by Betty Wilson Beamguard
Last September, I flew to Memphis to spend a week with my sister. A few nights after I arrived, I was up marching in place with my arms whirling while she tried to watch the premier of “Boomtown.” She quickly concluded that I needed more physical activity.
During a commercial she said, “Tomorrow I’ll put sealer on the porch and you can pick up limbs. Okay?”
After sitting around for three days, I was ready to get outdoors, and that would give me a chance to repay her for the yummy homemade yeast rolls she’d been stuffing me with every evening at suppertime.
Next morning, she told me she’d have to wait until the porch dried completely before she could apply sealer, but said I could go right ahead with my chore. Did she then offer to help with the limbs? She did not. What she did do was go to the shed and drag out a raggedy kiddy pool for me to haul the brush in, hand me a pair of work gloves, and show me where to pile the limbs. Then she told me to pick up every little stick and ordered me to keep an eye on Sugar, her plump rat terrier. With that, she disappeared inside to read the paper.
I began with enthusiasm, stacking limbs of all sizes in the kiddy pool while enjoying the morning cool. As soon as I got a load, I set off down the path as directed.
Somewhere along the trail, I began to get a sense of how I must look to the people zipping by on the highway. They were seeing a skinny woman with graying hair, wearing bright red shorts, an eye-assaulting tropical-print blouse, yellow work gloves and Earth Shoe thongs, flip-flopping along, dragging a yellow kiddy pool by a loop of twine. I felt certain the neighbors were standing at their windows, laughing themselves sick. And where was Sugar? Playing in the highway, most probably.
When I reached the drainage ditch, I faced a row of cypress knees. Sister had instructed me to cross the ditch, so I stepped over and jerked the pool by its string. The pool jerked back. On closer examination, I discovered a cypress knee poking up through the plastic. It had ripped out a third of the bottom, creating a giant flap. I lifted the pool up and over, expecting the whole bottom to fall out before I reached the brush pile.
Much to my surprise, it held, so I unloaded and returned to a shady section of the backyard where I started gathering another load. There I received a mosquito bite, then another and another, causing me to envision my untimely death from the West Nile virus. By the time I had filled the pool, I noticed that the morning cool had vanished, giving way to a sticky warmth.
As I hauled off the second load, my resentment mounted. My resentment peaked when I looked up to see my sister on the back porch with a video camera aimed in my direction.
“That’s okay,” I yelled. “You get a video and I get a story.”
“You’re going to write a story about picking up limbs?”
She turned off the camera and stomped back inside. After dumping that load, I decided I’d more than
repaid Sister for the rolls. I stashed what was left of the pool in the shed, called Sugar, and headed for
air conditioning, figuring that with a little luck I’d be on a plane to South Carolina before she discovered
how many limbs I’d left in the yard.
Betty Wilson Beamguard, a writer of Southern women’s fiction, poetry, and essays, has received numerous awards for her writing, and her work has appeared in Horizons, The Quill, Catfish Stew and Lonzie’s Fried Chicken. She has published one novel, the humorous Weej and Johnnie Hit Florida.
WEB SITE: Writing of Betty Beamguard
South Carolina author Beamguard is one funny, funny lady. Her book titled Weej and Johnnie Hit Florida has delighted readers, and now the sequel, Rescuing Maria, is available. Visit her site to find out more.
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