LIKE AIR, OR BREAD, OR HARD APPLE CANDY

BETH GILSTRAP

 
 

At the corner of Palm and Flamingo, there is no sand or coconut-scented suntan lotion. There’s no roof decks or boats waiting to be scraped and returned to sea. At the corner of Palm and Flamingo, there’s not even the hope of an alligator float, duct tape-doctored, waiting to hold a fat-legged child. There’s no sign showing the shortest route to the ocean is a whopping 222.7 miles, though Grenada had calculated it when she was a girl, asking grandma why come their neighborhood had names like they was in Florida. Grandma’s speech on the importance of names hooked there, forever in the soft spot behind her ear. There are, however, a good deal of lawn ornaments at the corner of Palm and Flamingo—worn out roosters and a jockey who might have been black at one time tipped over next to a bird bath holding nothing but a pancake-sized circle of rainwater. It’s old folks that live there, but Grenada doesn’t see them much anymore. Used to be, when she was out with Petunia, her seventy-pound pit bull, she’d see them propping the front door open, both of them pushing walkers, moving the way octogenarians do as though the whole world might give way beneath them. It must have taken them an hour to get to the car. She thought about helping, but the dog, you see. People were funny about bully breeds. Petunia tests Grenada’s strength. Pulls so hard her shoulder burns. Lord in Heaven, she knows she probably should’ve gotten her one of those little dogs you can scoop up into a sack and throw on your shoulder like nothing, like air, or bread, or hard apple candy, a tallboy and a bottle of vodka, not that she was thinking about those things. Not anymore. The truth is she doesn’t see too many of the people she remembers from the neighborhood. More moneyed people had started buying houses on Seaside and Sand Dune. She wonders what it means to walk past what used to be her great uncle’s property and witness hulking machines smash in windows she used to gaze out of, particularly the one above the kitchen sink, where her aunt kept a lucky ceramic pig on the sill, where she’d pulled herself up, and climbed over and cradled the little thing with his smiling pig face. What did it mean that she’d called it Petunia, too, and now the closest thing she’d ever have to a daughter peed on the lawn in front of the demolition? Grenada takes a big breath, the microscopic debris catching the rustle of autumn wind, leaves dry and brittle and caramel sweet, and wonders if she’s taking in the last physical remnants of her long-dead relatives, a fragment of hair, a skin cell, some crumb of biscuit hidden under the fridge, never gathered, never cleaned, never consumed until now. But Petunia doesn’t overanalyze, she follows the scent of some unknown creature, pulling Grenada away and up the hill until the only thing left for her to feel is the tingling of her own thighs.

 

 
 

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