Pimlico Pond
By: Copper Rose

I was born to bury things.

As far back as I can remember things have been dying. Birds fall out of nests, lying hard and stiff on the ground with bugs crawling from their eyes. Calves burst from their swollen mothers, dropping dead in the dirt in a gush of blood and steam. I drag them to the middle of the field and cover them with stones until not a hint of hair or hoof pokes through. The cat leaves dead mice, or at least parts of them, by the back door, entrails teeming with sugar ants. I bury the guts behind the woodshed.

Now, Mama and Daddy have died in a car crash. I don't want to leave the farm but the county people say I have to go live with Grandma Gobee. She lives in a house far away from the farm. I am not allowed to say anything as the weight of this titanic–sized information settles over me. A weight as heavy as one of those lead aprons the dentist drapes under my chin and down the front of my body before he takes the x–ray of the tooth hiding an abscess as big as the Grand Canyon below the gum line.

Grandma Gobee's house overlooks Pimlico Pond where we can see Conrad Kolpeen's house through the box elder trees. I have never been able to walk into the water at the edge of the pond. The ground squishes under my bare feet and brack water oozes up between my toes long before I can reach the deepest part of the pond. My toes can feel the deep water calling to me, but my heart knows I must stay away or the swampy part will swallow me and never give me back to anyone who might want me.

Sometimes I glimpse the wild woman in the cattails. I've seen her before. My mother introduced me to her on my fifth birthday, so I would know what to do during complicated times. When I close my eyes I can hear the wild woman whisper. She is like a ghost. She has been waiting to see if I need help. She knows I am strong but sometimes even the strong ones can't do it alone. She tells me I am like a willow that will not bend, that there is something wrong with the unfolding of this picture. I have to use all the ways I know of when it comes to listening. This is one of those times where just a little bit won't do. I make a promise to the one who whispers. I will be a good girl and listen hard, with my ears and my whole body.

As for Grandma Gobee, she is missing a leg. She says she lost the right one not the wrong one. She is funny that way. She works at the Register of Deeds office entering data into a computer; data about property lines and county sections. They stick her in the back room where she doesn't have to see people on account of the fact she is hard of hearing. "What?" She has eyes like a hawk and a knack for remembering numbers. I like Grandma Gobee as much as she likes all the people in Pimlico. She is just a ray of sunshine.

At first, I am a puzzle Grandma Gobee can't solve. Something about me being precocious. I know what that word means. But I am more than precocious. I am able to access people's memories, but sometimes their memories come unbidden into my head like bullies pushing the skinny kid up against the wall in the cafeteria. They shove their way to the front. Because some things are impossible to forget. People try to hide their memories, but I always find them in the corner of their minds, in their peripheral vision, or stuck behind their eyes. Their memories are often accompanied by smells. Of little things, like onions frying in butter in an iron skillet or popcorn when it's popping. Mostly my bones tell me what I need to see.

These memories are hard for me to face but they are the best ones to tap into. Memories like these take me deeper into the valleys. Deeper into the caves. They show me the teeth. How to bite to hang on. How to bite to tear things apart. This time it will be about biting to tear things apart.

Grandma Gobee works from nine to five and I'm at school from eight to three. That leaves two hours at the end of each work day when there's no one to watch me. I have to be watched because I'm only nine but as soon as I turn ten I won't have to be watched anymore. Ten is a magic number, and even though I'm precocious I don't ask why. I am quiet that way. Because of all the things I've buried I know how to keep the silence that is required in situations that involve death.

Grandma Gobee tells me it's against the rules for me to sneak into the Register of Deeds office and hide under her desk until she's done with work. It is no place for a precocious nine–year–old girl.

But the puzzle is solved when Grandma looks across Pimlico Pond a week after I arrive and sees Conrad Kolpeen puttering there. She tells me to stay put because she'll be right back. I know it's true because she never lies, unlike my new teacher who says, "Now, Yewda Johansen, you must study because these tests are hard."

I have instructions to keep an eye on Bob, the cat with no tail. Grandma Gobee heard down at the Register of Deeds office there's been an eagle in our neighborhood swooping down and carrying away domestic animals. Taco, Mr. Simpson's Chihuahua, went missing four days ago. Mr. Simpson is gut–wrenching sick about it. I wrap my arm around Bob and watch Grandma Gobee hobble down the road to Conrad's house. If I squint just right as I peer through the box elders I can see her in her flowered dress making her way toward Conrad. The flowers on her dress look like lilies waving from across the pond. Then she turns to leave, heading back home.

I watch Conrad walk to his garden shed. He comes out with a white plastic bag which he flings into Pimlico Pond. I know it is wrong for him to do that and I wonder if anyone knows about the garbage he heaves into the pond. I see Grandma Gobee getting closer on the road as she hobbles home. The flowers on her dress become brighter, clearer. Then she is sitting next to me on the top step and Bob is rubbing back and forth on her wooden leg. It is settled. I'm to get off the school bus each day at Conrad's house so he can watch me.

That Monday I'm sitting at Conrad's kitchen table. His rule is I must stay at the table until Grandma Gobee comes to pick me up after work. The kitchen chair is too tall and my legs dangle over the edge. Conrad is sitting to my left where he is making a sandwich. He spreads mayonnaise on one of the slices. Then he catches a fly between the two pieces of bread and slaps them together. He munches on the bread and I feel bad for the fly. It should have stayed asleep in whatever hidey–hole flies like to sleep in. Then Conrad tells me to stay put. He is going outside, he says, to take care of some things.

I stay put in the chair. Conrad walks around the corner of the house where I can't see him through the window, but he doesn't know I can see him in the reflection bouncing off the windshield of his Buick parked in the yard. I watch him go in the garden shed and come out with a white plastic bag. I watch him walk to the edge of Pimlico Pond. I am staring hard at the reflection. The bag moved. I'm sure of it. He flings the bag in the water. I know plastic bags float on the water. But this bag doesn't float. As soon as he flings it, it sinks out of sight. Because I'm precocious I know he has put rocks in the bag to keep it from floating to the top. I also know rocks don't move. It is no surprise I think of Taco.

The next day when I'm at Conrad's house he tells me to stay put again. As soon as he leaves the house I follow him and hide behind the Buick. I sneak behind the hollyhocks growing along the side of the house. When he makes a detour to the garbage cans in back of the garage I dive under the porch. I crawl like a soldier along the lattice skirting to a spot where it's easier to peek out. I find myself staring into the hollow eyes of a human skull. I push myself away, kicking up a cloud of dust. In the cloud of dust I see a face, then a body, a girl about my age, floating back and forth between me and the skull.

"You have to stop him, you know."

I look behind me as I'm sure the apparition is talking to someone else. At least I am hoping so, but no one is under the porch except me.

"My name is Amy," it says. She floats toward my face. She looks thicker than I believe she can be.

"You have to kill Conrad because of the lives he's interrupted." She is counting on her apparitional fingers. "Taco, Dutchy, three wild rabbits, a snapping turtle, Whisky and Waco, Mercy and Grace. I would count the names of others on my toes but I can't get my shoes off."

A light goes on in my head. I realize being precocious has nothing to do with me figuring out what is in those plastic bags Conrad has been flinging into Pimlico Pond. Even so I say, "I can't kill a man."

"He has Bob," she adds.

My lips are as straight as a Nebraska highway. Bob is the best cat that ever lived. Grandma Gobee told me so. "I can't kill Conrad, but I could bury him if he was already dead." I'm funny that way.

Amy smiles. "Okay, I know what to do, but I'll need your help on account of my hands go right through things," she says as she bends to pick up a rock that never moves because her apparitional fingers go right through it.

"Okay."

"So here is what you have to do," she leans toward me and whispers in my ear.

The next day I am sitting in the kitchen chair as Conrad finishes his housefly sandwich. He tells me to stay put and I do, not even moving when I hear the commotion outside. Last night I stashed a pile of dead fish under a bush between Conrad's house and the garden shed. You don't have to be precocious to know black bears can smell fish that are starting to rot from twenty miles away on a hot day. And what will happen to a person if they should get between the bear and those dead fish. You also don't have to move from a kitchen chair until the screaming is done. It's true I could put what is left of Conrad in a plastic bag with rocks in it so I can heave him into Pimlico Pond, but I was born to bury things.

A dog, little as a ghost that fits under my hand, can't stop wagging his tail. A cat, quiet as a dead man's pile of bones, grins from the top step as I pick up my shovel and head for the field.

The End

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