“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
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.