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Is what Mema calls her blue Ford Falcon. Even though she has a garage, Mema parks

Little Eva on the gravel. Shaded by a sycamore tree, it is the first thing I see, when we

turn onto Erie Street.   Little Eva.  Then, Mema.    White haired and proper, in her

rocking chair on the porch, waiting in the dense air that hangs heavy with smells from the

nearby Corn Products plant, and memories, of fighting boredom when she reads Robert

Frost,    her awkward embrace,    the way my legs stick to Little Eva’s vinyl seats.


Each summer. The annual sleep-over. Dad, always in a hurry to leave after he drops me

off. Mema offers me a cola with a single cube of ice. We sit in Missouri heat and the

uncomfortable silence of people who don’t have much to say. When the ice melts, Mema

puts on her cotton driving gloves and takes me for a ride. I know we are headed to the

Library. Mema is the president of the quiet place. In the lobby, a picture of her, holding

scissors in front of a big ribbon, next to some men in suits with shovels. She loves the

library. She studies parliamentary procedure and researches genealogy: our noble

ancestry            our D.A.R. lineage             our Magna Carta-signing forefathers. 


After the library, we drive Little Eva to the pet store. Mema’s cotton hands on the

steering wheel. She stares straight ahead while I sweat in Little Eva. Each summer I am

allowed to pick out a pet to take back to her house, a pet that will be mine for a night, a

pet I will say good-bye to the next morning when Dad picks me up. The rules:


                    No dogs.                    No cats.                       No snakes. 


Over the years, rabbits, gerbils, fish and birds have been my friends. 


The last night I spend at Mema’s, I fall in love with a hamster I name, “Georgie.” Mema

buys Georgie a cage, wood shavings, an exercise wheel and special food. In the dark that

night, in the small house on Erie Street, I think about Little Eva and Mema. I listen to

Georgie scritching in her cage, running on her wheel, and I think about being at the top of

the Ferris wheel with Frank Shertliff at the State Fair,               how I’d let him kiss

me   and put his tongue inside my mouth,         and I wonder          if anyone           has ever 

put their tongue inside Mema’s mouth.

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