'Crest Motel #1'
photo by Samantha Malay, Seattle, Washington, 1991

Home School
by Samantha Malay
published in The Sea Letter, Summer 2018
Home School

It was dark when we left the cabin that morning, cool enough against the seat of the truck to make us wish we hadn’t worn cut-offs.

We read old paperbacks in the Colville laundromat and stared at the bottles of orange and grape soda sweating inside the coin machine. Abandoned socks, religious pamphlets and handwritten notes selling firewood and hay and horse feed were thumbtacked to a bulletin board. Sunbleached Ladies Home Journal magazines showed recipes for making two weeks of dinners from one night of cooking, colorful photos of cakes and pies.

Marigolds wilted against the brick walls of the bank, the hot sidewalk white and glittering.

We ate soft-serve ice cream in wafer cones at the back of the dime store, fragrant with coffee, linoleum floor wax and doll parts. Model train scenery made of foam and wood mingled with colored pipe cleaners, embroidery thread, plastic flowers and birdcages.

Counting food stamps under Safeway’s fluorescent lights, we filled our cart with ingredients: powdered milk, flour, sugar, oatmeal, Crisco, margarine, peanut butter, sorghum syrup, canned mackerel, sardines, peas and green beans. Free puppies squirmed in a cardboard box at the edge of the parking lot.

Hours at the city swimming pool left us sunburned, hair soaked with chlorine.

Windows rolled down, we smelled alfalfa fields. The sun set over the fairgrounds, and the lavender sky flattened against darkening mountains. Mailboxes and fence lines were visible only by headlight. Paved road met gravel road, then dirt.

My father’s college biology books explained the mysteries of sweet pea pollination, dominant and recessive traits, mutation. One page featured a two-headed calf.

We picked up free seeds at the Extension Service office. Instructions with line drawings showed how to plant, mulch, water, harvest, and avoid crop theft.

The summer Mom left we drove to Northport for Popsicles.
Separating two, we had four symmetrical pieces.
We kept moving, and moving apart.

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