by J. A. Buxton
This is a true story from my childhood in West Brookfield.
I grinned at Tango, who was riding his bicycle down the long driveway next to mine. We had just come back from swimming in Lake Wickaboag, which was located at the end of our street. Both of us were still dripping lake water all over the driveway leading to the garage, but the heat of the August sun was doing its best to dry us off.
Our bare feet were also sticky with tar from the newly tarred road leading down to the lake. Riding down to the lake was easy, but even our strong young legs gave out halfway back up the hill. Thus, the tar on our feet! Why the town fathers always insisted on tarring roads during the summer never made sense to either of us, but over the years we’d learned that the smell of hot tar meant it must be August.
Tango whispered, slowing down his bicycle to a mere crawl beside me. “What’s your mother upset about?”
He stopped pedaling when Dad’s pleading voice came around the corner of the garage. “Oh heck, Tudie, all you have to do is put your arm around him and smile.”
“That’s all?” Mum practically sputtered this question, and we knew something momentous was going on. After leaning our bikes against the side of the garage, we crept silently into the side yard, trying to stay out of sight. The first thing we saw was my father, decked out in his orange vest, a requirement for safe hunting in our area. He was holding his old Polaroid camera and aiming it toward the tire swing.
What stopped us in our tracks and brought on a fit of giggles from both of us was the sight of my mother. There Mum stood, outrage showing in every fiber of her body. She still wore the apron she had on while fixing supper when Dad asked her to come outside and pose for him.
Standing at one side of the swing, she called out, “Hurry up, Allan, I’ve got supper on the stove, and it’s going to burn if you don’t get this over with NOW!” Tango and I both recognized that tone of voice. Mum was nicknamed Sergeant by the neighborhood kids for a reason.
Finally, satisfied he had his wife posed as close to his other subject as she was going to get, Dad snapped the photograph. I will always treasure this picture of Mum next to my tire swing.
There she stood, her reluctant arm draped around the shoulders of a huge black bear Dad had shot on his recent hunting trip.
Winner of 05/24/07 daily Writer's Cramp contest