be so serious.
Seth felt his mothers admonition like a refrain running
though the whole day, every day, in her goody-goody voice. He
didnt mean to displease her, but he couldnt seem to
Dont be so serious about toast. But they didnt
have a toaster, so if he forgot to pay attention, the toast would
burn in the oven with a terrible smell and the waste of bread.
Dont be so serious about the lawn mower. But
if it broke, he wouldn't know how to fix it. Their neighborhood
was clean and pleasant. He didnt want the yard to seem ragged
Dont be so serious about his grocery sacking.
But that job gave him not only some money, but also potential
recommendations if he did well. So he arrived on time and tried
to be alert the whole three hours every afternoon. He knew how
to smile as he said Paper or plastic? to a customer,
even to his mother when she shopped on the way home from her three-day-a-week
receptionist job. She always said, Well, why cant
you smile like that at home instead looking so serious?
He didnt try to answer.
Dont be so serious about the evening news. He
wasnt reallyit was the sports news. If he heard it,
he could talk to the other guys at school, keep up the illusion
of sociability, of being normal and part of the group. They all
took refuge in sports talk to protect their
vulnerabilities. Seth could tell, could feel some of the other
guys fear as they too cooly or too eagerly talked about
the current sports status. He wondered who could sense his
Dont be so seriousget a girlfriend and
have fun. But he knew how that would be: the guys with girlfriends
had fun until they broke up. Then they were angry for quite a
while. Seth knew not to add more anger to his life.
Dont be so serious about his mother's car. She
never quite knew whether to thank him for washing it or just tell
him not to bother. So every Saturday morning, she said little
when he backed it out to the end of the drive, got the hose and
some soap and any other strong
cleaner he had seen advertised. He would begin running the water
first over the hood, washing with liquid soap, making a watery
mess along the drive, slowly working back over the sides and top,
water running hard, soapsuds frothing, finally back over the trunk
which hung out into the street. Now was the time for his extra
cleaner. Behind the car he would
open it. He poured soap and cleanerbleach, concentrated
soap, whatever was in his new bottleout onto the stains
from his fathers blood pooled in the street. He scrubbed
hard with a stiff brush. Some stain even came up into the drive
because his father had almost reached the sidewalk before that
drunk swerved the car to hit him.
No matter what anyone said, the stains showed clearly. His mother
had stopped trying to tell him they were gone. Occasionally, a
neighbor stopped to say how clean the street was now, but he knew
better. The preacher from his church had come by one Saturday
morning, put a
friendly hand on Seths shoulder, and said, Son, your
father is safe with his Father in Heaven. He wouldnt want
you to keep doing this.
But Seth knew better. He had to scrub these stains. He had to
scrub these stains.
R. Lee is the author of Beechville: Now, Then and In Between,
published in 2006, and Granny Lindy, published in 2005.
She writes fiction, short nonfiction, and poetry. She has a Christmas
carol published by Oxford University Press. Sally took the Woodland
Award for Best Poet in the Cookeville Creative Writers' Contest,
May 2000, and has read at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.
She was contributing editor of The Poets of St. Paul's,
an anthology of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Franklin, Tennessee.
Sally has spent her lifetime in Middle Tennessee, where she and
her husband live on the family farm.
S. R. Lee