“Pushing the River” excerpt

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From where we left off with Sierra…

             No one knew quite what to make of her when she first arrived that summer – whether they should talk to her just the same as always or treat her like the entirely different creature that she looked to be.  But other than spending sizeable amounts of time trying to straighten out and generally tame her long mane, she proved very much the same.

            At least that’s what everybody thought at first.

            She spent pretty near all day sitting on the sofa watching hour after hour of TV about movie stars.  Once in a while, she’d walk to the store a few blocks away to get herself a cold drink, or a packet of gummy bears.  Her favorite color was orange, followed by red, then yellow then green.  My lady always teased her, saying that they didn’t have different flavors at all, just different colors.  Then Sierra would make my Lady test her by giving her different colors with her eyes closed, which she could always make out, and then say Ha Ha, so there.

            It seemed like every time she’d walk to the store, she’d come back home and spend a whole lot more time on her phone.  She would sort of curl herself around it, like it was some precious, secret thing she was trying to protect,  her eyes just a couple of inches from the little screen, thumbs flying, and her lips moving every so often.

            The whole clan ended up living here that summer – my Lady, of course, the Little One, the Boy, his wife Marie, and her baby sister Sierra – before everyone except my Lady was set to scatter to the four winds come the end of August.  My Lady loves nothing so much as a house full of kin,  and she drinks up their very presence like a hungry cat with a bowl of fresh warm cream.  The place was a damn mess, what with the Boy setting up a bike fix-it shop right in the middle of the living room, and Marie cooking all sorts of the most infernal-smelling substances at all hours of the day and night, and the TV going non-stop with Sierra’s movie star channels, and the Girl practicing her fiddle.  Dear Lord, I went for an entire summer without hearing those things I look forward to all the rest of the long year – the chirp of a cricket, the breezes ruffling the leaves on the ripe trees, the sounds of little ones playing long into the evening, giving you the sense that life does go on, no matter how old and broke-down some of us may be getting.

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            My Lady acted for all the world like every wrench set strewn across the living room floor, every pile of pots and pans, every gummy bear candy wrapper stuffed between couch cushions was a buried treasure.  She got into the habit of doing everybody’s laundry, insisting that it was just as easy to toss theirs in as long as she was doing it, and way more efficient to do full loads, besides.

            One afternoon, my Lady is taking things out of the dryer, sorting, and folding, and humming a medley of tunes from West Side Story, when she screams out, “Marie!  Marie, come here!  Marie!!

            Well, Marie cannot even imagine what catastrophe has come to pass, but she hightails it down the stairs and into the laundry room, where my Lady holds a pair of black lace panties in her hand like it was a dead rat who carried the plague.

            “Are these yours?”

            Marie laughs.  “No.  Definitely not.”

            “They aren’t Kate’s.  I buy all of her underwear, so I can tell you this for a fact.”

            Marie takes them in her hand and flips them over, revealing that the back side of the panties is laced up, top to bottom, with a shocking pink ribbon.

            “Shit.”  Says Marie.

            “Marie, we gotta get that kid on birth control.”

            “Shit.”

            “NOW.  Right now, we have to.”

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