Day She Carried Me
by Marlene Hyer
Bobby was always a bastard. He was a nosy tattletale, more like a woman than my friends or me. When May Ann and I returned from our walk that sticky summer day, he charged down to the end of the driveway.
He folded his arms before him and stuck out his chest, “Where have you been?”
“It’s none of your business,” I snapped defensively. May Ann turned her back, shifted her weight from one foot to the other, and paced, not wanting to be a part of this.
“If you don’t tell me where you’ve been, I’ll tell you were out of the yard.” His carrot top glimmered in the sun, and deadened sun burnt skin peeled off his nose in grey sheets.
I knew his mother, my stepmother, would ground me for leaving the yard, so then I really wouldn’t be able to leave the yard.
“You’re just jealous because we went without you.”
He flashed his finger in my face, “You ugly fucking cross-eyed bitch. I’m telling.”
He turned around to head up the long gravel driveway toward the house. Furious, I looked for some way to strike back, some way to get revenge, to piss him off. In a fit of rage, I lifted my right foot up and grabbed it with both hands. I snapped up my rubber flip-flop and hurled it at him from ten feet away. It didn’t hit him, but he heard it whoosh by. Bobby turned around and snatched the flip-flop up from the ground. He laughed sadistically and held the flip-flop against his chest. His scrawny feminine body postured at me.
“Give me my flip-flop back, you faggoty bastard.” My dad wasn’t home, so I couldn’t tattle on him.
I charged at him and lunged, trying to grab it out of his hand. Towering over me, Bobby held the flip-flop up out of my reach. May Ann clapped one hand over her mouth. “Bobby, give it back,” she begged.
I didn’t see it coming. When I turned around, the back of his hand cuffed me up side my cheek, stinging me. My lower jaw dropped toward my feet.
“You fairy. You red-headed pecker head!” I screamed and turned on my bare heel away from him.
“C’mon May,” I yelled and headed toward the road.
“I’m telling,” he sung as he headed up the driveway victoriously tossing my flip-flop into the air.
May Ann and I headed up the road. Where we were going, we did not know. Hot tar bubbles oozed beneath my toes. Ow. Ow. Ow.
“What a faggot ass. I oughta kill him.”
“Yeah, he’s a real dick stain,” May Ann agreed, comforting me. “Are you OK?” she asked studying the crimson on white mark on my cheek.
“I never want to go back there. I hate them all. My dad shoulda married better than that.”
I hopped from left to right and back again trying to spend the least amount of time with my bare foot on the road. May Ann reached down and pulled off her right flip-flop and handed it to me. I put it on. We traded on and off for about two miles, one foot bare as long as we could stand it. When my right foot was bare, I leaned on May Ann’s sturdy shoulder and hopped along on my left foot.
“Hey, I’m shoeless Joe from Hannibal, MO.”
“That’s Jo-Ann,” she giggled.
As we hobbled down the road, we busted out in song, “Oh what a night. Late December back in 63.”
“What a very special time for me.”
We locked arms and alternated between hopping and skipping, singing as loudly as we could. The creek was just down the hill, but there was no well-defined path. We looked at each other and yelled in unison, “Prickers!”
“You owe me a beer!”
I gave May Ann her flip-flop back. She leaned over, and I hopped onto her back. She howled as she tried to shift my weight farther up her back. She gasped, “You’re choking me.”
“Sorry,” I apologized as I loosened my grip on her neck.
May Ann got a running start down the hill. I bounced up and down on her back, fearing a sudden fall to the ground. She leaned over to her right and deposited me onto the ground when we reached the creek at the bottom of the hill. Shadows from the trees fell across May Ann’s bronze skin as the sun struggled to glare through, lighting up her face. We skipped stones for a while, and then we waded into the center of the creek trying to defy the current. We perched up onto a huge boulder and sprawled out like wet beach towels. We lay there for what seemed like an eternity relaxing, soaking in the warmth of the sun as it periodically peered through the trees, ricocheting off the boulder.
Up on the opposite bank, I spotted a blackberry patch. “Wicked,” I yelled. I hopped off the boulder, losing my balance, nearly getting drenched from head to toe. Catching my balance, I waded to the other side. Grabbing the bush, I maneuvered around the prickly stems gingerly and filled both hands like a cup until they were bluish purple. I ate one for every one I put in my hand.
“Sour,” I squeaked, “Maybe one week from ready. Come help me.”
May Ann almost fell in the creek when she dismounted the boulder. She pulled up the tail of her long tunic tank top and made a cloth basket. We picked until it was full.
“Remember that book A Taste of Blackberries? The kid was picking blackberries. He got stung by a bee and died at the end. I cried so hard.”
“No way,” she replied.
Loaded up with berries we looked back across the creek. Our eyes met, and we spit and gurgled a belly laugh in unison, “How are we gonna get back?” We roared out laughing.
“Without spilling the berries,” I interjected as I studied the rushing current of New Hope Creek.
A light bulb went off in my head. “Take off your shirt.”
“What?” She questioned with her brow furled.
“There’s nobody around. Just do it until we’re across, then we can switch the berries to my shirt. Just so we don’t dump them. “
“Or,” she reasoned, “We could just eat them all now.”
“Na.” I declared with certainty. “That wouldn’t be as fun.”
May Ann formed a pouch with her shirt, holding the berries while she peeled it off over her head. She tied the tail of the pouch around the belt loop of her cut off jeans. She was well endowed for a 13 year old. She got that from her mom.
“Look how big your boobs are!” I pointed at her, embarrassing her, “I could never fit in your bra.”
“Shut up,” she retorted.
We waded back across, grabbing rocks, roots, and fallen trees, carefully calculating each treacherous step. When we got to the other side of the bank, we readjusted ourselves and the berries.
“Hey, we should get back,” she declared, shielding her eyes from the descending sun with her hand in a salute.
“Why? I’m just gonna be grounded. Why bother going back at all? I should just stay out all night.”
“I’ve got to be home before mom gets there,” she explained.
“Let’s just go up to the cemetery,” I begged.
“Yeah, but remember what happened last time? I’ve gotta pee.” She squatted behind a bush.
My mind flashed back to last time we were at the cemetery. We had taken wax paper and crayons to do stone rubbings. We rubbed a few huge stones then the caretaker drove up in his truck and chased us out of there. When we got back to May Ann’s house, her mom was waiting and fuming. Anna stomped to the door and grabbed May Ann by the ear and pulled her into the living room.
“Get in that white chair!” Anna screamed, her face as red as a radish. She shook her finger in May Ann’s face. “Just what in the hell were you doing up at the graveyard running around coloring on people’s stones and walking on the graves? That’s disrespectful. That’s just damn dumb.”
“At least we weren’t playing kick the can.” She reasoned. Anna slapped her in the face, stinging her. May Ann brought her knees up to her chest and recoiled into the white chair. Anna’s yelling was my cue to vacate the premises and go home to face my own loud music. I could still hear Anna chewing her out at my house two doors down.
“Now, you just stay in that white chair!”
We gobbled up the berries as we made our way back toward home.
“That white chair,” I snickered and mocked, “May Ann, you get in that white chair.”
“Shuut Uuup.” She retorted as she hit me in the neck with a berry.
“What the hell kind of punishment is that? I was grounded for two weeks, and all you had to do was sit in a white chair. Geez.”
“I at least smuggled you some coffee cake and cheesies.”
She had. She had made being grounded more tolerable.
“Remember how we had Bobby and J.R. smuggle notes back and forth?” she reminisced.
“Yeah,” I smiled, throwing my arm around her neck. “I remember.”
“Hey, we better eat all of these berries before we get back to your house. If Wanda sees you got berries, she’ll make us both go back down there with a bucket and fill it so she can make a pie.”
I chuckled and shoved another handful into my mouth. “A pie would be yummy though.”
“How much of that would you actually get with your big Brady Bunch eating family? A sliver?” May Ann was always poking fun at us for having eleven kids in our blended family.
“Probably, not even.” I admitted the truth.
May Ann looked at me and laughed. “It’s your turn to wear the flip-flop,” she stated, handing it to me.
When we got back, we tried to wash our berry stained hands at the hose outside May Ann’s house before Bobby saw us.
“Go get some Dawn. It’s not coming off,” I pleaded, nervous.
I needed May Ann as a protective shield when we got to my house. Bobby’s lanky frame strutted out of the house. He was wearing those tight white short shorts with the blue stripes down the sides that showed off his bulge. His flip-flops snapped with authority when he walked, hips swinging to and fro. It was hard to believe he was three years older than me – and a male. He acts like an 8 year-old girly girl half the time.
“Ha. Ha. You’re grounded. I told mommy.”
“You red headed bastard. Go blow yourself,” I shouted as I stomped past him. “I don’t care!”
He punched me upside the head with the edge of his knuckles. I crouched over my knees and held my head. He kicked sideways at my head.
“Stop it Bobby!!” May Ann yelled. She picked up a handful of gravel from the driveway and threw it at him. A stone hit him in the eye.
He ran away crying. “I’m telling!!” He ran toward the house like a woman.
May Ann approached me. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I just hate him. I hate his mother. I hate all of them.”
“I know it.” She said, stroking my auburn hair. “Sorry to break it to you, but I’ve gotta go.” She waved and turned down the driveway. “Hey, write to me and let me know what happens.”
“Wait!” I walked down to where she was
standing. “Your flip-flop.” I said, handing it to her.