You loved them well and they remain, still with nothing
to do, no money and no will.
—Richard Hugo, What Thou Lovest Well Remains American
She sat there staring out the window. The day was gray and so was she, her face had lost that sense of time that holds us to the course of things; a sleeper’s face among smooth stones, river stones slipping into deep channels of black water. The clouds drifted along another course toward the north, but she could not follow them across the veil. She kept remembering the boy as he used to be coming up that lonely road, up from the creek, barefoot, hollering, running to the cabin with a string of fresh slung perch flapping on the rope strapped around his waste. His dusty brown bangs bobbing as he swung through the gate, the dogs yelping jumping up and licking his face. Him working against the tide of all that animal love. That was another time, another season. Now, was now. She let out a long sigh…
Beau, her hubbie, heard her, saying:”You goin’ mope at that window again today?” She didn’t respond. He knew she wouldn’t. “Dam, that woman,” he thought to himself, inwardly. He knew nothing had changed, and nothing would. Maybe it was a mistake to come back. She seemed more a ghost of time than the woman he’d once loved. He corrected himself, still loved. Some things can never be fixed. It’s the broken things that make us realize what life is. Until something breaks we don’t even know it exists. Oh, we see it, we even use it, but know it, no — things don’t exist for us until they break. And, that boy lying back there on that bed is broken beyond repair, and there’s nothing no one can do about it. The sincerity of the world lies in that broken place. He knew that. She knew that. All that was left now was accepting that.
Twenty years ago she’d shown him how to tie a knot, loop the fly, lay the line real fine and soft — just so, floating, hovering before the bubbles where the steelhead flits and shuttles after prey. He’d laughed to scream when that rainbow nose had taken flight and leapt to the sun, its gold and green and sun-flecked side gleaming in the silver spray of those black waters. The line gone slack, then taut against the pole; the zing of the line dancing out and away as the sleek runner skipped traced down into those cold waters then broke free again in the sun, nose dancing. The boy had no skill, but energy, feeling the tension on that pole dip down, and his Mama’s strong, firm hands slow and methodical pacing with him as he tried to bring that silver-backed fin to roost in a basket net. Twenty years ago this day, his world alive and clean and memorable.
Now she heard him whizzing, behind her —roughly breathing, lost in some far land of night and loss. The doctors said it was only a matter of time now, nothing they could do but comfort him. Best bring him home, let him know you love him, hope he feels your blessing, hope he goes quickly… that’d been three months ago, almost an eternity. He was still here, still living —if living it is.
“I’m going to town, is this all you need on this list?” He needed to get out. He was no good here. No good to her, the boy, and especially himself. He knew she would just sit there all day, else go sit by him, talk to him, tell him stories —all those ancient memories. He couldn’t bare it anymore, he had to get away, even if it was just for an afternoon. Maybe go down to Charlie’s place and chit-chat, have a couple beers, forget things if even for a while. He just had to get away. She finally turned her head. Her stone cold eyes said it all… Gone elsewhere, no one home. He needed to go, get away, now.
The door closed, she heard the truck start up, the slush on the gravel drive as he creeped back over the night’s fresh snow. She couldn’t hear the boy whizzing anymore. Maybe he was resting. She got up to check him. He seemed so restful now, yet pale and ghost like, skinny and frail. She fretted that he’d never wake up again, never know her. Never know how sorry she was. It wasn’t her fault, it’d just happened. The music was so loud, the boom-box biting her ears; she’d just turned away for a second, just to tell him to turn it down, plead with him. It all happened so quick. What could she do? The driver had run that red light. She’d felt dizzy, the metal and glass crunching round her, the sun peering down from that white molten world; its deadly eye seeping down and down. People and the sirens screaming, that boom-box bursting through the afternoon heat like an alien apocalypse burning down the world.
She held a straw to his mouth. He couldn’t open his eyes. Bandages wrapped around his head where he’d slammed against the pavement like a rag doll. That part of his brain that held his self together had been damaged beyond medical help. For all intents and purposes the thing in front of her was not her son anymore. Yet, she hoped, against hope; not for a miracle. No. She’d fallen away from believing in such notions long ago. All she wanted was just one moment of recognition: a word or squeeze of the hand; something that showed a sign of her boy in all that wounded flesh. It reminded her of that day long ago, the boy’s smile raising that trout up out of the depths of those black waters that sparked something of him that remains… if only in her heart, her tears.
©2016 S.C. Hickman – Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.