It was a mud tattoo, and over the course of the night it transformed – blending like a sunset – from dark blood colors into a spray of light caramel on my legs. Drying. Flecks on the skin like individual feathers along my calves. I didn’t bother to clean it off.
My shoes too. Little red ballet flats with waves of sandy finger-paint on the toes, the sides. Big cakes of dried stuff on the soles, thin roots like strands of hair mixed in.
I rode on the back of an ATV in my sundress, arms of spaghetti around the torso of a friend’s boyfriend, my nose pressed into the sunburn on his shoulder. Milky atomic drops of sweat made the hair at the nape of his neck into sharp points. And the mud was like wings. Like a flock of swans waiting in the dirt and puddles under the tires. We passed cows - giant living inkblots at that speed.
This was Southern Indiana for me two summers ago. Ungodly hot. Beer out of the bottle. Blue smoke off the grill, gristle charred hard and black. The men in baseball caps. And my legs just covered in mud after the ride, drying into glue, drying into a hard second skin under the cotton dress. I took my shoes off eventually. I drank myself into the sweet, bumpy sleep of a long car ride home. God bless my ex-husband.
I don’t get dirty like that usually. I don’t live in a place where mud does this. Concrete is poured downtown and is married to the Earth forever, there to scrape your legs into raw squids when you fall. I can’t make any bird symbolism at all for what a sidewalk is in the world. It’s a flat gray cracker.
But across the bridge and over yonder where your cell phone doesn’t work and stuff is that memory: Messy. Tangled-hair, Vaseline-skin sweaty. Dots of mascara flaking onto the cheek under the eye; it’s just stupid to do a touch-up. I could really go on for ages, here. Because it is worth writing about. I’ll give you this, instead:
Join bestselling local author Frank Bill tonight at Carmichael’s for a reading and signing of his first novel, Donnybrook, and rest assured of plenty more raw and messy story from the roots of Southern Indiana.
Following the success of his collection of short stories, Crimes in Southern Indiana, Frank Bill now releases the novel Donnybrook, a second serving of fearless gut-stuff writing that chronicles the human drama of a bare-knuckle tournament set in the back woods of Kentuckiana. Bill, who was honored for Crimes with a GQ Favorite Books of 2011 as well as Best Debut 2011 from Daily Beast, will treat readers to a special event presenting Donnybrook at Carmichael’s Frankfort Avenue store tonight at 7pm. Copies of both books are available in paperback for $15.00.
I live downtown and wear dresses and I only own “fashion boots”. I can tell you about city stuff. The way cold wind tattoos your face around the PNC Tower at 5th and Market. The way hot asphalt gets spongy in the wilting parts of summer. How it takes a couple months to sleep through all the sirens – the hollow whine of police cars or the long, mournful howl of a fire engine. That stuff.
But across the bridge – mud like swans and nothing graceful and the writing is just too good to stop. I could go on.
Carmichael’s Bookstore has two area locations: 1295 Bardstown Road and 2720 Frankfort Avenue. For more information, visit the event page  or call the Frankfort Avenue store at (502) 896-6950.
Image: Courtesy of Carmichael’s Bookstore website www.carmichaelsbookstore.com