By Tiffany Lindfield
I was running through the yards pulling dandelion puffs from the ground. That’s what my Grandma, who sat on the front porch with a fly swatter, called them. She said I should pick them and blow the seeds in the wind so that the Earth could make more flowers.
I felt special doing this. Felt like I was doing something that needed to be done. The flowering Dandelions were also in bloom, everywhere. Some were a bright yellow, like highlighters poking through unkept yards, and others were a light yellow, spotting trim lawns with pale faces.
I would squat down and look at them and inhale their sweetness. I didn’t pick the flowers. Grandma said not to because the bees needed them, and it was true. In almost every bloom, a bee was burrowed inside the flowers or hovering over them in rapture.
I ran from yard to yard pulling the Dandelion puffs and blowing the seeds into the warm air. The sky was the prettiest blue, and the light from the sun made the seeds parachuting in the air look like diamonds taking off.
But then, I must’ve stepped on a bee because the sole of my bare foot burned, and I ran back to the porch whining like I did. Grandma turned my foot up and pulled out a bee’s stinger. “Poor little bee.”
She slapped the air with the swatter. “Poor little fools die after they sting ya.’ That’s a lesson against revenge.”
I knew that. She had already told me that, and I felt for the bee.
I was only eight. Mrs. Sandy looked like a Sandy. She had red hair, and peach freckles that sprinkled her face and hands, even her elbow had freckles on them. I laughed pointing them out one day, and her daughter, Sarah—younger than me—laughed too. Sarah had bright red hair, brighter than her mom’s, and only a few freckles dotting her cheeks.
I was huddled in their living room, made dark with thick curtains. Sandy had said we were going to do Christmas in summer, and so she made a lot of snacks like popcorn and pigs in the blanket, and put Christmas movies on. I cried when Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer was mocked for being different.
But then Sarah’s dad—Sandy’s husband—came in the door, and he was drunk. I knew that. My grandma’s boyfriend had problems drinking and would sometimes slap her. I can’t remember what the dad looked like, recalling him only as a dark shadow that shifted funny, and talked with a mean face.
He asked Sandy, “What the hell is there to eat around here?” and Sandy tried to calm him down by rushing around in the kitchen, but he came after me.
I was scratching the mosquito bites that ran up and down my skinny legs. So much scratching that blood was under my clipped nails. I licked the blood off. He yanked me off the couch, turning the light on. He looked me up and down. “Get out of here!”
I was confused. “What?”
Sandy’s face went pitiful. “Honey, leave that child alone.”
He jutted his chin, then wiggled his finger in her face. “You shut up! Why in the hell would you let some goofy trash like this play with our daughter?”
Then his finger was almost touching my pointy nose. “Look at your legs, and your dirty feet. You don’t even have shoes on your damn feet. Get the hell out of my house!”
I was slinking to the door, slipping out when Sandy called out to me. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”
I ran with tears falling hard. For the first time, I realized I was poor, and ugly. Grandma was on the porch, waiting for me, and I told her in heavy, heavy sobs what was wrong. I showed her my dirty feet, and the bloody spots on my legs.
She took me inside, and dotted every bite with calamine lotion, and a kiss. “That man is poor. He is poor in his heart, lil’ girl. Don’t you go and worry with someone like him, cept’ to pray for him.”
The next day Grandma found me a pair of shoes from the thrift shop and put them on my feet with new red socks that matched the scabs on my legs.
Tiffany Lindfield is a social worker by day, trade, and heart advocating for climate justice, gender equality, and animal welfare. By night, she is a prolific reader of anything decent and a writer.