If you tracked mud in her house, there’d be hell to pay. I called her Grandma Candy Corn. In my head. Her teeth were three shades of yellow, worse by the gums. Some were loose, she’d flick with her tongue after she got done with a hot scolding.

I wasn’t her favorite. Gretchen had dreamy princess hair and sat on her lap. All the rest were boys. They could sassy back talk without getting their pig tails yanked. They could track mud in the house.

She had friends over Saturday nights for cards. Donny, Reese, Carol and Lenny. They taught us games like Gin Rummy and Hearts. Flap flap shuffle on the dining room table, the extra leaf in. Twirls of cigarette smoke, beer tabs in the ashtrays, sticky gin and soda rings, bottles of ginger ale for the kids.

Donny clapped his thigh, “Sit here honey, you can see better.” I straddled his denim overall leg, felt his breath on my nape of neck, smoke through his nostrils.

I slapped down a queen of hearts.

Grandma sighed. “Do you know what the hell you’re doing?” She knocked the cards from my hand. “I’m always explaining things again and again to this one.”

Sunday mornings no one went to church. I raked leaves in the back yard. Two piles.

I laid down in the leaves, pretended this was my house, the rake was my husband, the clouds in the sky were cotton candy. I had lots of money, high heeled shoes, all the Ladies clothes from the Sears catalog.

“Missy, your grandma wants all these leaves raked so she can burn them this afternoon.” Donny stood over me, hands in the pockets of the same overalls he was wearing last night. He crouched down. “I can help.” Twirled my pig tail with his greasy index finger, cigarette hanging from his grin.

They always know which ones feel ugly.

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