One year, green. Another year, blue. Then bright yellow. The metal lawn chairs got a new coat of paint every summer, but everything else seemed to stay the same, caught in the slow molasses of childhood in a place where nothing ever changed. Janie flipped the yellow chair over to make a tiny hiding place. She fit just right. The other kids wouldn’t find her.
In the plain white church across the gravel parking, the congregation sang. Their impeccable harmony rose and fell on the evening air. Every person knew his or her part: soprano, alto, tenor or bass. They sang the old hymn a cappella. We shall come rejoicing, bring in the sheaves. Janie knew the words, too, and she sang along softly.
The hay had been cut and stacked that day in mushroom-shaped mounds and a sun-dried, herbal scent filled the air. Cows trod single-file up the lane leading to the barn, taking their time on that last evening walk. No hurry. The barn would be there; it was always there. Horses lingered in the field, standing nose to swishing tail, brushing each others’ faces clean in the relentless war between horse and horsefly.
“Kids! Time to come inside.”
Parental calls would have to be repeated several times, and everyone knew it. It was just too hard to forsake the soft twilight for the glaring indoor lights. The children assembled in a loose circle under the dark, rustling maple leaves.
“You’re It for tomorrow,” David said.
“Am not,” Janie responded automatically.
The game had been going on for days – maybe all summer. A fresh day meant a fresh start.
Finally, the calls took on an “I mean it now” tone and the kids slowly trailed inside, lured by the smell of buttered popcorn. Bright lights made the outside world instantly black and foreign. Curtains were drawn against the night. The house became a cocoon, safely cradling those within.
Janie’s dramatic protests: “I don’t need a bath, I had one yesterday. I’m not one bit dirty,” were ignored. Clean and sleepy, she slipped between crisp sheets dried on the clothesline, inhaling leftover fresh air and sunshine.
Through the open window came the sounds of church-goers leaving evening service, talking cheerfully to one another, calling children, slamming car doors. Gravel crunched under tires. Crickets prevailed again.
The world turned steadily on its axis. What could ever change?