Deep and Silent and Harmless I am remembering a mystical mountain nestled deep in the Ozarks, where nights are quiet and cold. Walking out my door, my solitary door with kids and animals behind it snuggled next to their own private worlds, I turn left or right, deeper in or heading out, farther up or walking down Jacob’s Ladder into town. Whichever way I choose, I walk past East Mountain’s caves, mouths yawning, looking hungry, but I think they are harmless. I think they are harmless, but at night I walk past them a little faster, try to make my mind go slower, not imagine eyes of local Sasquatch tribe, reportedly benevolent, but what if they’re not? Or those knee-high folk who confronted a man on an earth mover in broad daylight, begged this perfectly sane man not to destroy their homes for drain pipes, so he walked away from his well-paying job. Some said he’d gone mad, but his heart was still harmless. Mountain lions have been seen in these wild city woods. Streets, tiny and twisted, don’t keep anything out, so what if within the cave mouth a smaller mouth hangs fanged and open like macabre nesting dolls, cave mouth and cougar, nature’s psycho gift set carved from flesh, stone, and tooth? Mouth within mouth, then long piercing scream as its eyes stalk prey walking through night to share wine with a friend, pretending deep stillness is harmless. I tug my wrap and hurry past, refusing to look backward at the mouth shaped like an “O” or the mouth with snaggled limestone teeth or the mouth farther downhill, empty mouth, mouth that feels like my heart, hollow and full at the same time. Caves moving giant leaf-tongues when wind blows in, holding their spittle, those puddles that gather on dirt floors for unwary shoes. Who’d step into a mouth anyway? Only someone who thinks herself harmless. Not me. Except sometimes, in broad heat of day, sheer light illuminating crevices and teeth. Let me take a quick peek at this cavity, poke it with my staff and scrape out goo, no filling for you. I’m not qualified. And let’s talk about that breath: where’s it coming from, and why does it smell-feel like honey rising up from the mountain’s innards, inhaling the taste of millennia with each respiration? Oh inhale, oh exhale, and oh and oh and oh until breathing seems harmless. My walking staff scrapes gravel, taps one loose stone after another, picking my way past mouths of caves, maybe trolls, Sasquatch and wee folk and cougar and that temple in time, and in memory they’re real and I’m harmless.
Teressa Rose Ezell’s short story “Water and Fire” will be included in Main Street Rag’s spring 2015 themed anthology, and her creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Mulberry Fork Review, Apeiron Review, and Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. She has published nonfiction articles on a wide variety of topics and will soon receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University.
Teressa shares an ancient house near Tower Grove Park in St. Louis with her husband, three children, one grandchild, a wolfish dog, and an owl-faced cat.