“I was a little girl once, just like you,” my Granmi tells me. It’s fall, and we are sitting together on the front steps, sharing the woolly blanket my ma and pa keep in the truck of their car. It smells of gasoline and scratchy crumbs are stuck between its matted fibers.
On the street, fall leaves pile up against the fences and gather thickly in the crook of the roots of trees. I want to shrug out of that too-hot blanket and fly down the steps. I want to find a good stick, and I want to poke at the leaf piles. There are worms and rolly-pollies hidden in their damp centers. I like to collect them in jars.
“When I was a little girl, we lived in New York City. I used to play with my dolls on the sidewalk in front of the house. I had a little pram where I could fit them all in, and I’d roll them back and forth.” My Grandmi tugs at the blanket and pulls me closer to her bony leg. She smells of dusty flowers and pennies.
If I were alone, I’d take of my shoes and find some mud. I like to watch it ooze between my toes. If the mud was thick, it tickles a bit between my pinky toe and the other one. I would mix the worms and the role-pollies with mud, and sticks and leaves. I would feed my potion to the trees, to help them survive through the winter.
“And wouldn’t you know it, I was shy, too. Exquisitely shy. Just like you are, my dear. Do you know that you are shy?”
The blush that reddens my cheeks feels just like a dirty scratchy blanket. There is a tree in Mr. Neilson’s yard that has a lot of eyes. I love to sit in that tree. If I were there right now the fall air would cool my cheeks and I would leave my muddy footprints on the branches. The tree would thank me for the potion, and let me stay there as long as I wanted. My Grandmi is old, and so is the tree, but only the tree is my friend.