The warm summer air brushed against me, softening the goose pimples Aunt Jodie’s A/C had pounded into me all through the after-breakfast chat among relatives. But it was time for Aunt Jodie and my Mom’s beauty appointment, and that meant freedom.
I enjoyed the sunshine for a quiet moment, before worrying what my entertainment should be until lunch. Aunt Jodie lived in town, in a small brick house with a narrow yard on the side. There was a matching brick fence around the yard, absolutely useless in that it came only neck-high. I wandered around next to the small tool shed looking for Cousin Jim’s baseball bat, but I grew tired of holding myself erect under the public eye (though I only saw one elderly gentleman actually walk by) so I flopped down into the dry, stubbly grass, my head angled toward Aunt Jodie’s geraniums. I plucked the petals off one, tossing them into the sunburnt sky and watching them fall and graze my face. It was toasty lying under that sun, and just as my arm grew weary of tossing petals, my eyelids grew tired of watching them fall. With a mutual sort of agreement, I closed my eyes, and with my last bit of conscious thought, rolled my face into a hollow of geranium leaves, twitching my nose as long stems of uncut grass tickled my face. Aunt Jodie had a habit of generously rebuking anyone with a sunburned face. I was just on the cusp of a dream when a scream filtered into the buzz the gnats created around my ears. When I heard it again, I gave up on the dream and rolled upwards. Sunlight bathed my darkened pupils, but I just made out a face above the brick wall. I struggled up, not knowing whether it was my mother or Aunt Jodie.
“You’re not dead,” said the face, and though my eyes were still fuzzy, I could tell from the disappointed tone that it was definitely not my mother or Aunt Jodie. I stumbled closer, staring up at a blonde headed girl, young looking to be so tall.
“I was only sleeping,” said I. “Why would I be dead?” My feet recoiled slightly from the cool shade the brick wall cast on them. I realized the girl was sitting on a large, turquoise bike.
She brushed back wisps of straw colored hair that had fallen from the knot atop her head.
“You looked dead. You looked just like I always thought somebody would look like if they’d been shot with buckshot.” She was pointing at my shirt, and I looked down at the red geranium petals, stubbornly clinging to my shirt as I tried to brush them away.
“You’re a Painter,” she then said.
“I am not a Painter,” said I, rather contrarily, as I pinched the last petal away. She shrugged, heaving to the side as if to push away. I frowned. “My mother’s a Painter, but I’m not. My name is Joe Bend actually. My father’s name is George Bend, he married my mother, Amelia Painter.” I wondered then why on earth I was telling a random girl my family history, so I refrained from mentioning my great-uncle and his daughter Jodie.
She said, very simply, “My name is Sarah,” and my cheeks reddened further at having delivered my pedigree.
“Miss Jodie teaches violin on Tuesday’s. That’s how I knew you were a Painter. You look like her.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that. It seemed neither good nor bad. But she was a friend of Aunt Jodie’s, so I felt obligated to invite her into the yard. Without hesitation she slipped off the bike and walked toward the gate. Now I was really at a loss. She tilted the bike against the shed, then sat on the ground by the geraniums. I brushed away a few gnats before I sat down next to her. She didn’t seem to mind the silence, because she began pulling the long stems of grass and knotting them together. I minded it though. I always have. I looked around for a topic of conversation to mind it with. The geraniums would have to do.
“What would you have done if I had been dead?”
She threw the chain of grass into the air with a bright grin. “I would have told my Dad. He’s the police chief. I’m going to help him when I’m a bit more grown up.” This girl suddenly seemed very thrilling compared to the girls I knew at school. She was still talking, talking about handcuffs and what to say to a person when you arrest them. I knew I would kick myself later for not remembering what she was saying, but the way she said it distracted me too much.
“If I were you,” I suddenly blurted, “I would go into business for myself, as a private eye.”
Her brown eyes turned on me, gauging my idea weightily. “That’s a good thought,” she finally said, her knot of hair nodding up and down. Here was my chance. I sucked in a breath and prayed that Mom and Aunt Jodie weren’t going to be early.
“You’ll need a partner,” I said hastily. “You know, backup. I haven’t much to offer, but I do have a magnifying glass for identifying insects, and I’m willing to learn.”
Only because she’d spent so long answering the other question did I hold out any hope. I’d just about given up on that when she finally spoke. “It would have to be Bend and Jameson. I’m a very alphabetical person. When can you start?”
I was slightly euphoric at my good fortune, so much so that I scrambled to my feet and offered my new partner a sweaty hand. “We can iron out the details over ice cream, Jameson,” I said with confidence, and she took the hand, saying with a smile, “Excellent idea, Bend, excellent!”
And just like that, the summer looked a whole lot brighter.
(Pictures from Pinterest, unknown source for top two, last by Sarah Dobbins)
This was just a simple little story I came up with, mostly because I’ve gotten a little frustrated always struggling toward the end of three or four novella-length efforts, and a little refreshing tidbit like this helps clear out my thought-processes. Plus, it’s January, and for some reason that means I should write a summer story???