Iowa Writes

MELISSA J. DELBRIDGE
Hurricane Creek (excerpt)


In July of 1959, Coy Cullens's boxer mix Rufus jumped the fence and tore a big piece out of my brother's Little League pants and a smaller chunk out of his calf. Billy wrecked his bike and couldn't finish his paper route. Coy's wife felt so bad about it that she called her husband at the foundry, told him to get his ass home and true the bent tire. She came rolling the bike up the hill to our houses in her pedal pushers, a new pair of pants folded in the basket, the right color but the wrong size, to thank my daddy for shooting that damned dog. It was a good thing the tire got fixed, because Rufus did turn up rabid and Billy had to ride his bike to Druid City Hospital several times to get shots in his stomach so that Momma would not have to take off work. Billy said they didn't' even hurt. Coy was sorry as he could be. To him it just didn't seem like a whole year had passed since Rufus got his shot, but he reckoned it must have been.

I tell you this now so you know right off that we were not, to say the least, over-protected children. We were loved with an amused distraction by parents both exasperated and hypnotized by one another's presence. Billy'd let the screen door slam behind him, his cheeks flushed after his shot, and Momma, just in from the lumber company, would embrace him, call him her brave and handsome little man, then her sentence would trail. The light in her eyes would shift when my father walked in, unbuttoning his shirt in the living room. We were adored when they remembered. My brother and I played Scrabble at night in the living room, Shell asleep on the rug beside us, and I would look up between turns and catch my mother looking at us puzzled, as if someone had left us on the doorstep, rung the bell, and run. When we asked her to play, she'd moan, "Honey, Mother's just too damn tired."

In July of 1959, Coy Cullens's boxer mix Rufus jumped the fence and tore a big piece out of my brother's Little League pants and a smaller chunk out of his calf. Billy wrecked his bike and couldn't finish his paper route. Coy's wife felt so bad about it that she called her husband at the foundry, told him to get his ass home and true the bent tire. She came rolling the bike up the hill to our houses in her pedal pushers, a new pair of pants folded in the basket, the right color but the wrong size, to thank my daddy for shooting that damned dog. It was a good thing the tire got fixed, because Rufus did turn up rabid and Billy had to ride his bike to Druid City Hospital several times to get shots in his stomach so that Momma would not have to take off work. Billy said they didn't' even hurt. Coy was sorry as he could be. To him it just didn't seem like a whole year had passed since Rufus got his shot, but he reckoned it must have been.

I tell you this now so you know right off that we were not, to say the least, over-protected children. We were loved with an amused distraction by parents both exasperated and hypnotized by one another's presence. Billy'd let the screen door slam behind him, his cheeks flushed after his shot, and Momma, just in from the lumber company, would embrace him, call him her brave and handsome little man, then her sentence would trail. The light in her eyes would shift when my father walked in, unbuttoning his shirt in the living room. We were adored when they remembered. My brother and I played Scrabble at night in the living room, Shell asleep on the rug beside us, and I would look up between turns and catch my mother looking at us puzzled, as if someone had left us on the doorstep, rung the bell, and run. When we asked her to play, she'd moan, "Honey, Mother's just too damn tired."

Family outings were not frequent events. Midautumn, Daddy might load us into his Harvester Scout and take us out in the woods near Samantha to pick the muscadines my grandfather made into syrupy wine. The day after Thanksgiving we'd all go to Burton and Loring jewelry store in downtown Tuscaloosa to let Momma pick out her Christmas present. She did it herself, insisting that Daddy's taste was all in his mouth. Every other spring we'd go down to Walker's Buick and pick out Momma a new red car. And once in a blue moon, Daddy'd take the day off and we'd all drive out to Hurricane Creek.

My mother drove with the window rolled down, ten miles over the speed limit, her elbow resting on the sill hard enough to leave a mark on her inner forearm. She invented road rage before 1960. Kept her red lips set tight and her eyes on the prowl for idiot drivers. "Did you see that idiot driver?" she'd ask, and I'd nod. My mouth would have been gaping if I had not remembered to keep it closed. Momma hated a mouth-breather. "Buddy," she'd mutter, "if you can't drive that wreck, you'd better damn park it!"

I never actually saw the idiot driver because I couldn't look without taking my eyes off her with those legs in her black two-piece. I squirmed between my parents on the hot plastic upholstery in my oldest bathing suit, a bright red one with the leg elastic half-blown and a field of picks on the butt from where I'd sat on the concrete without a towel. Billy and Michelle poked at each other in the back seat. I got the front by virtue of carsickness.

Momma'd take the turn at the Jungle Club too fast by a long shot, and we'd hit the bump, craning our necks to make sure we'd tied the trunk tight enough to keep the patched black inner tubes from flying out across the old Birmingham Highway. We were outside the city limits now.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MELISSA J. DELBRIDGE

Melissa Delbridge has published essays and short stories in the Antioch Review, Southern Humanities Review, Third Coast, and other journals. She is an archivist in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library at Duke University and lives with her family in Orange County, North Carolina.

Established in 1969 and housed in the historic Kuhl House, the oldest house still standing in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Press publishes scholarly books and a wide variety of titles that will appeal to general readers. As the only university press in the state, it is dedicated to preserving the literature, history, culture, wildlife, and natural areas of the region.

Family Bible

University of Iowa Press

This page was first displayed
on May 14, 2010

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