That's how it was. The aging sometimes shaking ramparts of the Hamilton fortress were stockpiled with invisible weapons of remember when . . . we never . . . and we alway . . . as though they existed in their own great saline bubble, with a sacred family crest to live up to.
Sometimes the family wore Beth out with what she saw as excessive self-importance and righteousness. One day her aunts, uncles and cousins would all be the stuffings of novels, even memoirs perhaps, if she could find the courage to put it all on paper. But not just yet. Today Beth was on another mission. The Dutiful Daughter was back.
Beth gathered her luggage, walked Lola on the grassy median outside and found a place in the short taxi line. Part of her was excited and the other part was simply miserable. She loved Sullivans Island because it was her personal time warp. Even though it was 2009, when you were there you would believe that Eisenhower was still in office, even though that was well before her time. But in her heart she felt the island really belonged to her mother's generation and those before her. The last four years had prepared her to live her own life, independent of her tribe. Isn't that why she went to college a thousand miles away in the first place? Further, this assignment, decided upon with the cavalier flick of her mother and aunt's royal wrists, blocked her from pursuing her own dream but enabled her mother to live hers. It wasn't a fair trade but she wasn't exactly given an option. If asked she would say dryly, "My mom and my Aunt Maggie could benefit from even one session of sensitivity training. Seriously."
She climbed in the next available rattletrap and soon she was on her way. At least she had Lola to console her.
"Could you turn up the air conditioning, please?" she asked. Beth's upper lip was covered in little beads of moisture and the roots of her hair were damp.
"Sure." The driver said. "Today's a hot one, 'eah?"
"Yep. It sure is."
The old van complained with each pothole and strained against the slightest rise in the road. Its ancient driver, an old man whose white hair was as thick and coarse as a broom, was crouched over the steering wheel. The intensity of his focus on the road was nerve wracking. He drove like a lumbering walrus in the middle lane as hundreds of cars zoomed by them. She actually considered offering to drive thinking she preferred death by her own hand.
Memorabilia was strung across the old man's dashboard, photographs attached with bits of curling tape and lopsided magnets from Niagara Falls and in Beth's opinion, other painfully boring vacation spots. Judging from their faded condition, the people of those pictures, his children she guessed, were grown and had been gone from his home for a long time. His taxi license read Mr. George Brown. He sighed loudly and cleared his throat as the van's transmission struggled and jerked with each changing gear. She wondered if they would ever reach the causeway. Mr. Brown did not know that he was delivering her, her little dog, two large suitcases and a duffle bag, bulging with university memories, soggy farewells and a poor attitude to one very bittersweet destination.
"You want to take 526 or the new bridge?"
"Whatever you think," she said.
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