Clutching each other’s hand we trudge through the mud, our socks black with sweat. My sister’s pockets are full of treasures: green beads, a matchbox dollhouse, a piece of snakeskin. Mine are the Cub survival kit. Back home the baby is hungry, twisting its face into something evil, its wails coming like the scrape of dad’s leaf rake. But the lake is coming into view, so I don’t care. I ask her if she’s hungry. My sister nods and the water is already reflected in her eyes, all green and golden veins of dying weeds. She’s silent after a lifetime of crushing schoolyard questions with no right answers. Can you see a ghost right now? Back then she would make herself small and fold inside the garden shed until I coaxed her out with stained princess magazines and handfuls of Froot Loops. I said nothing though I knew the ghost too, a wisp of milky mist stooping over the baby’s crib while it stared quiet, submissive, or slipping down the hall into dad’s messy bed. She never asked me, so I never had to lie. Now it could matter less; we are at the shore, ankle-deep in bloated worms and bone-bleached rocks. All around the blueberries hang swollen and sticky, and she wanders off. I stand guard, watching the trees breathe. I calculate how many dry branches I will need for the rest of our lives. I make mental notes of candy bar rations. When she isn’t looking, I throw my keys in the lake. For a moment, the scum becomes aware of us. It swallows them and belches, then settles back into indifference. In the house, the baby is still crying.
Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece. She loves stories of all shapes and sizes and enjoys sharing hers with others. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in print in the anthology 21 New Voices, online in the literary magazines 25th Hour Project, Fractal Art, and is forthcoming in Whiskey Paper and Maudlin House. Find her on her Twitter id @clio_v.
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