Nancy Smith and Annette Mcleod

Diana in France with Dandelions Response Piece

Inspiration Piece:

To walk
Annette McLeod

My throat feels seared, like trying to breathe in the devil’s own sauna. In the distance the road wavers as if submerged.

The children romp around me like dolphins playing beside a ship. They’re pissing me off, but I don’t have the energy to scold them. How they can be so goddamn lively in this godforsaken heat is beyond me.

John has been gone almost an hour, and I peer hopefully toward the horizon, as if willing him to appear will make him do so.

When the car packed it in, it was obvious one of us was going to have to hike back to the nearest town and I’d wanted desperately for it to be me. I was feeling courageous, like today I could actually go through with it. I didn’t think I’d even mind the heat anymore.

My youngest, Jimmy, is peeing into the ditch, and the next-up Robbie and the twins are playing tag around the car. Every time one of them brushes my leg, I bristle. I want to swat them away, like mosquitos.

John’s look caught me off-guard. I only just admitted it to myself not long ago, and I thought I was hiding it well. But John is no dummy, and he’s often said my eyes tell him everything. And we’ve been married a long time. I should have hidden it better.

I cocked my head, waiting for his reaction to this exchange. He knows, and he knows I know he knows, as they say. He shrugged, just barely, but I couldn’t quite read it.

“I’m going,” he said in that voice of his that brooks no debate.

He turned around and walked purposefully away from us. I just stood there and watched him go, my courage all gone.

Brittany and Bridget argue angrily over whose half-drunk Coke is whose. I turn towards them. “Get another fucking coke from the cooler!” My shrillness silences them. They look wounded. I look away.

Four kids, for crying out loud. Who the fuck these days has four kids?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter that he’s figured out my secret. It doesn’t change anything. He’s right. Today, if I’d gotten the chance to start walking, I would have just kept walking. But there will be other days.