Memories flooded her mind all at once – all of them together, cousins, aunts, uncles, all of them. She could see herself and the others as children, running around in their pajamas, spinning like helicopters in the silver dusk, fall down dizzy, chasing lightning bugs, scooping them into mayonnaise jars with holes punched in the top. The holes were made by her Uncle Grant's ice pick that they were forbidden to touch.
"Don't you children even think about laying a hand on that thing," he would say in a very stern voice to his boys. Then he would turn to Beth with a wink and she knew he wasn't so very mean as all that.
Summers! Searching the thicket for wild blackberries in the full sun of the day, filling coffee cans with them, and later, sunburned and freckled, how they feasted on hot sugary blackberry dumplings that her Aunt Maggie whipped up in her copper pots. There were literally hundreds of days when her boys, Mickey and Bucky and Beth caught crabs down by the rocks with Uncle Grant. They used chicken necks for bait, tied up in knots on weighted ends of cord. They caught blue crabs by the score, shrieking as they moved them ever so carefully from the line to the net to the basket, trying not to get pinched – The Revenge of the Ill Fated Crab. They shrieked again with excitement when one escaped the basket in the kitchen or on the porch, clicking its claws as it hurried sideways, looking for salvation. There was no salvation for those guys, no ma'am. They wound up steamed and dumped right from the colander on newspapers that were spread over the porch table, cracked apart and dipped in cocktail sauce. It made her laugh to remember. She realized then that she had not been crabbing in years. And she remembered how she had completely embraced her closely-knit family when she was young and how important it had been to her.
"Maybe I should take up crabbing again, Lola. Do you want to come and help?"
"What's that?" Mr. Brown said.
"Nothing. I was just talking to my dog."
"No reason why not."
They passed the hill fort then and Beth sighed with relief as it had not changed one lick, except for the children's park built in front of it that had sprung up some years ago. In her mind's eye, she could see herself, her cousins and a gang of island kids, sliding down it on flattened cardboard boxes and catching the devil from the town fathers for trespassing and sledding on the patchy grass. They had been very young, not quite ten, when Mickey had his first brush with the law.
"What do you think you're doing, son?"
Mickey looked up into the face of the Chief of Police and everyone thought he was going to wet his pants, right there in front of the whole world.
"You children get on out of here now, before I have to lock you all up! You hear me?"
Beth giggled to remember how they had abandoned their cardboard and ran in every direction to escape incarceration.
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