Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 66

my stories, widened my vision, plotted my escapes. That we were poor made no difference in that beautiful place. The flowers bloomed for us as thickly as for others, the breeze came in at evening and cleaned the heated atmosphere. We could run out into those woods and know that hope is everlasting. What feeds children who never run there, never discover anemones under rotted waste, or startle birds so beautiful they hurt the heart?

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B.J. and I drove back to the school and worked our way out for a third time, tracing where the old railway line had been torn up and buried, the highway that intersected just below where the Rhythm Ranch had stood alone in an open parking lot of rutted dirt.

“You remember the music?” B.J. asked me once, and I laughed in reply.

“Bass guitars playing off-key and drunken men singing heartbreak songs.”

“Honey, don’t hurt me more than I can stand.”

“Yes, Lord. They don’t make music like no more.”

“No, Lord. Thank God, they don’t.”

Her hand slapped the steering wheel hard, but I remembered following her in the evening to hike up the road toward the Ranch. We would huddle there and listen to that music drifting out over the grass, the lure of the grown-up world irresistible. Broken-down old trucks parked end to end next to rebuilt sedans and ancient convertibles with ragged canvas tops. Half-drunk musicians were always wrestling near the back door beside the stage, trading drags off cigarettes and curses for the poor wages they were paid. Men and women would come out to stand under the cedar trees that edged the parking lot, hugging and whispering, telling lies we could almost understand. Sometimes, they would sneak off into the woods so close to the lot that leaves drifted down into the backs of the trucks.

Honey, don’t hurt me more than I can stand.

None of that remained. Twenty years had obliterated the county roads. Where the woods had once been wild, now there were only manicured lawns and quick-stop milk stores. Shopping centers stood where there had been a landscape a child could explore but never exhaust. Set off by arc lights and hurricane fencing, a discount center and a massive concrete parking lot had

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