Red emerged from her bedroom, tugging at her hoodie. The zipper stuck all the time now, and the red was more of a dirty pink, but Dadda had bought it for her first track meet, and Judgment Day would come and go before she threw her lucky jacket out.
" 'Bout time you got up, lazybones!" Mamma yelled from the kitchen. "Get your skinny butt up to Gramma's with that basket, pronto."
"I ain't had breakfast," Red said.
"She'll feed you something. Now get!"
Red sighed, crossing the room.
She stood by the table, near the basket covered with a checkered cloth.
Sunlight from the window glinted off a knife standing in the cutting board, making her squint.
Mamma stood at the kitchen sink, suds up to her elbows, scrubbing furiously.
The front door stood open, creaking slightly in the fall breeze.
Red swung the basket off the table with a grunt.
Red lifted a corner of the cloth and inhaled the warm smell of blueberry muffins. "Hands off, missy," Mamma snapped. "Gramma'll feed you something. Now skedaddle."
Red huffed, turning.
of blueberry muffins
Red plucked the knife from the board. "What you doing with my knife, girl?" Mamma demanded. Red had thought of scaring off the Thulle's dog with it, or even paying it back for the scar on her calf if it tried to bite her again on her way to Gramma's.
"Nothing." Probably a dumb idea anyway.
"That's right, nothing. Now get on to Gramma's." Mamma wiped her forehead on a sleeve. Red figured she'd have to distract her if she really wanted the knife.
She returned it to the cutting board.
fell across the knife lying on the cutting board by the sink
Red moved to the cutting board again. Mamma didn't even turn. "Leave my cutlery alone and get outta here, or so help me..."
Red eased away. If she really wanted that knife, she'd have to distract Mamma.
Red looked out the window. "Is that the Tulle's dog digging up in your flower bed again?"
Mamma cursed, grabbing at the window. Flinging it up, she shot her head out, drawing a vicious breath—
She grunted, then drew back in, wheeling on a snickering Red. "Don't you try me, young woman!" she bellowed. "I already been through it once with your Dadda this morning, ain't in no mood!"
"Yeah, I heard you two," Red muttered, adjusting the knife in her jacket pocket.
"That's right you heard," Mamma continued. "And you'll hear a lot more if you don't get gone with that basket!" Red backed away, trying not to smile.
fell across the counter and onto the linoleum floor
Red approached Mamma, drawing a breath.
"What you want, girl, a hug?" Mamma banged a pie tin in the sink. "Get your bony behind up to Gramma's." Red backed away.
Mamma didn't even look up. "Basket. Gramma's. Now!"
"Ain't you forgetting something, missy?" Mamma cocked a soapy fist on her hip. Red shuffled back from the doorway.
Red plunked the basket down by the door and fished an old pair of running shoes out of the pile on the mud mat. She jammed them on her feet. Grabbing the basket, she stepped through the door. "Bye," she called.
The door banged shut.
She stood among the leaves on the walk leading from the house. An old oak stretched its limbs above her, its roots buckling the concrete slabs of the walkway. A thick rope dangled from one of its branches, twirling in the breeze.
She could go down to the barn and see if Dadda would give her a ride up to Gramma's, or leave him alone and head straight out to the road.
This tree had been here long before the house was built, and Red had climbed it so many times the bark was bare in patches. Part of it was already dead and limbs would fall off in storms, but Red always talked Dadda out it whenever he wanted to cut it down.
This old rope was all that was left of the many forts and swings Dadda and her had built in the oak. There used to be a tractor tire tied to the rope, and one day when she was little, Dadda swung her so high in it she puked. He let her get a drink of water, then he put her back in the tire and swung her gently. She fought, but he told her, "You got to get back on the horse that bucked you, or you'll always be afraid of it."
Red couldn't remember when the tire had gone missing from the swing.
Red shuffled through the leaves to the end of the walk, then crunched up the driveway to the gravel road. The road grader hadn't come in forever, and everything but the edges was gray dust.
Red walked down the middle of the road, tugging her hood over her head with one hand. She wished she had on sweatpants instead of shorts, but she wasn't going back to change now.
In two minutes, she reached the corner.
She stood in the middle of the two roads. Over the bare fields to the northeast, more than a mile away, she could see the trees that marked Gramma's house. If she went north from here, she could cut along the railroad tracks and get there a lot quicker. But she'd have to go by the Tulle's, and if their dog was out...
Maybe it was better to take the longer way east, then north.
Red pulled he knife from her pocket and thumbed the blade. Maybe he was too dumb to stay away from somebody with a knife.