The Mean Lady

I walked inside the rhododendron bush that was two stories high, planted years ago by the hunchback, the first person to live in our blue Ardsley house.

We could walk in to this rhododendron bush as if it were a room. I sat on the “horse,” the long branch with a saddle seat curve that we hopped up and down on to make the tall bush shake.

But today I sat without jumping up and down. I was tired of this horse. I wanted a real horse, and I knew I would not be getting a horse.

Then I heard a Saturday mower.

The noise met me in the shade of the rhododendron. I lifted my chin to it.

Somewhere in the neighborhood, sounding its presence like a cavalry horn, was the first mower of spring. It ignited the sullen kernels of adventure in my ears and I got off the horse.

I knocked on front doors and said, “Let’s go to the stream.”

We were in walking distance to the “new park” and the stream along its far edge. New houses lined the stream on the other side, and people lived in them, but the stream was ours because we loved it.

Its bottom was soft and cushiony. We loved to lift rocks and peek for crayfish, scoop minnows and longed for its elusive frogs. We laughed and fought in the stream, threw buckets at each other and bounced on the wooden slats and shouted things like “I got one!” When we were hunting, we were careful to lift rocks slowly so we wouldn’t disturb the silt, which might allow an escape route for the living treasures underneath. We didn’t wear water shoes because they didn’t exist. Nor did we bring water bottles. We drank the stream. Sunscreen was for getting a tan at the beach and we actually called it suntan lotion. This was a playground, a safe extension of home that opened its world for us, every time.

But the stream of last year would not be the same stream of this year. Continue reading

Banana Seat

Schultzville the town offered a store with a front porch.

The store was brown with a sagging wooden floor, bottles of Heinz, dusty cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, candy. My uncle’s house was down the road from the store. His house was historic and told stories with its low bannisters and cellar kitchen, windows on pulleys. Tall grass hills surrounded the house and went along the road that led to the store.

I may have planned my escape. But as I stood at the end of the driveway, change in my pocket, a pull of independence called me off the property and my legs were moving for me. The effect was sudden. I stayed along the side of the road.

I don’t think I told anyone I was leaving but I could hear them. The adults were at the picnic table in the backyard under the big tree. My sisters and cousin were in the barn. I stared at the long grassy hills as I walked, the change in my pocket making noise, feeling the pull to return to the house but pushing against it by ignoring the noise and moving forward.

When I got to the store, I walked across the front porch and wandered the shelves first. I loved stores. In stores, I used my own money, bought my own candy, gum. But in this store, there really wasn’t too much to examine, so I headed to the candy selection. With change, wanting to buy as much as I possibly could, I needed to use math in my head to figure out exactly what I could get. I bought Bazooka for two pennies each with the leftover money. I was disappointed they didn’t have Double-Bubble.

I waited to pay, with the owner somewhere else, and that was when I became aware of the jeans and white T-shirt nearby, looking at the magazines by the door. I could see his blue banana bike outside, parked with the kickstand.
I paid and carried the candy in a little brown bag and went to the front porch. The boy was on his bike outside. He turned around and looked at me.

I knew to get on.

He did the pedaling and I stuck out my feet. There was some balance issues but we settled in. I held onto his white T-shirt arms, and I wondered if he chopped wood. His hair was brown and the back of his neck was tan.

When he stopped the bike in front of our house, I got off. We didn’t say a word. He pedaled away.

For the afternoon, I considered him my boyfriend.
Country road