a bridge, two beers, and a rusted wagon

“Let’s take our little blue glasses and pull the wagon across the bridge.”

My sister says this in all seriousness. The wagon in question is old. It is potentially as old as my brother, who is 33. When the wagon and my brother were first united, it was red and my brother’s hair was fine and straw-colored. Now the wagon is a patchwork of rust and faded paint. My brother’s hair has changed as well. It has darkened to a pale sand brown and is now offset by a beard.

I hand my glass to my sister and she walks to the keg fridge. It is midday, so we are using juice glasses for beer, as if drinking small pours makes it less objectionable that we have started happy hour four hours early. She comes back and hands me my glass. Some of the foam has spilled over the already sticky side.

I stoop, and pick up the wagon’s battered handle. We start walking. The wagon rattles behind me as we cross the uneven bricks of the patio. The sound reminds me of riding steep slopes, of how we always convinced ourselves it would be possible to steer once we got going, and how we would inevitably flip or misdirect and end up sprawled in the dirt, sand and small pebbles embedded in our stinging knees and palms.

The wagon has a large dent in one side. It says ‘Radio Flyer’ in paint that used to be white. It is all bare metal and solid rubber and its four wheels roll freely. If it had been breakable, it would have broken long ago. But it’s solid, and the handle is warm with absorbed heat from the Arizona sun.

We walk onto the deck and proceed across the bridge. This bridge did not exist when we were kids. It is the width of one person, with wide, tall railings. The wash is currently dry. It is usually dry. It runs once or twice a year, but when it runs, it rages.

I follow my sister, beer in one hand, wagon handle in the other. We proceed to the wood pile, where heaps of fallen mesquite branches have been stacked in a neat row. We collect the short cuts – small pieces that will fit in the pit out front. This is preparation for later tonight, when we will have some guests over and light a fire.

We are not in a hurry. We sip our beer as we pick through the heap. We’re both wearing flips-flops and no gloves. Everything is sharp. Some of the wood has thorns. Some of it has cactus pads clinging to the bark. Lizards and spiders scurry away as we disturb their habitat.

Piece by piece, we fill the wagon. When it is full, our beers are empty. I turn around, steer back towards the bridge. My sister has to help me lift the wheels up the low step onto the bridge. Even with each of us using only one hand, this is easy. The wagon is light, as if the dry wood we have stacked within its dented rim weighs nothing at all.

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