I believe I can fly, but Jennie Dean knows she can. Her knowledge is unshakable, same with her stance there, hands on her hips, chest lifted high, eyes shooting sparks.
Happens I believe in a lot of things, like smoke without fire, lightning with no storm behind it, ghosts, space aliens and magic. I believe in things mostly ’cause I figure if you want the world to be a certain way, you have to start out believing in it, and see what follows. Belief is a powerful thing; only look at all those Christian folks with their carvings and paintings of dead-guy Jesus nailed up on a cross. They kneel there staring up with their hands clasped, and they’ll tell you they’re praying, but underneath the holy trappings what they’re doing is believing with all their might, hard as they can. And look what it’s brought about: wars, miracles, and more money changing hands than the Cabbage Patch Doll business ever dreamed of. Belief, I tell you. And I believe I can fly, and will fly, one day when the wind is right and I’m not afraid to try.
But there’s Jennie Dean at the edge of the swimming pool in her yellow two-piece, standing there knowing she’s as good as got wings, and here’s the rest of us gaping at her, not daring to doubt it, not even wanting to doubt it. Nobody’s listening to me yapping on about believing anymore; even in a bikini and all skin and bones, Jennie Dean is larger than life. She grabs up her pink towel, whips it over her shoulders and ties it around her neck, and doggone it if the wind doesn’t pick up right then and send the towel flapping out behind her like she’s Superman ready to save the day.
In three seconds flat she’s started up the ladder to the high dive. Cut free from the fiery look in her eyes a couple guys start laughing, thinking it’s all a joke, but she calls back over her shoulder in a voice that don’t mean nonsense, “It’s easier to take off from a launching pad that’s got some spring to it,” and they hush up.
Now we’re all gaping, she’s climbing the ladder real slow, her pink towel cape flapping against her butt, and it hits me—she’s got us all believing in her, bad as the Christians, our eyes rooted on that yellow bikini, following her every move. My belief in me flying, me doing anything really, is nothing compared to this. The more I watch her climb the smaller I’m getting to feel, but it doesn’t matter, I can’t stop looking.
Then just when she gets to the top rung of the ladder she turns, and her teeth glint in the sunlight as she shouts down, “Hey Billie Rae, I forgot about the landing!”
I blink up at her. Can’t tell if it’s the sun shining from behind her or her body itself, but I have to squint against the brightness.
“I’m gonna tear my feet up if I land like this in Ike’s pasture.” She swings one leg out from the ladder and wiggles her toes at me, at me. “Get me some shoes,” she says.