Sukia and Barbara Bever


This I Know
By Barbara Bever
Inspiration Piece

Stately oaks and maples cast cool shadows over the boulevard. Manicured hedges border the edges of well-mown lawns, embracing frame houses full of families finishing summer suppers. Impatient children gulp down tall glasses of milk anxious to resume games of kickball, hide-and-seek, and capture-the-flag. A rhythmic slamming of screen doors up and down the block beckons late-comers to join the mayhem.

Back and front yards, garages and swing sets, all communal property. Any mother is my mother, ready with a scolding or a Band-Aid. Lines of dirt crease into knees and elbows, washed off by a run through anyone’s sprinkler. The knobby handle of an outdoor spigot squeaks, once, twice, thrice, as a pudgy hand turns the dial. Tousled heads bend sideways lapping up that iron-laced coolness gushing forth.

Only one house hangs low to the ground, stained dark as the earth under the heavy pines; its property hemmed in by a high wooden fence. Through the boards prying eyes espy the glint of a blue crystal ball, slivers of stone statues, and gray gravel pathways. A corner boulder beyond the fence proclaims “Terra.” A collective wisdom demands we hold our breath as we pass this house. Surely then the witch inside won’t see us in her crystal ball, a wicked spell prevented.

Who can hold their breath the longest? The red second hand jerks from point to point, the face of the Timex staring back at our bulging eyes and crimson cheeks. One-by-one blasts of air escape bursting lungs. Ten, 15, 20 seconds still before I’m sure my pounding head and aching chest will explode. I win! But guess who gets to ring the witch’s doorbell?

I take my deepest breath and head up the walk. Others scramble under dense hedges, within dark pines, behind a parked Plymouth or Ford. My heart throbs in my ears. I punch the button on the door frame. Ding, ding, ding, dong, like chimes in the church tower. No one comes. Eyes wide and wild, I turn to my cohorts. Multiple arms direct me toward a side door, clenched fists pantomime knocking. I race around the corner of the house. Blood pumps behind my eyes, lungs achingly ask to be refilled. I knock. Again, no one comes. I need to breathe.  Back to the front. An old woman hobbles onto the stoop. She is yelling something. I only hear thumping in my head. I keep on running. So desperate for air. Hiding places birth a tangle of limbs. Everyone is running. Breathing hard.

Bent over bodies gulp in air in the boulevard. Brave and afraid. Did you see her? She’s a terror. Will she call our parents? We were too fast for her to see us. Do you know her husband’s buried in the back yard? Yeah, there’s a gravestone. Who will she hex next? Not me. Not me.

Above, the street light suddenly glows. Gotta go.

Didn’t know. Lonely Miss Liszt was never married.

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