Wednesday, October 03, 2007
On a Hilltop
He stretched his legs in the grass as the sun leaned behind them. Below, the valleys twisted with mine-stained creeks. The water sparkles faded into the purple distance.
"My grandfather used to gather the household trash and burn it in an outside fireplace," he said. "Isn't that weird? I used to find cans in the ashes."
Her arms were stretched over her head. She shrugged by lifting her shoulders.
"When he was done, he spread the cinders in the vegetable garden. They were two mounds with this fence around them. The soil was gritty. It stained your hands black when you worked in it."
"My grandfather made fox urine," she said.
He raised his eyebrows. "Excuse me?"
"No, it's true."
"I'm almost afraid to ask."
"He trapped foxes and kept them in cages. He fed them nasty stuff. Road kill sometimes. He caught the urine in pans below the cages. After he bottled it, he sold it to trappers and hunters to mask their scent. It smelled horrible."
He sat up and crossed his legs. "Wow," he said. "I bet."
In the view over his knees, little rooftops lined the mountainside.
"Can you see your grandparents house from here?"
He squinted. "I'm not sure. I don't think so."
"Oh. Just wondering."
He caught the green of her eyes as she stared at the sky. It matched the sun-yellowed clover where she laid.
"You know, I used to sleep over there sometimes," he said. "At my grandparents' house, that is."
"How was it?"
"Well, they put me on the floor in the front bedroom. I could hear the Lawrence Welk show down the stairwell to the living room."
"At least you had something to put you to sleep."
"Yeah, tell me about it," he said. "There were double beds in there. I think my grandfather slept in one when I wasn't staying over. I slept along the wall under the front windows."
He remembered the orange glow of the streetlights cutting around the blinds.
"But the worst part was the attic door," he said.
She looked over at him.
"Yeah, the door to the attic was in that room. A big old wooden door at the top of some stairs. It used to scare the crap out of me."
She propped up on an elbow.
"I used to turn away and squeeze my eyes shut. I didn't want to see it, you know? I kept imagining it swinging open with its rusty hinges. I imagined something quiet and horrible slipping down from the attic."
"It was. Especially when I rolled over in my sleep," he said. "If something startled me, I'd open my eyes, and wham, there it was. That black door way up high near the ceiling."
She frowned. "I wish I could have been there to protect you," she said.
He smiled and looked down at his hands for a few moments. Then, he shook off his thoughts. "Hey, do want another soda or something?"