Imaginary Oklahoma is an ongoing project in which some of today’s most important and influential writers combine with artists to provide a fictional take on this place we call home. Through a wide variety of voices, styles and literary devices, these works prove that “Oklahoma” is much more than a place, it’s an idea.
In the old shed, behind the old chicken house, across the old garden which had grown nothing but sawgrass for years, Clara found the girl sawing the left leg off the old doll. The doll had been Clara’s mother’s, old but well-preserved, her painted eyes still a startling blue.
Clara had heard the sawing from the house. Now she heard that the girl was humming, too, a song her mother hummed as she mopped Clara’s floors.
The humming stopped when the girl noticed Clara. Lucia was her name. She was only nine or ten but she looked at everything as if she’d seen it before. She set down the saw and waited.
Even the saw was old. It had belonged to Clara’s brother, who lived in Phoenix now with another man and a whirlpool. The others had gone east. There was only Clara left, and her husband, whose job at the U was too good to give up.
The girl waited. Clara had blamed her mother, Carmen, for the doll’s disappearance. She had accused her then not fired her. She felt sorry for Carmen, and she was used to her, and the other women who cleaned were full-blooded Mexicans whereas Carmen was known to have some Creek in her. Clara had been raised with the idea that Indians were drunk but kind—susceptible—whereas Mexicans, rarer in those days, were drunk and mean.
Clara would have to apologize to Carmen. She would have to tell her not to bring the girl anymore. The girl made Clara nervous anyway, surprising her from corners, just sitting there staring back, her brown eyes refusing to be sorry or afraid.
Clara grabbed the doll, but the girl let go so easily she tripped backward—Clara’s shoulder hit the shed’s doorframe and the dead weight of the doll repulsed her suddenly, the painted arm in her hand a stiff, shabby shell. She took the thing by the hair instead, turned, and left, and Lucia, who knew that the woman had tried to have babies, whose mother had stayed working for her only because she pitied her this trying, kept her eyes on the woman’s back, which began to shake, and on her ankles, which turned in the divots between the old garden rows.