The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

Author:Anna Jean Mayhew
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Published: 2011-03-10T16:00:00+00:00


Mary picked the onions off her hot dog, a look on her face that said for me not to notice. She took a bite and I remembered her indigestion.

As soon as Mama finished eating we were back on the road.

Stell wiped her fingers and stuffed the napkin in the trash bag. “Only three weeks till school. I can hardly wait.”

“Yuk.” I hated to think about the end of summer vacation.

“I’m excited,” Stell said, “because of the new Pledge of Allegiance.”

I had no idea what she meant.

“Congress added the words ‘Under God.’ ”

“Where?”

She said, in her most religious voice, “ ‘One nation under God, indivisible.’ It’s so wonderful.”

“Hmph.” Mary crossed her arms on her chest.

I asked her, “Don’t you think it’s a good thing, adding God to the pledge?”

“Putting God in the pledge and on money—that’s like a sign in the sky saying ‘air.’ ” Sometimes Mary surprised me, the things she thought about.

Mama raised the volume on the radio and fiddled with the dial, picking up snatches of Young Dr. Malone. The static was so bad she turned it off. “I’ve got a headache that won’t let up.”

Stell said, “Mama, please let me drive. You can sleep for a while.”

Mama pulled off the road and walked around the car, stopping to stretch, her hands on the small of her back. She got in the passenger seat. “You get a ticket, you’re grounded.”

Stell looked in the rearview mirror. I waved at her. She stuck out her tongue, then adjusted the mirror by the wing window. “All set.” She pulled onto the highway. A tractor-trailer truck came right up on our bumper, air horn blasting. Stell jumped.

“Stell!” Mama gasped. “You pulled out in front of him.”

“He’s speeding.”

The truck zoomed around us and the car rocked, but Stell kept it in the road. Mama slumped against the window.

For the next hour, Mama slept and Stell drove at a steady fifty-five.We passed a group of Burma-Shave signs. I read them aloud: “Substitutes are like a girdle. They find some jobs they just can’t hurdle. Burma-Shave.” I thought about Mama struggling to pull up the stiff elastic sheath, attaching her stockings to it, announcing she was nearly ready by saying, “I’ve got my girdle on.” I vowed I’d never wear one.

On the outskirts of Claxton, we passed farms, cotton processors, feed and grain mills. Highway 280 changed to Main Street, and Stell slowed down. Daddy said small towns were speed traps.

Davie climbed onto my lap, his body a hot water bottle.

“No.” I pushed him away.

“Doobie,” he whined, “badge.” He held out the cap from a Coke bottle.

“Quiet down back there,” Mama said.

He collapsed against me, hot and damp. I said no again, trying to whisper and be firm at the same time.

“Badge,” he shouted.

Mama swung her left arm over the seat in a slapping motion.

Stell glanced back at me. “What’s going on?”

Afterward I said I’d known at that moment that it was going to happen. I said it so much I was pretty sure it was true.



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