The Rising of the Sun

I was asleep when I felt him touch my arm and shake me. I tried to ignore him but he was usual. I rolled over and glared sleepily at him. "What do you want?" I snapped. His face was hidden in darkness but I could sense his excitement. His whole body was tense with it. 

He whispered hoarsely, "Wanna watch the sun come up?"

I did want to. Very much. So I got dressed in my sleeping bag while he heckled me: "Who wants to look at youanyhow? I can't see you, God knows. And who'd look? What do you got worth lookin' at? Hell, I could iron a shirt on your chest." 

And so he continued until I squirmed free of the sleeping bag. Taking my hand in his, he led me past the other sleeping bags and toward the tent flap. Climbing over our sisters was easy. Climbing over Mama was nothing short of life-threatening. She was small but she was tough and If she caught us...

Once outside the tent, the hugeness of the mountain overwhelmed us to silence. He and I stood, side by side, listening to birds calling from dark, shadowy trees. 

After a few minutes, he turned to me and whispered, "Let’s go!"

Mel wanted to run in a crouch, Indian-style, so I had to run that way, too, hurrying behind him through the trees that scraped and scratched at my face, my skin and my clothes. Being a boy, Mel didn't care about scraped skin and clothes. My gender demanded a more acute sense of personal damage. Eventually, I would learn to worry about things like calories, suntans, and fly-away hair. But this early morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was trying to keep up with my most revered hero who cared not one whit about the condition of my apparel or whether my arms were bleeding. Should I utter even the vaguest hint of a complaint, I would be accused of being a girl (what could beworse?) and sent back to the tent.

Eventually he found a path and we walked it beneath the soft moonlight. Mel warned me about bears and when he heard me swallow hard, reminded me that he was part Indian. It did not occur to me to suggest that, if he was part Indian, then I must also be part Indian. All I knew was that his declaration of kinship with the Cherokee tribe made him impervious to things like ax murderers, escapees from insane asylums who brandished hooks where their hands should be, bullies who liked to hurt little girls and now, obviously, to bears as well. If I stayed close to Mel, no evil could befall me and my love for him made my chest hurt.

We found an outcropping of rocks and, in the near total blackness, scrambled onto it and perched ourselves right at the very edge. Thus situated, dangling straight out over the Shenandoah Valley which slept peacefully thousands of feet directly beneath us, my brother and I watched the sun ease its way over the Blue Ridge.

Pale and delicate, the day seemed rather shy when it was new, stepping politely in our direction as if to offer a proper greeting. A summer lady she was. A bashful, understated Southern belle in all her finery. She wore pink and the quietest shade of violet with an orange sash about her waist. Then, without warning, she tossed off her frail pinks and violets and flung herself at us all wrapped in daring blue and red and purple. I laughed and Mel laughed and he whistled between his fingers and I clapped my hands as we both swung our legs energetically back and forth over the rocky, murderous drop into the Valley.

Then the day threw off her colors and stood naked before us, wearing nothing but the sun and she seemed not near so pretty without her lavish wardrobe. Mel and I lost interest in her and slumped wearily against each other. He would droop forward, then snap himself awake. Then I would sigh, crumple sleepily toward the tip of that rock, and come suddenly awake again.

In the end, he and I curled up together like two kittens and slept wrapped in each other for warmth. Mama found us well over an hour later and we got into terrible trouble, Mel worse than me. Being part Indian didn't do him a damned bit of good when Mama was yelling things like, "You are older than she is! I don't expect you to act like that! I expect you to take care of her!" 

If you have never been spanked with a wooden spoon, it is useless trying to describe it. Let me assure you, however, that the impact of a small, slender piece of wood on a quivering set of buttocks is something one remembers clear into adulthood.

Then Mama turned to me. She was angry beyond angry and demanded to know what I had learned from this experience. I answered right away for I had been paying close attention and knew full-well what had been taught to me.

"I am like daytime, Mama." I told her. "I am scared at first, but if I know you like me, I will show you all my colors and if I am sure you love me, I will take all my clothes off and dance!"

She stared at me, speechless, so I figured I could go and I hurried away before she remembered what she was going to do. As I passed my brother, I heard him mutter, "Dance with no clothes on? What a dumb-ass thing to say. Who the hell would look at you anyway?"

But I was too happy and he could not make me mad. Mel could be part Indian if he wanted to be. I was part Dawn and that was much, much better.

© Camille Moffat  1999

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