July arrived so hot and ponderous the air seemed to vibrate, as if it were stretched out over the town and tapped, lightly, rhythmically, by an unseen hand. Walking along the dirt road to town, my cousin, Josy, and I heard the cawing of crows in the meadow and the far off barking of dogs behind fences. Grasshoppers, hidden in the yellow sea of mustard weeds covering the valley and hills, strummed in a rhythm that conjured summertime. As the days grew longer, their music grew louder, and someone who didn’t know might mistake the sound for a giant rattlesnake, coiled up and waiting to strike at a misplaced foot. We stomped, Josy and I, stirring up dust with our button shoes, to warn any wild thing of our presence.
“Race you,” Josy said, suddenly shooting across the stone bridge that spanned the wide arroyo. We’d spent the afternoon in a shady grove of oak trees, pretending to be Apache princesses and picking wildflowers that Josy now dropped along our path, their colorful heads as wilted as our own from the heat. Our hands were dirty and the sash on Josy’s checked pinafore hung loose down her backside like a tail. I made no effort to catch up with her. It was too hot for running, so I only watched the ruffle on her petticoat kick up like sea foam as her legs churned. She stopped abruptly, alongside the railroad tracks.
“Susannah!” She called, waving for me to hurry.
Continue reading “Main Street Valhalla – A Short Story”
Sitting on a wooden swing in her front yard, Brigit watched Selma ride up and down the road, her wiry frame cutting through the air like a finger in a pool of water. Oblivious to the heat, her pale skin layered with freckles, she coasted and swerved amid tumbleweeds that lay like desiccated clouds fallen to earth. The heat energized Selma, her heart beat at the urging of the sun. She glanced over at Brigit, blithe on her pink “Flower Girl” Raleigh, gap-toothed as she smiled. On any other kid that smile would mean envy me, but on Selma it meant I forgive you—Brigit did not have a bike. Still, it was a proud smile, even if it didn’t last. The next moment there was a dull bang and a clanging rattle. The bicycle’s chain had come loose. Selma sputtered to a stop.
She parked her bike in the shadow of the white clapboard house directly across the street. That old house seemed so brittle some days Brigit stared at it with sinister intent, as if her eyes were magnifying glasses aiming to set it aflame under the fierce Texas sun. Now she turned those magnifying glasses on Selma. Selma who brushed away the strands of hair clinging to her sweaty cheeks and gave Brigit a look that said, How will I bear this tragedy? Brigit looked away. Swinging back and forth, the uncut grass tickling her bare feet, she guessed how Selma saw her; how, if they became friends, Selma would know her. People always would put you into some kind of context, make you familiar. They did it to hold you close when you weren’t, really. Maybe I remind her of a cousin, she thought, maybe she thinks I’m close. I’m not. Brigit stopped swinging and dug her toes into the lawn. She thought fleetingly of her mother—that’s how she moved through Brigit’s mind, like a ghost in an attic—and how life had been before until the rude scrape of misfortune stopped things cold. Brigit glanced at Selma with contempt; I know what it’s like to lose more than a some childish summer diversion, she thought. Weak, she muttered. So weak.
Continue reading “Fireflies – A Short Story”