The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Malapert or navigating foreign terrain

Rachael Conlin Levy


Chaja and the Colorado River.

1. impudently bold in speech or manner.

My daughter and I traveled to Las Vegas to visit my college friend and her godmother. It was needed. The desert sun warmed us, and the time alone helped a relationship that grows tenuous as she nears 13. This child once nestled against me, but no longer fits there. She’s lankier, stiffer, awkward in herself and rigid when I hug so I try to hold her long enough for her to remember these old, soft places and flow into them again.

But the trip was still only a trip. I remained her mother, and therefore continued to nag and embarrass, while she was the malapert child, slow when I needed her to hurry, preferred airline food over Wolfgang Puck’s, contradicted, rolled her eyes, grumbled. Her saucy impertinence washed over me because my reservoir of patience, although not as great as Lake Mead, ran deeper without the distraction of her brothers.

The Springs Preserves, Las Vegas.

Oddly, it was water or more precisely the illusion of water that I brought home with me and not images of sunshine and saguaros. We saw the Cirque du Soleil show “Ka” and one scene kept replaying in my mind so I grabbed my notebook and wrote about it.

The audience watched as the boat rocked violently and began to sink, leaving an empty hole where once was a stage. Silence seeped into the theater, choking the screams. From the top of the stage a woman fell. Seconds passed. Bubbles trailed behind her. I was witnessing a drowning. Then a girl cut through the black air, dove into the dark water and swam down, down, down, following the sinking woman until all disappeared but for a slip of bubbles. I held my breath. The girl swam back into view, dragging the heavy body of the woman. Bubbles swirled about them as they rose to the surface. I breathed.

When I returned to my notebook later and read this, I noticed what I had failed to see before. Instead of action, this time I saw the characters, a mother and daughter. Perhaps it wasn’t about water, after all.

Hoover Dam.

3 responses to “Malapert or navigating foreign terrain”

  1. I have a niece who is 13 and changing so quickly, not really a little girl any longer, but still a little girl in so many ways. One on one time for mother and daughter is time to be treasured. Nice move.

  2. anno says:

    fb has ruined me for comments .. I keep looking for the "Like" button. Love these pictures; so glad you had this time together.

  3. Andrea says:

    Wow, a daughter at 13…wild times ahead for you both! How nice for you both to be able to take a little breather and spend time together–without distracting brothers–at this time.

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