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Heat Wave part V

Keziah escapes into the bayou heat

By Matthew Draughter
On February 20, 2014


The ceramic cracked when it hit the floor, accompanied by the spilling of the gumbo. Keziah's grandmother rushed into the kitchen, and she started across the room at her granddaughter. Keziah's hand shook, outstretched over the table as she met her grandmother's eyes across the kitchen. There was a silence, a look they both shared. The old woman's locks shook as she motioned towards the broken bowl. Keziah darted out of the room.
She burst through the door. There was a damp warmth in the air and she heard the cicadas sing as she looked over the bayou. Her grandmother called out her name but as she approached, Keziah ran off into the bayou swarming with fireflies. Her fingers ran across the moss swaying in the moonlight as she envisioned the bowl tipping off the table.
"I really made that move."
As she ran past a few more trees, the sound of her grandmother shouting into the distance began to lose its way through the sounds in the bayou. She remembered the car crash, how her fingers trembled in the heat; the playground, how the boy tripped at the flick of her finger.
She felt the heat of the night squirm down her neck. She kept run-ning as she pushed the branches and moss aside, crunching on the leaves below her as she reached the pathway of leaves. She stopped, catching her breath as she ob-served the trail lit by the light of the moon. She could hear a breeze slip through the trees, and as she took one step forward, she slipped.
The slick, warm leaves became her slide, making the bayou her sudden play-ground and companion. She was far away from her grandmother's house and as she slid down the trail of leaves, she felt the twigs from broken branches snatch at her sides as she bumped over the roots of trees.
The ride down wasn't as smooth as the slide at school and she felt an unfamiliar breeze in the air as she reached the bottom of the trail. When she hit the bottom, she fell on her stomach and found herself near the lake, re-flecting the face of the moon in its ripples.
The lake was always Keziah's place, her little secret, and she had just found a new way to her hiding spot. She collected herself, brushing off the weeds and mud that clumped on her dress and pulling out twigs from her curly hair. She looked over the water and felt an unusual coolness come over the area. The lake that hadn't been this cool since she could remember. The chirp of the cicadas quieted down, the trees stopped whistling and a silence had overcome her surrounding area.
Keziah glanced from side to side. A few birds shot up from a tree nearby, trailing into the sky as she heard a slow breathing sound that became louder and louder.
There was a tree that sat on the edge of the lake, a tree that used to have a tire swing hanging from its strongest branch. The rope had been removed altogether. She heard a deep breath, a slow inhale that was followed by a subtle exhale. She saw something dangle from the branch of the tree. It resembled a leg.
Keziah then saw a body propped up in the tree - she could see the build of a man with a pipe hanging from his mouth as his head bobbed. Her big, bright eyes sparked in the moonlight as she let out a slight gasp that seemed to echo across the water.
Keziah gawked at the silhouette. As her gasp reached the tree, it was reciprocat-ed with the turn of a head, the simultaneous inhale and ignition of the pipe positioned in the man's mouth. She could feel his eyes lock onto her face as the ember from his pipe flickered in his bright green irises, lighting the right side of his face in the distance.

Matthew Draughter can be reached at 

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