Rachel Michelle Collier

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A little girl, standing, double-twisted ponytails expanding by the millisecond in the gross humidity of Mother Mississippi’s breath. Five barrettes are gone, three barrettes are barely hanging on; her tiny rubber bands are slowly starting to lose hope. Let’s call her Lucy. Lucy chomps a piece of gum determinedly, switching it from side to side, counting all the minutes, blowing bubbles, building up her jaws to make them strong for yet more gum. She is six years old, and as she presses bubblegum she sets her eyes upon the sun, sees another challenge, sees another way to build her strength. My eyes have lots of melanin, she scoffs, I can take you on. And this is how it starts. And now her blink doesn’t budge. And now she is dead still, adding to her fitness: chew, and stare, hard, and do it all without flinching. She tries her best to bore a hole into that brilliant light. How did the sun get there? she thinks, Not science, but for real—oh! She should work her brain, too! Lucy burrows deeper, deeper: Sun, sun, are you him, are you God? How are you just hanging in the air? not science, but for real. Did you put yourself there? god, god, of Egyptian lore? she asks the ancient star, calculating history.

Her eyeballs have been sweating for eleven seconds now. You’re matter like myself, but you can’t see, and you can’t speak—oh you, you just can’t be God. Lucy’s jaws are nearly spent, so she digs in harder, harder, blowing bubbles rapidly to distract herself from pain. God made you, too, concludes the girl with double-twisted ponytails standing in the mean ol’ breath of Mother Mississippi. But if he did, then who made him? Then, then who made God? Lucy’s mind begins to give, Must’ve made his own self . . .

A little girl, standing, double-twisted ponytails expanding by the millisecond in the gross humidity of Mississippi’s awful heat. A little girl, standing, double-twisted ponytails expanding, training like a Stoic, thinking in philosophy. Lucy, standing—

reeling now, teetering—

on the brink of giving up; struggling, struggling. She toughs it out a little more, straining, hoping not to blind, proving to herself her strength, thinking quick before she yields the win to that eyeball-roasting orb: God, God, God, God, God, God, Must’ve made his own self first, Is he a person, What kind of person can hang a sun, What kind of person can make his-self, How old is he if he made his-self before this sun, God, God, God, God, God, So what is, He must be forever / is him? He must’ve always been . . . run into him at the edge of the universe . . . Soooo, Where does he start, and When does he end, and How big and What’s after, after, after, God, God, God, GOD!

Thoughts of God’s majesty overwhelms, breaking Lucy’s will. Her jaws collapse, her muscles fail, and here she moves as though a sloth, she blinks and blinks but now she cannot see a gosh-darned thing but tears and God in every single thought; but should her eyes recover: might be weak; could be stronger, having fought the mean ol’ Mississippi sun and lived to tell! Fine, you sun, she says, you win, sun, just like I knew you would, sun. Good contest, yes? Lucy, standing, soaking, drooping, tired now—tired not from challenging the sun, tired not from pressing bubblegum or willing every muscle halt: Fine, God, you win, God, I won’t challenge your sun again, God, at least for a while, God, it makes me think too hard, mapping out how you began, and where and if you end—you don’t make sense, too tough for me! I’m only six; my brain is small! It might implode.

A little girl, standing, double twisted ponytails expanding by the millisecond in the gross humidity. Six barrettes are gone, two barrettes are barely hanging on; her tiny rubber bands are truly losing hope. She is Lucy. Lucy bobs and weaves with caution back into her home, altered vision still in question, using other senses each to full potential—it’s her specialty. No biggie. Either she will see again—or she won’t. She shrugs. Her worse concern right then was God. She lays her head to convalesce

from Mississippi’s challenges:
the gum, the sun, her muscles, God, her sanity,

and God is grinning now, He makes her sleep, restores her sight, and grants her light beyond what Lucy’s soft and dark, determined eyes could ever scheme; she doesn’t stir, she doesn’t stir, she dreams another sight of every planet, every star, glittered heavens lining up to bow to this—someone, it seems: someone grand, majestic, rumored, coming back to rule the world as Lucy tries her best to tell the world to stop and watch the sky for such a glorious event, she wakes up dazed: the sights, the music, dazes her, just the same as every time before—some mystery, its answer not in any book—it’s not even on Wikipedia!—she’s looked, she’s looked, she’s looked!

Oh, in the gross humidity of Mother Mississippi’s breath:
A little girl, standing, double-twisted ponytails expanding—

barrettes barely hanging on—

The milliseconds pass,
her tiny rubber bands yet cling to hope—

Lucy, challenging the sun, wrestling with God.

Rachel Michelle Collier is from Mississippi, and has also been published in Fathom Mag and Ekstasis. She wants you to know that you are loved. Twitter: @CollierRachelM

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Artwork: “sun” by Bob May, Flickr.com.

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