It would be nice if the last sentence and first sentence of the first para referred to the same thing... either "the skydiver" or "I."
Do you know what I mean? Maybe that paragraph should be about either the skydiver or "I" but not both. I only suggest a small change. Don't mess with the soul of that good intro paragraph!
Yes, I do know what you mean, but the reason will become clearer as time passes, and I intend for the last chapter of the book to revisit the first paragraph...Here is the next little bit. Maybe that will shed some light on the direction of my thoughts - it is semi-autobiographical, so the memories are important to the whole...
Hooked on a fork of the tree's limbs was a magnificent nest of leaves and twine! I had to get closer! There I saw string, lint, bag-ties, plastic, all woven together to make this structure. I stayed a while to see if any adult squirrels came to scold me but none ever did, so I climbed up to the very limb it was sheltered on. I stretched my neck and body out to look inside the nest and remembered:
Someone left a rickety, wooden ladder here, the highest place around. The chicken coop. Three stories tall. I had raked the muck out of each one of those floors for dollars for the last three summers, and shoveled the offal of chickens, horses, cows, chinchillas and goats out the windows and onto the field in back of the coop. There was a nice, sunny patch of earthly compost drying on that side beneath the back windows, that's where the hot sun always shined from dawn till night; the thought entered my head that it would be soft and spongy to land in if I should misstep , and the idea of flight was born.
I began the climb up that rickety ladder, fearful of it's sway. Half-way up, in the very middle, it bowed inward so suddenly that I yelled out. I looked around, still as a robin caught fetching it's very first worm of the morning, and continued my climb. No one was even awake yet. And on that early-bird principle I gained my confidence. I climbed.
The gutter of the chicken coop roof was a black spot in my eye from the sun just-now-shining over it's edge, and I was worried that it's flat, sharp, edges would be difficult to climb over. I got to the top and my worst fears were realized. How do you climb Under and over when you are nearly vertical to begin with? That ladder was not going to help In fact I decided, then and there, that I wasn't going down that route, by God! The bottom ledge to the third story window was down and over from where I stood on the ladder, the top edge was just at knee level. I decided that was my place to swing to and brace my feet against if all went wrong, and I was prepared for that inevitability. I breathed, wedged the ball of my left foot against the upper corner of the window jam, and closed my eyes. I swung! I hitched my boney heal up and to the edge! I caught it with my will, I grabbed that rough, rusty, edge with my tiny, callused fingertips, and I hauled my worthless-little-girl body up and over in one long, desperate, heave.
I was on top. No one had ever been up here! No one else, just me. Well, OK, me and maybe the guys who made the tar and gravel rooftop, but from the look of things, they had to be long in their graves, maybe they were even the ones buried in that place right by the chestnut tree! Maybe they rode with my Grandfather and Paul Revere! I sat down Indian-style to catch my breath and look out over the unobstructed vista of my world. There was the dirt road leading from Penny Street, sloping down the little hill where I first tried out my junkyard skis two winters ago, past the chicken coop, and to the trail made by some long-ago train that I always rode my pony Squirt on. There was the garden! It looked so scrawny and pathetic from way up here, but the neat rows made me proud. There were the corn fields, mostly harvested, but with some hangers-on yet to be cropped. Soon it would be tilled, and the dry remnants of stalks poking their hopeful faces through the soil and tripping my clumsy, running feet, would be just a cold memory of last season.
I thought about were I came from, where I'd been these few years of my life. I thought about all the people I had run across. So much evil dressed in goodness. So much sickness and sadness. I thought about Jason, my baby boy who was gone one day when I came home from school. I thought about my sister Jill, eight months pregnant with her infected track marks, and I wondered how she could have given him away without even asking me. I thought about my mother, the co-conspirator, the most overwhelmed person on the planet, giving away the baby I spent the past nine months of nights, days, and weekends caring for, feeding, changing, bathing, loving, singing and reading story books to. He even peed straight in my eye once! I taught him his first word and it was "mommy"...the second one was "yane" which was close enough to "Jeannie" to count in my book. I thought about truth.
This place, this time, this very moment was True. I felt pain and studied, up close, the smooth pebbles, mixed with gravel, dirt, and mica, made sharp and unyielding beneath my hand. I studied the proof left in the indentations caused by this man-made mixture, and grew frustrated over a bigger truth that I could not articulate but knew in my heart was important to my survival. Some profound lesson was scratched and splintered into my palm.
With a mental shake, I left that thought for another day. I had a high place to survey, and, unlike a tree, I could walk it's boundaries. I stood with an ease that has left me now, no bones creaking or protesting the sudden movement. I breathed deeply of the high air and felt a giddy moment of omniscience. Twelve years old and already closer to God than the hypocrites who went to church every Sunday, ironically teaching me about hypocrites and probably sneaking peeks up my dress and planning to get me alone. I left that thought too, and proceeded with my inspection.
So many lumps of faded roof verses tar and gravel! I felt as though to take one step in the wrong place would be certain, plummeting death. I chose carefully and moved a tentative foot forward, testing the soundness. It held and I took one more, and so on until I reached the other side. All I could see was a vast, open field of tan. The kind of tan that you can taste. The dry wheat stalks. The pungent aroma of sweet, clean, earth. It made me a little dizzy so I plopped my fanny down again and decided I had better slither my way to the edge this time. I had never felt vertigo before, didn't even know there was such a thing, but there I was, on my belly and feeling woozy. Weird. Flat upon the roof, I inched forward, froglike, the insides of my armpits scraping the gravel, I moved forward inch by inch to the very edge and looked down.
"Total malfunctions, partial malfunctions, line twists, bag-lock, two canopies out, all kinds of things can go wrong...but do it anyway! Ready in? Ready out? One! Two! Three! Jump! Altitude awareness...check"
Just where I pretty much figured it would be, there it was. The cow-manure pile! What a lovely sight to see. Perfect in every way. Twenty feet across, twenty feet wide, with a bank up higher against the wall. Sun-bleached hay over the top of a spongy, dry, center four feet thick from the ground,
bleeding out for another six feet of cow-chips all around. I had a landing pad! All I had to do was drop straight down and roll. I was a really good roller! People used to say I was made of rubber, and that made me proud and fearless (I can tell them with some confidence, now, that I am pretty sure I am made of painfully-ever-healing bone). This was True!
With the confidence that only familiarity can bring, I stood. The vertigo was gone, and I realized with some consternation, that the vertigo was caused by fear. My fear caused a momentary lack of full control over my own body...hmmm. Filing that bit of news away, I looked around and down, not fully trusting now that I had discovered that I could involuntarily play tricks on myself. Sharp focus came to me in a swoosh! The pebble/gravel of the roof was so crystal clear! It was as solid as a rock in the ground. The real ground, so far below me a second ago, was just right there! I was whole again, but this time better. The omniscience I felt earlier was back, only this time so much more acute. I could actually see every single blade of hay on the top of the pile forty feet below. I wished someone could see me when I do this! It's me! Jeannie! I'm here, I am fearless, I am alive and happy and you can't bring me down!
A little spider decided to crawl onto the toe of my shoe at that moment. I gently scooped him up and brought him to my forehead. "If you want to ride, you better stay here and hold on tight", I said, as I shook him free from my hand and onto my hairline. Now I had a friend. Now someone would understand. This little creature was taking a front row seat to my biggest adventure yet, and I loved him. I think He was God.