Meredith had dirty blond hair to go with dirty fingernails
and grass-stained feet. She wore sleeveless dresses that hung from her thin
frame, shoulder to knees: sky blue, pale pink, grass green. Her dresses, too,
were in a permanent state of un-wash, marked with the proof of adventures to
the forbidden, shallow pond out back and the grassy, sparse forest down the
I only ever saw her in the summers when my younger brother and I would visit my aunt and my cousin.
The summer in question was a summer of two major realizations for me, the first being that I needed privacy, and so I did not sleep with my brother and cousin in a room cluttered with action figures and dressed in cartoon sheets and bedspreads. Instead, I slept on the couch in the den and relished a place away from little boys.
The first afternoon of our visit, Meredith, the neighbor girl, came over to play. Ever the waif, she was as I remembered, long, uncombed hair to her waist, yellow dress to her skinned knees, barefoot.
I was on the couch, nose buried in a book of far-off anywhere and death-defying antics, but I noticed when my cousin showed her in. Then he and my little brother went back to their video game.
Meredith sat with them on the floor, knees up, and from my angle, to their left, my back mostly to the television, I was suddenly graced with bare if dirty legs all the way to pale yellow panties that matched the dress.
The three of them soon entered into a discussion on the debatable superiority of boys in the realm of video games. One thing led to another and soon an impromptu wrestling match was being organized. Couch cushions provided the mat (evicting me from the couch), no hair pulling, biting, or pinching; a win was by three-count pin. I was recruited to referee.
Meredith, it turned out, was a scrappy fighter and being a few years older and taller than either little boy, she won quickly multiple times. The boys quickly tired of losing and went to the front yard, leaving Meredith with me.
“Well?” she demanded of me, eyes bright and breath heavy.
She and I were of an age, but, being in the middle of a growth spurt, I was easily stronger. I let her almost pin me twice before I put her on her back, hands above her head and straddled her tummy to hold her long enough to win.
She pouted at me with angry eyes.
Flexible legs wrapped around my shoulders and pulled me off her tummy and we were at it again. Her defeat made her faster, more willing to wriggle, to fight dirty. After a particularly nasty pinch to my left shoulder that I was sure would bruise, I got mad.
Soon, I had her pinned on her tummy, wrists in my hand behind her back, knee holding her down at the waist, and somehow her dress was bunched around her armpits, showing off her pale back and thighs.
My second realization of the summer was that all those strange fantasies I’d been having since I was five suddenly made sense. I spanked that yellow-clad bottom with one hard, echoing smack that brought a squeal from us both