Sue would not have been happy in a synthetic and tired-aired, dry-walled institution. No siree! She would not have been happy at all.
Some time ago, I wrote a little story. Sue enjoyed it and so I’m putting it in this blog. What the heck, eh?
Their daughters’ scary words had resonated with danger and the two of them were returning this evening.
The dark clouds had cooled off the afternoon air as Beth and Jason retreated to the wooden bench under the ancient and twisted oak tree. It had been old before they’d built their tiny cabin. Here, in its shade, they could talk, look out over the lake and its island and feel safe.
Beth loaned Jason her sight. He could only see a few feet in front of him.
“What colour is the lake, dear?” Jason asked.
“Colour of Theresa’s greying hair.”
“Is it all stirred up like we are?”
“Is Mica Island still out there?”
“It’s staying put.”
Beth’s knees ached as she bent over to place folded tea towels into a cardboard box. Years of hard outdoor labour had disfigured her fingers and toes. She chuckled when she thought about how the packed boxes, disturbed furniture and vanished knickknacks would send their daughters into a busy chatter-fest. It was always good to be a little bit ahead.
That evening the chatty daughters arrived in the elder daughter’s black SUV. Jason sat on the couch and watched the
Theresa, their eldest daughter and Melody, their youngest, perched themselves on the edge of the frayed sofa. The nurse sat on Jason’s friendly rocking chair.
The nurse, after being introduced, leaned forward like a robin poking for a worm. Jason and Beth huddled together on their tiny love seat. A gift from their family thirty-five years ago.
“Your family tells me you’ve lived here for over fifty years,” the nurse said.
“Fifty-three,” Jason replied.
“You must have wonderful memories of this place.”
The nurse expertly guided the conversation towards an already agreed upon, reasonably guilt-free arrangement which suited their family members’ lives. Their daughters nodded each time the nurse asked a leading question.
“You live here and you get a different view on things,” Jason said.
Beth leaned on her cane and struggled into her slippers. She shuffled over to the wall and removed their deceased cat’s collar from where it hung over her daughters’ wedding pictures. Pokey’s body was buried by the large oak.
The strange thing was that when Beth had awakened, in the early morning hours, she’d found Pokey purring on her pillow. Beth placed the fur-embedded collar into one of the half empty boxes that crouched on the floor by the front door. Aware that she was being clinically observed.
“You’re not taking all your pills, mom.”
Beth stared out at the lake. She could smell the aroma of pine gum and waves. She spotted Melody, her younger daughter, paddling their green canoe towards Mica Island. How did she manage to get Pokey to stay in the canoe? He hated water. She chuckled until she saw Theresa, her oldest daughter rowing after Melody in their rowboat. An eagle watched from the sky’s ceiling.
“Something worrying you?” Theresa asked.
Beth didn’t answer. Things could get confusing.
“There’s an opening coming up in the seniors’ home. Should be ready for your mother and father within the month,” the nurse said.
They’d been dismissed.
“Perhaps one of us should drop in each day and check up on them until they can get into their room,” Melody said.
“My, my, but Melody should have left her hair long and not dyed it red,” Beth thought.
“Mom, mom, are you listening to what we’re saying?” Theresa said.
She hoisted her weight, walked over to Beth and gave her a restrained hug. Beth was relieved to see that both girls had made the island safely. She smiled.
It was decided. Tomorrow, their daughters would begin rotating their way through the manufactured schedule of operation babysitting.
Jason was startled by a loud crash. Along with his eyesight problems had come to the situation where he was never sure whether any loud noise he heard came from outside or inside his head.
“I heard a noise,” Beth said. “Maybe it’s the girls returning?”
“They went home,” Jason said. He pushed himself out of bed. His old friend, who’d been killed in a car/transport collision, had dropped by after their daughters had left. They’d talked about installing metal roofing on the cabin. The words had come from outside his head so he must have been mistaken about old Mort having been killed in that crash in 1998. Hard to remember things nowadays.
June bugs knocked against the living room window. The door squeaked as they opened it. Beth linked her arm through Jason’s.
They hobbled along the side of the cabin. Last fall’s dead leaves rustled. Some creature was digging under their cabin. The flashlight illuminated the spectral forms which acted as trees and sumac bushes during the day.
“We’re having the same dream, aren’t we,” Beth said.
“Must be, if you heard the noise too.”
“Melody left, you said?”
“She left with her sister,” Jason said.
Beth and Jason had always been true to their vows.
“Morning,” he said.
She responded with a constipated half smile.
“Old oak tree came down last night. Not a speck of wind. Must have been his time.”
She pushed her way through the tangle of branches. The cold lake wind pulled at her perm as Theresa walked down the path towards the cabin.
The cabin door was open. She called. Nobody answered. She called again. A raven squawked at the lake’s choppy waters. The wind teased an old shingle.
Her parents were not in the cabin. Fear replaced worry. Followed by the birth pains of a guilt she’d been trying to avoid.
She left the cabin and leaned against a maple tree for support. The tree whispered, but she didn’t understand the prayer her soul heard.
The chain saw screamed. A hummingbird whirred by her nose. The earth remained unselfish in her gifts as the daughter watched two tiny wisps of mist swirl and dance on Mica Island.
She grabbed for her cell phone.
“Inexhaustible is their mystery
In order to grasp their creations
One must love them utterly,
Study their essential spirit diligently,
And never cease contemplating them
And wandering among them.”