Dad was lit and lighting the perfect little briquets weaponized with greasy lighter fluid. The match was applied as tentatively as a hotfoot to a ward heeler. The food was a napalm airstrike on a cow, no less.
The house was painted after a fashion, slumping now a bit everywhere it touched the ground without a concrete elbow to lean on. The flower beds had made their long, lonely way from too much dirt to too many weeds. There was a whiff of a fight between someone’s septic tank gone awry and our rose hedge on the breeze. The overgrown thing had taken on a corroded aspect from the depredations of the beetles; it looked like a leprous dragon, smelled like a grandmother, and pinched like a mortgage when you touched it looking for errant shuttlecocks or wiffleballs.
We had sparklers and the neighbors had ribbons of firecrackers and the mailbox invited an M-80 once. Down where our once-trim houses, packed like cigarette boxes in a carton, petered out to kids with sketchy parents and the one or two farmhouses that used to plow our lawns when they were cornfields, they had bonfires. The girls there went barefoot and smoked cigarettes and knew things early.
The pine needles killed the lawn on the side, the sun killed the lawn in the front, and we pounded the lawn into an urban playground in the back. The only place grass would grow was in the walk, where my mother would try to kill it over and over. Life was like that, then.
The neighbors past the arbor vitaes would wave and glare. She was convinced we were bad, he was convinced she was scary, their children twitched like beat dogs, and never our twain did meet. We had more fun knowing it grated on someone.
The radio was in the window, and we were in the firmament