I wore the red nightgown borrowed from mom’s lingerie drawer. The color of swollen throats washed over my legs when I walked in it. A wasp in the carpet crawled to the edge of my bedroom wall, and later when I picked up my hairbrush it stung me on the palm of my hand. My window, loose in its frame, showed the gold-smoked fields of dried husks, the rainy roots of September on a farm. It showed my brother walking against the tree line of his army trench. A fugue in the field. In three years’ time he would be gone.
All that summer storms rose up over the ridge and ran lightning into the house, fried the TV, singed the telephone line. I spent most of my nights on the porch swing with my legs sprawled across a boyfriend’s lap. Fingers moved in and out of me—slick as surgery. There were bright stars above the walnut trees those nights, the sounds of cars in the distance. Mom and dad asleep with a floor full of hunting rifles beneath their bed.
When school started, my brother and I hung out behind the barn before mom and dad came home from work. We shared cigarettes, and the last of the summer choruses floated out of our lungs. We wanted to be the cats asleep in the grass all day. We want to be in a truck on a road heading west. We want to be anywhere else but here.
After work on Fridays, my jeans pockets were full of cash from my first job at Kmart. Nights and weekends I rang up lines of customers and flashed my lane light whenever an item failed to ring up as advertised, which was often. At the end of my shifts, I waited in the fading parking lot for Dad’s truck to pick me up. The Ingle’s sign across the street stuffed with bird nests, blinked out a yellow and orange ode that reminded me of beaches and boardwalks. It still felt like summer even though fall had turned the leaves.
For weeks that fall our neighbor’s cows were loose and roaming the woods, the lawns, the other farms. In the creek near our house they stood in a mud-hollowed ditch–black as limousines. I went down there one day and moved past them and into the creek. The red nightgown covered the edge of my hiking boots while I waded in the bone-cold water where my brother once found a horseshoe.