"Guarded by a Dog" by Misti Rainwater-Lites

As it turns out I don't have any Native American DNA. My little brother took that ancestry.com test over the holidays. All our lives we were told we have Cherokee on both sides. Now we have one less thing to be proud about.


Riding into Goree, Texas, with my dad after visiting his parents' and sister's graves in the Bomarton Cemetery I saw the church and felt flooded and started crying. "These tears. I don't know where they came from. It's all the years. The years are happening all at once," I said. My dad patted my left hand. He's a big Texas man. Showed some motherfuckers who was boss at a carnival in Munday, Texas, once in 1976 when a man made the dumb-ass mistake of hitting on his pregnant wife. I've seen my dad cry twice. He cried at my great-grandfather's funeral. "Papaw Crenshaw was my hero," he said. He cried the day he said goodbye to me in the hospital, knowing he would never see my newborn daughter again. "Someday we'll all be together in Glory," he told me.


The church in Goree. That's where I learned about Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit. You get three for the price of one. I was jealous of my friend Dixie. Her parents let her play with her Batman and Robin dolls. I had to sit up straight, look straight ahead at the pastor as he spoke about the Bottomless Pit and the Tribulation. I focused on the stained glass behind him. Jesus had a cane like Little Bo-Peep. Every lamb was accounted for.


"That's it. That's our house," Dad said. Yes it is. Yes it was. The little two-bedroom one-bathroom house across the street from the Baptist church. That's where we watched John Belushi and Johnny Carson. That's where my dad took his cowboy belt to my ass for walking in on him and my mom about to have sex. That's where I danced around the den with the shaggy blue and green carpet in my Holly Hobbie costume to Elvis and Buddy Holly. I thought they lived inside the speakers. That's where I first remember feeling lonely. My dad doesn't believe me when I tell him about the time he and my mom were rolling coins to take to the bank in Seymour. They took my little sister to the bank and let me stay home alone. I rode my tricycle to Trainham Grocery, tried to buy a package of Cherry Sours. The cashier told me I didn't have enough money so I asked her what I could afford. I sat in the foyer eating my Chick-O-Stick. Crying. Four years old. Waiting for my family to return.


A dog of some kind lunged and barked at the truck as we slowed down so I could snap a few shots with my shitty Android. The short leash wouldn't let him get very far. All that meanness and nowhere to put it. And what is he guarding? He's guarding a falling-down shack that once was a house. I have no idea who feeds him.