On my second day at Bobby’s cabin I woke up in my new bed to find him standing over me. The sun was coming up behind him and all I could see was his black outline in front of the bare east window.
“Girl, I have to go back to work today. Took off yesterday. Can’t take off two days in a row. You stay here on the place, don’t go wanderin’ off. Nothing will bother you.”
He turned away, but stopped in the door. “There’s food. You know where we put everything.”
Then he was gone. I heard the click of the front door closing and then the muffled roar of the truck motor. Gravel rattled under wheels as he took off down the hill. Then it was quiet. So quiet.
I had never experienced real silence before coming here. I never thought of St. Louis as being a noisy place, but no matter which apartment or friends house Mama and I stayed at, there was always the sound of other people doing stuff. Sneezing, coughing, laughing, fighting, even flushing. I was used to hearing other lives going on around me all the time. Sometimes what I heard was kind of scary. But lying in my new bed in Bobby Carter’s silent house, it seemed like the noise I remembered had a comforting feel to it. There was always somebody around. Somebody you could turn to if you had to.
Here, there was nobody.
I got up and dressed. I smoothed my bed out real nice and rearranged my new clothes in the drawers. I made myself a bowl of cereal and sat Chatty Cathy and Ralph Bear up at the table to keep me company while I ate it. I knew how to wash dishes, Mama made sure of that. Bobby didn’t leave any dirty dishes but I washed my bowl and spoon and put them away. I looked around for something else to do, but couldn’t think of anything. At Mama’s house I sometimes tried to clean up the mess, but Bobby Carter’s house was already neat and clean. At home I could always watch cartoons to pass the time, but this house didn’t have a TV.
He said I should stay on the place, but I didn’t think I could do that.
The road was easy walking since it was all downhill, but the trees pushing in so close on both sides made me nervous. I stuck close to the middle and looked straight ahead. I knew there was a farm beyond the edge of the woods, where a creek ran down through open green fields, because I saw it when we went shopping. It was all the way at the bottom of the hill.
I had to walk a long time before I saw the two story white house. There was a white fence all around the big yard and a red barn and some other small buildings back behind it. From the hill above the whole scene of house and barn was spread out before me. I stepped off the road and found a flat place among the trees where I could sit without being seen.
A boy was playing catch with himself on the front walk. He threw the ball straight up in the air with his right hand and caught it with the mitt he wore on his left. Sometimes he missed the ball and had to go running after it.
I settled down with my back against a tree and watched, happy to stay hidden among the leaves. I didn’t have to go any closer.