CUT DOWN FROM MY HANGING TREE by Sarah Sorensen

For Aunt Pam, who was as nine-lived as any cat. Wish you hadn’t spent them so fast.

They hung me high, but it didn’t take. I cut myself down with an old switchblade shoved inside my glove and walked into town that same night. “It didn’t take,” I said. But they all thought I was just the specter of myself. I could have been and I might still be. I saw the moon that night and it was like none other, a big yellow calloused-looking moon. That moon doesn’t care if I hang or if I cut free and run, I thought. That moon has no judgment. It’s not much but a light in the sky, pockmarked by its time and fate, like me, like you, and like everyone. I got out my blade and freed myself. It felt good to walk in the cool damp air, choked as I was and hurt over the purple welt around my neck.

They hung me high and told the town I was dead and the whole town just milled away. Said I was guilty of perversion, arson, and abuse of substances. Said I was nobody’s friend and nothing much would come of me. Said I was best dragged from my home and hung up like a white star to jerk my dance against the sky. They set out the scaffolding and placed folding chairs around the field and a punch bowl and sandwiches. It looked like a cheap wedding for a knocked-up girl on her folks’ lawn. But I lived to lie in that clammy grass, and to drink the thin remains of their watery alcohol Kool-Aid punch. I lived. Take that, motherfuckers.

They hung me, but it didn’t stop the troubles I’d let them all in for, the mayhem I’d created. It was me that burnt down the old tavern on the west end of town, but you know I wasn’t trying so hard to do it. It just sort of happened and the flames caught their rhythm fast and I just stepped away. I led out the last of the patrons and we all stood together in the lot and let her burn. It was a cigarette, a mistake. We all held our drinks and took a breath. A cool IPA helps me think clearer, helps me keep a Zen mind and an open heart.

And it was me that slept with old man Peterson’s spinster daughter. Her skin felt like bruised peaches and she tasted like sadness and oatmeal. I loved her a little and for a time. She liked my boots and my hands that are large for a woman. She liked my little gifts that I brought her—the drugstore jewelry box with the little dancer inside, the flowers I picked out of her own yard. Peterson thought that I was just a girlfriend and really I suppose we might still call it that. I drank up his gin without his permission too. What of it? Well, he came to watch me hang. I guess he thought he saw a pretty good show.

As to the other intoxicants, what can I say? I said yes when I should have said no? It doesn’t change much to deny it. Guess you’ve heard all that before.

But here I am, still walking this town. Still leaning into the same taverns and drinking down the same beers. I can’t quite catch if they see me and neither can they. None of us can say if I am real, least of all me. But I know that I am here. I sat down at the river’s edge and felt the water run over my feet. I plucked an apple off the Schillers’ tree and it still tasted tart and wet and sweet. I am still out walking this town and I hope that if you can see me you will take the chance and tip your hat. I want to see if you still know me.

Sarah Sorensen has most recently been published in decomP, The Boiler Journal, and Blaze Vox. She holds an M.A. in English from Central Michigan University and is currently at work on her first novel. She is also at work on her thesis for a second M.A. in Film Theory and Criticism.

When asked what she would do if she could turn invisible, she replied, “Spy. I would spy, pure and simple. I love to people watch, but do not enjoy being watched.”

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One Response to CUT DOWN FROM MY HANGING TREE by Sarah Sorensen

  1. Mary Jane says:

    Very visual, Sarah. My kind of movie.

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