The screen door squeaks in protest as I step onto the back porch. ‘Have to get that fixed’ I say to myself. Again. For the thousanth time.
Shaking my head and smiling wryly, I step barefoot onto the grass. It tickles my nose, as well as my feet, with a heady, intoxicating aroma of grass, leaves, damp earth and a hint of lawn mower exhaust.
With the day quickly winding toward dusk, I wander toward the treeline. Out of the corner of my eye, a light. Turning, I see a firefly.
Reaching out, I cup it in my hands. Bringing it near my face, I peer between my fingers. ...flash.
Legs and arms pumping furiously, I come careening around the corner of the house. Daring a glance behind, I can see her catching up. Darn, I think to myself. She always catches me. And I’m almost four years older than her.
“Tony, Patty, supper’s ready!”. Making the next corner, my mother comes into view, standing on the top step of the porch, gently bouncing Jennie on her right hip. Edna is sitting on the bottom step, petting Rex on the head as he lies at her feet.
I can feel Patty on my heels, the sound…flash.
I stand there, confused. My head spinning, my heart pounding in my ears. I’m finding it difficult to breathe, concentrate. I feel the firefly fluttering against my palms. Hesitantly, I raise my hands to take another look…flash.
“Dad” ? I step slowly into the darkened room, the afternoon sun beating against the drawn shades, trying to gain entrance, but failing. I hear slow, ragged breaths coming from the chair near the window. A lit cigarette held, smoldering, smoke curling lazily, as it burns towards his fingers.
“Dad”, I say again. “Are you alright”? I position myself where I can see his face. Tears stream unheeded from his eyes.
My heart starts to palpitate, my breathing becoming as ragged as his. This giant of a man, who strode the world, head in the clouds, above all others, my hero, whom I loved as I loved no other person, shown to be human. A mortal. Like me.
“It’s my mother, your grandmother” he whispers. “ Your aunt Pat called. They found her…flash.
Jerked back in my body, I cry out. I fling the firefly away. Gazing up, gasping, I notice the stars. Night has fallen. What is happening to me? How are these memories manifesting, unbidden thoughts from times past? Surely some cruel joke, a twist of the mind.
I feel a tapping against my hand. Looking down, I see the firefly, waiting to be cradled in my hands once again. Trembling with trepidation and anticipation, I cup the firefly, and bring it up, to gaze at its light once again…flash.
I kiss his soft cheek. He squirms, and makes a face. “You better get used to it” I tell him. “There are going to be more where that came from” . His stare is non-commital. But what do I expect, he’s only 2 days old. I remove the blanket, and start to count toes and fingers, again. Touching his warm, soft body all over.
I hear a quiet laugh from the bed. “Are you going to do that everytime you hold him” Robbie says? “Probably” I reply. “He’s just so amazing. Really amazing” .
“You won’t feel so awed when we get home and you have to change his ‘amazing’ diapers” she says, chuckling. Laughing with her,I say “you’re probably right” as I cuddle…flash.
Tears are now quietly flowing down my face. I give in, and immediately raise my hands back to my face …flash.
They have all finally left, only their well meaning platitudes left hanging in the air, like the smell of stale beer. I check on Brenden, asleep in my bed. He hasn’t left my side in three days. What do I expect, he’s only 8, and this is a lot for him to assimilate.
I step into the bathroom. My wife is sitting in a tub full of warm water, surrounded by her favorite candles, lights off.
“You’re dead” , I say, the first words out of my mouth. Starting to sob, the gut wrenching, soul robbing primeval cries coming from the very depths of despair. “ I buried you three days ago” I yell at her, bringing my rage against the one person who loved me, truly loved me as no other. I want to hit her, strike her, harm her as she has harmed me. Leaving me alone to make my way, driftless, without a rudder in a sea of despair.
“ I…I…I…” “ I know” she says. Reaching out, she beckons. Stumbling forward, I take her hand, collapsing against the tub.
She gently cradles my head against her breast as I cry myself out, wrung dry, leaving nothing behind but a quiet longing.
Softly she kisses me. “ I have to go now, but you will always have me. Just gaze upon our son, and you will see me there” . The candles go out.
“Wait, wait, wait” I say. “Please, there is so much That I…flash.
“Dad” ? Turning, I see Brenden coming toward me. “Jamie has dinner ready. You coming in” ?
I open my hands. The firefly flies away. Stepping toward my son, I study his face. Same freckles, same slightly upturned nose, warm, inviting smile. Eyes open, honest, clear.
I reach out and embrace him. “Yeah, lets go inside” I say. We stroll back to the house, my arm around his shoulders.
He stops and turns toward me. “ I’m suppose to wait and tell you with Jamie, but I can’t . We’re pregnant”. I see the wonder, joy, happiness, all emotions mirrored in his face. I take him once again in my arms, and kiss him. “Don’t forget” I tell him, “make sure you count the toes and fingers”.
Mounting the steps to the porch, he opens the screen door. It squeaks in protest. “ Have to get that fixed” he says as we enter the house.
Impressive. A touch of Slaughterhouse Five in there, I think.
Yeah, Loren, there is some indeed. It started out as a small poem, then kinda got away from me. Some Rod Serling mixed in too. Quite a few influences. Each and everyone memories from my life, filtered through all that has made me what I currently am. Thanks for reading and commenting. Can always use the feedback.
Tony I just loved your writing of your memories. I noticed you wrote about your wife. She must be a muse for you.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful writing with us.
Thanks, Steph. She was, and is. Appreciate you reading it. I seem to keep coming back to the same theme right now. Self discovery and exploration. Thanks again. Be well.
Hey Jonathan. Just woke up, thanks for your kind words. I find it cathartic to write about these things. Always write about what you know, they say.So I do. Thanks again. Be well my friend.
p.s. If you do decide to share, we will be here. With our support.