My fingers grasped the rogue blades of grass in my uncle’s front garden bed, and I ripped them from the loose soil, banging the dirt from the clump before I tossed it into the compost pile.
“Looking good, Jackson.” The words my Uncle Carter spoke made him sputter into a coughing fit. When he regained his breath, I looked up to see him grinning at me.
“Only about forty more feet to go, huh? You know, I used to do that weeding in one afternoon.” His blue eyes sparkled with a pride I’d never dare puncture.
Days ago, when I told him I’d planned to help with his yard, he’d mentioned how long it used to take him, and I mentally vowed I’d take three times as long. I had a pile of mulch delivered and ready to spread once I rid the garden beds of weeds and grass.
“I heard something about that.” I smiled and bent down, reaching for a different clump of weeds. “I think I might have to take Millie up on her offer of lemonade. You want some too? I can dash up there pretty quickly.”
I stood and wiped my forehead of sweat from the humid day. The sun shone brightly with brilliant blue skies, and while the temperature wasn’t abnormally hot, the moisture in the air made it seem stifling and like I needed to jump in Buttercup Lake and soak the day away.
“You don’t mind if I…” I pulled at the bottom of my shirt, and my uncle chuckled.
“Why not? Let’s give the ladies in town something to talk about.” Uncle Carter coughed and shook his head. “When I was your age, I went shirtless whenever I could. Did I tell you about my time as a lifeguard at the lake?” He burst into a fit of coughing as I threw my shirt on a small boulder.
“It never gets old,” I assured him. I jogged over to my uncle as his fit of coughing calmed and handed him his glass of water.
As my uncle took the glass, I heard a woman screeching in terror in the distance.
“You hear that?” I asked, searching the neighbor’s yard and up the street.
“Ah, just a fox. You know they sound like a woman screaming, right? You couldn’t have forgotten everything about living up north.”
I laughed and shook my head as the screeching got louder, and I jumped off the porch to find the source, and right when I did, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
A woman atop a turquoise bicycle was wobbling all over the road, desperately trying to control the hulk of metal and rubber underneath her. I ran to the road and watched with helpless dread.
“What in the world?” Uncle Carter mumbled.
As the woman careened down the gentle hill with absolutely no control but at a speed that was surely going to lead to a mountain of catastrophe on the pavement in front of us, I waved my hands frantically and tried to get her to steer toward our yard and the pile of mulch I’d just ordered.
Without warning, the woman’s legs stuck out from the sides of her bicycle. She closed her eyes and turned the bicycle right to where I’d pointed.
I jumped out of the way as she drove by, squealing, eyes still pinched shut, with a beauty that dropped me to my knees.
This was no stranger.