The Devil’s Ticks

–by Connie Weineke

My mother harnesses the hose to an outside spigot. The sliding doors of the red metal-clad Stramit plant gape, a giant’s cave beyond our trailer. We live where my father works. Don’t go in there when we’re working. Don’t go in there at all. My brother, sister and I sneak through the doors, hurdle between towers of compressed straw and tar-paper insulation, flatten ourselves when anyone comes near. Our cat BB nurses a wild brood in the industrial plant’s maze of cubbies, moving kittens from one dark place to another. The building demands games of hide-and-seek. We don’t always find the cat. Momma fills the thirty-gallon galvanized tub, a stage for our before-dinner bath. No ceiling or walls. No curtains. Just the sky and God and magpies. Nobody sees us from the highway. The sun a still, loud, hot presence. Shadows offer nothing, not even secrets. Our eyes listen to the cold stream of water. It explodes from the steady nozzle. My mother holds tight. The whir of band-saws, the twang of metal on metal, cranking gears, sour hum of wheels on concrete, the mystery moil of my father and his co-workers. All disappear. We three Musketeers cross our arms. Puny bandoliers on bare chests. We stand and squirm and revolve. Momma fingers the whorls of our ears, stretches wide our angel arms, sifts hair, inspects butt cracks, scrapes us raw. The devil’s ticks cannot escape the pinch of her nails. She releases us. What babies. Smacks our bottoms. We shiver off the last scales of dusty fear. Six bone-thin legs twitching to run. More lizard than human. Now, that’s enough. Momma wraps us in towels, propels us toward clean clothes. Our stubborn feet dig in. The gravel and dirt refuse to free our toes and heels. Three shit-eating grins. We hold this moment.

 

 

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