Queen of the Seep Ditch
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outdated, misunderstood clothing.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.