thick up from the bottom of the hill; from on top it looked no smaller,
just lost within its grandeur. Brooke wrapped her fists around the rope
some long-gone kid once tied around a branch. The twins, below—two
boys well-known for mooning cheeks against their bedroom window, tossing
underwear in the street for laughs—looked up at her and said: "Jump
off the hill!"
She would, she said. The thing
was, though, she couldn't shake the image of that dead dog she had found
inside the black trash bag she thought could be first base, right before
the twins said, Screw the game, let's swing. The thing was, though, she
didn't know just when the dog had died, before—or god forbid—while
within the twist-tied bag.
The twin boys laughed and waved their arms.
Brooke saw they had a grown-up thing like interest spark inside their
eyes. She knew her hair hung pale and wave-less. She knew she had a certain
sort of swooping in her spine. She knew these boys, they saw these things.
The dog, she thought, and when he died—they didn't understand.
But it was dead. This she knew. And here
she stood, so head to head with this grand tree. I should swing,
she thought. I should run down the hill, clutch the rope, and swing
like tether ball around the trunk. The dog lay buried, now, where
short-stops stood, and on its mound—the dirt now ruddy, upside-downed
by her digging hands—she knew she placed one fist of stones she'd
gathered by the old train tracks.
The boys cried: "Jump!"
The bag had been half-veiled in leaves.
She thought it could be a fine first base. She thought at first it was
filled with soil—it had that heavy feel of something from which
trees and flowers sprung.
"Jump already! Jump!"
Brooke gripped the rope. Who killed
the dog? The tree stood thick, went and up and up and up. The twins,
they stared, way up, and up and up; and then Brooke feared—where
were the other baseball players? Where was the catcher? Where's the ump?—she
ran and parted ways with land. Who killed the dog? Who tied the bag?
She soared and swung right down the hill, around the tree, toward the
tree, toward the boys. She thought: He should have used his teeth. She
thought: He should have fought and fought and fought. She thought: I think
I know where next things go. I see it clearly from up here. And by the
here she meant just where the pause occurred. Before descent,
before the jealous world would grab at her right from the very pits of
its so very needy core.
I had fascinating neighbors when I was
a kid. One was a peeping tom who liked to hang stuffed ski suits out his
window. One was a girl who taught the younger girls that we'd know when
a boy was about to french kiss us because he'd always, without fail, lean
on the wall for support before he'd move in for it. If he didn't lean
there wasn't going to be any tongue involved. One guy was on Starsearch,
no lie. We used to swing on this huge tree until my sister busted a rib
on it. And I was the one who pulled the black trash bags out of the leaves
for second base and learned it was a dead dog. Brooke took the 'credit'
for finding it, though, because she was supposedly the major dog lover
of us all and so she got a bunch of sympathy from the grown ups.