Carnel sat in the old front porch swing with her left leg tucked up under her skirt and pushed off with her right foot. The day was hot and still, the silence broken only by the creaky, sawing sounds that the chains made and the dull gentle thud of wood against wood when the back of the swing hit the house. It was the kind of repetitious noise that annoyed her mother, she knew, but to Carnel, it was soothing. Its rhythm matched her dreaming mood. The oppressive August heat made it difficult to do much of anything else.
It seemed to Carnel that she had passed almost the entire summer rocking slowly back and forth in the porch swing, picking off dried and curling pieces of its faded, flaking paint, watching the clouds of red dust rise up off the road as cars passed on their way to town. Dreaming. Looking for secret meaning in the patterns the flakes formed on the grey concrete. Sometimes, a small breath of a breeze came up and blew the patterns away before she could read what was in them, but today the lack of wind allowed the flakes to arrange themselves the way they wanted. Carnel could almost make out a face looking back at her. One eye was open and the other closed. She was just about to wonder out loud whose face it could be when her mother opened the screen door and broke her concentration.
“Carnel,” she said. “Stop that infernal banging. I need you to go around the side of the house and unkink the hose for me so I can water down this road.”
Carnel stood up and looked at her older sister, Ruby, who had suddenly replaced her mother at the door.
“She’s damping down the road again,” Carnel said. “Isn’t this an exercise in, whachamacallit, futility, Ruby? It’s just gonna dry up again in twenty minutes like it always does. It doesn’t make good sense to me.”
“Did you say that loud enough, Carnel? You want her to hear you?” Ruby whispered and rolled her eyes skyward with an exasperated look that spoke of having had this conversation before.