ocean springs

He is thin and he has thinned bones and he straddles a gray horse that stands in the tall grass and moves back and forth and whimpers. The mud marches, he thinks. Branches break in the march and they sound like chants. But they are not supposed to be in unison. The homes undress and wilt. They are spade. There are no children coming here. These are deserted monarchs. The mud huts want to die. God wants the mud huts to die.

The woman with the green and white headdress shouts something about god and the dirt and the mud and the hill. The villagers nod. It is god, they think, and they begin to kneel and pray and put their hands together like little churches.

The mudslides had been coming since the rain had started and the rain had been coming for the most part of three weeks. The men with guns and boots sit in tents and watch the slides and do not speak to the men and women in the town. They say the town is going to go into the mud river and not return. They do not believe the woman with the green and white headdress. “She did not talk to god.” They say. “Even he cannot protect this town from this rain.”

The colonel says it is an on off switch and then spends most of the first week losing his property in card games. They are cheating, he says. But he does not shake his head. The mudslides creep and only move about an inch, maybe two, maybe three. Generally, they only move a few inches an hour. It is possible to get out of the way. The slides are not that fast. There are families in the basement of the valley that began to take apart their homes. We will rebuild them on the other side of the river, they say. One of them has a birthmark that looks like a black eye. He does not like the other men in the village. “Their houses can go away,” He says. “God is telling us to move.”

The man on the horse does not see god because he stares at his own house drown. His house is close—closest to the mudslide. He is on a horse and he cannot stop the mud. There is too much mud and it is raining and the water looks like it is in a bathtub. The wind is not too much but the hill will begin to drag the water down into the center of the village and the water will begin to look like a great river. He sits on his horse and watches his home split into two. The soldiers say some women can fall out of their dresses when they are not careful. He has not seen it. But it looks like his house. She falls out of herself and looks awkward and exposed and he is embarrassed.

It was not a good place to build a village, he thinks. The men at the basement of the valley will see the river soon. They will not get their homes out in time. They will die with the sticks in their hands. The sticks are their walls. The soldiers do not smile. They play cards and say the woman is wrong. God walks along the edge of the mountain. It does not rain on god. He rips trees out of the ground and watches the loose dirt slip. Silly woman with a green and white head dress, he thinks.

The soldiers are right. The village should have cursed the rain.


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