We’d say it all in a rush, sing-songy-chanty, taunting, flaunting. Heat rose off the sidewalk in shimmery waves, blacktop driveways burned our feet. Grasshoppers jumped into our waiting hands; caterpillars climbed onto tempting blades of grass that landed them in a plastic container punched with air holes if they were lucky. Run over by bikes that spilled neon green slime if they weren’t. Inchworms dangled in the air, appearing magically out of nowhere on nearly invisible gossamer strands, and honeysuckle-perfumed night streets made you squirm with feelings you didn’t dare say aloud.
Waterbugs, tipped on their backs, looked like fat olives. If you stepped on one it squirted a ricotta goo. Bees, plump and hummy, zzzzzzzzzzed around the roses and landed on arms, backs of hands, heads. Tiny red ants swarmed in furious piles; big black Carpenter ones carried their dead. Popsicle-sticky hands played Cat’s Cradle or clapped in rhythm:
Miss Mary MACK MACK MACK all dressed in BLACK BLACK BLACK with silver BUTTONS BUTTONS BUTTONS all down her BACK BACK BACK she asked her MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER for fifty CENTS CENTS CENTS to see the ELEPHANTS ELEPHANTS ELEPHANTS jump over the FENCE FENCE FENCE they jumped so HIGH HIGH HIGH they touched the SKY SKY SKY and didn’t get BACK BACK BACK ’til the fourth of JULY –LY –LY!
July. Burning sun. Kiddie pools with lukewarm water and backyard dirt. Bacteria-tainted lakes, red-flagged: no swimming. Feces-tainted pools: no swimming. Sidewalk sprinklers: small, precious relief. The Ding-Dong Truck slowly ringing through the streets, children scrambling home for money. Big decisions to make: Creamsicles, Strawberry Shortcakes, Ring Pops, Choco Tacos, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Hoodsies with their little wooden scrapers, Screwballs, Push-Ups, Drumsticks, Snow Cones, Fudgsicles.
Cindy was the second-oldest in the neighborhood. Everybody listened to her.
I dare you. I double-dog, triple-dog dare you. Just run up, put this under the doormat, and run back.
Kickball, Wiffle ball, tag, you’re it. Freeze tag. Hospital tag. Hands in private places. Sardines. Hot breath, bodies crushed in small spaces. Pins and needles. Concentrate, concentrate, people are crying, children are crying. Concentrate, concentrate, people are crying, children are dying. Crack an egg on your head and let the yolk run down. Crack an egg on your head and let the yolk run down. Stick a knife in your back and let the blood run down. Stick a knife in your back and let the blood run down.
Shouts of CAR COMING! Get the ball, get out of the way. Back to the bases: car, rock, car, stick. Don’t hit the car! Get off the grass! You moved the base. You’re out. Am not. Are too. I’m telling! Tears, short tempers, fight, sulk, make up, fight, sulk, make up. Red Rover, Red Rover, send the crybaby over. I’m not a crybaby! Tears, short tempers, fight, sulk, make up. Days are dog-years-long. Moods as thin as skinned knees.
Come into the playhouse. I’ll tell you a secret but you can’t tell anyone, promise? You know Mrs. Donovan? She’s a witch. I’m serious. And if she sees you when you walk by her house she’ll put a curse on you. I’m just telling you for your own good, so you can watch out. You know how Dawn broke her arm? Mrs. Donovan put a spell on her and made her fall out of that tree. It wasn’t an accident. Just be careful, that’s all I’m saying.
Cinderella dressed in yella, Went downstairs to kiss a fella, Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take 1, 2, 3, 4 . . .
Cindy the photographer. Cindy in charge. Cindy saying, Put these on. Sit this way. Take off your glasses. Cindy directing, You’re Cleopatra. Give the camera a sexy look, chin down, eyes up. Move your knee. There, that’s it. Hold it. Hold it.
Cool breeze, tight squeeze, now you’ve got the shivereese. What color did you see?
About the Author: Georgia Bellas likes riding her bicycle, drinking wine out of jam jars, and the way babies smell. She has work appearing in or forthcoming from [PANK], Bop Dead City, Bitterzoet Magazine, The Collapsar, Cartagena Journal, and Bird's Thumb, among others. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the Internet radio show "Mr. Bear's Violet Hour Saloon," on Twitter @MrBearStumpy.
Story Song: "Summer Wine" by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood