by Brenna Manuel

“The brakes are shot. You need to get those linings replaced,” he said. I knew that it was true—that jaw clenching, molar-grinding screech of metal on metal was enough to make me wince. This skinny twenty-something, self-pronounced mechanic stood with his hip ajar to give me the news. He was one of the myriad young, muscular, natural, hanger-outers around the Pacific Northwest who had a specialty trade and a friendly, “I can help out” sign around his neck. There were others, mostly fishermen, who swarmed the hippie town and surrounding rural county, like minnows swimming under a submerged tree stump.

I walked in from the carport to think about my options.

I flopped down on the overstuffed Goodwill chair that I had lugged from rental to rental. This little house had loads of windows in the main room—my arboretum. I obtained the first Angel-wing Begonia at a yard sale, and the seller showed me how to slice a leaf off and plant it into a new pot of soil. This became my past time of fecundity on a budget. The heart shaped leaves grew large and optimistic. Plants became a wallpaper backdrop of deep pink and verdant green pop art shapes, like a 1950’s window drape.

My chair became a regal nest below the canopy as I delved into Even Cowgirls Get the Blues or contemplated the Mexican coyote that turned circles on the porch, over and over and over. I had seen dogs do that too. They are searching for the exact point of longitude and latitude that connects them with the earth’s vibration for that dotted moment in time. Their canine antennae record the sounds of train crashes on wobbly bridges in Katmandu or the thunder of invading horsemen trampling a sleeping tent in the Sahara. Even a whispered decision could be enough to jar the animal out of good snooze. The dog will get up and circle again to re-align. The canine world is always on the alert for possibilities of shifts of movement or states of mind.

I read, and the begonia plants began to quietly quiver and lift off the floor. They pressed their leaves softly down and breathlessly up, and then they hovered above the chair for hours before they floated serenely through rafters on the house. They created a slight tropical breeze above the rooftop that swayed in synchrony with the conifer limbs.