I dreamed about Jess last night. We were lying on our bed, and I was snuggled up against his back, holding him the way he held me after Mama died, and I said, "I'm sorry for taking your life," and even in the dream I knew how empty that sounded, but he said "I reckon I didn't leave you much choice."
After a while, he said, "Is there anything you want to ask me, anything you want to know about the other side?"
I wanted to ask about Shina, if he'd seen her, was she okay, where she was, and was he with her, but I was scared of what the answers might be.
"Shina's fine," he said. "I get to see her sometimes, and hold her. She'll be coming back soon. It's easier for babies, there's no retraining to do, not like with me," but he didn't finish that part. Then he said, "Is there anything you want to ask me before I go?"
I said, "What were you going to say to me right before you died when you said, 'Callie, I?"
"Callie, I never meant to hurt you," he said.
A flurry of memories came flying from my mind. I saw Jess walking in the dew-covered grass across the pasture, a bouquet of wild roses in his hand, Jess diving off the bluff at the Blue Hole, Jess holding Shina near the window, a glimmer of sunglow around them,their faces hidden in shadow. I saw Shina nursing, her dark eyes searching my face. With each picture I would gasp for a breath like no amount of air could save me.
Finally morning came. It was the first day of December, and eight inches of snow had fallen in the night. There was no wind, so it drifted down, clinging to the feathery branches of the evergreens and the bare limbs of the deciduous trees. The world was hushed and still. I dressed and went out, and walked across the meadow while the sun tried to find its way through the silver clouds. I wanted to see the valley from the cliffside, but I wasn't ready to see Wren, so soon. My mind was full of Jess and Shina, and my heart was full of tears.
The buds were set on the trees. Under the blanket of snow lay the promise of spring, the new green of rebirth, lacy boughs of dogwood, red bud and serviceberry, a patchwork ground cover of wildflowers, and clear icy streams. Soon the goldfinches would change their drab feathers to bright yellow, and courting songs would begin at dawn, and end with the last call of a whippoorwill.
I turned and waved to the rocky outcropping, in case Wren was there, waiting for me. I walked back home along the same path, past a walnut tree with a large burl where its first branch should be, and I thought, each year that old tree adds another grain line over its wound. In an instant I knew that the pain of what happened would always be inside me, and in time, I would grow around it.
The Weight of Pears
His words in the air
are ripe and full,
like bee-stung fruit,
a persistence of sound -
all nectar and soft skin.
And she, unable to bear
the weight of his words,
hands to him a pear
succulent, bruised and sweet.
* Saturday, Sept. 22, Intro to Fiction, $45 for the day.
* Saturday, Oct. 6, Fiction II, $45 for the day.
* Sunday, Oct. 14, Poetry with Don Lee, $25 for the afternoon
* Saturday, Oct. 20, Memoir with Laura Parker Castoro (lauracastoro.com.) $45 for the day.
* Saturday, Oct. 27, Fiction III, $45
Judy Singleton is a graduate of Empire State College in New York. While living there she had the privilege of studying with two wonderful poets, Dan Masterson, and Suzanne Cleary. She was twice the recipient of the Larom for Fiction at Rockland Community College. She is retired after 30 years in the insurance business. Jude participates in the Community Writing Program in both Fiction and Poetry.
To support the emerging local writers of the Community Writing Program at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow, the Lovely County Citizen is providing space each week to showcase their work. Pieces will be selected by the program manager, and students must have taken at least one workshop in the Community Writing Program, which was launched on July 21. Selections from instructors and student mentors of the program will also be presented. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.