Pillar of Salt

Did she know when she packed her things and left for college in the middle of a steamy Georgia night that she would never come back?

Did she know, several years after that midnight train ride, when she went on a blind date with a cowboy from the North, that this man would become the father of her children?

Did she know that, less than a year after that date, she would pose for a photo in her cloth coat on the cattle range, feet encased in rain boots, a scarf over her dark hair? Black and white. I still have it. She was pregnant with me at the time, and I wonder what sort of magic this is, to see myself before I even existed in the world.

She shouldn’t have looked back. But she wanted one last glimpse of the pecan tree, the watermelon patch, the barn where she wrote her stories in a notebook from the five and dime. So, like Lot’s wife, she looked back.

It was the Confederate south, but it was also her home: tobacco fields and dusty roads, a place where children never saw snow. It was her home and now she was going to move north and live among Yankees. Give birth to Yankees.

Did she know, as she fed us grits for breakfast and black-eyed peas for supper that it isn’t possible to transplant children to another place with food alone?

She insisted: “I must see it one more time.” She turned and looked and now each rain shower takes another bite from her. With each snowfall, she wears away, turning to salty puddles.

Did she know that the strange land beneath her feet wanted her as much as we did? I want to believe that she knew this and allowed the land to win its tug of war, just as she allowed the train to carry her away that first night. I want to believe this.

Before moving to Colorado, Raima Larter was a chemistry professor in Indiana who secretly wrote fiction and tucked it away in drawers. Her first two novels, Fearless, and Belle o’ the Waters, were published in 2019 and her nonfiction popular science book, Spiritual Insights from the New Science: Complex Systems and Life, was published in 2021. She has published numerous short stories in places such as Cleaver, Another Chicago Magazine, and BULL, and has released two short story collections. Read more about her work at raimalarter.com.