The Rhinos of Josephine by Amy Jones Sedivy

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First you have to remember things the way they happened. This is not always easy. Ravens flew past me that day and that’s what I remember first about Josephine. She appeared and so I thought, for a moment, that she came with the ravens. That she was a raven. One could be excused for thinking of Josephine as a raven: jet black hair to her waist, the bird-like quality of her tiny bones, her words that came in squawks and bursts.

Second is the thing that didn’t happen second but it goes here anyway. That is the day Josephine took us for a ride in her convertible BMW, or rather we thought it was hers. We drove Sunset all the way to the ocean. She loves corners and Sunset has many and she took them fast. It was exhilarating. We screamed and we loved it. And her, we loved her. When we got to PCH, she drove straight across to the parking lot. She did not, however, stop at the booth where the man stood with his hand outstretched, awaiting five dollars. She did not stop for the ricket-wooden fence. She only stopped because the car mired in the sand and could no longer move forward. And then she spun the wheels so the car dug itself deeper into the beach. We scattered in all directions when people of responsibility came toward us. I looked for the others. I ended up alone on a bus to Santa Monica and another to Hollywood.

Third is the boy she loved. The boy we all loved. His name was Full Moon and he claimed to be a native Californian but could not name a tribe. What did we care? He was tall and lovely. Like Josephine with long black hair, but his bones were solid and substantial. I thought he could take care of me forever. He chose her to take care of. I didn’t mind, none of us did because it was Josephine. 

Fourth is the idea: If not ravens, then what? If not Josephine, then what? Where is my life when I need it? Why does she wander across my landscape? What led all of us to believe in her? In anything? ee cummings wrote about “the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart” and I wonder what keeps them in our sky? If I were a star, I would have left a long time ago.

Fifth comes last in one cycle:  Full Moon and Josephine implode very slowly. We watch, fascinated, repulsed, amused, jealous. It is a coming apart that charges everything in its vicinity with electricity and spark. We argue with each other. One leaves a room and we don’t realize it at that moment, but we never see that one again.  I see opportunity but so do others and Full Moon slashes his way through a field rich and ripe with grain, leaving behind empty husks, as if the locusts had invaded. So this is what it is to be empty.

Six is when I am alone. Rhinos trample me. Black footprints invade me. Josephine’s laugh. Pain can become constant so that I would die if it left me.  

On the seventh full moon we are all that remain and we raise beer bottles in a toast to Josephine for the time she gave us. Beer makes us drowsy so we descend back to oblivion where we are warm. Content and confused, we try giving our hearts to each other. Grief is an empty doorway and no matter how many times I walk through, I am here, always.

Amy Jones Sedivy is a high school English teacher, a career that would surprise her teen-age self. Her favorite class to teach is creative writing; she enjoys the students’ originality and enthusiasm. Amy has been published online and in print journals on and off since the early 90s. She lives in Los Angeles with her artist husband and most (but not all) of her stories are about artists.

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