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Late summer nights in Jersey the council of women would convene beneath the maple tree. Dinner dishes dried and put away, beach chairs snapped open, metal frames scraped to find level ground to sit upon, and after a while they did rest their bones. It was time for us kids to make ourselves scarce, the women were gonna talk. It was lightning bug time, so wandering off wasn’t so bad. And yet…

The women smoked, their cigarettes cherry red targets in the fallen night. When I crept closer to eavesdrop on mom and her sisters and maybe a cousin or two, because nothing could be cooler than whatever it was they were talking about, the chatter stopped. They swished ice in their tea glasses and waited for my boredom to lead me elsewhere or shooed me away, nothing here to see, ma’am, move along. There were no men here at the council, just me snooping and hanging out with my little brother. One woman’s voice frequently rose above the others, edgy, aggressive, often brought the laughter. I wondered who was wearing the admonishment tonight.
I padded down to the pagodas half hour before a cloudy sunset. No breathtaking palette here this time. The neighbors were chatting, seated level in their sandy beach chairs. A stray cicada came to inspect us, clearly wanting to bump into us but settled on singing its chainsaw song beneath the pagoda then flew away. One of us smoked. Two of us drank. I didn’t add much because I was feeling like a kid on a late summer night who should probably be off catching lightning bugs. It rained on us some though the sky was patchy, the water was surprising. None of us moved. I speak for the council when I say the little water was welcome.