he dangled loosely at his side, to show me how easy it was. Still harder than if I were Sadie, I thought. As if he could read my mind, he twisted my wrist further; my body was coiled tightly, my face scraping the floor. Id done all I could do to relieve the pressure in my wrist. If he kept twisting, it would break. Apologize, he said. There was a long moment in which fire burned up my arm and into my brain. Im sorry, I said. He dropped my wrist and I fell to the floor. I could hear his steps moving down the hall. I stood and quietly locked the bathroom door, then I stared into the mirror at the girl clutching her wrist. Her eyes were glassy and drops slid down her cheeks. I hated her for her weakness, for having a heart to break. That he could hurt her, that anyone could hurt her like that, was inexcusable. Im only crying from the pain, I told myself. From the pain in my wrist. Not from anything else. This moment would define my memory of that night, and of the many nights like it, for a decade. In it I saw myself as unbreakable, as tender as stone. At first I merely believed this, until one day it became the truth. Then I was able to tell myself, without lying, that it didnt affect me, that he didnt affect me, because nothing affected me. I didnt understand how morbidly right I was. How I had hollowed myself out. For all my obsessing over the consequences of that night, I had misunderstood the vital truth: that its not affecting me, that was its effect. In September the twin towers fell. Id never heard of them until they were gone. Then I watched as planes sank into them, and I stared, bewildered, at the TV as the unimaginably tall structures swayed, then buckled. Dad stood next to me. Hed come in from the junkyard to watch. He said nothing. That evening he read aloud from the Bible, familiar passages from Isaiah, Luke, and the Book of Revelation, about wars and rumors of wars. Three days later, when she was nineteen, Audrey was marriedto Benjamin, a blond-haired farm boy shed met waitressing in town. The wedding was solemn. Dad had prayed and received a revelation: There will be a conflict, a final struggle for the Holy Land, hed said. My sons will be sent to war. Some of them will not come home. Id been avoiding Shawn since the night in the bathroom. Hed apologized. Hed come into my room an hour later, his eyes glassy, his voice croaking, and asked me to forgive him. Id said that I would, that I already had. But I hadnt. At Audreys wedding, seeing my brothers in their suits, those black uniforms, my rage turned to fear, of some predetermined loss, and I forgave Shawn. It was easy to forgive: after all, it was the End of the World. For a month I lived as if holding my breath. Then there was no draft, no further attacks. The skies didnt darken, the moon didnt turn to blood. There were distant rumblings of war but life on the mountain remained unchanged. Dad said we should stay vigilant, but by winter my attention had shifted back to the trifling dramas of my own life. I was fifteen and I felt it, felt the race I was running with time. My body was changing, bloating, swelling, stretching, bulging. I wished it would stop, but it seemed my body was no longer mine. It belonged to itself now, and cared not at all how I felt about these strange alterations, about whether I wanted to stop being a child, and become something else. That something else thrilled and frightened me. Id always known that I would grow differently than my brothers, but Id never thought about what that might mean. Now it was all I thought about. I began to look for cues to understand this difference, and once I started looking, I found them everywhere. One Sunday afternoon, I helped Mother prepare a roast for dinner. Dad was kicking off his shoes and loosening his tie. Hed been talking since we left the church. That hemline was three inches above Loris knee, Dad said. Whats a woman thinking when she puts on a dress like that? Mother nodded absently while chopping a carrot. She was used to this particular lecture. And Jeanette Barney, Dad said. If a woman wears a blouse that low-cut, she ought not bend over. Mother agreed. I pictured the turquoise blouse Jeanette had worn that day. The neckline was only an inch below her collarbone, but it was loose-fitting, and I imagined that if she bent it would give a full view. As I thought this I felt anxious, because although a tighter blouse would have made Jeanettes bending more modest, the tightness itself would have been less modest. Righteous women do not wear tight clothing. Other women do that. I was trying to figure out exactly how much tightness would be the right amount when Dad said, Jeanette waited to bend for that hymnal until I was looking. She wanted me to see. Mother made a disapproving tsk sound with her teeth, then quartered a potato. This speech would stay with me in a way that a hundred of its precursors had not. I would remember the words very often in the years that followed, and the more I considered them, the more I worried that I might be growing into the wrong sort of woman. Sometimes I could scarcely move through a room, I was so preoccupied with not walking or bending or crouching like them. But no one had ever taught me the modest way to bend over, so I knew I was probably doing it the bad way. SHAWN AND I AUDITIONED for a melodrama at Worm Creek. I saw Charles at the first rehearsal and spent half the evening working up the courage to talk to him. When I did, finally, he confided in me that he was in love with Sadie. This wasnt ideal, but it did give us something to talk about. Shawn and I drove home together. He sat behind the wheel, glaring at the road as if it had wronged him. I saw you talking to Charles, he said. You dont want people thinking youre that kind of girl. The kind that talks? You know what I mean, he said. The next night, Shawn came into my room unexpectedly and found me smudging my eyelashes with Audreys old mascara. You wear makeup now? he said. I guess. He spun around to leave but paused in the doorframe. I thought you were better, he said. But youre just like the rest. He stopped calling me Siddle Lister. Lets go, Fish Eyes! he shouted from across the theater one night. Charles looked around curiously. Shawn began to explain the name, so I started laughingloud enough, I hoped, to drown him out. I laughed as if I loved the name. The first time I wore lip gloss, Shawn said I was a whore. I was in my bedroom, standing in front of my mirror, trying it out, when Shawn appeared in the doorway. He said it like a joke but I wiped the color from my lips anyway. Later that night, at the theater, when I noticed Charles staring at Sadie, I reapplied it and saw Shawns expression twist. The drive home that night was tense. The temperature outside had fallen well below zero. I said I was cold and Shawn moved to turn up the heat. Then he paused, laughed to himself, and rolled all the windows down. The January wind hit me like a bucket of ice. I tried to roll up my window, but hed put on the child lock. I asked him to roll it up. Im cold, I kept saying, Im really, really cold. He just laughed. He drove all twelve miles like that, cackling as if it were a game, as if we were both in on it, as if my teeth werent clattering. I thought things would get better when Shawn dumped SadieI suppose Id convinced myself that it was her fault, the things he did, and that without her he would be different. After Sadie, he took up with an old girlfriend, Erin. She was older, less willing to play his games, and at first it seemed I was right, that he was doing better. Then Charles asked Sadie to dinner, Sadie said yes, and Shawn heard about it. I was working late at Randys that night when Shawn turned up, frothing at the mouth. I left with him, thinking I could calm him, but I couldnt. He drove around town for two hours, searching for Charless Jeep, cursing and swearing that when he found that bastard he was gonna give him a new face. I sat in the passenger seat of his truck, listening to the engine rev as it guzzled diesel, watching the yellow lines disappear beneath the hood. I thought of my brother as he had been, as I remembered him, as I wanted to remember him. I thought of Albuquerque and Los Angeles, and of the miles of lost interstate in between. A pistol lay on the seat between us, and when he wasnt shifting gears, Shawn picked it up and caressed it, sometimes spinning it over his index like a gunslinger before laying it back on the seat, where light from passing cars glinted off the steel barrel. I AWOKE WITH NEEDLES in my brain. Thousands of them, biting, blocking out everything. Then they disappeared for one dizzying moment and I got my bearings. It was morning, early; amber sunlight poured in through my bedroom window. I was standing but not on my own strength. Two hands were gripping my throat, and theyd been shaking me. The needles, that was my brain crashing into my skull. I had only a few seconds to wonder why before the needles returned, shredding my thoughts. My eyes were open but I saw only white flashes. A few sounds made it through to me. SLUT! WHORE! Then another sound. Mother. She was crying. Stop! Youre killing her! Stop! She must have grabbed him because I felt his body twist. I fell to the floor. When I opened my eyes, Mother and Shawn were facing each other, Mother wearing only a tattered bathrobe. I was yanked to my feet. Shawn grasped a fistful of my hairusing the same method as before, catching the clump near my scalp so he could maneuver meand dragged me into the hallway. My head was pressed into his chest. All I could see were bits of carpet flying past my tripping feet. My head pounded, I had trouble breathing, but I was starting to understand what was happening. Then there were tears in my eyes. From the pain, I thought. Now the bitch cries, Shawn said. Why? Because someone sees you for the slut you are? I tried to look at him, to search his face for my brother, but he shoved my head toward the ground and I fell. I scrambled away, then pulled myself upright. The kitchen was spinning; strange flecks of pink and yellow drifted before my eyes. Mother was sobbing, clawing at her hair. I see you for what you are, Shawn said. His eyes were wild. You pretend to be saintly and churchish. But I see you. I see how you prance around with Charles like a prostitute. He turned to Mother to observe the effect of his words on her. She had collapsed at the kitchen table. She does not, Mother whispered. Shawn was still turned toward her. He said she had no idea of the lies I told, how Id fooled her, how I played the good girl at home but in town I was a lying whore. I inched toward the back door. Mother told me to take her car and go. Shawn turned to me. Youll be needing these, he said, holding up Mothers keys. Shes not going anywhere until she admits shes a whore, Shawn said. He grabbed my wrist and my body slipped into the familiar posture, head thrust forward, arm coiled around my lower back, wrist folded absurdly onto itself. Like a dance step, my muscles remembered and raced to get ahead of the music. The air poured from my lungs as I tried to bend deeper, to give my wristbone every possible inch of relief. Say it, he said. But I was somewhere else. I was in the future. In a few hours, Shawn would be kneeling by my bed, and hed be so very sorry. I knew it even as I hunched there. Whats going on? A mans voice floated up from the stairwell in the hall. I turned my head and saw a face hovering between two wooden railings. It was Tyler. I was hallucinating. Tyler never came home. As I thought that, I laughed out loud, a high-pitched cackle. What kind of lunatic would come back here once hed escaped? There were now so many pink and yellow specks in my vision, it was as if I were inside a snow globe. That was good. It meant I was close to passing out. I was looking forward to it. Shawn dropped my wrist and again I fell. I looked up and saw that his gaze was fixed on the stairwell. Only then did it occur to me that Tyler was real. Shawn took a step back. He had waited until Dad and Luke were out of the house, away on a job, so his physicality could go unchallenged. Confronting his younger brotherless vicious but powerful in his own waywas more than hed bargained for. Whats going on? Tyler repeated. He eyed Shawn, inching forward as if approaching a rattlesnake. Mother stopped crying. She was embarrassed. Tyler was an outsider now. Hed been gone for so long, hed been shifted to that category of people who we kept secrets from. Who we kept this from. Tyler moved up the stairs, advancing on his brother. His face was taut, his breath shallow, but his expression held no hint of surprise. It seemed to me that Tyler knew exactly what he was doing, that he had done this before, when they were younger and less evenly matched. Tyler halted his forward march but he didnt blink. He glared at Shawn as if to say, Whatever is happening here, its done. Shawn began to murmur about my clothes and what I did in town. Tyler cut him off with a wave of his hand. I dont want to know, he said. Then, turning to me: Go, get out of here. Shes not going anywhere, Shawn repeated, flashing the key ring. Tyler tossed me his own keys. Just go, he said. I ran to Tylers car, which was wedged between Shawns truck and the chicken coop. I tried to back out, but I stomped too hard on the gas and the tires spun out, sending gravel flying. On my second attempt I succeeded. The car shot backward and circled around. I shifted into drive and was ready to shoot down the hill when Tyler appeared on the porch. I lowered the window. Dont go to work, he said. Hell find you there. THAT NIGHT, WHEN I came home, Shawn was gone. Mother was in the kitchen blending oils. She said nothing about that morning, and I knew I shouldnt mention it. I went to bed, but I was still awake hours later when I heard a pickup roar up the hill. A few minutes later, my bedroom door creaked open. I heard the click of the lamp, saw the light leaping over the walls, and felt his weight drop onto my bed. I turned over and faced him. Hed put a black velvet box next to me. When I didnt touch it, he opened the box and withdrew a string of milky pearls. He said he could see the path I was going down and it was not good. I was losing myself, becoming like other girls, frivolous, manipulative, using how I looked to get things. I thought about my body, all the ways it had changed. I hardly knew what I felt toward it: sometimes I did want it to be noticed, to be admired, but then afterward Id think of Jeanette Barney, and Id feel disgusted. Youre special, Tara, Shawn said. Was I? I wanted to believe I was. Tyler had said I was special once, years before. Hed read me a passage of scripture from the Book of Mormon, about a sober child, quick to observe. This reminds me of you, Tyler had said. The passage described the great prophet Mormon, a fact Id found confusing. A woman could never be a prophet, yet here was Tyler, telling me I reminded him of one of the greatest prophets of all. I still dont know what he meant by it, but what I understood at the time was that I could trust myself: that there was something in me, something like what was in the prophets, and that it was not male or female, not old or young; a kind of worth that was inherent and unshakable. But now, as I gazed at the shadow Shawn cast on my wall, aware of my maturing body, of its evils and of my desire to do evil with it, the meaning of that memory shifted. Suddenly that worth felt conditional, like it could be taken or squandered. It was not inherent; it was bestowed. What was of worth was not me, but the veneer of constraints and observances that obscured me. I looked at my brother. He seemed old in that moment, wise. He knew about the world. He knew about worldly women, so I asked him to keep me from becoming one. Okay, Fish Eyes, he said. I will. WHEN I AWOKE THE next morning, my neck was bruised and my wrist swollen. I had a headachenot an ache in my brain but an actual aching of my brain, as if the organ itself was tender. I went to work but came home early and lay in a dark corner of the basement, waiting it out. I was lying on the carpet, feeling the pounding in my brain, when Tyler found me and folded himself onto the sofa near my head. I was not pleased to see him. The only thing worse than being dragged through the house by my hair was Tylers having seen it. Given the choice between letting it play out, and having Tyler there to stop it, Id have chosen to let it play out. Obviously I would have chosen that. Id been close to passing out anyway, and then I could have forgotten about it. In a day or two it wouldnt even have been real. It would become a bad dream, and in a month, a mere echo of a bad dream. But Tyler had seen it, had made it real. Have you thought about leaving? Tyler asked. And go where? School, he said. I brightened. Im going to enroll in high school in September, I said. Dad wont like it, but Im gonna go. I thought Tyler would be pleased; instead, he grimaced. Youve said that before. Im going to. Maybe, Tyler said. But as long as you live under Dads roof, its hard to go when he asks you not to, easy to delay just one more year, until there arent any years left. If you start as a sophomore, can you even graduate? We both knew I couldnt. Its time to go, Tara, Tyler said. The longer you stay, the less likely you will ever leave. You think I need to leave? Tyler didnt blink, didnt hesitate. I think this is the worst possible place for you. Hed spoken softly, but it felt as though hed shouted the words. Where could I go? Go where I went, Tyler said. Go to college. I snorted. BYU takes homeschoolers, he said. Is that what we are? I said. Homeschoolers? I tried to remember the last time Id read a textbook. The admissions board wont know anything except what we tell them, Tyler said. If we say you were homeschooled, theyll believe it. I wont get in. You will, he said. Just pass the ACT. One lousy test. Tyler stood to go. Theres a world out there, Tara, he said. And it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear. THE NEXT DAY I drove to the hardware store in town and bought a slide-bolt lock for my bedroom door. I dropped it on my bed, then fetched a drill from the shop and started fitting screws. I thought Shawn was outhis truck wasnt in the drivewaybut when I turned around with the drill, he was standing in my doorframe. What are you doing? he said. Doorknobs broke, I lied. Door blows open. This lock was cheap but itll do the trick. Shawn fingered the thick steel, which I was sure he could tell was not cheap at all. I stood silently, paralyzed by dread but also by pity. In that moment I hated him, and I wanted to scream it in his face. I imagined the way he would crumple, crushed under the weight of my words and his own self-loathing. Even then I understood the truth of it: that Shawn hated himself far more than I ever could. Youre using the wrong screws, he said. You need long ones for the wall and grabbers for the door. Otherwise, itll bust right off. We walked to the shop. Shawn shuffled around for a few minutes, then emerged with a handful of steel screws. We walked back to the house and he installed the lock, humming to himself and smiling, flashing his baby teeth. In October Dad won a contract to build industrial granaries in Malad City, the dusty farm town on the other side of Bucks Peak. It was a big job for a small outfitthe crew was just Dad, Shawn, Luke, and Audreys husband, Benjaminbut Shawn was a good foreman, and with him in charge Dad had acquired a reputation for fast, reliable work. Shawn wouldnt let Dad take shortcuts. Half the time I passed the shop, Id hear the two of them shouting at each other, Dad saying Shawn was wasting time, Shawn screaming that Dad had damned near taken someones head off. Shawn worked long days cleaning, cutting and welding the raw materials for the granaries, and once construction began he was usually on-site in Malad. When he and Dad came home, hours after sunset, they were nearly always cussing. Shawn wanted to professionalize the operation, to invest the profits from the Malad job in new equipment; Dad wanted things to stay the same. Shawn said Dad didnt understand that construction was more competitive than scrapping, and that if they wanted to land real contracts, they needed to spend real money on real equipmentspecifically, a new welder and a man lift with a basket. We cant keep using a forklift and an old cheese pallet, Shawn said. It looks like shit, and its dangerous besides. Dad laughed out loud at the idea of a man basket. Hed been using a forklift and pallet for twenty years. I WORKED LATE MOST NIGHTS. Randy planned to take a big road trip to find new accounts, and hed asked me to manage the business while he was gone. He taught me how to use his computer to keep the books, process orders, maintain inventory. It was from Randy that I first heard of the Internet. He showed me how to get online, how to visit a webpage, how to write an email. The day he left, he gave me a cellphone so he could reach me at all hours. Tyler called one night just as I was getting home from work. He asked if I was studying for the ACT. I cant take the test, I said. I dont know any math. Youve got money, Tyler said. Buy books and learn it. I said nothing. College was irrelevant to me. I knew how my life would play out: when I was eighteen or nineteen, I would get married. Dad would give me a corner of the farm, and my husband would put a house on it. Mother would teach me about herbs, and also about midwifery, which shed gone back to now the migraines were less frequent. When I had children, Mother would deliver them, and one day, I supposed, I would be the Midwife. I didnt see where college fit in. Tyler seemed to read my thoughts. You know Sister Sears? he said. Sister Sears was the church choir director. How do you think she knows how to lead a choir? Id always admired Sister Sears, and been jealous of her knowledge of music. Id never thought about how shed learned it. She studied, Tyler said. Did you know you can get a degree in music? If you had one, you could give lessons, you could direct the church choir. Even Dad wont argue with that, not much anyway. Mother had recently purchased a trial version of AOL. Id only ever used the Internet at Randys, for work, but after Tyler hung up I turned on our computer and waited for the modem to dial. Tyler had said something about BYUs webpage. It only took a few minutes to find it. Then the screen was full of picturesof neat brick buildings the color of sunstone surrounded by emerald trees, of beautiful people walking and laughing, with books tucked under their arms and backpacks slung over their shoulders. It looked like something from a movie. A happy movie. The next day, I drove forty miles to the nearest bookstore and bought a glossy ACT study guide. I sat on my bed and turned to the mathematics practice test. I scanned the first page. It wasnt that I didnt know how to solve the equations; I didnt recognize the symbols. It was the same on the second page, and the third. I took the test to Mother. Whats this? I asked. Math, she said. Then where are the numbers? Its algebra. The letters stand in for numbers. How do I do it? Mother fiddled with a pen and paper for several minutes, but she wasnt able to solve any of the first five equations. The next day I drove the same forty miles, eighty round-trip, and returned home with a large algebra textbook. EVERY EVENING, AS THE CREW was leaving Malad, Dad would phone the house so Mother could have dinner waiting when the truck bumped up the hill. I listened for that call, and when it came I would get in Mothers car and drive away. I didnt know why. I would go to Worm Creek, where Id sit in the balcony and watch rehearsals, my feet on the ledge, a math book open in front of me. I hadnt studied math since long division, and the concepts were unfamiliar. I understood the theory of fractions but struggled to manipulate them, and seeing a decimal on the page made my heart race. Every night for a month I sat in the opera house, in a chair of red velvet, and practiced the most basic operationshow to multiply fractions, how to use a reciprocal, how to add and multiply and divide with decimalswhile on the stage, characters recited their lines. I began to study trigonometry. There was solace in its strange formulas and equations. I was drawn to the Pythagorean theorem and its promise of a universalthe ability to predict the nature of any three points containing a right angle, anywhere, always. What I knew of physics I had learned in the junkyard, where the physical world often seemed unstable, capricious. But here was a principle through which the dimensions of life could be defined, captured. Perhaps reality was not wholly volatile. Perhaps it could be explained, predicted. Perhaps it could be made to make sense. The misery began when I moved beyond the Pythagorean theorem to sine, cosine and tangent. I couldnt grasp such abstractions. I could feel the logic in them, could sense their power to bestow order and symmetry, but I couldnt unlock it. They kept their secrets, becoming a kind of gateway beyond which I believed there was a world of law and reason. But I could not pass through the gate. Mother said that if I wanted to learn trigonometry, it was her responsibility to teach me. She set aside an evening, and the two of us sat at the kitchen table, scratching at bits of paper and tugging our hair. We spent three hours on a single problem, and every answer we produced was wrong. I wasnt any good at trig in high school, Mother moaned, slamming the book shut. And Ive forgotten what little I knew. Dad was in the living room, shuffling through blueprints for the granaries and mumbling to himself. Id watched him sketch those blueprints, watched him perform the calculations, altering this angle or lengthening that beam. Dad had little formal education in mathematics but it was impossible to doubt his aptitude: somehow I knew that if I put the equation before my father, he would be able to solve it. When Id told Dad that I planned to go to college, hed said a womans place was in the home, that I should be learning about herbsGods pharmacy hed called it, smiling to himselfso I could take over for Mother. Hed said a lot more, of course, about how I was whoring after mans knowledge instead of Gods, but still I decided to ask him about trigonometry. Here was a sliver of mans knowledge I was certain he possessed. I scribbled the problem on a fresh sheet of paper. Dad didnt look up as I approached, so gently, slowly, I slid the paper over the blueprints. Dad, can you solve this? He looked at me harshly, then his eyes softened. He rotated the paper, gazed at it for a moment, and began to scrawl, numbers and circles and great, arcing lines that doubled back on themselves. His solution didnt look like anything in my textbook. It didnt look like anything I had ever seen. His mustache twitched; he mumbled. Then he stopped scribbling, looked up and gave the correct answer. I asked how hed solved it. I dont know how to solve it, he said, handing me the paper. All I know is, thats the answer. I walked back to the kitchen, comparing the clean, balanced equation to the mayhem of unfinished computations and dizzying sketches. I was struck by the strangeness of that page: Dad could command this science, could decipher its language, decrypt its logic, could bend and twist and squeeze from it the truth. But as it passed through him, it turned to chaos. I STUDIED TRIGONOMETRY FOR a month. I sometimes dreamed about sine, cosine and tangent, about mysterious angles and concussed computations, but for all this I made no real progress. I could not self-teach trigonometry. But I knew someone who had. Tyler told me to meet him at our aunt Debbies house, because she lived near Brigham Young University. The drive was three hours. I felt uncomfortable knocking on my aunts door. She was Mothers sister, and Tyler had lived with her during his first year at BYU, but that was all I knew of her. Tyler answered the door. We settled in the living room while Debbie prepared a casserole. Tyler solved the equations easily, writing out orderly explanations for every step. He was studying mechanical engineering, set to graduate near the top of his class, and soon after would start a PhD at Purdue. My trig equations were far beneath his abilities, but if he was bored he didnt show it; he just explained the principles patiently, over and over. The gate opened a little, and I peeked through it. Tyler had gone, and Debbie was pushing a plate of casserole into my hands, when the phone rang. It was Mother. Theres been an accident in Malad, she said. MOTHER HAD LITTLE INFORMATION. Shawn had fallen. Hed landed on his head. Someone had called 911, and hed been airlifted to a hospital in Pocatello. The doctors werent sure if he would live. That was all she knew. I wanted more, some statement of the odds, even if it was just so I could reason against them. I wanted her to say, They think hell be fine or even They expect well lose him. Anything but what she was saying, which was, They dont know. Mother said I should come to the hospital. I imagined Shawn on a white gurney, the life leaking out of him. I felt such a wave of loss that my knees nearly buckled, but in the next moment I felt something else. Relief. There was a storm coming, set to lay three feet of snow over Sardine Canyon, which guarded the entrance to our valley. Mothers car, which I had driven to Debbies, had bald tires. I told Mother I couldnt get through. THE STORY OF HOW Shawn fell would come to me in bits and pieces, thin lines of narrative from Luke and Benjamin, who were there. It was a frigid afternoon and the wind was fierce, whipping the fine dust up in soft clouds. Shawn was standing on a wooden pallet, twenty feet in the air. Twelve feet below him was a half-finished concrete wall, with rebar jutting outward like blunt skewers. I dont know for certain what Shawn was doing on the pallet, but he was probably fitting posts or welding, because that was the kind of work he did. Dad was driving the forklift. Ive heard conflicting accounts of why Shawn fell.* Someone said Dad moved the boom unexpectedly and Shawn pitched over the edge. But the general consensus is that Shawn was standing near the brink, and for no reason at all stepped backward and lost his footing. He plunged twelve feet, his body revolving slowly in the air, so that when he struck the concrete wall with its outcropping of rebar, he hit headfirst, then tumbled the last eight feet to the dirt. This is how the fall was described to me, but my mind sketches it differentlyon a white page with evenly spaced lines. He ascends, falls at a slope, strikes the rebar and returns to the ground. I perceive a triangle. The event makes sense when I think of it in these terms. Then the logic of the page yields to my father. Dad looked Shawn over. Shawn was disoriented. One of his pupils was dilated and the other wasnt, but no one knew what that meant. No one knew it meant there was a bleed inside his brain. Dad told Shawn to take a break. Luke and Benjamin helped him prop himself against the pickup, then went back to work. The facts after this point are even more hazy. The story I heard was that fifteen minutes later Shawn wandered onto the site. Dad thought he was ready to work and told him to climb onto the pallet, and Shawn, who never liked being told what to do, started screaming at Dad about everythingthe equipment, the granary designs, his pay. He screamed himself hoarse, then just when Dad thought he had calmed down, he gripped Dad around the waist and flung him like a sack of grain. Before Dad could scramble to his feet Shawn took off, leaping and howling and laughing, and Luke and Benjamin, now sure something was very wrong, chased after him. Luke reached him first but couldnt hold him; then Benjamin added his weight and Shawn slowed a little. But it wasnt until all three men tackled himthrowing his body to the ground, where, because he was resisting, his head hit hardthat he finally lay still. No one has ever described to me what happened when Shawns head struck that second time. Whether he had a seizure, or vomited, or lost consciousness, Im not sure. But it was so chilling that someonemaybe Dad, probably Benjamindialed 911, which no member of my family had ever done before. They w