The red house next to the open field, that was ours. My dad built it. Got the land for a song’s what he says, what with the way it snugs up against Interstate 90, who would want it otherwise? And that was way back in the late 60’s before the Reagan years and inflation and heaving property values. It was a good house, solid—a ranch with three bedrooms upstairs, a finished basement and another room down below for the boys. I haven’t lived there in nearly 30 years but sometimes when I fall asleep I still walk the hallways, still tip myself over with spinning on the oriental rug.
The empty field next door was never mowed when I was a kid. The gully ran off between it and the interstate until it came to our property line, then the water sort of slunk off down the sewer tunnels so we could have a nice yard with no pit. If you followed the gully through the field you’d find the creek bed (pronounced “crik”, if you’re wondering) and some warn-down paths stretching out below the interstate bridge.
I was 7 when we moved out of that house, when the divorce was finalized, when all but my sister and I had left home. The three of us, Mom, Sis and I, moved to the other side of the bridge. There is something telling in that, but I can’t figure out what it is just yet.
That place just under the bridge was one of those places kids hung out when there was nothing better to do, a place to catch crayfish with ice cream buckets, to toss rocks, call names and spray paint. It was a place for secrets.
“I heard if you hit someone with a rock in just the right place you can kill ‘em,” Laura said.
“Duh,” the rest of us clucked. As if stoning were ever a new thing.
“No, I mean, my sister told me. If you get hit right here,” she tapped at her temple, “you can get killed.”
It seemed improbable that a tap with a pebble on the side of your head could knock you out much less kill you. It was nothing like a stab to the heart or bullet wound. It would be like skipping stones. Innocent. Yet it gave us a sense of power.