Pick a stick, any stick, any stick at all. Sammy had one the size of my arm because he was the
oldest. Morris chose one rail thin, good for speed. The boys would have started without me, but I managed to throw a brown reed over the wooden bridge just in the nick of time. The creek
burbled and spat out my reed, though the two sticks floated on by, racing each other with perfect amiability.
Whooping, cheering, and much smacking of mud by bare feet. The creek bed wound further
away from the house, and it was far away that we wanted to be. Where was Pearle? She waddled behind, picking wish flowers and dandelions, giggling at the bugs. I wished I could have found a better stick.
The gazebo was just in sight. “Hurry, hurry,” Morris said, we had very little time. The stones
were hot and nice to lean against. They were warmer than the blankets at the house and smelled better too. Sammy reached his hands out to touch the overgrown fountain in the dead center. The green vines quivered with ants or caterpillars unafraid of the defunct water tap.
“You’d better not touch that,” I warned, remembering his poison ivy rash the summer before.
“Shut it,” Sammy shouted back. He never did outgrow his stupidity.
He and Morris fought each other to reach the top; I sat down with Pearle in my lap and counted
the flowers in her hand.
Minutes, maybe hours, passed. It was late summer, and the sunshine had a way of lingering; you might have thought it was noon all day. The four of us heard the shouting as if we had been one, and we groaned. My own siblings didn’t bother with the creek anymore, called it kid stuff. My three cousins and I still counted as kids. The shouting was adult shouting – boorish and grating when you compared it to the hoots of afternoon larks.
I listened to the larks. There were countless moments interrupted, like these. We would heave
ourselves off the stone floor of the old gazebo, wind our steps towards the creek bed, and follow the weeds to the back of the house and the sloping back lawn.
Back we went to our mothers and our reclusive grandmother. Back we went to my agitated
siblings and my father’s gentle insistence that we leave soon. Pick a moment, any moment, and
it’s sixty seconds beginning to end. Pick a day, any day, and I’m sure it’s come and gone. I
stared at the back of everyone’s heads on the way home, feeling warm stone and the yellow
powder of eleven flowers.
Sally Choueka is a graduate student in the humanities program.