South Dakota Saturday Night

My mother’s younger sister in stocking feet, her shoes dangling from one hand, the other hand easing open the screen door, easing it closed, escapes into the shadows. My mother lies on the bed staring at a ceiling bright with starlight and longs to risk the two-mile walk to Pickerel Lake. She imagines the gathering of the Polish Catholics she’s been warned to avoid. Polacks, her daddy calls them. And though she’s never dared be anything but the good girl, she will not betray her sister’s Saturday night escape across the barren hills by moonlight to the forbidden barn where old men unbutton their pressed shirts, lean against the moon- soaked wood, smoke Lucky Strikes, tap their booted feet, and watch the young girls, her sister among them, polka until the barn floor will not stop throbbing. Listening to the cottonwoods and what she might have thought she could hear, my mother must have pictured the boy who escorted her sister back across the wheat fields, ducking under one fence, over the next, kicking one leg, easing the other, until they arrived at the border between land and desire, the grand yielding fall of a full summer moon. She must have imagined her own hand-sewn cotton dress frosted with starlight and the sweet smell of being young, of being a woman in love with the one night of a South Dakota week belonging to bodies and music.

~Georgia Tiffany