Fifteen

It was August first, the hottest day all summer. It was hard to breathe, it was so hot. I was fifteen, mowing the front yard, and I was hurrying to get it done before my dad got home. My sisters, Lynn and Christie, were on the front step, playing cards, and I could see my mother in her garden down the hill. Fred was with her. It was so hot that when she came up to the house, she turned on the hose and let the kids run through it. Fred kept falling on the ground. His diaper got so wet, she took it off and let him run naked.

“Look out, Tom,” she called. She turned the hose on me. The water was like ice, but I stopped mowing, turned around, and let it hit me in the face and on the chest till I was cold right through. Mom kicked off her shoes, aimed the hose straight at the sky. The kids all stopped to watch her. She turned her face up and shut her eyes. The water fell down on her like a shower till her hair turned dark, her dress stuck to her back, and we could see how thin she was. After a while she hosed down her feet, put on her shoes. Then she turned the water on the girls and Fred while they ran all around the yard, screaming so much, I wondered what Dad would say if he drove up and saw them. He might think it was funny, take the hose and spray the kids himself. Or it might make him mad as hell to see Mom dripping wet and the baby running naked in the yard.

Mom was chasing Fred, waving the hose. She always let things go too far. Fred was laughing. His hair was plastered down and he was shining wet all over. He kept falling. I could see his mouth was turning blue. He ran at me, grabbed hold of my leg, and he was screaming bloody murder. I could feel him shaking, his whole body shivering and cold.

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