Summertime Lies on Patterson Road

Laylah Reid

Cabinets piled high with canned food, leather couches that stuck to your thighs when you stood, and slightly scratched Tyler Perry’s Madea CDs that only played up until 1:02:58 before freezing in place. My grandma’s little white trailer poked out through the thick Loblolly pine trees like a sore thumb on a pale hand. My great-aunt Gee-Gee lived down the street from grandma’s trailer and had a chicken coop in her backyard. She also had video games, pogo sticks, all the blueberries I could fit in my mouth and a cabinet full of Mississippi Mud pies. In my young mind, spending the afternoon at Gee-Gee’s was much better than sitting alone watching half of a Tyler Perry film. Though, if I wanted to stay at Gee-Gee’s, I would have to sacrifice my poor fingers to gather eggs. “Your hands are little. the hens won’t even notice you there,” she would say. A damn lie. The chickens always noticed my chubby knuckles snatching away their children— pecking at my hands till I drew blood, but I would still do it anyways. I enjoyed the praise of a job well done, chocolate pies, and pogo sticks. 

I made my way down the unpaved dirt road of Liberty, Mississippi. Gee-Gee’s house was at the end of the block, and that was what I hated most about the country. Not the horse flies or the beaming sun, but how far apart each house is. Most mailboxes aren’t even near the home because the owners know Amazon won’t walk a mile to deliver decorative throw pillows or a Kindle Fire HD. By the time I reached the halfway mark, my forehead was covered in a slick sweat and my legs were about to fall from under me, but I was almost there, so it made no sense to turn back now. 

As I was nearing Gee-Gee’s house, an approaching issue began to move in closer: a bear. No, not a real bear– well, perhaps at one point in time he was real– but now he was nothing more than an oversized teddy that lived tucked in the deep underbrush of Patterson road. Driving by car was far too quick to spot him, even riding a bike may have lead you to pass him right on by. But if you were walking, you’d see him clear as day, and unfortunately for me, this horrifying taxidermied  Louisiana black bear was my last landmark on the way to Gee-Gee’s house. He looked almost ten feet tall, to me at least. He had a nice thick fur coat with blacked-out eyes and tawny-white teeth, sharp as bullets. This terror sat buried in Mississippi red clay dirt, just waiting for a poor innocent soul to gobble to bits. 

He was dead, I knew, but the chance that he would somehow respawn and eat me alive was never zero. I planned to dart right past him, too quick for him to even notice me. When I made it to the clearing of thick bushy trees where I knew he resided, I took off. I was running for such an embarrassingly short amount of time. In an instant, I hit the ground and tripped over a rock. I really was going so fast, and now I was bawling in the middle of the street. The bear was no longer a problem and I no longer cared about what today could’ve been. Instead, I just screamed as crocodile tears spit from the corner of my eyes. My socks began to absorb the blood running down my calves and pooling at my ankles. 

 Luckily, it wasn’t long before I was found. Gee-Gee carted me back to her house on a golf cart and treated my knees, which were embedded with gravel and stones. “Hush, this ain’t nothing but peroxide, it don’t burn!” she shouted. A damn lie. It did, it burned. 

Soon I was bandaged up and my Grandpa came to get me. I was forced to return home with no apple pies, no pogo stick, no blueberries, and not a single egg for breakfast. I limped into the trailer and then into the guest room. All that evening I sulked in the dark, holding my knees, trying not to cry. 

There was a rapping at the door before my Grandma let herself in. “You gone eat something huh?” she asked, knowing full and well that I wanted to eat something. I followed her into the kitchen. The moment I rounded the hall a savory aroma hit my face: smothered chicken, rice, string beans, and yams with a blueberry cobbler in the center of the table. My favorite things in the world laid out before me. “I hear you took a fall so I made you something good. Geneva sent your Grandpa back with some blueberries too, so I thought I’d make a cobbler. Eat up, you’ll heal quicker.”

 Now every time I look down at the black stone-shaped scars on my knees I think to myself, “What a damn lie.”