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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outdated, misunderstood clothing.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.






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