by Pamila Payne
Six years old, new in the neighborhood, keen to make friends, I wheeled up on my tricycle and watched the girl, bigger than me, maybe a year older, as she wrapped a rope around a big metal mailbox atop a pole out in front of the trailer where she lived. "You want to play jump rope?" I asked. "Nope," she said, wrapping the other end around her neck several times, "I'm having a sue-side, stand back." I realized what she was trying to do then, having watched a fair amount of black and white westerns on TV with my grampa, and didn't hesitate to give her the reaction she must have been hoping for, "NO," I cried, "don't do it!" I didn't see her mother, dressed in her pink truck stop waitress uniform, standing on the porch with her arms folded and a cigarette dangling off her lip, until the the girl jumped up once and came down as if doing a cannonball into a pool, her weight pulling tight against the rope for a second, before the mailbox pole and its glob of cement in the sand pulled up and tipped forward to set her down hard on her rump, her mother clapping her hands like an unimpressed spectator. The girl began to cry and her mother stomped over to unwrap the rope, the cigarette bobbing on her lip as she spoke faster than anybody I'd ever heard, "Oh for god's sake, you're all right, stupid as you are," she swiped her on the butt and gave her shoulders a shake as she went on, "now stop that, you know I gotta go to work, why don't you ask this little girl here to come inside and have some lunch with you, watch some cartoons, come on, make a friend," and not pausing as she dragged her daughter up the stairs, she looked over her shoulder at me, "You like grilled cheese?"
Pamila Payne writes fiction fueled by personal details and distorted through the lens of an imperfect memory. (Click here to make a donation to Pamila, half of which will support 6S.)