There was a tall fence with peeling red paint that blew away in flakes at the slightest wind. The grass was brown no matter how much water you gave it.
“It’s bad soil, no use worrying about it,” grandma would say to my father as I dodged the oncoming stream of water gushing from the sprinkler. The safe spot was in the far corner of the yard under the shade of an apple tree. The fruit was green and peppered with tiny brown holes. I knew this meant something lived inside and that I shouldn’t eat it. There were times, however, when I’d pick an apple and turn it in my hand against the light of the summer sun, examining each blemish and contour. I would then bring it to my nose and take in its sweet aroma.
A few strides away sat the trunk of a young hemlock. It had received negative attention when it began to cast a shadow across grandma’s room so dad packed a chainsaw, extra gas, and some work gloves for us before heading to her house one Saturday to cut it down. He showed me where to cut so it would fall away from the house because he saw me cutting it toward the house and he was upset and told me to use my head.
Now there was only the stump that we used to split wood until the heartwood softened and crumbled. The center was now mostly hollow and welcomed all forms of insect, bird, or rodent. For a long time it was home to a hornet nest that overtook the stump so it appeared as if the nest was built from the ground up. Grandma became too afraid to go outside and dad couldn’t water the grass so on one Saturday we came and ate dinner and watched a movie because we had to wait until nighttime when the bees were sleeping. Once it was dark dad let me watch while he sprayed the nest. At first he missed and cursed and apologized. I laughed at him.
Dad said he had to shovel out the remaining chunks of the nest but wouldn’t let me watch. After a little bit I heard him shout and come back inside and say, “They’re not all dead,” before putting the shovel away then he said, “They’re upset.”
I was excited to see the bees because I had only seen them on the dandelions but those were the fat ones called honeybees and hornets were more scary. I wanted to be scared, which sounds strange but it’s not. It’s like wanting to see a scary movie to be scared. I grabbed a flashlight and went back there and dad was right. The bees were swarming all around the nest and I had become so fascinated by the way they moved and how their bodies bounced against the nest that I didn’t see the two hornets that circled my exposed legs and stung me.
I got into trouble by dad and that made grandma angry because she said it was an accident but dad said I should know better. All I did was cry and watch grandma’s wrinkled hands as she rubbed Aloe Vera on my legs.
During winter I could play in the backyard and not worry about the bees because it was too cold for them to be upset. Sometimes I even ran in circles around the nest keeping an eye out for any bee that would venture out. That never happened and one time my older brother was with me and he said the bees were all dead and I told him about the time we thought they were dead and how we were wrong and he said they really were dead this time, watch. Then he kicked the side of the nest and I ran as fast as I could to the front yard and dashed through the door. Grandma asked me what was the matter and I said “nothing,” so she made me a ham sandwich but I fell asleep before it was ready.
When I was old enough to mow the lawn I made five dollars if I cut the backyard. I figured I could make more money if I cut the front as well but dad wouldn’t let me because it was tricky and grandma had a flower bed so she didn’t want me messing around. I always got annoyed when she said “messing around” because I do not do things unless I have a good reason so I don’t ever mess around. Five dollars was good enough, though, because I could buy a Slurpee and a Snicker’s ice cream bar and I bought my dad one too. Then I would still have one dollar to use at the YMCA to buy chips.
Soon we stopped packing up the truck to visit grandma because we moved in. That was fun since it was only on weekends so everyone was home and we got to watch movies and eat pizza every Friday and stay up late. Then on Saturday grandma made us eggs and bacon and toast. I drank water and dad drank coffee. But we couldn’t stay up on Saturday’s because of church on Sunday.
I had to go to a very silly children’s group called Promise Land and all the kids were dumb and loud but I didn’t hate them, only a little bit. There was games and music and snacks but only Nilla wafers that tasted like cardboard. I also had to remember the books of the New Testament and if I memorized all of them I got to pick out a special prize from the prize closet. So I practiced every day until I had them all memorized and I was the first one to do it so I picked the best prize which was a white Frisbee with red letters and black trim. I gave it to my older brother because he played Ultimate Frisbee until he broke his collar bone so now he plays Hacky Sack.