MOUNT SIGH by Christi Krug

Cars rumble skid past our trailer park—long-finned cars of red orange silver blue mustard. Trucks sit on a gravel lot, gray-white brown, their tires flat as they stare at us, headlights empty, watching. Mother scoots my arms into outgrown yellow coat sleeves, zips my neck squeezing voice box. We walk to the Piggly Wiggly, soggy leaves brown and scrappy, cigarettes white and swollen under our feet, wind whirling. Mother sleeps wakes counts pills turns pages in Redbook. We walk to the bus, missing it, and Mother flings up her hand with a little cry. The bus driver stops waits we ride to the food stamp office. I walk to school. Ruby Nickels walks one street ahead in a lime green t-shirt, turns at the broken tree. Tomorrow she’s going on a hike. Mount Sigh. Flips her red hair. At my desk, I draw tall purple sky triangles with ice cream snow all over spelling words. Ruby Nickels says you come too.

I jab the silver doorbell of Apartment 122.

Ruby Nickels lets me in. I hold my breath and it pushes back, scooping up white mountain clouds. Her mom smiles looks at my coat shakes her head. Try Ruby’s down jacket from last year, she says. She is young, doesn’t have a sickness, doesn’t mostly stay indoors, walks tall in brown leather boots, gathers coats, folds them into a green backpack. Scarves and hats. A yellow bug car, small and bright, blinks and smiles, doesn’t stare you down. Spice hops into the front seat. The car bounces when it starts. Turning corners, Ruby Nickels and I smash into each other left, right, laughing, and Ruby Nickels’ freckles are tiny peaches, fuzzy and soft. The engine growls. Cars whoosh. The freeway a river I’ve never sailed, purple silver black blue cars, air whooshing, it’s exciting; Spice knows. Spice sticks his head out the window and smiles, mouth open, tongue rolling in the wind. I would too if it wasn’t embarrassing. Yellow bug car jerks stops we get out Ruby Nickels’ mom unzips the green backpack and zips me sleek into the down coat, orange. At my feet rocks and sticks and pine needles and ferns, and more rocks and trunks and little hills of roots. Trees and leaves no buildings. The cool air is filled with things: songs of birds, a mist like smoke, a butterfly that moves so fast you can’t see its spots; a hole in the mist where trees are small below us. We’re walking. Raindrops start, stop. We keep walking. Ruby Nickels’ mom unzips the green backpack and gives us sandwiches and we sit on logs. Spice laps water from a bowl. A mushroom catches rain in its giant dimple, a magic umbrella, shining underneath with brown and dark veins. No pill bottles cereal boxes paper piles laundry baskets. No dripping sink sloping floor rusting metal or socks with lost partners. Nobody muttering worrying. No scribbled phone books with doctor’s numbers. A crow says ow! I’m waiting for the hike to start. Ruby Nickels’ mom says, This is Mount Si!

No triangle with ice cream. Branches heavy and Christmas-tree shaggy, like arms with elbows bent to their knees, dancers bowing. I can’t know that one day I will drive a teal car with hiking boots in the trunk, can’t know trips I will take for decades for joy in far craggy places and close piney woods, across the globe, trekking glaciers, climbing mountains, skiing lakesides, sidling curling seashores, at last learning the names of trees.

Ruby Nickels’ mom says, How do you like the hike?

Don’t want to sound stupid, that I didn’t know we were already on the mountain. Our hike. This mountain. I let go breath, stream it out into the mists. This place where I can dream beyond the trailer park, where I can make the sound of sigh.


Christi Krug writes from her vantage of midlife, after surviving the crisis of it. The author of Burn Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough, she lives on the Oregon Coast and coaches writers of all ages and stages. Her last story in Griffel was “Sassy,” in May, 2021, Issue 8. She has been chosen as a Centrum Emerging Writer Resident for 2022.

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