Peach Season


The summer her parents sent her to live with her father's brother, Tom and his newest wife, Alice, Carrie was nine. She stayed all summer in their small brick house. Her bed was under the sloping roof. She was happy in their house and on the concrete porch. She liked playing in the yard surrounded by the chain link fence. A peach tree grew in the front yard, and all summer she watched and waited as the peaches ripened.

She sat on the steps in the sun and felt the heat of the steps on her legs, and she felt the heat seep through her cotton shorts. She liked the sun on her face and arms. She held her legs out to get them tanned. Aunt Alice brought her glasses of real lemonade. In a few weeks the peaches would be ready to pick.

And most days while Uncle Tim was at work, Alice and Carrie danced on the linoleum floor of the kitchen, the jitterbug, the cha cha, the foxtrot. Her aunt taught Carrie the steps, how to move her body, sway to the music, She held Carrie tight and taught her to spin and to dip. She taught her how to follow a lead, how to feel the subtle pressure of a hand on her back telling her how to move. She promised that she would show Carrie how to pick the peaches, but they had to wait until they were ripe.

One morning Carrie was going to take her shower when Alice asked if Carrie knew how to wash "there." She pointed to a place below Carrie's navel. Carrie didn't know what her Aunt meant. "I'll show you," she said. She soaped up a wash cloth and handed it to Carrie. "Clean yourself," she said. And she watched. "Not like that," she said.
"Between your legs." She watched as Carrie washed. "No," she said. "To be clean you have to wash between and inside. Do you want me to show you?" Carrie said yes, and her Aunt took the soapy cloth and scrubbed and scrubbed. Later that afternoon they picked ripe peaches. They were warm from the sun, and her aunt showed Carrie how to pick, not to tear them from the tree. The ripe ones come off easily. She offered a sweet ripe peach to Carrie, held it in her palm carefully so she wouldn't bruise it.