Queen of the Seep Ditch

Vali Benson

 

 

Waking up at Granny's house, I hurry into the antiquated kitchen for a breakfast of

 

thick-slab bacon and a Dr. Pepper. Our first job today is making noodles, squishing

 

and blending the flour and egg yolks with gooey fingers, before rolling them out,

 

paper-thin, to dry. Then, I watch as the freshly-butchered chicken, with its

 

metallic scent of blood, is plucked and cleaned by those rough, loving hands, and

 

set in the icebox until supper.

 

In the backyard, the sun, cradled in the blue-white sky, beats down on my fair skin

 

like a flaming yellow drum. South-Eastern Colorado is not the Rockies. This is a dusty, clay-

 

colored place, where the slightest breeze coats your teeth with a gritty film.

 

The little storage shed off the porch is a cornucopia of yellowed photographs and

 

outdated, misunderstood clothing. I rummage into what I can reach, but today everything

 

seems determined to hold its secrets.

 

After lunch, my quest for adventure leads across the dirt road, avoiding the

 

anthills of those ferocious red beasts whose bite leaves a painful stinging welt. The corn silo

 

hugs the railroad tracks, and beckons me up its scorching twenty-foot ladder. I leap inside,

 

sinking waist-high in the cool, shifting kernels, like treading in half-chilled Jell-O.

 

A short walk down the sun-baked train track is the Seep Ditch, a little creek

 

running forty feet below the rails. I dance back and forth over the unguarded trestle, thrilling in

 

the knowledge that a freight train could rumble down the tracks at any moment.

 

Negotiating the steep incline under the bridge, the crystal clear water seems at

 

odds with the faint odor of sewage. I wade in, and let the slimy mud ooze between my toes.

 

Late afternoon, in the cool shade of the front porch, two fluffy, yellow kittens

 

compete for the shoelaces of my well-worn sneakers. The cloying aroma of fresh-cut alfalfa

 

from the feed mill wraps itself around the nearby houses like an over-protective parent.

.

Back in the kitchen, frying chicken splatters grease out of the heavy cast-iron

 

skillet. If Heaven has a fragrance, this is surely it. My taste buds jump for joy when they

 

encounter the fried chicken, and the doughy noodles cling pleasantly to the roof of my mouth.

 

After supper, we survey our kingdom from the back stoop. The incessant buzzing

 

is the music of the cicadas, locust-like creatures who leave their crispy shells on the majestic

 

maples, much like a snake sheds its skin. My doting grandparents look on as I collect the tiny

 

skeletons. By summer's end, I will have a shoe-box full, a gift for my squeamish sister.

 

The sunset is not a dramatic display of silvery-pink and burnished gold, but rather

 

a pale cream-colored curtain that descends with lazy ease. Twilight carries the perfume of late-

 

blooming lilacs. The tawny kittens chase the lightning bugs that sparkle like a hundred

 

Tinkerbells waving their magic wands.

 

Bedtime creeps in, soft as silk, and whispers the promise that tomorrow

 

will be another perfect day.