Daddy mows the lawn with the old push mower. The sweet smell of fresh cut grass and wild mint tickle my nose as I sit on the back steps to watch. My mouth is ringed with red, sticky popsicle juice and I add the stick to my collection in an old coffee can. A summer of visits by the Good Humor Man, and I will have enough popsicle sticks to make a treasure box. The directions in my Girl Scout handbook say I need one hundred popsicle sticks to complete the project. I have ten sticks so far, but it’s only June.
I’m waiting for Daddy to finish the backyard, so I can pull out the circle sprinkler and run through the water. He promised I could if I picked up all the sticks and dog poop in the yard so he could mow. I hate picking up dog poop. Why can’t dogs bury their poop like a cat? Dogs are lazy.
I didn’t really pick up all the poop. Some times I threw it into the hydrangeas. I heard that cow poop makes plants grow, why not dog poop? They both smell bad in the hot summer sun.
I lazily scratch my mosquito bites, and wait for Daddy to finish. He is wearing a white t-shirt that is wet with sweat. His face is red and shiny, too. He looks like the tomatoes Mommy is growing on the side yard.
I can hear Mommy humming through the screen door. She is making a tall pitcher of iced tea for Daddy drink when he’s done with the yard work. Daddy isn’t going to drink iced tea. I know he is headed for the shed on the side of the house where he keeps his tools, and a fridge full of beer. He will grab the bottle opener that is attached to a piece of string on his workbench, so he won’t lose it , and pop the cap on a cold bottle of Miller High Life. He will take deep, deep gulps and then sigh and burp. If he knows I’m watching he will bow and say, “Pardon me, Madam,” and I will giggle and roll my eyes, like Mommy does.
If it’s a good day, Daddy will only drink one or two Miller High Lifes, and then go grab Mommy, lift her up, and swing her against his sweaty t-shirt while Mommy squeals and protests, “Put me down, Bill Kemper, this instant!” But she will be smiling when she says it.
If it’s a good day, Daddy will go take a shower and come out of the bedroom in a clean sport shirt and shorts with his hair still damp from his shower, and smelling of Irish Spring and Old Spice aftershave.
If it’s a good day, my parents will sit on lawn chairs in the shade of the back yard and watch me run through the sprinkler, and watch Puddles, our old, dopey Cocker Spaniel, try to catch me as I run in circles. She will get wet and then sit next to my Daddy while he rubs her silky ears.
If it’s a good day, Daddy will pour charcoal in the round grill and watch the flames grow high before the edges of the black squares begin to turn ashy gray. He will lay hamburgers patties and pink hot dogs on the metal grill and will stand watch over the sizzling meat while Mommy lays the table cloth on the picnic table. Daddy will call her over to see the perfect grill marks on the burgers and hot dogs, and will give Mommy a big loud smooch, and a pat on her fanny as she walks back to finish setting the table with her colorful plastic plates and napkins.
If it’s a good day, we will sit around the picnic table and stuff ourselves with potato salad, cucumbers and tomatoes in vinegar from our garden, and sweet baked beans with bacon on top. Daddy will drink iced tea with us, and won’t fuss at me for feeding Puddles scraps from the table.
If it’s a good day, Mommy will clean up the dishes, while Daddy stands beside me watching me roast marshmallows on a stick that I’ve saved from this afternoon. My parents will sit as we watch the sky grow dark, and fireflies blink on and off, until mosquitos, buzzing and biting, drive us indoors.
If it’s a good day, my parents will turn on the stereo and sit in the shadows of the living room, their voices low and sweet, like honey pouring out of the jar. I will be tucked in my bed, the faint breeze coming through the window screens and the street lamp on the corner my night light as I fall asleep.
Daddy shouts and I look up, startled. “I’m done,” he says. Then he rounds the corner and goes into the shed, and opens up his first beer. A few minutes later, he’s opened another, and soon the empty bottles form a line on his workbench. Mommy is at the screen door.
“Where’s your Daddy?” she asks anxiously. “He’s in the shed,” I point.
Mommy lets the screen door slam as she steps around me, and heads for the shed. “Go play,” she calls back over her shoulder, as she walks up to my Daddy.
I sigh deeply, and go in the house and up to my room where I carefully close my door and get out my library book, my pillow and head for my closet. There won’t be anything good about this day.