by M. T. Hart
The following is from a play of monologues about my mother's childhood in the country.
|The End of the Gravel Road
(PAM is the youngest in her family of six, constantly striving to create her own adventure. She's curious, goofy, and quite the "character," as some would say. She's unafraid of anything, as some children are. She comes down center stage and stops, hands in the pockets of overalls which are rolled to her knees. She's barefoot. The t-shirt beneath her overalls is faded, probably passed on from one of her older sisters. She looks to be about the age of six, or perhaps a little older. She's a skinny, atheletic looking child with eyes filled with mischief. She grins at the audience, pleased to tell her story.)
PAM: I’m the youngest of four siblings. My oldest sibling is my brother, Steve, and he’s thirteen years older than me. My second is my sister, Debbie, and she’s twelve years older than me. And the last is my sister Karen, who’s six years older than me and a way bigger baby than I am.
We live in the southern Indiana countryside, just outside Greenville and Palmyra. We have a pretty good sized house with a big basement and all of our neighbors and us share a long gravel road before hitting the county road that’s blacktopped. I love spending summers outside at home. But, being only seven, I’m not allowed to venture far from the yard. It’s not fair; I love to walk up to the county road and go walk along the asphalt. But since I’m only seven, my mother made it the law I can’t go past the end of the gravel road. Debbie and Steve are both always busy being teenagers and enjoying their cars and friends. All I have to get to go with me is Karen.
Like I said, Karen’s a big wimp. We call her the mailman’s daughter because she really isn’t like the rest of us. She’s blonde, fair-complected, hates black olives, and the biggest chicken in the whole family. But she looks a lot like Dad in the face, so I guess she isn’t the mailman’s. Karen and I fight over everything, all the time. She tied my foot to the bed last weekend so I couldn’t sneak into Mom and Dad’s room to sleep with them. It’s not my fault those scary movies she watches at night give me nightmares. And she makes me watch them with her. She’s just a big of a chicken as I am. For revenge, I put fish sticks from Monday night’s dinner in her underwear drawer. I think that’ll teach her…(beat) I can’t be sure because I don’t think she’s found them yet.
Anyways, I really wanted to go walking up to the road so I could enjoy the day. After begging and pleading with her for about an hour, I finally convinced her to go. Finally! We usually run around barefoot during the summertime; doesn’t matter what we’re walking on—grass, gravel, asphalt, carpet, linoleum, or wood. It’s all the same to me. As Karen and I were beginning our walk down the gravel road, she kept complaining, “Ow! Ooh! Oh, this hurts my feet!” and I was really starting to get annoyed. At the end of the gravel road, just before the blacktop, there’s this huge white farmhouse with a really tall chain link fence. The Abbott’s. I go to school with their son, Bobby. He’s a wimp, too. The Abbott’s have three huge German shepherds that look like total man-killers. They jump at the fence and bark and growl at anything that moves. My dad calls them a noise nuisance.
Just as Karen and I were getting to the end of the gravel road and we’re almost to the blacktop, all I can think, “Oh yes! I’m home free; once she gets on the asphalt, it’s all good and she’ll stop complaining.” And just when we’re only about fifteen more feet from the pavement, I hear from behind me, “This is so stupid. I’m going home!” She can’t go home! We’re almost there. And I can’t go any further by myself. She’s so gonna get it.
So I scream at the top of my lungs once she’s turned around, (screaming) “Run, Karen! Run! The dogs jumped the fence! The dogs jumped the fence, Karen!”
Yeah, she got it alright. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her run so fast, especially on gravel. I could hardly keep up as I ran behind her. Once we got to the safety of the grass in the front yard, Karen turned around and realized the dogs hadn’t really jumped the fence, even though they were still barking down the road at us. I’m pretty sure I saw murder in her eyes. It wouldn’t be the first time. This time, instead of Karen running from the dogs, it was me running from Karen...