I don’t think they’ve mowed their lawns in weeks. Yellow and purples weeds peeked out from the overgrown blades of grass, and I mean blades. They scratched my skin as I waded through the mess. There had to be something in the rain water. That was the only explanation.
“Darla!” I watched my aunt Margo waddled through the hole riddled porch screen door, down the four worn looking steps, and to me with a grin that made that ugly cheshire cat look like he wasn’t trying. “Let me get a look at yuh, sturdy girl.”
“My name’s Carla.” I don’t know why I tried. This was my life every summer. I’d beg and plea, Mom would toss me and my bags in a cab, and I’d be stuck trying to get nutty aunt Margo to remember my name started with a C not a D.
Naturally, my name was waved off. That was probably how the lawn ended up so bad. I can see it. She would poke her head out of the window, allowing a plume of smoke to escape, and stare down at the blades of puke green grass. She would say something like grass is grass.
She pulled out a chair for me and I obediently sat. The kitchen hadn’t changed much either. Dishes overflowed the sink, the floor desperately needed help from both a broom and mop, and the fridge door was cluttered with photos of various “kin.”
I have a photo up there. Pigtails, missing front teeth, stained shirt-probably grape of something-and a bucket full of worms. I was eight. I was stuck in a backwards town full of weirdos like aunt Margo and the only remotely fun thing to do was fish, dig, and run. I did all three.
“How’s that boy of yours? Timmy?”
Her questions jarred me from my rare nostalgic moment. I wasn’t eight anymore. I turned sixteen three months ago and the last thing I wanted to do was be sent back to Jackson Creek for a summer of boredom. “It’s Jimmy and he’s not my boy.”
“You have a fight?” Despite the questions, I indulged her. The way her country roots mixed with a southern drawl always fascinated me. It got me to share a whole lot more than I should have like about my third grade boyfriend.
“No,” I mumbled, turning the mason glasss jar in my hands.”He died is all.”
A silence followed my oversharing. Aunt Margo did even worse with emotions than she did with upkeeping the house. Cleaning fell to me, like always. Sighing, I pushed away from the table. It was literally on it’s last leg. The other three were broken and resting on piled books. This is my life. This is my summer.
“Thanks for the tea.” As if. The thing was a diabetic coma waiting to happen but nobody was going to call me ungrateful. Not out loud anyway. “I’m gonna unpack.”
Aunt Margo faced me and I paused in my backing out. She wasn’t smiling. She always smiled, always, no matter how creepy it was. “Darla,” Carla, I corrected mentally, “stay away from the creek this summer.”
The creek? “What for?” It was the one cool place around. The town was even named after it. Somebody rigged a few tire swings that reached out over one of the ledges. If you swung far enough, you could slip right out and land safely in the creek. “Did some kid drown?”
She shook her head and warned me again before smiling and hurrying me off. I had some unpacking to do and she had a meal to work on. I literally coughed to cover up my scoff. The kitchen was a mess but, again, can’t be unmannerly or anything. So I took me and my bags to the tiny spare room in the back.
Just what was up with the creek anyway? Everybody knew how to swim. There wasn’t anything remotely dangerous about it. Sure, you could cut yourself on a jagged rock but that was stupidity, not the creek’s fault.
As I lay on the sinking mattress, I made a promise to myself. I’d find out what was going on. If I was lucky it would be one hell of a summer.
I am working on my passage of time. Bear with me.