Tess Evans

Designer + Maker

35

6

Projects 1-3: An Earnest Stranger / The Quiet Ones / Stranger, abbr.

Project One: A stranger comes to town ( < 500 words)

An Earnest Stranger

We were standin' down on Main, leanin' on the fat brick columns, lazily looking at our reflections in the glass windows of the empty store-fronts. Jeanne was snapping her gum and telling me how you were and weren’t supposed to talk.

She stopped and cocked her head to the side. I turned to follow her gaze up the street to see him glidin' into town on those long spindly legs.

We'd been waiting on Jo Mack to get out of work, it'd been our daily ritual all summer to loiter outside the market ‘til he was free from the early shift, then the three of us would amble down to the creek.

Jo Mack came out running now, not seeing him at first. "LuLu! I got the…” he stopped in his tracks. “Holy. Shit. It's a fucking giraffe… "

Ernest, that's what I named him. He was nothin' if not an earnest, sincere-as-shit, son-of-a-bitch. You could see it on him. When he walked, his body didn't move. Sure, his legs spun on and on underneath him, but the rest of him just levitated.

That sunbaked morning he levitated my way. I had a carrot in my back pocket I’d brought along to feed the old lame horse who waited for us everyday at McArthur’s lot. I'd forgotten about it until Ernest nuzzled my back.

We led him to Carol's father's orchard. He disappeared into the trees there.

He'd probably escaped from the exotic wildlife ranch 7 miles north of town. The place had a helipad and more cars than our entire town put together.

No one ever brought him up. There was no story in the paper, no notices of escapes from the rich ranch, no 'lost giraffe' posters, nothin'.

The three of us never spoke of it. Maybe because we didn't want to break the spell, or maybe we were afraid it had never happened, that the other two would say so and prove you crazy—not dance-on-table-tops-like-Aunt-Marta crazy, but ship-you-off-to-the-white-hospital-two-towns-over crazy.

I had a dream the night before the Sadie Hawkins dance that I wandered out to the orchard with my sisters—me in my big pink dress, them in their footed fleece pajamas, all with holes, none the right size. I dreamt that Ernest came out without fanfare. My sister took our picture: him with his spots, me in my dress. Then he turned and glided back into the trees. Though it was just a dream it felt as real as that novel morning on Main Street. Ernest wasn’t the type for long goodbyes.

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Project Two: Let's go on an adventure ( < 300 words)

The Quiet Ones

I was born in a zoo. My mother was not. She was born in the free lands. She was captured and brought here in the bowels of a ship. She told me of her awful passage often. She wanted me to know free lands exist. The entire universe is not made up of concrete and steel and screaming children. Generally, I like kids. Mostly I like the quiet ones who watch with full eyes, mouths agape. Sometimes I would stretch my neck out and shake for them. They love that.

I got older and was sold. My mother was crated like I was, but I don't know where she went.

When I arrived at the ranch I thought I had been taken to the free land my mother spoke of so fondly. But I wasn't traveling long enough, and it was greener than the golden ground in my mother's stories.

Eventually I learned: free isn't a place, it's a state. But took me a while.

First, I loped around the entire estate, along the fence. Every day. I noted deliveries and exits and weak points in the fence.

I knew my mark the moment I saw him.

The newest groundskeeper was also the shortest. He looked up at me and then made the full eyed, open-mouthed expression of the quiet children. He backed up. I moved away.

The following week the shortest of the groundskeepers had the side gate open, bringing in tools. The early morning light was behind me. He didn't see me until I was upon him. He looked up (and up, and up,) and his mouth fell agape. I stretched my neck all the way out and shook. He fell back on his bottom and I, very carefully, stepped over him and out the open gate.

I arrived in town via the wide road. I was getting tired; unsure what I was moving toward.

There were some middle-aged children there; one made the full-eyed expression and smiled. I smelled a carrot on her and when I requested it—gently, with a head nuzzle—she gave it to me. I was happy to be free and happy to have a carrot. Though I knew a carrot would not be enough. The smiling quiet one also knew. She and the two loud ones led me to an unfenced yard of trees. I was grateful and moved quickly to be among the apple-laden branches.

It is good here. And free. Sometimes I dream of the golden land in my mother’s stories and, occasionally, I dream of the quiet ones.

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Project Three (Project One in < 140 characters)

1.
Our dusty afternoon was interrupted by a giraffe gliding down Main Street. I still dream of his velvety head taking a carrot from my hand.

2.
On a slow, sunbaked afternoon a giraffe glided into town. We led him to the orchard where he disappeared among the apple trees. I still dream of him.

3.
I dreamt I slipped out the night before the dance to take a portrait with the giraffe who lives in the orchard; pink satin and an earnest face.

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