Funny you should ask!
This past weekend, Elena and David and I piled into the car and drove down to Meemaw’s place at the beach. (Meemaw, by the way, is Southern for grandmother.) Meemaw’s place is an aged trailer festooned with old lady gewgaws and seashell paraphernalia, and there’s lots of ancient suntan lotion lurking on shelves and weird face creams to match. Most of the medicines in the cabinets expired when Clinton was still President. The mustard in the fridge was supposed to be consumed by November 18, 2008. (We used it anyway. It tasted fine. We aren’t dead—typing this from a condiment-induced afterlife I am not.) The whole trailer smells of sand and sunscreen and mildew too, I guess, and there’s one of those creepy silver foil pictures all old ladies love just chillin’ on one of the side tables. The foil picture’s of a clown blowing up an I LOVE YOU balloon. I am pretty sure the clown’s name is Pennywise, and every time I glimpse his picture I hear a guttural voice (a gutter voice) whispering, “We all float down here.”
So, yeah—Meemaw’s place! Equal parts sweetly nostalgic and deeply unsettling, like most things related to grandparents. We drove there and colonized it for two days, chasing out the shadows, and I put the clown picture facedown and we had a great time. We made delicious seafood pasta! We watched extraordinarily bad television. And, of course, we went to the beach.
At the beach we met Ava.
“I’m so glad I finally found someone to play with!” she exclaimed as she crawled over to us in the shallows, and thus we were obligated to play with her. She fetched us a bucket so we might catch her some of the little minnows darting about just beneath the surface of the water, and as Elena and I attempted to do her bidding she squinted up at us—first at Elena, then at me—and said, “Is she your friend?”
She pointed to Elena. “Actually,” I said, and the kid was maybe five or six but my heart roared so loud in my ears I couldn’t hear even the ocean I was kneeling in, “she’s my wife.”
“Oh.” Ava studied Elena with frank intensity. “Are you a she?”
“Yes, I’m a she,” said Elena.
“Oh.” Allowing only the briefest pause, Ava thrust her little bucket at me again and said, “Catch me a fish! Get one! Get one!”
I never caught her a fish: every time I got close to netting one of the little bastards Ava snatched the bucket away again, too fond of it to share it much. There were no more questions, no funny looks. The worst thing the kid did was issue us all new names eventually—I became Allie, Elena was Taylor, and David morphed into Tristan—but that’s only because Ava too abruptly came into power as the Clam Princess-Queen (she could be both at the same time, she insisted), and I suppose it couldn’t do for her to be seen with the common rabble.