Janet Fitch (b. 1955, Los Angeles, California, USA)


Written by Janet Fitch

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White Oleander, 1999

The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I. I woke up at midnight to find her bed empty. I climbed to the roof and easily spotted her blond hair like a white flame in the light of the three-quarter moon.

“Oleander time,” she said. “Lovers who kill each other now will blame it on the wind.” She held up her large hand and spread the fingers, let the desert dryness lick through. My mother was not herself in the time of the Santa Anas. I was twelve years old and I was afraid for her. I wished things were back the way they had been, that Barry was still here, that the wind would stop blowing.

“You should get some sleep,” I offered.

“I never sleep,” she said. […]

Down below us in the streets of Hollywood, sirens whined and sawed along my nerves. In the Santa Anas, eucalyptus trees burst into flames like giant candles, and oilfat chaparral hillsides went up in a rush, flushing starved coyotes and deer down onto Franklin Avenue.

She lifted her face to the singed moon, bathing in its glowering beams. “Raven’s-eye moon.”

“Baby-face moon,” I countered, my head on her knee.

She softly stroked my hair. “It’s a traitor’s moon.

 

© 1999 Janet Fitch; New York: Little, Brown and Company

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