Amy Botula and
Jane Hulstrunk

Jane Hulstrunk
Inspiration piece

In The Weeds
By Amy Botula
Inspiration piece

I had the usual, run-of-the-mill chores as a kid: help with your sister, help with the start and end of meals, keep your room clean, and come summer, weed all the flower beds. I loathed this task. Even more than ironing, which, as a prep-obsessed teen who spent all of freshman and sophomore year wearing an oxford everyday, I had to do every Sunday after laundry. But weeding never got easier, it just grew more annoying and kept me, summer day after summer day, from doing what I wanted.

All I wanted was Ian Johnson, for as many summer days as I could manage.

Ian Johnson of the swim team, wearing a Speedo, and reminding me of everything my thirteen years hadn’t taught me. Ian Johnson of the gray Impala, available whenever he wanted. Ian Johnson, the sophomore then junior then senior. Around and willing whenever my mom was at work.

Racing up the stairs to my bedroom, his hands grabbing my terry cloth shorts as I skipped two at a time, falling onto my carpet and dry-humping and wrestling until a wet circle was left on my shorts and near-scabs on my knees– Ian’s visits were quick and covert.

But to maintain the cover that I was spending my summer chore-focused, the weeding had to be done. So I divided my non-Ian time between doing the weeding and finding ways to fake it. The young clover was preferable to the dandelions, their roots shallow and easy to pick by hand or dust dirt over. Dandelions with their extensive roots required a trowel and complete attention though. And forget about the ones with white seed-filled heads. They demanded two hands, one to use the trowel and one to hold on to the head lest the seeds blow elsewhere. Most times, I got lazy and cut the dandelions down to the smallest bit of stem and then hoped the dirt would be enough of a disguise.

I was better at erasing the traces of Ian: smoothing out footprints from carpet, coaching him to park in front of my neighbor’s house, keeping my room immaculate, and never arranging for a visit during a potential lunch break. My crowning achievement in covert operations came from earlier moments of sloppiness: I had allowed Ian to stay past noon and to park his car closer to our house than usual. Of course this was the day my mom decided to come home and check on my chore-progress.

The low purr of our early era Jetta’s engine was hard to ignore. I heard it pull up the driveway and bolted upright on the carpet, my shirt off and bra away from me.

“Go in the closet, go in the closet!” I hissed as I reorganized myself.

Ian did as I said, and as I closed the door, Mom called out, “Amy?”

“Up here!” I yelled, turning and looking toward the closet. It wasn’t going to be enough. She was walking from the kitchen to the front stairs; she was going to come up. I found some kind of grace and control to lunge without stumbling to the closet while urgently whispering “Go into the crawlspace, the crawlspace!”

My mom opened my bedroom door just as I turned around. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Cleaning, organizing things.”

“And what else are you going to do today?” She asserted herself into my room and looked around as she talked. I backed away from the closet.

“Why do I feel like you’re hiding something…and whose car is that outside?” Now her hands were on her hips, elbows echoing the angle of her Norma Kamali shoulderpads.
“Open the closet.”

“What? Uh, okay.” I did and stepped away. She pushed past me to peer in.

“I don’t know what…that’s probably a friend of Dennis or Donald. I’m just cleaning and then I’m going to finish the weeding,” I said.

She pivoted and took me in slowly and then said, “All right,” drawing out those syllables just as long. “I’m going back to work. Call me when you’re done.”

“Okay, bye.”

The ten minutes needed for her to go down the stairs, out the back door, and start the car seemed to take thirty. I crouched under my front window to keep watch. The closet made no sound.

I waited until five minutes after I saw her car go down the street, past Ian’s Impala, and opened the closet door. Ian crawled out. We looked at each other and laughed to the point of hyperventilating. We couldn’t touch each other, though we were giddy with the success of our con. The air felt too electric– touching would bring static and shock.

We didn’t resume our place on my carpet. The spell was broken; it was time for Ian to go. He led the way out of my room and down the stairs to the front door. He paused before opening the door and turned toward me. We stood closely and smiled shyly. Then he was out and walking to his car.

I returned to the weeds in the front yard. This time, determined to take care of them correctly. No matter how long it took.


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One Comment

  1. Posted January 17, 2015 at 4:27 am | #

    So accessible and natural that now tis all part of my own memory bank.