Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The Cool of the Evening

Fiction for your Wednesday: The Cool of the Evening, by Sally Thomas. Sally is a poet, and this story is full of beautifully resonant images, especially if you've spent any time in the South.

They went away in the old blue Plymouth, Wren and her grandparents. Her grandfather peered angrily over the dashboard as he drove. Every day they made the drive into town for the noon Mass; it was almost the only place they went any more. Mass, the grocery store, the beauty parlor. If Wren’s grandmother wanted to go somewhere, Wren’s grandfather had to carry her there in the car. Nobody in Memphis knew how to drive, Wren’s grandfather said. They didn’t tell you they were going to turn. They didn’t signal with their arm out the window. You had to look for some little blinking light, and by the time you saw it, it was almost too late. The Plymouth had manual steering, and her grandfather dragged the wheel this way and that as though he meant to wrestle the car to the ground. 
They passed the Esso filling station, the last outpost of Wren’s neighborhood, and bumped over railroad tracks. Fleetingly Wren saw the leafy corridor the track ran through, May-green, gold-lit, full of stirring shadows in the spring daylight, not a place in itself but a secret going-away to some other, more real place. Always, no matter how many times she crossed those tracks, this flash of secretness made the hair stand up on her arms. From your car at the crossing, if you looked fast enough, you glimpsed that green tunnel curving into mystery. Then you left it behind. 
Even so, Wren thought, today the secret feeling seemed to go with her. Right now, as she rode in that car, her fourth-grade class was taking their Monday spelling test. She was not taking the test. She was not wearing her blue-and-green plaid gym jumper over her Peter-Pan-collared gym shirt and black stretch shorts. She was wearing regular shorts, with yellow smiley faces printed all over them, and a matching smiley t-shirt, as if this were a vacation. She had not brushed her hair Her mother had not thought to tell her to brush it, and now it hung down her back in rough waves, with tangles underneath that would hurt to comb out. She might have dreamed school; it felt that unreal. When she was at school, all she wanted was to be not at school. But now that she was not at school, something in her longed, just a little, for the vanilla smell of the ditto sheet on which the week’s test would be printed out in purple. Meanwhile, the familiar streets of East Memphis, blinding in the early-afternoon light, were sliding by, strange to her all over again because she did not usually see them at this time on a weekday.

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