a slice of memoir
I am standing with Aggie Ray at the bus stop. I don’t know why we are here or where we are going. Aggie Ray, big as a mountain with black hair parted in the middle and a face like a storm cloud, has brought me here. We had to walk a ways and I’m tired but one thing I know: don’t whine to Aggie Ray. She’s my babysitter and, somehow, my relative, but I am not sure how. She is keeping me while my parents paint the house they just bought, near the school where I will go to kindergarten in September.
I do not know when is September. I know it is summer now. The sidewalk is hot and Aggie Ray’s face is red like a rose, and sweaty. Still. Storm cloud. Warning.
I am not the only kid she keeps. There are others but they’re all bigger and they run around and sometimes knock me over. I try not to cry any more because Aggie Ray just calls me a crybaby. She shames me in front of the others for not being able to tie my shoes. And for other things…
Daddy says she sometimes eats a stick of Blue Bonnet margarine for snack and I have tried to watch to see if that’s true but I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t want to get in more trouble.
But today it’s just Aggie Ray and me when the bus pulls up with its loud WHOOSH and nasty exhaust. I gag and cover my nose; I am funny about smells but I remember Aggie Ray and pull my hand down.
It’s a good thing, too, because just then she grabs hold of my hand, bends low, and looks at me with them dark eyes that feel like knives although they aren’t even touching me. She growls: “When we get on this bus, you tell them you’re four years old.”
She’s made a mistake. I had a birthday not too long ago.
“I’m not four. I’m five now,” I tell her, but she squeezes my hand, hard.
“I don’t care. You tell them you’re four, hear me?” she hisses, as the bus door folds open.
I can’t help it.
I start to cry.
She hauls me up the steps and drops her fare in the box, as the bus driver says:”Well, now, what’s the matter with you, little girl?”
Oh, I can feel the steam coming from Aggie Ray’s big body and the power of her big, hard hand.
I am just so proud to be five. I don’t want to say I’m four.
It’s a lie.
And so I blurt it out to the friendly-faced driver…
“I AM FIVE.”
Gimpo bus fare box. Wikipedia Commons. CC BY SA 3.0
Suffice it to say I survived.
I realize now that Aggie Ray didn’t want to pay my fare; riding was free for four and under. And I wasn’t much past four.
I still don’t recall where we were going, or why, only that I was being told to lie. Usually kids have to be taught to tell the truth. I really was so proud to be five. To have to say I was four seemed more shameful than not being able to tie my shoes, or the other things…
I have no remembrance of a consequence. It is best. Aggie Ray is long gone now. She did have redeeming qualities, as well as a difficult life. Last time I saw her, she was ill and frail, but she came to hug me with a big smile.
Perhaps it’s unfair that this is my clearest childhood memory of her.
But it was unfair to me, and I knew it even then.
Perhaps I should say “unfare.”
Be that as it may… fare-thee-well, Aggie Ray, in your final destination.
I didn’t use your real name.
I didn’t think it was fair.
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the monthlong Slice of Life Story Challenge