Such a Kidder
By C. Rochelle Weidner
Such a kidder – that Natasha.
She looked pretty real, spread eagled in the hot sun, bonnet flung in the flower bed, her long hair tangled in the grass, but we knew better. We’d run tell Mama that Natasha was dead. Mama would scream. Her and Grandma Morris and Aunt Trudy would run all flustered and Natasha would be swinging in the gazebo, her face all puzzled and innocent. Sis and I would get a scolding for making up stories and giving them the vapors, whatever that meant, and soon as the adults were back in the house, Natasha would start. What suckers we were, what babies, easy to fool, and on and on she’d go, delivered in that hateful singsong of hers.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool you twice, shame on me. Natasha, she was done with fooling me. I was wise to her tricks.
Sissy was crying, not bawling cause I told her to shush that, but I saw big old wet drops rolling down her cheeks. I toll her not to cry, that Natasha was perfectly fine, but Sis was littler than me. Fool me once.
You’d have thunk that Nat wouldn’t be cruel to her five-year-old sister but she relished it. Relish. A new word I’d learned in school last week, and I liked the sound of it rolling off my tongue so much that Mama told me to shush. Relish. That described perfectly Natasha’s way.
She enjoyed it. Like eating ice cream straight from the churn, like the cat with a bowl of cream, she liked the tormenting of us, the taunt, the tease, and she’d say she was only fooling, and we weren’t to take it serious, but the look on face didn’t match the make-nice words.
Maybe being half-siblings had something to do with it. Mama married our Pa when Natasha’s father was killed in that barroom brawl, and when we came along; she wasn’t the apple of mother’s eye. In fact, I’d seen our mother staring at Natasha, a look on her face like she was figuring out what to do. Mama told us Natasha didn’t mean half what she done, but even Mama didn’t seem to believe it. I know I heard her talk about finding Natasha a husband. Pa would shake his head and say they’d have to look in the next county to find someone who didn’t know her. Mama would suggest a couple of names. Uncle Leo was sweet on her. Pa would roll his eyes.
When I was Sissy’s age, I believed Natasha didn’t mean it, and it was my fault. But I was ten now and knew better. And now, lying out there in the hot sun, I had no intention of calling an alarm. Let her bake, sweat in the sun. The ants would come and she’d start to itch. Let her itch. I was only curious how long she’d keep it up. I took Sissy’s hand and we crept behind the hen house and into the back French doors. I took the back stairs to the spare room, and read a storybook to Sis till she forgot about Natasha and dropped off to sleep. I almost wanted to sleep myself, the cicadas sang so loud your eardrums vibrated, and the buzz made you just sink into a state of listlessness, but I wanted to see.
Mama was knitting, and Grandma Morris was nowhere in sight. Aunt Trudy’s chin had dipped to her ample chest and her eyes fluttered. She professed to not need naps but she’d drop off nearly every afternoon. I didn’t see Natasha. Off in the distance I saw Bigger’s truck going through the front gate.
I peeked around the corner. Natasha was gone; the gazebo was empty. I wondered where she’d snuck off.
People called her a “pistol” and a “free spirit”. I’d overheard Uncle Leo and Mr. Bigger Jones, an odd friend of Uncle Leo’s, talking late one night in the barn. Bigger thought Natasha was not long for this world if she kept up her ways. I thought about that a lot, about what he meant. Was she teasing the adults like she did us kids? Were they mad?
Leo was good to us kids even though he was old, maybe twenty. And daft about Natasha but Bigger said Leo deserved better.
Someone else would discover Natasha’s hiding place. I was done with her tricks.
C. Rochelle Weidner’s stories have appeared in several small publications. She and her husband reside in Oahu, HI. A member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, she is also an active member in the Hawaii Watercolor Society.
Sweet Cherry Red
By Alice Brunner
Jamie had a sweet cherry red voice. Not fresh like the fruit. More like a soda fountain. Syrupy and blaring like a jukebox.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been if I’d let go of being a brainy Tomboy wanna-be Beatnik. If I’d followed her lead and become a Bobby Soxer. If I’d painted my toe nails and put on a circle skirt and bopped my way through my teens, toes dancing, eyes flirting, my voice sweet cherry red, syrupy like a fountain’s cherry coke, and blasting like a jukebox.
Alice Brunner is a retired clinical psychologist living in Ann Arbor. In addition to writing poetry and short memoirs which she has read locally, she is working on a creative nonfiction novel for young people about the McCarthy period.
By Kait Eldridge
The water lapped at the dock where I sat on the edge and dipped my toes tentatively into the foam. It was early June, the lake had yet to soak up the sun’s heat, and my toes were slowly turning blue. I didn’t mind it, the pin pricking numbness that swept over my feet as I sunk them further and further into the murk. My bathing suit was a bit too small, the beginnings of a tummy spilled over the bottoms and my breasts threatened to fall out of the padded cups. Winter weight had yet to fall off, but then, my winter weight never did.
The chatter of the other lake loiterers was drowned out by the gentle slap of waves against the dock and my own rapid thoughts that never seemed to end. The water was too cold for swimming and yet I was drawn to it. I dipped a little further, up to my shins. The shock ran up my legs and pooled in my gut. I liked the sensation of a thousand needles stabbing into my skin, the way it broke through the noise in my mind - even for just a second - before settling back into numbness.
I don’t know why but I suddenly stood up and turned towards the shore. My brother played in the shallows, splashing and laughing, unphased by the water’s temperature. The rest of my family all huddled around a picnic table, beers and fruity drinks in hand as they laughed and gossiped. Everything was normal and yet, I felt wrong. My heart was racing, pounding in my chest and my hands shook at my sides. My breath shortened, the sun was suddenly much too bright even as I closed my eyes. The rushing of a thousand hateful thoughts attacked my ears becoming louder by the second.
You don’t belong
You are nothing
What are you even doing here?
It will never get easier.
You shouldn’t even exist.
A sound drooled from my throat, something resembling a cry, but not quite making it past the groan stage. My hands came up to cover my ears, as if that would ever work, and I threw myself back into the water.
Everything paused for a moment. I was weightless, the sun shined bright and beautiful above me and then I was swallowed up, diluting its shine. The pain of the cold ripped through me, the air left my lungs, I felt everything and then I felt nothing. I hung in the water, a fetus in the womb, slowly sinking away from the glimmer of light above me and towards the abyss below me. Silence rung in my ears, harsh and unforgiving and beautiful. I felt… at ease and yet terrified as toe by toe, limb by limb, my body was erased by the cold.
My peace was disturbed by a second splash, a concussion bomb in the silence. Warmth wrapped around me, a pair of arms tight like a boa, and my face breached the surface. My lungs burned as air rushed in and I spat up murky water. My nails dug into the wood of the dock as I pulled myself up, pink trails running down and pooling in my cuticles. Someone else pulled up beside me, breathing hard. My dad. I felt a flash of anger at him as he hugged me and then sagged against him in my exhaustion. He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me back to look at my face.
“Are you okay? I saw you fall in, are you hurt?” His blue eyes shined in the sunlight, pupils as small as a period. I only just then noticed the lines of age in his face.
“No,” I rasped out. "
“You scared the shit out of me, Mari.”
“I know, Dad.”
He wrapped a towel around me and then another for good measure. He rubbed my arms and kissed my forehead, affections he rarely gave. A true sign of his fear for me. “I got you, honey,” he assured me as he picked me up and carried me to shore.
Kait Eldridge is currently a creative writing student at San Francisco State University. Studying hard and writing non stop; her best pal with fur Jango by her side!