Soft bottoms of feet tap the asphalt: walking a short distance on McHenry’s Mill Road. She stops at the white house with the blue shutters, home two yards away. A guard rail rusts, fallen paint chips collect in little piles beneath the concrete steps, and a side door hangs off its hinges in spite of the weather.
Black folks sit, reclined, upright or leaned over in chairs. Silent as the day that brought a sturdy cool breeze. They gaze endlessly to the rising tide of blue, perched above the tree line lush with honeysuckle.
Wild berries, red in their newness, shake hands with the willow tree.
He says don’t got nothing better to do than pop tar bubbles with your feet? She nods, remembers the children that were ushered indoors when her little feet stepped over the property line. Ignorant, she knew not of the woman’s tears for the eighty-something years she lived before the time of 1981. By then 89. The little girl thought it would be nice to play with the girls who looked about her age.
That never happened. They went home while Grandma rocked her sorrows in a lullaby. The cruelness wept in her eyes, the little girl’s tears, she thought felt the same. She stared at her feet, Sooty like tar from playing in the road.
She seemed to know something about colorlessness but the inside being the same. She invited them over for dinner; the lady she wanted to hug sometime blossomed for a moment. But that never happened.
More white folks lived over the hill. A boy, a few years older, peddled menacingly. Up, over, the neighbor’s hill with the white house and blue shutters. Threw stones at a German Shepherd in the yard of another. Rode his go-cart, dirt bike, 4-wheeler, snow mobile – etcetera, etcetera, until the town grew in fury.
He talked about porn night at his house. His father with the pack of Marlboro in his shirt sleeve, rolled over, tucked away but easily accessible. Mother in tight floral spandex pants, bulged on all sides – Went by the name of Rosie. A true red flower.
The boy snorted: spit phlegm the size of tennis balls. Kicked up the front end of his bike. Called it a wheelie, then spun on end & spiraled the molten tar beneath his tires. Called the neighbor’s adopted daughter a bastard, then screeched over the hill, and kicked up dusty stones from his driveway.
The Amish don’t have electric, Grandma explained one day. She lived between the little girl’s house and the white one with the blue shutters. She stared out the window: saw a black buggy drawn by two black horses. A man and a boy held the reins, wore black oval top hats, black vests over striking blue button-down shirts. Blue brighter than heaven had ever seen.
The girl stared: the horses dropped themselves in the middle of the road. Kept walking as the carriage tires kicked up tar bubbles; a vehicle pulled over to the right, let them pass, then went their way. They lived as mysteriously as any ghost the strange girl had seen.
They lived over the hill. She knew. They stick to their old ways of living. That was explained. The Amish abide by strict rules; no television to watch since they live without electric. Somehow that was possible for them. Only the lord knew how though. That day was the only one the girl had seen of the Amish. But she knew they lived a strange life over the hill, somewhere; their house was not visible from the road. But they owned and farmed all that property over there. Five years later she wondered about them.
The girl learned things in school her parents never bothered telling her. Things like segregation, then she remembered her grandma telling her about the early years when she drank from a different fountain than the neighbors with the blue shutters. They went to different schools too. The little girl sat beside a girl in social studies; the Amish never showed to learn there.
She inquired about them though: she received blank stares from the other kids in school. It seemed no one else knew about the Amish people either.
© Candace Meredith
Excerpt from the book Contemplation
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About the Author
Candace Meredith earned her Bachelor of Science degree in English Creative Writing from Frostburg State University in the spring of 2008. Her works of poetry, photography and fiction have appeared in literary journals Bittersweet, Backbone Mountain Review, Anthology 17, Greensilk Journal and The Broadkill Review. She currently works as a Freelance Editor for an online publishing company and has earned her Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing and Communications (IMC) from West Virginia University. Her first effort in writing a collaborative children’s book is a progress in the making and Candace anticipates seeing completion of the book in 2017.
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