--SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY
We watched water moccasins coil and uncoil like shiny shoe laces, slithering across the pond’s murky surface, their movements making towel-snapping sounds.
It was twilight--the plum-colored sky a bruised cheek overhead--and neither of us spoke.
Winds howled through the high-topped cedars, spitting bits of chaff into our hair and down my shirt collar where it itched my spine like a needling finger.
I wanted to ask if Mom’s new boyfriend had done anything, had touched or hurt her, but my sister looked transfixed by the endless series of snakes skirting across the water.
I wanted to be the big brother who could remedy things, even though I was afraid of heights and small spaces, even though, at ten years of age, I still wet the bed and was beat for doing so.
I thought I should say something. Sis had gotten quiet in recent months, thin, too, her limbs lank like orange extension cords, all elbows, knots and knobs. Now I watched her break a fallen tree branch in half and chuck it back into the woods. I watched her claw bark off an old evergreen with her fingernails, growling maniacally as she did so. I let her be because there was nothing else to do about it.
Once the moon appeared--bald and glowing like white skull-- I grew nervous, said, “We should get back.” Said, “They’ll only be more trouble if we don’t.”
But Ginny began picking up stones instead, flinging them at the sounds the unseen snakes were making.
I told her it was too late. I told her it was useless, that she wouldn’t be able to hit a single snake in such darkness, but she threw anyway, the whites of her eyes flickering like warning lights, as if she knew exactly what to do next.