Friday, May 23, 2014

At the Edge of the Field

On summer nights there was honeysuckle on the edge of the field on the way to the park.   In this field my oldest brother burned down a van.  You kept to the edges because of ticks.  The field belonged to a man who wouldn't sell.  There was the front yard then the house then the porch then the pool then the fence with slats then the field then the park.  Boom, boom, boom.  In the middle of the field was the old van.  First, it was old and abandoned.  Then it was old, abandoned and burned because of my brother, who didn't act alone.

By August, I was sick of swimming.  I had earaches by then, too.  Using babysitting money, I got a perm, and you're not supposed to swim when you first get a perm.  In August, I walked to the park most mornings to play tennis against a green practice wall.  Bam, bam, bam.  Not in June.  When the honeysuckle bloomed, I was no where near sick of swimming.  When it was June, I only went to the park at night.  

There were blackberries at the edge of the field, too.  I don't remember the blackberries being ready in June.

Every Sunday night in the summer my mother made potato salad from the potatoes my brother brought home on Saturday night from the steak house.  He wheeled his stereo which looked like a wooden lower case h out to the porch and played his eight tracks.  Highway to Hell.  Whipping it good.  Everyone having a hungry heart.  We raced rafts and dove for pennies while the burgers cooked, arguing over the one good snorkel.  We shared the flippers then ate at the picnic table.  

Every Monday morning we went back to being an unhappy family.

In June it felt good to be out of school and eating potato chips with ketchup.  In August, every day felt full of trouble.  Sometimes the pool turned green with algae.  It's expensive to keep pool water clear.  It's work to keep the frogs out of the filter.  By August, two of the sunflowers were as tall as the top of the shed.  Their faces turned and watched us like neighbor kids who'd been left out.

My oldest sister and brother liked to swim at night, but that's when the bats swooped down.  At night, nobody wanted to judge the best silly dive.  They brushed you off.  Their friends came over.  My sister's friend, Suzanne, who wore a white bikini, caught me washing the dishes in cold water.  "Baby doll, don't wash the dishes in cold water!"  Sometimes the stereo came back out to the porch.

In August, the hornets got me.  We were playing behind the school.  Our bike seats were getting very, very hot on the sidewalk while we played where you couldn't play during the school year -- at the edge by the creek.  We were flipping logs to make a fort.  I flipped the wrong log, and the hornets came out.  I screamed and ran and they chased me, stinging me all over my stomach.  I don't know how many zaps.  Maybe zap, zap, zap, zap, zap.  I rode home and raced into my sister's room, my stomach so tight and red and burning.  Her wisdom teeth had just been pulled, something that had to get done before September.   Her cheeks were swollen and she couldn't get out of bed.  Her wallpaper had little tiny pink roses.  She cried because she couldn't help me.

My neighbors' niece came to stay with them for a week.  Her feet were scalloped with scars.  She said one time she'd stepped in the bathtub and it was too hot.  The hot water burned her that bad.  I understood burning one foot but not both.  She wasn't good at hopscotch.  I picked at the places where their patio furniture was starting to rust.  

In June, on the way to the park, we picked all the honeysuckle blooms we could, pulling them apart then sucking the stems.  I had three halter tops in different colors.  We kicked the gravel then raced to see who could get to the gate first.  Even in the dark it was pretty easy climbing over the park gate.

In August, I had to put zinc oxide on my nose because I'd burned it so many times -- another reason to go ahead and get a perm.  I begged to get my ears pierced.  No, no, no, no.

We played a lot of Monopoly in August.

When the police came about the van, my mother told us to go to our rooms.  She'd do all the talking.  So curious, pulling my shade back a little, I saw smoke over the top of the fence.  I heard her voice and saw her leg.  I saw the gap between her sandal and the arch of her thin, tanned foot.