The bridge was swinging carelessly in the breeze on that summer after noon. If she had been older it would not been scary. It was the first time she had ever gone alone. When things got out of hand she had the dream of running down the road. But getting to the road meant going across the bridge so she had never done it before.
Today was different. Etta was not six yet. She had seen a lot but didn’t remember most of it. Then they began quarreling. He was tall and pale. She as short and fiery, bent in a way that Etta didn’t understand. The words they called out were nonsense to her but she did notice that the Auntie next door had shut the windows and doors even though the air was hot and the hills reflected the brown heat everywhere.
When you are less than six, words like “torrid” and “adultery” didn’t mean much to you. Yet she knew that it was not good so she crossed the bridge and walked to the hill that led to the other house where she knew she was safe. Grandma lived up there in the house next the store. It was cool in the basement underneath and there was an old bed in there that she could sleep on until it was over.
Clouds has gather that afternoon and thunder rumbled just behind the hill. She could smell the sagebrush and the cheat grass as the rain passed close by. They all loved that in the summer. It was a brief respite from a life filled with bad luck and hard drink. As she came nearer the highway she began to feel tired and besides they were always fighting. She turned back, following the narrow trail back to the bridge and the houses next to the hill. He was carrying a suit case and the dining room chair. The shed out in the back was where he was living he said. Joe could move in if he wanted to. Etta lay on the cool grass and sleep over took her. If her mother noticed, she did says so. Auntie opened her door and scooped her up in her arms.
Nap time little girl she said. The little girl slept soundly and awoke thinking it was all a bad dream.