Wilting under an Alabama sun, Ida Cunningham climbs the stairs to her porch carrying a grocery bag from the market down the street. “I declare if it doesn’t feel like we’ve moved 100 miles closer to the sun today.”
Adele, a widowed sister living with Ida and her family, gently rocks in a white wicker chair. “Either that or the rapture’s come and we’ve been left behind.” She fans her damp brow. “You see Cora, at the market? That woman’s a saint and if she’s still around then there’s been no rapture.”
Setting the grocery bag of bread and cereal next to the door, Ida accommodates herself in another rocker next to her sister, and sighs. “She was there. But it did appear she was gossiping with Mrs. Whipplestone.”
“That’s on account they’re both Episcopalian and don’t call it gossip, but rather sharing the truth. Least ways that’s what Nora told me and she’s Baptist you know.” She offers her sister a crystal glass, dripping with perspiration and filled with iced lemonade. “If you ask me all southerners must be Episcopalian at heart.”
Ida puts the cold glass next to her cheek, still hot from the sun. “Maybe, but since we’re brought up proper, most of us are too full of guilt to ever change.” She takes a long drink and changes the subject as it seems too onerous for this time of day. “I do miss my car, but its good George has taken the kids fishing at the lake today.”
Adele looks out to the sun-bleached yard. “Do you remember when we were young and would run through the sprinklers on days like this? Daddy would walk out onto the lawn to feel the soil and say it was as parched as a preacher’s tongue after a week of revival meetings; and then he’d hook up the hose to let us play.”
Ida closed her eyes, remembering. “Water would pool over the grass like mulled black tea and when we splashed in it, the spray would turn white, sparkling in the sun. I always wondered about that and meant to ask Daddy, but I never did.”
“And when we picked up the hose and sprayed it into the sun rainbows would appear. Oh my, that was a wonderful time.” She claps her hands as a child. “I wanted it to last forever, my feet wet, muddy and cold and the rest of me bathed in hot, shimmering light.”
Ida looked at her sister. “Dare we?”
“Goodness, at our age and in bathing suits? Can you imagine what kind of yard ornaments we’d look like to the neighbors and what would George and the kids say if they ever found out?”
Ida sighs and gets up from her chair to look at the lawn. “You’re right. It would be quite a sight and story if the family ever knew.” She walks down the stairs to feel the grass. “Yard's parched, just like Daddy used to say; badly needing water.” She spies a green hose beneath the juniper bushes. It lay there coiled and every bit as tempting as the serpent in Eden’s garden.
Adel appears at the crest of the stoop, sweat dripping down her chin to stain the neckline of her blouse dark. “The sun’s so fierce maybe people would only think they’re seeing a mirage or something.”
“Or call the police and we’d end up on the six o’clock news.” She looks around the quiet neighborhood as if to dispel any such possibilities.
“Come on, Ida, let’s do it. We’ll bring out umbrellas to hide behind in case anyone drives by.”
Ida glances at the hose and back out to the deserted street, then up to the hot sun; her heart and mind racing with images of cold wet muddy feet and shimmering rainbows. “Last one back outside is a cry baby,” she squeals rushing up the steps and past her sister.
Minutes later, black umbrellas in hand, they’re splashing white sprays from puddles that lay like mulled tea over the lawn. Transported, they giggle and dance with muddied feet, creating a mist of rainbows with water aimed at the sun. Time falls cold-cocked on a hot sunny day.
Having forgotten his fishing license, George drives up to see them - children of the hose. He barely blinks. Possibly, because he was wondering how to explain what they were seeing to the kids; or, maybe yet, secretly wishing he could join them, transported on the lawn.
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