I watch as my aunt steps out of the car. It seems almost immediately she is engulfed in a black cloud of mosquitoes. Mom says they haven’t sprayed yet this summer. A horse idly munches grass near the car. He waddles over and tries to put his head in the window. My mother laughs and records it with her camcorder; she totes it everywhere and complains no one will know she was on vacation with us because she is the one always behind the camera.
I never get used to that chicken farm smell; there is nothing quite like it. Fly papers in my uncle’s house are like trophies of fly corpses, but there is always at least one buzzing around that no one can catch with the swatter. He is rolling a cigarette when we ask to go out and play. He says we can as long as we stay away from the swamp. We play freeze tag, but in the distance I see my cousin Jeff by the swamp. He is dangling one of my sandals over it. By the time I yell at him to stop he has already casually dropped it in, a smirk on his face. Uncle Terry has to fish it out of the murky waters with a crabbing net.
The Tale of the Horse and the Ritalin
It is night. We have returned to a ransacked tent. The contents of my aunt’s purse litter the ground into the woods. We follow the candy wrapper trail and find the purse and its remains. All the candy and Ritalin are gone. My father says it would take more than one bottle to knock out a horse.
I like to stand in the waves just to be knocked down and struggle to get back up again. There are seagulls everywhere on the beach and a woman who sits alone feeding the flocks Cheetos. My stomach grumbles as the smell of the boardwalk fries wafts across the beach. I beg my dad for funnel cake. The sun is high in the sky, and I feel like a sponge soaking in all its warmth.
I watch as my father stands on the pier and ties a piece of string to the small end of a raw drumstick. Later, my mother slowly draws the string out of the water, inch by inch, as my father stands poised and ready with the net. They measure the crab against a soda can; if it was too small they have to throw it back. I donn’t like crabs. I think they look like big spiders.
It is a summer family ritual to line the picnic table with newspaper and use wooden mallets to smash the steamed crabs apart and pick out the meat. It is a delicacy here . They dip it in vinegar or melted butter. I always thought it was too much work for too little pay, and I never liked crabs anyway. Flies buzz, babies cry, and the cracking of shells resounds across the backyard. I fill up on hotdogs and hush puppies, golden balls of fried cornbread of which I could never get enough. Gluttony is so bittersweet.