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Heat Wave part III


Published: Friday, January 31, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 15:02

The car sped over the sections of cement as Keziah gazed out the window. She could hear her mother talking but chose to tune her out, instead allowing herself to get lost in the clouds, focusing on those white clumps in the sky.

She put her head against the window—it was warm from the sun beating down on the glass—and she smiled as the breeze from the air conditioner swiped across her face.

Keziah concentrated on the sky, then looked down at the water, the reflection of the sun shimmering in the ripples as she and her mother drove over the bridge to her grandmother’s house.

“Keziah,” her mother looked back. “How was school today?”

Keziah realized her mother had been trying to talk to her all this time. When she refocused her attention she could almost see the playground in her head—watching the boy, sitting on the top of the jungle gym, tracing his movements with her finger. Was she the reason he tripped? As her mother blinked at her, she could see the boy falling all over again, remembering the jerk of her finger that could have triggered it all.

“Keziah. How was school?” She’d never dissected the question the way she did now. She was only in the first grade, only six years old. She’d never really thought about the answer—she’d always just known school to be good.

“Mommy, why do I have to go to school?”

She saw her mother look at her reflection in the rear view mirror.

“I mean, I know I have to learn things, but why do we have to go to school to learn? Why can’t I just,” she looked at her hands and could feel a warmth in them as they lay upon each other. “Why can’t I just learn at home?”

For a moment, she couldn’t feel the air conditioner; it was as if time stopped and the circulation of air stopped with it. She felt a string of heat crawl up her back and she looked out the window. She saw the sun blazing as it hung over the lake, focusing on its reflection in the water, placing her finger on the window to trace its image in the waves.

“You go to school to meet other kids just like you. It’s all a part of life.”

Keziah thought of the car crash, the swerving tires, and her swerving finger.

“Baby, do you not like school? Do you want to go somewhere else?” Keziah didn’t answer back, her finger still on the window. Her mother looked back at her as she continued on the bridge.

There was nothing Keziah loved more than being with her grandmother at her house on the bayou. As the car pulled up, she could feel the slight breeze and the warmth of the humid air. The white, crinkly Spanish moss, swaying with the air of the Bayou, resembled her grandmother’s thick hair.

This was her second home. The small house was just off the lake, hidden away from the sun by the thick branches of trees entangled in one another. A place where heat was present, but never a burden.

They got out of the car and walked to the front door, which was then thrown open to reveal a tiny, brown woman in a red dashiki with thick white locks that hit the floor. Thin gold bands accessorized her pencil-like arms.

“How y’all doin’, ma’ babies?”

A gust of heat billowed from the house behind her. As they walked through the door, the smell of gumbo wafted into the open air and soothed all three women.

Matthew Draughter can be reached at

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