July In Montana
Jon Chaiim McConnell
It was a summer of little and drought and as the cookout approached my father sat me down to ask which of our three dogs I disliked the most. Our only few relatives were up from Abilene, he said, and they had brought their fireworks and hunger.
By the afternoon we’d all met and I ended up with the two older cousins, the teenagers, Marimar the girl and her pale brother Caleb, and as these were days of trust we walked to the creek edge of the depleted ranch with ourselves for supervision and a satchel full of Bingo Bangas. My brother I made promise to stay home with the adults and the other young kids and I told him One day you’ll come with me. But then he cried until I flecked him at the ear with my ring finger and thought Well I should be the one who’s crying, and I told him so, and, when he asked Why, we remembered the way Gracie would nip our shoelaces undone at the dinner table before tugging them off down the hall. So, he quieted himself.
It turned out, as we went along, that Marimar and Caleb were both pretty learned about the family and about our northern way of things and Marimar seemed to like twisting her black hair around her finger before bringing up some next observation of hers.
She said, “Well your Dad and our Dad had been fighting for years.”
And I asked, “What about?”
“No it’s less that,” Caleb said, “and more a disagreement. You know.”
“Well are you gonna tell me or won’t you,” I said.
We set a firework each to the cracks and old scars of a long dead box elder and stepped away until we could see just how well it shadowed against the hill…