5-Year Summer – Trisha McKee

Josie reached inside the pocket of her backpack. The wad of money was there. Three summers of mowing lawns, four years of babysitting, and the dribble of allowance she was sometimes handed if money was not so tight. She needed to go through with this.

She stepped out of her bedroom, the kitchen visible thanks to the trailer’s cramped setup. There was her mother playing cards with the neighbors and her newest husband, the fourth lucky bastard to claim the title.

“Hey mom. Going for a walk.”

Desiree glanced up, taking the cigarette out of her mouth and waving her away. “Be careful.” She had once been considered pretty. But the bleached blonde hair and packed-on makeup highlighted the rough years she had endured. And that was why Josie needed to escape now. To claim a different way of life.

“Your backpack seems a bit full,” Marjorie called out in her deep, raspy voice, a cigarette dangling from her lips as well. Unlike Desiree, Marjorie had always been plain and overweight, so the years’ attack on her was not as traumatic. Her mood stayed consistent. She was even happy at times.

With no more than a slight nod, she acknowledged the words. Anything else might direct their attention to her instead of the booze and cards in front of them: Away from their numb lives, the repetitive stories told, the slight breaks from their mundane days.

And she ran. Josie ran far and fast. All those years at track meets and practices had paid off. She ran and then caught a bus headed out of town. Any town.

So began her new life. Josie did not mind giving up the solid promise of shelter and food for the release from that stale life. The threat of living day in and day out imprisoned by one’s own comfort zone, never knowing adventure or the quest for knowledge beyond a small town mindset… it terrified her. It had eaten at her since she was a little girl watching her mother sit in front of the television for hours, crying over the latest bum. Josie needed more.

She grew up quickly, working at jobs that needed little more than a promise of attendance. She stayed under the radar until she was eighteen. She could not go back. She did not particularly miss her mother. The woman was little more than a guard, a person tossing undercooked, overprocessed food at her.

And five years later, things were good. She was happy and thriving as she discovered the

world and herse

Yet she wondered….had she been fair in leaving as she did? Was her mother okay?

She visited a payphone in the next town over. And she called home.

“Hello.” Desiree sounded the same. Older. Weary. “Hello?” A frantic tone started lifting the words. “Josie? Is that you? Oh my God, are you okay? Where are you? We miss you. Come Home!”

Josie shut her eyes and hung up.

Trisha McKee resides in a small town in Pennsylvania after a childhood of 5-year summers. Since April 2019, her work has been accepted into over 40 publications, including The Oddville Press, Kzine, Horror Magazine, Night to Dawn Magazine, CommuterLit, Crab Fat Magazine, J.J. Outre Review, several anthologies, and more. Her short story Where We Meet was nominated for the Best of the Net 2019 Anthology. Her short story On Loop was runner-up in the Eerie River Publishing Hauntings contest.