Author: Arabella McClendon
It’s a sleepy, heavy kind of hot. The kind of hot that drives people inside to take their chances with box fans rather than face the sun. My bicycle is rattling in its usual concerning manner. The handlebars got knocked out of alignment years ago and I never fixed them. I have to hold them slightly sideways, always. The sizzling pavement in front of the liquor store and the ceaseless drone of the cicadas create a Moment and I put it away in my head to take out and look at when I’m old.
Willy grunts a surly welcome when I push through the glass doors of the museum. I leave my bag under her table and she sends me to dust off a powder blue 1933 Lexington. Willy’s favorite. When she isn’t looking I run my hand along the tattered cloth left on the frame of the convertible top. When the Nazis occupied Europe people would take the wheels off their cars and hide them so the Nazis couldn’t use them.
I’ve had all the volunteer hours I need done since last summer. I just like the museum. And I have a kind of rapport with Willy. She lets me dust the Lexington.
I catch pieces of history here, from the museum and from the visitors.
The smell of the leather on the old letterman jackets and an overheard, ” She said that if she ever got outta here she was never coming back.” The sudden grief in the eyes of a middle aged woman staring at the wedding dress mannequin.
“-brushed over both sides with the white of an egg,” pulled into my memory from a cookbook printed in 1937.
Whenever Willy starts telling visitors about the history of the town I lurk nearby to catch her stories again. And then when I leave I look for the bustling industrial town flash-frozen in the museum. I can’t find it.
I finish up by wiping down the display case of large, chrome hood ornaments. I don’t know how anyone could manage to keep one on their car for very long. Maybe that’s why there are so many in the case.
On my way out I stop and leaf through some washed out photographs. Women in nurse uniforms and high school basketball teams.
I don’t notice the old woman looking over my shoulder until she says “Some day we’ll be pictures in an album like that, honey.”
Willy gives me a grunt of approval as I leave for the night. It sounds just like her grunt of welcome. Maybe I shouldn’t assume. Willy doesn’t talk much.
Somehow the cicadas are even louder. It sounds like the end of the world, and the evening has not brought with it any relief from the heat. I don’t stop when I reach home. I don’t even think about it, just rattle onward into the countryside just outside of the town.
When I come back into myself it is full dusk and the thunder of the cicadas has been replaced by a soft orchestra of crickets. A million tiny, living violins. I’m out in the farmland now, kicking my heels into the gravel to push my mangled bicycle forward. Past another farmhouse and deeper into the country. The stars are starting to show, taking a celestial attendance, icy little aristocrats. They are all fashionably late for absolutely nothing.