This memory is from before I lost the use of my legs. A large number of the men had been miners. They needed the regular paycheck, the underground work that kept them from seeing the stark beauty of the land become littered and tainted. When their shifts were over, nightfall had hidden it from them; alcohol hid the rest.
The women dared not speak of lost or deformed infants, who died in an astonishing number. No white man's medicine, no ancient ritual stopped the unseen enemy. Having been mostly a rancher in the distant hills, I only saw parts of this larger puzzle the men talked about.
Then I had the accident, my fault, really, trying to get one last thing done before dark, alone. Luckily for me, it was close to the barn and my screams mingled with the horse's screams, brought my wife running. The rest is dream-like, but at some point, I clearly remember she asked me to build the Jesus Box, said it would take my mind off my legs.
We are tangled, sweaty, her strong brown legs wrapped around mine, her eyes wide open, like a child asking a serious question, waiting for my response. "Don't forget," she whispers, "it's important that you don't forget." When I try to ask her what I'm not supposed to forget, she takes my breath into her own, and I lose consciousness from the way she kisses.
Hours later, I awaken to moonlight falling across the porch floor, a blanket covering me, another grey feather, this one clutched in my hand. Briefly, I try to stand, forgetting my legs are useless. In that mid-sleep moment where many thoughts seem real, I hear her say," no.. con..nur..m...bb..bg...col.. " Sometimes she slipped into her native language. I'm wrestling to understand her but as my mind clears, realize I'm alone.
Perhaps she only came back in a dream; it is unusually cold, but I don't remember having this blanket before, and the lingering taste in my mouth is ours.