Hot Summer. They called me that, the boys in school. I was Summer Dawson before I married; now it’s just Ma.
They said I looked like Candice or Cheryl somebody. Some film star. I could never see it but the name stuck. I suppose it was just their silly fantasies but it didn’t help with the other girls in class, my getting so much attention. I just stopped after 9th Grade and nobody came looking.
Joe had been helping at the convenience store for a couple of years and we got friendly. I was only 17 when Ellie was born, right after Pa died. We just took over the store and struggled, same as Pa did. It’s been ten years since then and three more babies. There was another who died: a little girl. Maybe she would have been more like me. Ellie is feisty like her Pa and the three boys run wild.
I don’t see much of anybody apart from Joe and the kids. Customers come and go and the stock is delivered every week. That’s about it. Pa said we had family in Richmond somewhere but he never said no more so it’s just us.
There are times when I remember the way the boys in school treated me like I was someone special. I ain’t never felt like that before or since. Now I look back and feel like the last ten years were just washing, cooking and wiping tails. Joe sits on the porch of an evening and drinks like he’s angry but he never says about what. Maybe his life hasn’t turned out good either.
We’ve got TV, though sometimes it goes off here in the mountains. I like to watch stuff about rich people and imagine what it must be like to stay in swanky hotels, wear real nice clothes and fly places first class. I ain’t never been further than Flatwoods, ain’t never stayed even in a motel and we go in Joe’s pickup if we need anything.
The kids are safe, I know that because I waited till they were gone: three to school and little Ben with his Pa in the pickup to fetch lumber to fix the porch. Ain’t no point now. There wasn’t much in the cashbox but enough for the cab to the station and a ticket to somewhere. I just picked the name of a place and asked till I was sure it was the right train. Maybe Joe will find the thing that not having has made him angry. The kids will get a home somewhere and they’ll get used to it.
I made sure it didn’t show before the cab drew up: the fire. I started it in the middle of the store so it would spread, but slow and steady. It will be real high by now. Maybe I’ll get picked up when I get off the train or maybe I’ll just keep moving but there ain’t no going back. I won’t ever be Hot Summer again but I’m so tired of The Fall.
Photo courtesy of White Rock Mountain Recreation Area