A Month of Summer

By Gwen Goodkin

A couple hours before I sat atop the horse, my new family met me in the waiting area of my arrival gate at the Frankfurt Airport. Helmut, the father, held a sign with my name scrawled in slanted German cursive. The mother, Dagmar, pulled a small German flag through her fingers and their son, Lars, waved a piece of graph paper limp from the weight of a hand-drawn American flag. I tugged at the hem of my shirt, approached them and said hello. Lars had his mother’s curly hair and his father’s ruddy cheeks, his father’s easy smile and, as I would soon learn, his mother’s plain adherence to truth. He was nine, all boy and wore it under his fingernails.

Being placed with a family in Heidelberg was like winning the exchange-student lottery. Heidelberg is an old city wedged in the valley of a river, the Neckar, surrounded by hills. Main Street is a cobblestone road that leads pedestrians past centuries’-old buildings. Street cars clang through the middle of the busy streets and at night, Heidelberg’s castle glows atop a high hill. On the hill that faces the castle, Mark Twain was rumored to have sat and worked on Huckleberry Finn. Heidelberg, after all, is derived from a word which translates to Huckleberry Mountain.

Helmut drove through the city, then parked at the bottom of the path opposite the castle, the Philosophenweg, and we began to hike up the narrow cement walk. Almost immediately it became steep and required huge reaching steps with every stride. We paused at the top of the first crest and I wiped sweat from my brow with the inside of my elbow. They found a cement table and sat.

What do you think of the view? asked Helmut.

I cleared sweat from my eyes with the hem of my T shirt. Super, I said, slumped on the bench, panting.

The Trägers looked at each other.

Okay, then, said Dagmar. Now we go home.

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Gwen Goodkin

Gwen Goodkin / About Author

Gwen Goodkin's stories and essays have been published by Fiction, Witness, The Dublin Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Exposition Review, The Rumpus, Atticus Review and others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has won the Black Fox Literary Magazine Contest as well as the John Steinbeck Award for Fiction. She writes fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, teleplays and stageplays.

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