It was late winter and the dust in the streets had turned into a black muck that got all over shoes and boots and splashed up pant legs and clung to the hems of skirts. She could smell it coming. Spring was just around the corner, soon her mornings would be warm and filled with birdsong and sunlight and we would all be saved amen God praise us amen, God save us amen. God kept us all winter long amen. God and Jesus saved us amen. Like little lambs he blesses us and cherishes us and wipes away our tears like the melting snow.
This was Sister Harriet's twenty-fifth spring in our valley. The church in all her wisdom had sent her to us to teach us the bible, and to teach us the mass, and to teach us to say our prayers to Mother Mary who wept, and still weeps, for her son, for us, she who intercedes with the Lord on our behalf, begging him to be kind and gentle to us. Sister Harriet taught us all our catechism and our rosary and she was the only one who would stand up to old Father Elias who told us we were unclean for the color of our skins.
Here in the high mountain valley we called home oh the hills rising up above us where our fathers herded sheep and we wove that wool into cloths dyed with fire and flashing blue the color of Mother Mary's veil. The blue of forgiveness, that's what Sister Harriet taught us, blue is forgiveness, and that's why God spreads it over the sky. Showing us that our sins are washed clean from us like wool before it is dyed, washed clean and pure and white. Father Elias taught us to fear God. Sister Harriet taught us to come to the Lord and to come to Mary and bow our heads before them like we do to our own parents. Our fathers started to drink then. Started to take the wine and the liquors that had never spread to our valley until now. They started to beat us. We'd show up to Sunday school with black eyes and loose teeth and Sister Harriet would tut her tongue at the sight of it. We were too young to know anything else though. All of us little children, a chorus of innocence in a harsh mountain valley at the edge of the world where all we had were sheep and the river and the bright burning blue of forgiveness spread over the sky.