Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Place of Safety -- in Houston

October 1973, a year after Brendan arrived.


The day was blistering hot and Rocky had no air conditioner in her car. “Engine’s too weak for it,” she explained, and I had to agree with her. So the second we were back to Aunt Mari’s, I doffed my boots and belt and fell into the pool.

She cried, “Brendan, your wallet,” just as I hit the water. She had yet to notice I didn’t have one, and the couple bills in my pocket would dry out well enough.

I broke through the surface and yelled, “Christ, does it ever stay one way or the other in Texas, with the weather!?”

Rocky laughed and said, “Sure -- hot or not.” Then she jumped in with me, also fully clothed.

“Now I know why everyone needs a pool here,” I said when she was back on the surface.

She just smiled and floated on her back, drifting as she said, “I hear it’s the same in LA. No back yards, just swimmin’ pools.”

My shirt was tight with the water -- one of those madras things the twins had made me buy -- so I stripped it off along with my socks. I finally did my jeans, too, because the bell bottoms were flapping against me and I was a poor enough swimmer as it was. That left me in my Y-fronts, but I doubted Rocky’d mind so long as I stayed in the water.

I popped up through an inner tube and held on, letting the water cascade down my face. Christ, it felt so fine and cool. It stung my eyes a bit but I didn’t care; I shook my head and let my hair sling the water away, then just sighed and floated there, my arms folded over the tube, my heart at peace. I looked at Rocky and saw she was merely floating on her back, her breasts pointing above her, thanks to her bra, for I could see the outline of it under the wet cotton of her blouse, see her slow movements up and down as she breathed and the gentle expansion of the bluebonnet tattoo on her skin.

“This is how the world oughta be,” she whispered.

Without thinking I said, “It could if it wanted to.”

She looked at me, the hint of a frown on her face. “What a thing for a boy to say.”

“Boy,” I huffed. Put me in my place, right?

“If you’re a day over eighteen, I’ll be surprised.”

“I will be,” I said, “if you come back the Third of February.”

“You’re born February Third -- no, no, you’re sayin’ you were born on the second. Groundhog Day.”

“Not in my country.”

She laughed, her voice rich and full, and began to tread water. “It ain’t no insult, Bren. It’s just cute.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

Then she saw the tattoo.

“Who’s ‘Joanna’?”

I froze and --

The car dissolved into nothing but smoke and debris and a single child’s leg flipping through the air and Joanna fighting to free herself as the flames danced, danced, danced closer and closer and filled the world and the sound of someone screaming in my voice crushed my ears and --

I didn’t black out. I just closed my eyes and released the tube and drifted down into the pool and let the water cut out all sounds and didn’t move, didn’t do a thing but float in the center of nothingness and let my lungs grow heavier and heavier even as Rocky splashed about and began to grab for me. I slapped her hands away and jumped up to the surface to gasp in fresh air and sling more water off my face. I was breathless, gulping, my head pounding, and Rocky was looking at me with wild, worried eyes.

I finally was able to murmur, “She’s dead. Dead.”


Cathy said...

Oh no! That's a horrible spoiler!!!!!!!! Argh!

JamTheCat said...

Oops...guess I'm not ready to share after all.