Only a Smile


"Move!!!!!!!!!!!!!" an angry woman on the street screams. I'm shoved into more people along the sidewalk.

"Move!!!!!!!!!!!!!" an angry woman on the street screams. I'm shoved into more people along the sidewalk. After all, this is New York City and everywhere you look a person is staring back at you. My personal bubble has always been invaded, but I've gotten used to it. I trudge along the worn sidewalk like a robot programmed into the same routine. Everyday I walk to and from school, a half a mile walk there and back.


I pass a store window and stare at my reflection. There I am, a 15 year-old girl, but I appear to be 10 because of my height. At restaurants I still get a kid's menu. I can't stand myself, except for my clear, gray eyes. The busy city's noises get to me. People appear to be talking to themselves, but they're talking on their cell phones. Cabs screech to a halt, marketers pawn their products, and angry people honk their car horns. What a life, huh? I open the door to me and my dad's apartment and my dad is sitting, staring at the TV. He has a strange look on his face. "Hun, I'll get to the point. Next week, at the beginning of summer, you're going to your aunt's house in Wyoming," my dad said as if he couldn't wait for me to leave.


"Fine, but if this is the way you're showing how you love me, you're doing an awful job." I love laying the guilt trip on him. The next thing I know I'm on a plane headed for what I think will be hell. I nibble on a disgusting chicken sandwich, it's probably mystery meat. I lay back and turn on my Ipod.


"Excuse me, ma'am, wake up," a large hand is clasped to my shoulder. It's the woman I'm sitting next to. She's tall, about 30 years old.


"Thanks. I can't believe we're already here." I try to act like I care.


"It's not a problem."


We exit the plane, walking down the long ramp to the airport. It's a portal to the worst summer of my life. As we enter the actual airport I stop. This is the smallest, most tacky airport I've ever been to. I see her, my cooky Aunt. She's wearing a cowboy hat , as always, and has the most stupid smile in her face. I think she wears that awful hat to hide her puke color hair. Well, I guess her name matches her, Wilmit. This awful name was passed down to me, Stephanie Wilmit Brown. When I'm older I'm definitely changing my 'excuse for a name.' I grab my suitcase and slowly walk to her, staring down at my feet.


"Oh honey, you're finally here!" Her southern accent echoes through my head. She puts her short stubby arms around me and gives me an enormous bear hug. I look into her eyes, a royal blue. I've always envied them. She grabs my available hand and she starts to skip. Is this some kind of a joke? I automatically start to skip with her. I'm not a little girl, why does she do this to me? Her hands are rough and wrinkled, just like leather. The cowboy boots that she's always worn clunk against the floor. Finally we're in the parking lot. Thank the Lord.


"Wait 'till ya'all see my hot new ride!" Wilmit sounds excited. Well at least the car won't be as bad as the skipping. We arrive at an old Ford truck. It's painted white and the doors are painted orange and yellow. There are rust holes that I could stick my arm through.


"Why did we stop?" I think out loud.


"This is it. You're too shocked to talk, huh?"


"Yeah, that's it. I'm sure shocked."


"I knew ya would be. She's all stuck up now. We drive for three hours, although it seemed like an entire day. Three hours in a truck with a sixty year old woman isn't bad. When she has the granny farts and there isn't any air conditioning, that's awful. Her house is an old shack with a wrap-around porch. A rocking chair creaks back and forth, driven by the wind. I enter the pitiful house and I want to cry and laugh out loud at the same time. There is an eating area with a water pump, a couch that looks like a bunch of dogs attacked it, and another room with a brass framed bed. In front of the couch is an elephant foot ashtray and the walls made of plywood are covered with Elvis posters.


"I love the posters," I decide to spit out.


"Thank ya. I hope to meet that hunk-of-a-man someday."


I want to tell her that Elvis died years ago, but why ruin her fun? "Do you smoke?" I ask staring at staring at her interesting ashtray.


"No my child. Smoking is the Devil's pastime."


"Why do you have that elephant foot ashtray?""Cause a little old man in a wagon came through here lookin' to sell his junk. The most decent thing to do was to buy that piece of crap."


"Oh, I see," I say trying to act nice. Silence starts to fill the room and it's really awkward. "Can I see the horses?" I decide to ask.


"Yes'm."We walk outside, trailing through all of the horse poop."This one's yours," My aunt says pulling the poor horse to me. "She's stubborn, but she'll do."


"Do for what?" I ask hoping I don't have to ride that awful, dirty, disgusting thing.


"You're gonna ride this beauty" she says acting like this horse won some sort of prize. My aunt starts pushing me towards the horse."Don't be a stubborn mule, get on!" She yells into my ear. I try lifting my foot over the horse's tall back, but it's not possible. I decide to jump belly first, so I throw myself on. Now my stomach is on the back of the horse and I lay sideways, struggling to swing my other leg over. My hands grasp onto the mane and Wilmit grabs my leg, scooting it to the other side. I feel like a turtle stuck on it's shell."You'll get used to it honey, now GO!" Her hand slaps the horse's firm butt and off we go.


The hoofs of this horse clunk against the dirt and weeds, creating a dust storm wherever we go. I feel like the ROAD RUNNER from the Bugs Bunny cartoons I used to watch on Saturday mornings. My hands hold tighter and tighter to the horse's mane, and the palms of my hands get sweaty. My short, dark blonde hair blows with the wind and the sun gets in my eyes. The horse stops."Keep going!" I scream at it. That's when I realize the sunset. The orange, purple, and pink colors look like a water color painting. The big puffy white clouds are unreal. I think I'm in a movie set because everything is perfect. The horse starts walking slowly back towards Aunt Wilmit's house and I look over my shoulder, trying to remember every detail the sky possesses. The horse begins trotting and my grip on its mane gets tight again. We get back to the stable perfectly fine and I retreat to the porch. Wilmit has started a fire and is roasting hot dogs over it. Her smile is wide and the fire casts shadows all over her old face. It's scary, but calming at the same time. I woof down my hot dog and canned beans, staring into the fire. Its ashes smolder and the flames whip around, almost angry. My eyes wander back over to Wilmit and her goofy smile is still there. Her teeth are old and yellow and between her two front teeth there's a gap so big that I could probably stick my pinky finger through it. Why does she smile when her teeth are so ugly?


Wilmit reaches behind herself and grabs an acoustic guitar. She starts to strum chords and sing. Her voice is deep and soothing. She still smiles, closing her eyes singing, " There Is A Time" by The Dillards. The cowboy hat on her head makes her look so mysterious and tough. Off in the distance a coyote sings a song wailing at the moon. I lean back and stare up at the sky. So many stars twinkle down on me, with no clouds blocking their greatness. I swear, I've died and gone to Heaven.


Time has flown at this ranch, it's already the end of August and the leaves on the trees are starting to change into beautiful colors. It's five in the morning and I'm going on my horse ride shortly. I lift my leg over the horse and pull myself up. It feels amazing to be able to get up all by myself. Maybe I'm not so short after all. I kick my heels and my horse starts trotting up the hill. I sit there, lost in my thoughts, watching the sun rise. Everyday I come up to this very spot and watch the sun rise and set. As I make my way back to the cabin I see Wilmit beating a rug. She may be crazy and embarrassing, but she's my favorite person. I put my horse back in the stable and stroll over to her.


"Your Pa called. You're goin' home tomorrow." she says staring down at her old cowboy boots.


"Dang! I don't want to go back," my eyes start to water and I run over to my aunt. I hold her tight, giving her a big bear hug. She smiles and her rotten teeth gleam. That night we stare into the fire just like every night before. Tonight I sing and together we stuff our faces with marshmallows. The truck ride to the airport is so short and like before, we skip inside.


"My plane is boarding, I better go," I force out, trying not to cry. As I begin to turn, her wrinkled hand grabs mine.


"Honey, I want you to remember three things from this trip. Number one, I don't commence to smoke and you won't either. Number two, simplicity is kinda' like the four seasons. It takes a special person to figure out how important it is. Number three, ya have a big wonderful spirit so enjoy it."


I give Wilmit one last bear hug and walk toward my flight. Over my shoulder I see her and her big beautiful smile.