Photo in late August Light
You must login to vote
There is promise of a crab feast today, a pool party and cousin Jim. These things entice Tommy from the top bunk where he has burrowed beneath a winter quilt.
The newspaper sits undisturbed on the kitchen table. This puzzles eight year-old Tommy, a fresh paper in the darkness of morning. How do they know the news before anyone is even up, before anything has happened?
In the Volvo, Tommy works on his Etch-a-Sketch, ignoring his motherís comment about how well he is able to play by himself; to Tommy this isnít play. Heís designing an amazing 70-story high-rise complete with helipads and six transparent elevator shafts. The Baltimore tunnel looms ahead.
On the other side of the tunnel, Tommy opens his eyes. He finds that his building has disappeared on the edges; his shaking has stolen something from him.
Doors open everywhere upon arriving at his Unclesí farm: an aunt offering kisses, a cousin winking for a quick escape and grumpy old uncles extending hands from seated positions.
The family paces through the relatives, the expressions of height, size and time. Youíll be as big as your father before long, says an uncle, Joe, the one with the glass eye and the Japanese sword in his closet. Tommy can only look up, both at his uncle and his dad, thinking, Iíll never reach their height.
The pacing continues, cramped as the casseroles on the counter, until Tommy is pulled free to a basement full of men playing cards. It is here, in a damp bedroom, where Tommy and Jim suit up for their run at the woods.
Uncle Buck warns them about the Copperheads as they dash out the back; the screen door hits the wood frame with a crash. The boys are long gone.
Early afternoon finds them running among the cornfields; they decide upon hide and seek until Tommy is convinced that he is the master of the game. He gambles on a plan of flight, running wild with corn stalks crashing underfoot and the wisps of corn husks mingling with his hair like that of a man speckled with gray. Tommy runs deep into the cornfield where the flat plane dips down towards the creek. It is here, in a place where he crouches to gather his breath, that he thinks about the snakes heís been warned about. Copperheads and Water Moccasins, both poisonous, both deadly. Tommy runs all the way back to the house with the snakes biting at his heels.
When Tommy returns, his cousin is sitting on the porch drinking lemonade. Feel like a swim? he asks.
Tommy changes quickly, kicking his clothes to a corner of the bathroom. He pulls the cords of his bathing suit tight before running back into the August light.
How about a photo? says the father.
Tommy poses for a photograph. He flexes his bicep and creates the illusion of strength and a musculature that belies his seven years; he does so by pushing up on the inside of his arm. A fierce look accompanies his facade.
One more, get one more, says Tommyís mom.
Tommy stands still only long enough for a snap and a flash to capture him; he has things to do, a swimming pool to conquer, sharks to slay and pirates to interrogate with his one-eyed grin. He hovers near the edge of the pool.
Early evening light settles over the pool. Dinner will be ready in an hour. The crabs are still alive, shuffling in a wooden crate while giant pots start to boil on the grill.
The boy poses for a photograph. He flexes his bicep and pretends that his finger isnít there; this muscle is his and itís the very same arm that stopped a snake in mid-strike and then snapped its neck. Heíd have skinned the thing but he didnít have a knife.
His cousin invites him into the pool. Come on now, stop your posiní, letís do some swimming, he says, but Tommy cannot hear him, heís too busy looking at the bottom of the pool with itsí blue and black diamonds, beckoning to him and sending a shiver up his spine.
The cries of Marco and Polo ring out and Tommy feels the urge to answer the call, to join his other cousins in play but he cannot get himself to leave the wooden deck. He scoots on his butt along the edge, watching the weeds that cradle Aunt Eileenís pool. Something is hiding in the weeds, something shiny and black. Something poisonous that has followed him from the lower cornfield.