Fireworks skitter, spitting sparks down the sidewalk. The sky fills with flowers burning out of existence as they burst and bloom. Under the blossoms, Elli sits on her porch watching Betsy Russell dance.
Last week, Betsy went wandering the woods. She carried a machine gun and spitting shark teeth she shredded trees. A red queen practicing for a faithless valentine. The police tried to catch her, but jack rabbit witch that she is, the lady satyr vanished in a blink. And though only rumor accused her, around here gossip tends to be honest.
Seasoned by such suspicions, Elli’s outlook can’t see a better accomplice. Betsy’s an M-80, explosive Carolina Reaper. The kind of firecracker pepper that incinerates tongues right before blowing off heads. Elli’s never been wild, so she needs a guide into untamed territory. Kicking off her goody two-shoes, she makes her way over.
Momma wouldn’t approve, not of what Elli wants, or talking to Betsy for that matter. However, now’s the best time. Fourteen years young, Elli’s old enough to know the adults are liquor loose on punch; the ‘shine leaving everyone blind. It’s part of neighborhood custom: the pig pickin’ party where adults don’t have to be adult.
So, Elli goes straight for Betsy Russell, faunesse dancing on a dirt lawn. Glimpses of grass appear between Betsy’s bare feet as if her dancing makes things grow. Given the boys eying her, the way they stand, pretzel twisted to hide their tent poles, Betsy certainly does make things sprout.
Not sure what to say, Elli taps Betsy on the shoulder.
Forever smiling, Betsy doesn’t quit moving to ask, “How you doin’ youngun?”
It’s only three years between them. Still, they’ve rarely ever spoke. Elli’s always been told to stay away.
Momma’s said, “Sweetie, that wild child is no good. Be neighborly but keep ya distance darlin’.”
Yet, here they stand, inches apart, and though unsure how to begin, Elli starts. A few stammered syllables turn into a flood of words prompting Betsy to pause. She places a hand on the younger shoulder, and the two go for a private stroll.
Elli empties a river into an open ear. Panning that stream, Betsy collects bits. She gathers enough to hint at a picture. It doesn’t hurt this is an old painting produced a hundred thousand times a year. Betsy doesn’t need every detail to guess the whole watercolor scene.
Freckle-faced Elli chucked a heart of glass at someone. A pack of cheerleader clichés interfered with any chance of a catch, and Elli’s potential Romeo dropped her heart. Then those high school hyenas laughed when it shattered on the filthy floor.
So, Elli lays it all out. What with it being the Fourth of July, those clichés are partying at a lake house. If Betsy drives, the two can lurk until everyone there passes out. Then the pair can burn the place down with everyone inside.
Betsy says, “I feel I should say no.”
Shoulders slumped, Elli glances up. The firework flowers aren’t blossoming as much anymore. There’s less color in the sky.
Betsy adds, “But I’ll carry you there on one condition.”
“I get to try talking you out of it.”
Elli smirks, “You won’t.”
“We’ll see,” Betsy winks.
Then the faunesseand firebug set off. They cruise to the lake in Betsy’s beat-up car, sharing scars along the way. Nothing bonds like misfits exposing their imperfect parts, especially to those who seem like reflections. Their jagged edges fitting together like jigsaw pieces.
It’s a good thing Betsy remembered matches or things might’ve been different. There might never have been that fire welding them into sisters. Now—beware—there are two lady satyrs in the woods, chewing up trees and living carefree.
J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history, and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog www.honestyisnotcontagious.com and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.