Charleston: 6 August 1945 or 2018

[10 April 2019]

Memories and emotions are stewed together, congealing in the humid air – slow-cooked and boiled down to their base parts.
Dogs and children gather to play in the front
of the broken fire hydrant. Mud and asphalt squelch up between their toes.
Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Robinson watch them from the porch,
talking about this and that, idly taking a drag from their Chesterfields, fervently
whispering in hushed tones about Mrs. So-and-So, bless her, and did you know
she did the deed with the postman while her husband was on a business trip? God above
would be proud if He could have half such devoted followers.
Mrs. Johnson saw the whole thing. Why Mrs. Johnson was watching and why she
cares, nobody bothers to ask. Scarlet nails clink on the pink lemonade glass like
so many ice cubes and the magnolia tree smiles down on them warmly and a bit condescendingly.
Somewhere down the street, a dog barks and a child cries out. It seems
Johnny beat Rufus with a stick. Hope he got bit. Serves him right, the poor dear, God bless him. Mrs. Jones
lays down another checker. Red on black, black on red. I hope my darling Jenny marries Fred. The army boy? Yes, dear and it’s good for a man to be able to protect himself.
A lawnmower starts up.
We’d best go inside. I can’t hear you over that awful noise and we have so much more we have
to say. No really I should be going. I promised Mrs. Jackson I’d come for tea. Ok well do come
again, dear, I’m sorry you have to leave so soon. Take care and I cannot wait to see you again. You
must tell me everything she says. Oh you know I shall. Ok then take care dear sister. You too. Bye now.
She takes one last drag from her Chesterfield and tosses it in the elephant-shaped ashtray by the door.
Mrs. Jones watches Mrs. Robinson leave from the kitchen sink window and sighs thank the stars
she’s gone, the bitch. The suds pile up and she scrubs away at the cucumber sandwich plate
like she’s trying to trying to purge Mrs. Johnson’s soul of her sins. Maybe her husband will find out
when he gets back. Mrs. Robinson gets into her Ford Convertible and drives off, a smile on her face.
Mrs. Jones can wait till Thursday.
And all the while time comes undone and is reborn in the moldering summer heat
in the shade of the sassafras.

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