Wendy Miller appreciates how writing gives her an excuse to think and thinking gives her an excuse to write. As a mother of three young girls, Wendy finds ways to be creative with her time in order to write her second novel, devotions for multiple websites and book reviews for two Christian publishers. When she’s not writing or caring for her girls, she is likely enjoying the outdoors on a hike or run, or encouraging women through speaking. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. Visit Wendy at http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ or http://wendypainemiller.wordpress.com/.
“Remember when you’d pretend you were a tour guide on that raft Dad made?” The heat of the day inspires beads of sweat on her forehead. My sister’s hair sticks to her cheek.
“I used to pretend to know all the names for every tree. I made it all up. Dad worked on that raft for hours.”
The pond before us is as large as a skating rink. I wipe my face with the heels of my hands and know I’m leaving traces of mud on my cheeks. I hold pebbles in my hands, intending to throw them. The pond is different today. For one thing, Amanda and I had to crawl under a new wooden fence to perch ourselves upon one of the rocks at the pond’s edge.
Her voice is raspy from years of smoking. “He made that raft out of our old fence, the one you got cut on, right?”
A nail in that fence left a scar on my leg. Every time I dry myself after a shower it’s there, a wormlike wriggle, pale and obvious just above my knee.
I point to it near the hem of my shorts. “Were you outside when Dad shot the snake on the raft?”
“This pond doesn’t have snakes in it.” Amanda, always the older sister, puts me in my place.
The air feels familiar, stagnant and pulsing with mosquitoes and bullfrog bellows. I must have come down to this pond every summer night for twelve years in a row. I knew the smells, the tickle of the weeping willow on my head and hair every time I plopped down onto this rock. I bet if I try hard enough, I can still hear my mother calling us in for dinner. I close my eyes. Yes, I hear her voice ring out over the lawn and across the pond.
“I don’t remember what kind of snake, but he did. He ran out with one of his shotguns because I’d seen one sunbathing on the raft.”
“He didn’t even own a shotgun.” She stares out across the pond; I can’t get her to look my way. Her worry lines stretch out from the corners of her eyes and make thick ridges entrenched in her forehead.
I contemplate why I know so many things about my father that she doesn’t.
She twirls a dandelion between her fingers over and over, smearing traces of bright yellow on the pads of her fingers.
Under my breath I mutter, “He did and he shot it. I saw him.” I feel twelve again.
“Well, I didn’t see it.”
A sudden wind kicks up. It moves across the water toward us. It lifts Amanda’s hair from her face. “Ah. That feels so good.” She dips her bare feet into the water.
“Snakes.” I speak at her, certain I sound no louder than the weeping willow as it rustles in the wind.
“There aren’t snakes in here.” She flings a stone from her hand. We both watch wordless as it skims the water once, twice, and a third time before sinking.
She elbows me. “Your turn.”
I lift the flattest of my stones, smooth it between my fingers, shake any dirt off, and toss it out over the pond. It’s a strong throw. My sister brings her hand above her eyes to shade them from the setting sun.
My stone skips six times before it sinks down.
She cocks her brow. “Nice one.”
I think of Amanda, her lack of faith and reckless lifestyle. There’s been so much distance between us over the years. I think how we almost didn’t meet today because she was afraid I might judge her. I see her now, the sun dancing in her eyes, the beads of sweat surfacing on her forehead. I study her as she pulls her hair back from her face. Yellow dandelion residue from her fingers impresses into her neck. There is so much I want to share with her. I feel like screaming that there are snakes in the pond and yelling at her to get her feet out of the water. I want to tell her so much about our dad and about our God. Instead, I choose this moment to just be with her. We sit for another hour, tossing in our stones, lulled by the sound of bullfrogs, quieted by the melodious pond noises, the crickets and insects buzzing in the trees all around us.
As I stand, preparing to leave, I take her hand to help her up. On her way up, she rubs her fingers over my scar, leaving a light yellow splotch at the place that once would not stop bleeding.
I eye the house inhabited by a new family, not even an eighth of a mile away. “Do you think they’ll care we’ve been sitting here?”
“No. They probably knew we needed it. We needed time with the pond.”
I hug her close to me. I’m not sure she hears me when I whisper into her ear, “I love you but He loves you more than you know.”
We head to our cars up the road. Memories of climbing trees, catching bullfrogs, capturing fireflies, and sunbathing on that old raft rise up in my brain. I’m learning to love my sister. There’ll be time for me to share more about our dad, a time to share more about God. I recall her words as I drive home, “We needed time with the pond.” As I wipe the tears from my eyes, I inhale an earthy smell and notice on my fingers the slightest tint of yellow.