© Jo Hewitt THE TEAL MANGO, 2010
May Snowballs by Kim Stenberg
When the snowball bush blooms, you know it is the end of spring. It is fascinating that when your arms are sweaty, when the iron rail up the steps is too hot to touch, when the boundary between the outdoors and indoors becomes a fine wire mesh of house flies on a banging screen door, that there are ready made snowballs, yours for the picking, by the gas tank under the bathroom window.
That tank used to scare me. It looked like a big white ghost creature in the moonlight. And sometimes there was a little hissing noise coming from it. Maybe at night it did come alive. What if it came into the bathroom window and waited for me in the dark. Bathrooms are scary at night. Well, every thing can be scary at night, but especially bathrooms, and dark stairways, and the thought that maybe you waited too long and you would wet your pants and in the morning the yelling and screaming would start. But bathrooms are scary on a hot summer day, too. I always heard about how gas could explode when it was hot or near a flame. And the house would burn down and people would die. I figured sitting on the commode, all exposed like that would be a really bad time for the gas to go. That’ s what I would think of when I was six.
Spring is a happy time for me. But the snowball bush is blooming, it’ s getting hot. I’m not six any more, I’m ten. And it is not spring anymore, it has ended and it is getting hot. And the words around the house are hot. Snowballs in summer are an illusion.The security of home is an illusion. The towels from the bathroom, the plates from the kitchen, a few family pictures are boxed and hidden away, the way stifled words in the night are hidden.
The snowball bush is blooming and spring has ended. And other things have ended. I’m in a car, driving to I don’ t know where. I get sick in cars. It doesn’ t matter how much I crack the window, it can’ t quell the heat of summer and the hotness of the words that my mom and dad now have packed away, buried deep inside them.
I look down at the snowball in bloom that I picked, the last ghostly remnant of my old life, already wilted in my hand. I turn my head toward the window and lean into the glass, watch the farms and the fence posts along the road. Maybe I can fall asleep. Maybe I am already asleep. I listen for the hissing of the gas tank, hoping to awaken. All I hear is the motor of our car, its vibrations pushing me into the box of sleep.