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April 2019 Vol. 15 No. 1

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Marilyn Ashbaugh

Summer Heat

In a time when mothers are more relieved than worried when their children disappear for hours, the streets can be dangerous. The neighborhood bully who causes me the most grief lives across the street from my parents and down the alley from my grandmother. She is the only fourth grader I know who smokes cigarettes. She twists my arm to recruit me to go on walks with her, where we scour the sidewalks for discarded cigarettes long enough for a puff or two. I hate these walks, for she rewards my efforts with a drag from a cigarette that makes me sick. I turn green as she laughs and asks in a thick accent, "You don’t like butt picking?"

the tire swing
twisted tight on an oak limb
summer heat