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"How It All Began"

By Anna Clay

It all began on a hot July afternoon, which in Georgia lasts a lifetime. I remember sitting on the curb, surrounded by tall grass, popping tar bubbles with a stick. The constant droning of insects made the heat seem heavy, giving the day a drowsy sleepy feel. I could see two people waking down the street toward our house but they were all shimmery and wavy. I squinted my eyes against the heat and saw it was Lynne and her mom. They stood around talking to mama for while and the next thing I knew, I was walking back to Lynne's house. I remember having that tingling feeling, when you are excited 'bout something and a little scared too, cause I'd never really been away from mama much.

Lynne's mama was real nice, she gave us lemonade and let us sit in the air conditioned room while we drank it. After we finished our lemonade, Lynne and me went out back to play in her new sandbox. It was in the corner of the back yard right next to the big old oak tree. The cool sand tricked between my toes and the sunlight dappled through the leafy canopy, and before I knew it, I was immersed in a world of dump trucks and Hotwheels, building cities inhabited by plastic farm animals and green army men. Since we were just little kids, we didn't really play together, just kind of at the same time. So I didn't really pay much attention when Lynne's mama called her in for supper. I was getting kind of hungry myself, but I figured mama would be coming to get me soon. I was so lost in my own world that I didn't really notice the sun dropping lower and lower in the sky. The steady drone of insects slipped into the rhythm of chirping crickets and tree frogs. When I finally looked up, there were stars in the sky, and I began to get a tight place, deep in my stomach. Where was mama? I had never been out after dark by myself before and I didn't know what to do. One by one, the lights inside Lynne's house went out and then the porch light went out. I felt completely alone in a strange, dark world, and I began to cry.

Then I heard it. Faint and first, and then getting closer and closer. "Annnnnaaa, Annnnaaa, Anna Elizabeth, you better get home right now." It was mama, and she sounded mad as all get out. But I didn't care, I jumped out of that sandbox and ran as fast as my chubby little legs would go, right into mama's arms. Mama didn't hug me back though. She was really mad. She grabbed my arm and started dragging me down the street, cussing and fussing the whole way, stopping every once in a while to tell me how bad I was for making her worry about me.

Well, I thought it was pretty bad being scared half to death in the dark and then getting beat on and fussed at all the way home, but that wasn't the end of it. When we got to the front porch and were lit up by the porch light, mama said, "Ain't no way you're bringing all that sand into my house." She pulled off every stitch of clothing I had on, and there I was, naked in the spotlight, in front of god and everybody else. Mama slapped all the sand off me and shoved me through the open screen door, where daddy was waiting with a belt. Now, I may have only been a few years old, but I knew a grave injustice was being done to me. And the more daddy whipped me, the stronger that conviction became. I quit my crying and wriggling and stood perfectly still until he had his fill.

Daddy was out of breath and the sweat was beading up on his forehead when he finally stopped. Stepping back a little he said, "Now are you gonna run way like that again?" I took a deep breath and made myself as big as I could, and putting my fists on my hips, I answered him. "Well, I reckon I will if I want to." And that is how it all began.

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