He only wanted to show how much he loved her, spent weeks
combing through trash bins with beer-soaked sandwich crusts
soiled diapers entrusted to the kind arms of refuse
collectors. His fine blond curls danced when the wind blew
he had to tip the larger bins in order to reveal their hidden
treasures. During this phase of collection he not only
bag full of slivered jewels but also four rather large incisions
in his dinosaur knapsack. He stroked
them gently in
memory of his purpose. When finally he felt he had collected
the most valuable portions the neighborhood
had to offer, he sat
quietly at his desk imagining what his love would look like.
When finished one could not decipher
the thoughts that
caused him to place the blue water glass triangle at exactly 36
degrees north of the pink slip of
vase. But even if we might not
be able to uncode his secret formula she, the one who it was made for,
thought, his heart and his labor as a reflection of her own.
It is springtime as I let the screen door slam behind me.
I listen for Sharon’s yell at my carelessness but it does not come. I’m on the back porch at the farm,
the one I always wonder why is called the back since it is the only entrance we ever use, and I look out over the wide expanse
before me. There is a tractor to my right. It is red with rust and looms like the ruin of a great building.
It has long been our playground, us climbing over it like a jungle gym, but somehow gets smaller with every year. “If
you’re going for a walk take one of the dogs with you!” I hear Sharon yell from inside the house. I whistle
and call for Sugar, my favorite beagle, and bend down to scratch behind her ears when she gallops up to meet me.
walk down the center of the yard to where the dirt road into the woods begins. We pass the island pond with its plank
bridge to the island and tree stumps to sit on while you fish. My brother, John, likes to swim in the pond but I am
always afraid there will be snakes. I never let him know that, because I don’t like to remind him I’m not
as brave as he is, but I think he already knows. Just ahead of the pond are to barns, or sheds, on either side of the
road. They are both like threadbare cloth, the sunlight pours through the slats and partially illuminates the collections
of junk they’ve accumulated through the years. I am not allowed to go inside of them, as I am not allowed to cross
the bridge to the island, because they are unsafe. I always wonder what is inside of them, past and around the tractor
skeletons I can see, but never enough to go inside. I think I’m afraid of what I would find there.
beyond the shed on my right is the old car graveyard. They are half buried in the tall grass and I know that by summer’s
end they will become the unseen ghosts of the moments they contain, moments I do not share, and though I am sometimes curious
about what still remains of them I am to afraid of the tall grass to inspect them as I would like so I just continue down
the road with Sugar as she wonders off to inspect smells then comes back to join me for a pat on the head before venturing
Then there is the dry creek bed where Sharon takes us in the summer to wade and catch tadpoles, though
we never keep them, and I smile thinking maybe, on the way back, I’ll find a pretty rock for Sharon… she likes
the pretty ones. And I like the rocks there too. They are made of sand and if you knock them on another one you
can make the sand come out. They are different colors and it is fun to make the sand look like a rainbow.
woods are dark and the trees beside the road make the air mysterious, almost frightening, so I speed up. I’ve
decided to go to the spring pond… the place where the road ends. I like the woods. They are quiet but not
lonely and in them I feel almost like everything is as it is supposed to be. The trees never misbehave, they never do
anything but stare into the sky and pull at the sun, and I know they do not wish me harm.
At the Spring Pond
I pause to recollect what I know of it. It is still the same, irregularly shaped and fringed with reed and cotton tales
like a big funny-looking eye, but I know it would be to cold to swim even if I were brave enough. I walk up to the old
house that is not a house anymore. My mother told me that this is where she grew up, lived with her granny and grandpa,
before the new house (which seems old to me) was built. There is only a fireplace in the middle of a field, now, and
some fragments of a sofa and chairs. I walk past it for a bit, the grass has not grown tall enough to scare me, and
see in the distance a heap of junk. This is something I’ve never seen before.
In the great heap I find
broken teacups, books ruined by rain and snow, old clothing that is torn and shredded, furniture that is broken, a cast iron
skillet, old oatmeal containers and other items I look past without seeing. It is an interesting place… I must
come back here again.
I walk home again quickly; suddenly frightened by the wind and the feeling that someone is
watching me. I have a broken teacup in my hand. I like teacups. When I get in I run to Sharon to show her
my treasure, a ritual I developed when I was very young, and she looks in surprise at the delicate pink china in my hand.
“Wherever did you get this Julie?”
“I walked to the old house and after that I found a big pile
of stuff… It was there.” I answered happily, proud of my courage to explore beyond the road.
no! You went into the woods?”
“Yes, and I found a lot of neat stuff there but I decided I should
only bring one thing… so I took this.”
“But it’s dangerous in the woods, Julie, especially
at the old dump. There’s coyotes out there and Sugar couldn’t fight them off. I don’t think
you should go for anymore walks, alone, until you’re old enough to bring a gun.”
I don’t argue
with her, suddenly afraid that it was hungry coyotes I’d felt watching, and start to cry.
cry. It’s OK Julie, you’re not in trouble. You didn’t know that. Just don’t do it
again honey. OK?” Sharon gives me a hug then watches me for my answer.
I nod through my tears then
turn away to find my book.