Page 87 - November 2020
P. 87

November 2020            87

                                                      DESERT CANDLE

                 “No!” was the answer from Morgan

                 “When you come back,” Mommy promised, “Stay out for an hour.”

                             “A whole hour! What can I do?” She didn’t want to go outside.

                             “Play with your brother.”  “Go!”  the adults ordered.

                             Ashley was tired of having to leave and go nowhere, do nothing. She went
                 back to the room to get her purple purse and her secret Kleenex that was all folded
                 up around her five dollars from Uncle Joey with his phone number on a piece of
                 paper. Maybe she would run away this time. Maybe Uncle Joey could let her stay
                 with him. Anyway, it made her feel
                 safe to have her secret and the money nobody knew about.

                             She went out the door, down the steps with the fake-grass carpet and onto

                 the crunchy ground. There was a lot of crumbly rock out here on the Mojave. Most
                 of it was black and white, but it was mixed with sand and dirt of different colors.
                 Sometimes Ashley could find a piece of quartz, a kind of white, glassy rock, if she
                 looked for it. This time she was looking for her brother.  It wasn’t hard to find him.
                  All the lots were flat. There were no trees and only a few of the lots had RVs or
                 vans or trailers on them. Billy was over by Joel’s dad’s RV with Joel and Wade.

                             “What’s up?” called Joel, but Ashley didn’t want to play with the boys.
                 “Nothin’” she answered, and kept walking. Billy and Joel and Wade had a can of
                 old  oil,  drained  from  Morgan’s  car.  They  were  pouring  the  oil  on  anthills  and
                 putting them on fire with kitchen matches.  It smelled smoky, like the big trucks out
                 on the highway, like trucks her real dad used to drive. The oil smell wasn’t as bad
                 as  the  burnt  toilet  cleanser  smell  in  the  RV  when  Mommy  and  Morgan  were
                 working,  but  it  smelled  dirty  and  it  made  the  air  hotter.  It  was  only  March,  not
                 summer, but it was a pretty hot afternoon.

                             “You sure you all right?” asked Joel. “Sure,” she told him and walked on.
                 She could hear the boys’ mom in the background, gripin’ to Wade and Joel’s dad,

                 “Cookin’  drugs  and  sendin’  the  girl  out  to  amuse  herself  all  afternoon  with  no
                 young girls in the neighborhood,” and Joel’s dad answering, “At least she ain’t in
                 there breathin’ the stuff. One a them oughta get a job. It’s no way to live.”
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