This short story is based very, very loosely on an incident in my childhood.
In the summer of her thirteenth year, Anny was sent to stay with Uncle George and Aunt Grace on their farm. Her mother had died during the winter; all of the children in the family were 'farmed out' to various relatives. Anny, a city girl for all of her short life, was the only one to be sent to the country. She found the chores arduous, the smells disgusting; and no one ever gave her a sensible reason for rising at dawn.
Uncle George watched her as he moved through the hot, hazy days, concerned about her continuing isolation. A plain, skinny child, her too-short dresses and falling-down socks gave her unkempt neglected look. She resisted all of Aunt Grace's efforts to confiner her stringy black hair in a pair of neat braids, even going so far as to sneak off behind the barn and rip the ribbons from the ends, before shaking her head vigorously until her hair streamed around her in wild disarray.
One day, Uncle George noticed her covert study of a local hill called Table Rock Mountain. It was an old grand name for a medium hill with a prominent flat crown of rocks. After watching her gaze at the mountain over a period of days, he wandered up to where she stood next to the water trough.
"Would you like to climb it?"
Anny whirled around. Her long legs seemed to tangle together before she regained her balance.
"What!" she demanded wearily.
Uncle George stood his ground acting as if they were used to exchanging pleasantries. "I plan to go over to old Table Rock and wondered if you would like to ride along. Might even walk part way up her."
She gravely considered the possibilities. Cautiously, her dark eyes peered at him from behind her shaggy bangs. "Could Ziggy come with us?"
"Ziggy?" Why do you want him to come?" he asked in astonishment. A surly seventeen-year-old, his son didn't generally have time for Anny. Their relationship could best be described as a truce, with each carefully ignoring the other unless forced otherwise.
Anny tilted her head to one side as she looked at the mountain again. Uncle George was old--too old to climb all the way to the top of the mountain. Maybe, if Ziggy came along with them, Uncle George would let them climb to the high crown of rocks. Something within her longed to stand up there and look over the surrounding country. Uncle George was waiting for her answer. "Ziggy never goes anywhere. He's all alone, like me."
George nodded slowly. "Alright. Ask him. He can come with us if he wants to. Let me know."
"When will we go?" she asked as he walked away.
"Friday," he answered over his shoulder.
Anny tried to think of the best way to approach Ziggy. He would be suspicious of any overtures on her part. After spending most of her afternoon wrestling with the problem, she found herself no closer to a solution. Deciding on a direct appeal, she searched for her cousin. She found him behind the barn, looking at a magazine. Before he noticed her and stuffed the magazine beneath a bale of hay, she caught a glimpse of a naked lady on the shiny cover.
"What do you want?" he demanded roughly. His voice shot from baritone to soprano on the last word. He sounded funny, so she laughed. That was the wrong thing to do. "Get out of here!" he shouted. "Quit following me around and spying on me!"
Still intrigued by the naked lady, she wasn't paying attention. "Why do you look at that magazine with the naked lady?"
"That's none of your business! And don't you be telling Pa, either!"
"Well-ll. Maybe I won't, if you go with us to Table Rock Mountain on Friday."
"What d'you want to do that for?"
"Anny shrugged. "I want to go to the top. Uncle George is too old."
Ziggy snorted. "Like hell!"
She inhaled sharply. "That's swearing!"
"Uncle George would belt you one."
"I guess you'll tell him about this too, you little sneak." Ziggy attempted a sneer; Anny thought he looked like a grinning sheep.
"I won't tell--if you come with us," she replied impatiently.
"A'right! I'll go!"
She went to find Uncle George, leaving Ziggy with his naked lady magazine.
On Friday, Uncle George drove over to Table Rock Mountain. All of them were packed into the truck, which was rust-pocked on the outside and held the sharp smell of dust on the inside. When they reached a wide spot on the shoulder, Uncle George parked the truck and they climbed out.
Uncle George led the way to the beginning of a dim trail. "Here's where you start. Maybe I'll just walk along for a short piece. Always did like this mountain," he explained.
The trail disappeared part way up the hill. After that, they split up, with Ziggy and Anny turning it into a race. The sun rose higher and higher beating down on them with fierce heat.
Anny scrambled up the last little bit, reaching the cool shadow of the high rocks with relief. She had won! She could see Ziggy below her, still trying to find the best way to the crown. Carefully picking her way, she reached a wide chimney in the rocks. Instinctively, she knew it was her way to the top, but without experience to guide her she was stymied.
Then above her, a plaid-sleeved arm appeared. Shading her eyes from the sun, she saw Uncle George smiling down at her. "Want a hand up?" he inquired.
Nodding, she held both hands up to him. He gripped her hands firmly in his and pulled her up over the edge. When she was seated safely on the level top, he teased, "What took you so long?"
She looked out over the countryside, sighed deeply, and then grinned. "Mama taught me it's not polite to show up your elders."
Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's blog at www.amarindajones.blogspot.com to check out her Friday thoughts and the Saga. Then pop over to Kelly's blog at www.kkirch.blogspot.com to meet her guest author, Katie Blu and even sample an excerpt. Blessings on your day!