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No Official Title

By , Thornburg, VA
August 20, 2008

There is nothing in the world more calming than lying in the bright green grass with your best friends on a late-summer day, feeling the sun’s heat warm you and staring up at the soft blue sky. You can talk, if you want, but the silence is beautiful too.
Breaking the silence, I asked them, “What’s the thing that you’re most nervous about in high school?” We were only starting eighth grade, but everyone was so psyched about high school.
Alex paused. Then he turned over, propped himself up on his elbow, and said, “You.”
I looked over at him and raised my eyebrows. “What? Why are you nervous about me?”
“Not…nervous,” he disagreed. “I’m…” he searched for the right word, “worried. Just worried.”
“Why?” I asked. My other best friend, Sylvie, who was on my other side, crab-walked her way between us so she could hear everything.
“You’re easily influenced. We won’t be able to see each other much. You’ll be hanging out with new people. You’re a magnet for…troubled people,” he grimaced.
I raised my eyebrows. “Okay, whatever. I should be more worried about you.”
His eyebrows disappeared into his shaggy black hair. “Why?” he asked, his green eyes twinkling.
I jumped up, avoiding the question. “Race ya to the end of the field,” I hollered, taking off. My comfortable, light yellow shirt went well with my jean shorts that were short but not too short. I wasn’t wearing any shoes; except in the winter and during school, I preferred to go barefoot.
I heard Alex’s footsteps behind me, and Sylvie’s behind him. She was gaining on him, but neither of them had a chance to beat me, especially when I had had a head start¾even if they did have shoes on.
I laughed exuberantly and launched myself into three cartwheels, one after the other. Not even hesitating after the last one, I propelled myself further across the field. My legs started to burn and my lungs started to ache, but I paid no attention to them. My objective was clear: Get to the other side before they get there!
As soon as I got to the trees, I twirled around and did a silly victory dance.
“Ha-ha-ha!” I yelled at them, doing a handstand. Alex came in second, Sylvie third¾as usual. “I’m still the best. You cannot deny it. Say it! Say it! I’m SO much better than you both!” I joked, laughing.
Alex came over, lifted me up a ways so I was as tall as him, and said, “You’re better than a lot of people. Just not me,” he grinned, putting me down.
“Oh, whatever,” I beamed, feeling euphoric. These were the days to live for¾sunny summer days spent with my two best friends in the whole world, doing whatever we felt like, when we felt like doing it.
Suddenly there was a barking, coming from my grandma’s house. I looked, shielding my eyes from the sun. The gray, three-story house had a chimney, a tall back porch, a few birdfeeders, and a three-car garage. And two insanely spoiled dogs that live there.
Issey, a miniature Australian shepherd, was racing towards us with her tail-less butt wagging. She acted so ferocious, barking like she was going to rip us apart, but in reality the only thing she’d hurt is a cricket.
“ISSEY!” Alex yelled, running towards her and waving his arms. He is such a goof. Issey flew around him and then spun back towards him, pausing and lowering her head in a playful stance. Alex ran towards her again and she swerved around him, then shot back through his legs as he was turning around.
“Alex, forget it; you’re not going to outsmart the dog,” Sylvie laughed, her brown eyes smiling.
“Oh yes I am,” he replied stubbornly, chasing Issey again.
“Issey, girl!” I leaned down and patted my legs. She ran over to me and offered me her butt¾it’s like she can’t ever just let you pet her head. When you’re looking at her, her right eye is blue and her left is blue. She’s a blue merle, which means she is gray, white, black, and has some copper.
The other spoiled rotten dog that lives here is named Tag, and he is a black tri mini Aussie. He’s got two brown eyes. Neither of our dogs have a tail, because their breed usually don’t have tails¾they are herding dogs and they could get caught in something, like a barbed wire fence. I couldn’t see Tag anywhere, though, so he must’ve stayed in the house or on the front porch.
I watched Issey and Alex play for a while, Alex in his jeans and red tee, his black hair flopping around as he futilely tried to outsmart my sometimes-too-intelligent dog. Sylvie stood, smiling, beside me. None of us spoke. Sometimes the silence is just too beautiful.

***

A little while later, we all stood by the makeshift fire pit in the back yard, down by the garden. We had just finished roasting hot dogs and were putting them in buns that had ketchup and mustard already in them so we didn’t have to bring the containers down the hill with us.
“Looks like it’s going to rain,” Alex observed, noting the thick dark thunderheads that were quickly closing in on all sides.
“Oooh, I love summer storms,” I said enthusiastically, finishing my hotdog and lying back on the grass. “Can you two stay so we can watch it from the front porch?”
“I don’t think so,” Sylvie said regretfully. “My mom said I had to be back by four¾it’s three thirty now.”
“Yeah, I have to go to my little sister’s school’s drama production or something stupid like that,” Alex grimaced.
“Can’t you just stay here?” I asked him. “If you don’t want to go…”
“I already asked. It’s a no,” he frowned. “But I’ll call later. Wouldn’t want you to be too bored without us.” He winked at me, and then they walked to the front door to walk home.
“Alright…” I bit my lip, then leaned forward and gave Alex and Sylvie each huge farewell hugs.




Summer storms are one of the most peaceful things you can ever experience¾at least in my opinion. There is just something about sitting on a swing watching the dark clouds roll and twist, watching the lightning sizzle and snap, glowing bright in the dark sky, and listening to the menacing sound of thunder.
My grandma came outside carrying a plate of chocolate chip cookies¾a tradition in our family. Well, at least between my grandma, grandpa, sister and I. Every time we see a storm coming on, we make chocolate chip cookies, usually from scratch.
“Why didn’t you get me to help you make them?” I asked, leaning over to take one.
“Yeah, right,” Mamaw¾I’ve called my grandma this since I was old enough to talk and couldn’t pronounce “grandma”¾joked, sitting down on the porch swing beside me. “No, I got these out of the container. We didn’t have time to make them from scratch. We can go in and make some more right now, if you want.”

I looked out at the yard. The trees about fifty yards away were swaying, their leaves trembling violently. A peal of thunder split the air.
“No, it’s fine,” I said. “It should start raining soon. By the way, where’s Papaw?”
“He had to go look at a house that someone wants him to move,” she said. “He called me about half an hour ago, he was about to talk to the owner of the lot. Said the property was muddy and the driveway had trees growing right next to it all the way down¾it would be a big hassle for him and his men to take on. But you gotta do what you gotta do.”
“Well, how much is he going to charge for it?” I asked.
“He didn’t say,” Mamaw said, looking over at me. “Probably around two thousand dollars.”
Changing tack, I said, “When are you guys going to be finished building your self-storage?”
The self-storage they were building was only about half a mile from their home¾not even a minute away.
“God willing, we’ll be done hopefully by December. I’m hoping we can open up before the first of the year,” she said, leaning against the back cushion.
“Good,” I said, then laughed, remembering all the nights we stayed up till eleven, twelve at night watching the men Papaw hired to pour concrete. We’d go get them KFC, and they’d work till one or two in the morning. It was really fun. We had some good times building that place. I couldn’t say I wouldn’t be glad to be done building it, though. It had taken since 2005¾three years!
“Remember those nights we’d stand in Gene and Lucy’s driveway, watching the men pour the concrete?” she chuckled, putting her arm around me.
“You took the words right out of my mind,” I giggled. “I was just thinking about that. Those were the days…”
Mamaw laughed and pulled me closer to her. I laid my head on her shoulder as we watched the summer storm.

***

“You’ve got all your stuff, right?” My mom asked. She was standing in Mamaw and Papaw’s living room, by the bench by their door, waiting to take Kiley and I home.
“Yeah,” I said sadly¾we had to go home, summer vacation was almost over, school was almost here!
“Can Issey and Tag spend the night with us tonight?” my six-year-old sister asked.
“If your father says it’s okay…” she started. Before she could even finished the sentence, I’d flipped my cell phone out of my pocket and had pressed speed dial number 8, to call my dad.
A few minutes later, when I hung up, I said, “Good news. He said yes.”
Kiley squealed in excitement. I smiled, stepping over to the TV and opening up the side cabinet, pulling out two leashes and two collars. “Issey! Tag!” I yelled, slapping my knees. The two dogs came running, eyes alight with excitement, butts wiggling furiously. I slid their collars over their small heads and clipped their leashes to them.
“You do realize my allergies are going to be horrible,” Mom said, staring at me in disapproval.
“Sorry…I didn’t even think about it,” I said truthfully.
“I know,” she said nicely¾at first. Then she added, “You don’t ever think about anything.”
“Hey, you said if Dad said they can come, they can,” I said. “If you really didn’t want them to come, you should’ve just said something.”

“Fine,” Mom snapped. “They’re staying here.”
“What?” Kiley whined. Her eyes filled up with tears. “But you said they can come!”
Mom groaned. “See? That’s why I didn’t say no the first time. Just get in the car.”
“Are you sure…?” I hesitated at the door, biting my lip.
“Why are you asking if you don’t care?” she asked.
“Mom, I do care. I hate it when you do this!” I said, my voice growing dangerously higher.
“Don’t start, Carrie.”





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