Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Snippets 20

This is the continuation of last week's snippet. I repeated a few of the paragraphs near the end of last week's so the context wouldn't be too hard to slip into here. But if you missed last week's it might be worth it to catch up first as some of what follows makes makes little sense standing on its own.

Part One.

To remind you, the story is about Marion, a woman in her late forties who is loosing her eyesight and suffering symptoms of menopause and has been holing up in her room for most of the winter. Her suitor is EMT Clay, a man about eight years younger whom she has held at a distance for nearly two decades. He'd fallen for her the night he helped deliver her son shortly after the young widow with a small daughter had moved in with her blind mother next door. Marion's own daughter Ernestine, recently abandoned by her husband, has moved in with her daughter Verna. As this part opens Ernestine is calling her mother and daughter to breakfast and they were off to wash up.

How Does Your Garden Grow (part 2)

"Verna Ruth! Walk!" Ernestine commanded. "Better yet, come help Mare-Mare."

"No need. I may be washed-up but I’m not laid up." To prove it she stepped forwards without reaching for support. With the second confident step she grinned but the next instant her grin was plastered to the wall as one foot surged forward, surfing the waxed floor.

"Mother!" Ernestine lunged for her.

Marion watched the red slime slide past her eyes as her face floated down the sky-blue wall and the bright white floor drifted up, a fathomless cloud offering endless embrace….. Slugtrail slugabed snuginbed snugasa bugaboo bugout slugitout knockout knockabout knocked…

"….up to your room, and leave it. I warned you what could happen." The sound of ice-cubes breaking accompanied Ernestine’s words.

A sobbing Verna freed her blanket from Marion’s foot. "Is Mare-mare dead like Daddy?"

"Your Daddy isn’t dead, baby. He’s a deadbeat. Whole different thing." Ernestine’s voice harbored a smile. "Mare-Mare’s just knocked out. She’ll be sassy as ever in a few minutes I’m sure."

The tinkle and splash of ice-cubes in a bowl of water and the squish and splatter of a cloth immersed and wrung out, the shock of the cold compress applied to her nose, all served to focus Marion’s attention on the heart of the matter. She reached out Raggedy Ann hand’s. "Don’t" she whispered.

"Lie still, Mama." With tender strokes she wiped away gummy blood, looking for its sources.

"Not Verna’s fault. Own foolishness!" Words molded by rapidly swelling lips.

"She must learn to accommodate your eyes."

"That’s no chore for a child not yet five."

"Adjusting to the exigencies of her environment is every child’s chore. Three Psych degrees and you don’t know that?"

Marion squeezed her eyes shut against the pain--not of her wounds but her inexorable guilt. By giving her children life she gave them and theirs eyes likely to fail by middle-age, bequeathing on their youth dependent elders and foreknowledge of their relentless fate.

"Looks like just a split lip and bloody nose. But maybe you should see a doctor."

"No doctor. Clay."

Ernestine put Marion’s hand on the compress. "Hold this then."

When Ernestine returned Marion was sitting at the table. "He’s on his way." She paused. "He was expecting your call." Longer pause. "Pottery lesson was it?"

Marion stemmed the smile stinging her lip. "I still haven’t the knack of the wheel. I fear he’ll give up on me."

"If Clay were going to give up on you, he would have fifteen years ago."

Marion blushed. "I made it clear long ago there’s no hope there." Must be firm with him today.

"If he truly lost hope, it’d destroy him."

"How long have you known?"

"At thirteen I had a crush on him. He made it clear his heart was already vowed. He said it was his destiny to kiss awake a sleeping beauty but he had to wait for her to finish dreaming her dreams. And no, he didn’t tell me it was you but that wasn’t hard to figure out. Shh now, he’s here." Ernestine turned calling out, "Come on in Clay."

The patio door slid open and Clay set down a terra cotta planter. "Join us for breakfast." Ernestine said. "Can you manage scrambled eggs, Mother, or would you rather have a milkshake?"

"Eggs are fine."

"VERRRRRNA." Ernestine called.

"She’s out front." Clay said.

"I best get her." She stopped him closing the door.

Clay sat beside Marion. "Let’s see." His breath on her cheek made her shiver. "Going to be some nasty bruising."

"What’s that?" She pointed to the planter.

"I noticed the quince in your room is root-bound. Better repot soon or risk having to break the pot getting it out."

Marion was alarmed. "That’s one of your finest pieces." He’d given her the quince when they’d graduated from college. The night he’d first proposed. "But this won’t fit in there."

"Make room in here. Better yet, bring it to my house."

"Oh, Clay."

His hand behind her neck drew her face to his until their foreheads touched. "You’re breaking my heart, Marion." His earthen-brown eyes searched hers until she closed them to resist the urge to plant her soul there.

"I’m aging by the minute."

"I know what’s eating you. I had my own theory. Here." He slipped a slender object in her hand. Some kind of pen? "The other day, when I was over fixing your toilet…and you used a bucket?…I took the liberty…" His voice sank to a whisper. "You’re pregnant."

Laughter welled to overflowing within Marion, but just then Ernestine drug in a wailing Verna. "Go sit on the stairs."

"They’re for Mare-Mare!" The child’s feet plodded past Marion and the door to the stairway creaked open and the shut on her heartbroken wails.

Ernestine rolled a doll buggy chock-full of tulips to Marion’s knees. "She got them all, Mama, I’m so sorry."

Marion lifted a velvety bloom, cradling it in both hands as sobs echoed in the stairwell like memories.

"Remember the day you dusted Grandma’s desk?"

Ernestine inhaled sharply. "Yes! I moved everything and she panicked that she’d never find anything."

"She sent you.."

"To the stairs!"

"While we named and placed every last thing."

"I could’ve put everything back exactly but she wouldn’t listen."

"That’s when I swore to stop the cycle. If I ever led you to believe that my things or comfort were more important than a child’s heart, I’m sorry."

Ernestine ran for the stairs and returned carrying Verna. "Mama’s sorry. Mare-Mare’s not mad. We’ll put them in water."

Marion lifted the stem-less tulip to her nose, visualizing the acres of manicured lawn and loamy soil designed to frame a few prized blooms--now gone--and suddenly understood Clay’s preference for a yard growing with the abandon of a woodland meadow and bursting with varieties of blooms every season.

"I’ve been so contrary." She moaned against his neck.

"Quite."

"Take me home?"

He gathered her into his lap. "You are my home." He whispered against her earlobe as she let her body relax against his, surrendering finally to the firmness of his resolve.

4 tell me a story:

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