Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 65

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“I know it was around here somewhere.” B.J.’s voice was strained and bewildered. I leaned my cheek against my palm and pushed my hair back out of my eyes. “Things change,” I told B.J. as we drove away from the school. I was remembering a morning when I had missed the school bus and walked the two miles from my house. Once there though, I had spent the day hidden under the extensions – temporary classes set up in mobile units on blocks. All afternoon I had watched the sunlight move across the banks of windows, turning them to mirrors that reflected the warning lights at the railroad crossing and the occasional passing clouds. At 3:00 P.M. I had skipped the bus and walked home again, cutting across the peanut fields on the other side of the railway line and arriving home as my mama was turning up our driveway. She had smiled at me and handed me a wrapped package of leftovers from the diner where she was working the dayshift. I had taken the package with a guilty smile, expecting that at any moment she would recognize my crime from something in my eyes. But she had seen nothing, and no one had called. It was the first time I ever skipped school, the first time I ever lied to her, if only by my silence. Not being discovered changed everything, and after that I skipped school whenever I wanted, wandering in the woods and swamps, finding a peace and comfort out there that was not possible in our cramped and moody house.

****

“Do you remember when we’d all drive up into the hills?” B.J.’s voice was pensive.

“With Aunt Dot and Uncle Bill?”

“Yeah. In the back of the truck with watermelon on ice in tubs.”

“And buckets to gather berries for Dot to make pies later.”

“She never made pies. Didn’t have enough berries left by the time we got home to flavor a cobbler.”

“Well, think how many of us there were. Berry-eating kids leave little behind.”

“But everything was so close and beautiful.”

“Yeah.”

****

Is it memory that feeds us as we grow older? Is it memory that houses all our dreams? The landscape of my imagination is all memory and passion, the wetlands where I wandered as a child, the hidden places where I birthed my stories, widened my vision, plotted my escapes. That we were poor