The goldenrods alongside the dirt roads had lost their golden, and the corn stalks were crisp and brown but hadn’t been plowed under for the next crop. Mornings were crisp, Halloween displays were in stores, apples were plentiful, and we looked forward to the fair in the next couple of weeks.
At the middle school festival, the bus driver had hitched a John Deere to a flatbed trailer whose wooden rails prevented students from pushing the hay bales off, and as the sun went down and wind gave us shivers, we climbed aboard for the mile-long ride and listened to the best love songs of the 1970s on a cassette player. Frampton, Newton-John, Bee Gees, and England Dan & John Ford Coley were some of the ones I remember, but mostly I focused on Sandi, her flannel shirt, and what was under it.
We laid backwards, our heads crunching on a bale, and gazed into each other’s eyes. I brushed her hair away from her cheek and pressed my lips against her skin, and she pulled me closer toward her mouth. It was my first French kiss, and I should have known not to push my tongue near her braces. As the metal touched my tongue, it startled me, and I coughed a little, tasted the blood in my mouth, and worried it might be in hers. I pulled my tongue out. “Don’t stop,” she whispered.
“But my tongue is bleeding.” I didn’t know what to do about a bleeding tongue and figured I’d swallow, since it would be repulsive to her if I began spitting off the trailer, especially if the blood-and-saliva mix didn’t hit the dirt road but landed on our flannel shirts instead.
“I’m sorry. Did my braces do that?”
“I get them off next month.”
“Good,” I said.
We were quiet and watched the stars for the rest of the hayride. Our rural school didn’t offer Astronomy, so we didn’t know the constellation names or the planets. Of course, we knew the moon and it hadn’t been too many years since the first landing. We kissed again, but never French style, and within two weeks Sandi was interested in another boy, who played football. He was the lucky recipient of French kisses with no braces. I became infatuated by a girl in the typing class who was faster than anyone.
is author of the novel Drifting Too Far From the Shore (2016); two collections of stories, Reading the Coffee Grounds (2018) and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities (2006); and a novella, Lead Me Home (2010). His work has been featured in fourteen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and 300+ magazines and journals, including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and STORGY Magazine. Dr. Reddick is an English professor and the Vice Provost at the University of Memphis, Lambuth in Jackson, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife, two teens, and two Schnauzers named for Poets Laureate.
Author’s website: https://nilesreddick.com/
Forever Summer, micro-fiction in Grey Sparrow Journal
(Issue 37, January 2021)
Niles Reddick reads his story Pennies From Heaven at CurtCo Media podcast network
(Episode 46, April 2020).
Spaghetti House, flash fiction in Fiction Kitchen Berlin
(10 November 2019)
Interview with Maggi Vaughn, a charming 28-minute video on
Facebook (May 2015) in which Niles Reddick visits with Margaret Britton Vaughn,
songwriter for country singer Loretta Lynn and others, author of 19 books, and
Tennessee’s Poet Laureate. Maggi refers to herself as a “thighbone
poet” whose accessible writing is “all about image, image, image.”