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"Time is Consciousness"
by Ober-Rae Starr

"Tell me again, Grandma, about the golden dreams." Zita M. Tebo, who had just turned twelve, sat across the kitchen table from her grandmother, who was busy peeling potatoes. Zita M. Tebo laid her head down on her arms and stroked her own forehead with her thumb.

"Are you tired, Zita? Feeling okay?"

"Yeah. I'm okay." Zita's voice was muffled by the cradle of her own arms.

Zita sighed. She sat there, staring at her Grandma and staring at her own twiddling thumbs, saying nothing for a long time.

"Grandma? Where's Grandpa?"

The paring knife dropped from her grandmother's fingers, clattering on the tabletop. "Well..." Zita's grandma started. "Well.... He left when your mother was young. Very, very young."

"Do you think that's where she went? Looking for him?"

"Lord, I hope not." Her grandma picked up her paring knife and stabbed a potato out of the pile to her left, then immediately laid them back down on the table. "I don't think she'd know where to start looking for him. Or why she would. Lord, I hope not. If she does finds him, she better not be bringing him back around here; that's all I know."

Zita watched her grandmother. She watched her grandmother's cheeks flush and her lips move, watched the way her grandma took to studying the backs of her hands, as if an answer could be found there. She saw that her question sent her Grandma way, way back and, judging from the look on her face, where she was right then wasn't a pleasant place. No one ever forgets anything, Zita realized. You just move on, like her Grandma did. Like her mother did. Zita laid her head back down in the cradle of her arms, waiting for her Grandma to return.

"Zita. You alright?"

After a long pause, and a sigh, Zita said, "Grandma?" Finally.

"What's bothering you, child?"

"Did you and mom always live in this city?"

Zita's grandma pushed aside the potatoes she had been peeling, and brushed away the skins. "Yes," she said. Zita reached over and picked up the knife and a potato and began peeling thoughtfully. She felt her grandmother watching her. Skin only. Leave the potato. A left over lesson from the Depression.

"What were those dreams my mom had when she was pregnant with me?" Zita asked her grandmother without looking up from her potato.

Her grandma told again about the dreams. The way they were all tinted gold. She dreamed of golden pools, lots of golden pools, golden stairways, golden thrones. Golden flowers, golden people, everything in every dream was gold. Her grandmother told her how her mother had claimed to know that Zita would be special. What her grandmother left out was how her daughter would sit at the kitchen table and make this announcement to her without pride, but with a great deal of anxiety.

"When you were little, child, you'd ask me to look at you and demand to know if I could see the Gold in you. 'Yes,' I'd tell you time and again, 'you are golden, but I just thought it was all that fairy dust around you.' Then you'd giggle and do the Fairy Dust Test I taught you..."

Zita found a smile. She remembered the routine -- she'd find a shaft of sunlight, then turn around and around, standing dizzy in the light. The test required that she brush her hand down the length of her sleeve three times and clap her hands together. She could still see the golden sparkles floating in the space all around her.

The smile faded away. "Grandma?" After waiting a few minutes, Zita still wasn't able to ask the question, and she couldn't take her eyes off of her potato, so her Grandma began again.

"Zita. Do you remember when you were five years old and you nearly died from diphtheria?"

Zita's fingertips danced around the scar on her throat. "Yes."

"And when you came back, from death, you could read and write. You said the angels had taught you. Do you remember that?"

"Of course."

"Your story made headlines in all the newspapers for a couple of days. No one understood, and no one could explain. In the end, the doctors called it some sort of hoax." Zita's grandmother looked at the scar in the shape of an angel with it's wings outspread that Zita bears proudly at the base of her throat. Healed with angel kisses, Zita always said. Whenever Zita was sick, she'd describe to her grandma how the angels wings felt as they brushed against her face.

"Them calling it a 'hoax' hurt your mother, Zita. She never totally got over it. She felt she had let you down by not being able to make people see."

There was a silence between the grandmother and granddaughter as Zita thought about this. That's when Zita's grandma noticed it was raining outside.

"Grandma, I've searched the phone books in the library, and I can't find anyone out there with the last name of Tebo." A big black boom of thunder rocked the apartment as if Zita had ordered it so just for the effect.

After all the years of expecting this question, Zita's grandmother didn't know how to soften what she had to say, so she just said it. "I don't know who your father is, Zita. Your mom would never tell me. But Tebo wasn't his last name. Your mother named you beginning to end. You are your own person, Zita M. Tebo. You and your gypsy name."

Also in Song and Story:
A Prelude to Seduction    She Picked a Dog    The Waiting Game   

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