Summer Daze

Contributor: April Winters

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What a drag.

"Can I play?” Debbie wears a hopeful expression. She’s thinking maybe this time her brother and his pal will let her join them, seeing as how her only friend, Linda, just moved away and all.

“Go home, stupid! Even idiots know girls can’t play Cowboys and Indians,” her brother says. She knows Joey’s favorite television show is Wagon Train, but she doesn’t get it; some of those western television programs Joey likes so much have women shooting at Indians, too, so why can’t she play?

“Yeah!” Billy glares at Debbie, his face mirroring Joey’s contempt.

Chin quivering, Joey’s little sister turns toward home.

Debbie turns back and watches the boys disappear behind a cluster of trees where they’ll meet more friends to play guns and arrows with. She wonders why Joey is always so mean – like how he says she has a face only a mother could love and how, when Mama can’t hear, he calls her “horse’s ass mouth.” How does he even know? Did he see the Tucker’s horse lift its tail then say, “Whoa . . . Shadow, your butthole looks just like Debbie’s mouth!?”

Opening the front door, the aroma of chocolate temporarily makes her forget she has no one to play with. Debbie reaches for one of the warm cookies, but Mama stops her. “You’ll spoil your dinner, honey.”

Shoulders slumped Debbie hangs her head and walks to her room. During this morning’s thunderstorm, she finished reading her last Nancy Drew mystery. “This stinks,” Debbie says to no one. “The dumb Book Mobile won’t be here till next week . . . and it’s no fun to play Barbie all by myself.” A sigh escapes as she sprawls on her bed, a hot tear sliding out of one eye. “My only friend’s gone . . . I miss her so much!” Burying her face in the pillowcase, Debbie cries herself to sleep.

Later she is awakened by her mother, who holds out a fishing pole made from a stick, string and a safety pin. The girl hugs her mom then races the short distance to the creek. Shinnying out onto the tree trunk that overhangs the shallow water, Debbie clutches her gift. Securing the pole with her thigh, she pulls a bit of raw bacon out of the foil wrapping Mama gave her and sticks it on the open safety pin.

Not long afterward, Debbie tosses her fishing pole onto the still-damp ground in her front yard and thinks maybe fish don’t like bacon. She clicks her tongue. “Nah, Linda would’ve caught six fish, but stupid me can’t even catch one! Maybe Joey’s right… maybe I really am a dumb-dumb.”

A honey bee buzzes past as Debbie sits on the damp ground. She sees a caterpillar near her grass-stained tennis shoe and lays her finger on the sneaker. The fuzzy, multi-colored creature climbs aboard. Pulling her hand close to her face, Debbie says, “Looks like you don’t have anybody to play with, either, little guy.” With the sun’s warmth caressing her, Debbie gently picks the insect up with her other hand and places it on a patch of clover.

The drone of an airplane draws her attention. Shielding her eyes, she lies down and watches the speck inch its way across the summer sky. A lump fills her throat. “Linda rode a plane all the way to California. Wish I could have gone with her.”

She sniffs then pulls the elastic of her candy necklace to her mouth. Biting a pastel sweet, she crunches it and wonders momentarily if Linda will find new friends. “Heck, she’ll have lots of friends; and they’ll get to stay outside and play a long time because it’s so warm there.” Then Debbie remembers Mama said the winters in California only get down into the sixties, and Debbie has a horrible thought: does that mean Linda’s never going to see snow again? Eyes widening, Debbie bolts upright and sucks in her breath. “But she has to have snow to have a white Christmas!”

“Hey stupid, who ya talking to?” Billy smacks Joey’s arm and sniggers as the boys walk up behind Debbie.

“She better be talking to God,” Joey says, “praying Mama doesn’t beat the shit out of her for getting her clothes all wet!”

The screen door slams. From the porch, Mama yells, “Joseph Adam Robertson, I heard that. Come here this instant, young man!”

Joey hangs his head and slowly walks toward the house. Billy turns to Debbie. “Man, he’s in big trouble; did you see how mad she was? He’s not gonna get the belt is he?”

Debbie glances down at her tennis shoe. She wants to feel sorry for her brother, but he shouldn’t be so darned mean. She wonders if he’s going to get a whipping as a smile tugs at the corners of her mouth.

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April Winters hopes to help people forget their troubles through her stories, even if it’s only for a little while. Her other works can be read at The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Short-Story.Me, The Short Humour Site, and here at Linguistic Erosion.
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