Summer left all kinds of marks on your legs. Thick bands of red from the metal flatbed of your dad's pickup truck. Raised welts made by cut grass criss-crossed your thighs. Jean shorts and sandals left stripes of burned flesh after long afternoons in the yard with a book.
The heat didn't keep you inside. Not when Aunt Shirley would promise a trip down to the store for something sweet. She'd pile all the kids into her aging maroon sedan and carry you around the bend down by the big house with the horses on the front lawn.
Eager children's limbs spilled out of the car and into the store where air conditioning filled all the space within, instantly freezing swimsuits and wet hair. You got to pick one thing--and hurry up--and you'd usually go for a Nutty Buddy or an orange push-up pop. You raced to eat your treat before it liquified down your arm. Then you'd fold and fold and fold the sopping wrapper into a fat sqaure and shove it into the smallest pocket of your hand-me-down cutoffs for your mom to find later in the laundry.
The nights were a respite, but not by much. The night air was still thick with wet, but when the sun dropped the stars showed themselves to you in the black tapestry of night, pulsing overhead, nestled like jewels. When the frogs and crickets gave pause you could hear their secrets.
There was nowhere but there.
Face into the fan you'd sing ahhhhhhhhh as the blades whipped your voice into a hilarious thing.
You needn't move anywhere. Besides, where would you go?
The creeks were the thing when you knew no one with a boat. You'd slip off socks and shoes and ease into shiny water, scrunching toes over mossy-smooth stones, wavering, gripping, standing steady as the water filled in around you, delighting in every almost-fall. You were told to be on the lookout for broken glass or sharp rocks, but no one mentioned water moccasins, so you got to watch your father beat one to death with a stone.
Why would it occur to you to leave?
Anyway, how would you go?
You'd lie in bed at night, legs sometimes over, sometimes under the thin sheet. You'd find triangles where the walls met the doors. You'd count them. Seven triangles. Seven intersections of three. Some were flags and some were pyramids, but that would change depending on how far the door was ajar. So many hours to find your own flags and temples.
You lived in your head then, back before you left and learned just how hot it got.
[Photo: Brenton Rogers]