Place of My Heart

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Nine

Turtle Creek
At midnight the rain had stopped. We all heard the bang of impact. Then the police were at the door. Some people panicked and ditched their drug of preference, oxy, molly, special K. On the front porch somebody said they heard a scream before the impact, someone said it was a girl on a scooter, and another said a guy was holding on behind her. We walked downhill to the bridge, which spanned the creek at the end of the block. The wreck scene was strobing like red and blue disco lights. Fire truck, EMS, police cars. A halo of plastic and metal bits glittering where the scooter hit the bridge. The crushed remains of the scooter were there but no girl or guy. Probably they’d flown over the rail into the creek and been swept away. We never knew who they were. The creek was thundering. It was the end of summer. A lot of us went on to college, which a lot of us didn’t finish. Years later, the drowning was all some of us remembered from high school. The thundering creek, the cops, the strobing lights, the drugs, the summer rain starting again, washing us all away.

The Gym
The gym is vast and almost empty, echoing with recorded piano music. A little girl with black hair, wearing a leotard so black it makes her arms and legs look shockingly bright, moves in perfect synchrony with the music. She’s graceful, obviously, like a reef plant swaying in the tide. Her diagonal run across the floor ends in a series of flips impossibly, dangerously high for one so young. But she lands perfectly on the piano’s last note, her arms high in a victory V. It’s her salute to the judges who are not there. Above her, three older women walking together on the elevated track have stopped to watch. The young man squatting in a corner of the exercise floor, where he can observe, must be her coach. He holds a cell phone up, as if a number is going to appear on its screen like a judge’s card. But no, he laughs, he’s talking to someone, and brings the phone back to his ear. He’s missed her routine entirely. The gym is now a vast cavern of silence, except for the hum of mounted wall fans. The girl, getting no response, walks to a long padded bench to join two older girls, also in black leos. They’re on cell phones, too, paying no attention to her. Maybe they never do. The smaller girl sits apart from them. Without a phone she looks around at the emptiness and gradually slumps, her arms between her knees. One of the older women watching from above murmurs, Poor thing. One of the other women says, That’s life. The third sighs, Oh I know, when the music stops and there’s no one there. Below, eyes closed, the girl straightens and shakes her fingers out. Her hands begin to roll and flow, in the same direction like a hula dancer’s. Then her arms rise again in a V.

Port Lavaca
I’ve never been in Port Lavaca, but close enough to hold it dear. It’s on Matagorda Bay, in the middle of the Texas Gulf coast, between Louisiana and Mexico. Or, about halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi (with its world famous Christ the Redeemer statue, which is actually a plastic replica of the one in Rio de Janeiro, on sale at the last Fina gas station, still giving away pink air to fill your tires). Matagorda in Spanish means thick brush or the canebrakes that once lined the shore. Port Lavaca’s got about 12,000 people. I’m guessing they’ve got BBQ beef ribs with a slight tang of salt sea air. There’s lot of birds–400 species that hang out there not including a slew of migratory birds. And, famous, dangerous, or is it endangered, whooping cranes. There’s marinas and bars with Fedders window air conditioners laying foggy cold air down on the pinball machines.

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