Monday, March 15, 2021

New Short Fiction by Marc Isaac Potter

A Memory of Loveliness 

 What is the memory of some imagined loveliness?  Flowers, certainly - and roses most assuredly - are lovely.
 The chickadees are slowly walking, like tiny chicken hens, strutting, dancing through the blossoming dandelions ... These calm chickadees are quite lovely.  And, I would say, that my sister Evangeline, in her way, was lovely.
 My sister Evangeline - that was her formal name - was a tall thin girl, all of 13 and a half years.  No degree of happiness came to her face, because even at 13 Evangeline was a determined and accomplished girl.  Rarely, when a smile would light her face, I knew what loveliness was; I could see that Mom was proud of Evy, not just because she was good at grooming the hogs for 4H, or her sewing, or her horse hiding abilities - no I think Mom loved her because she was a girl, soon to be a woman, and Mom, you could tell was proud of all 5 of her girls, and women in general; I think Mom felt that women got the short shrift of things, the short end of the stick.  She would not say this out loud … how Evy’s voice went up and down and sideways like a player piano that needs tuning or a church choir member, still drunk from Saturday night rabble-rousing. 
 Mom and Evangeline, had a special bond, like Bonnie and Clyde or the Little Rascals on the radio.
 The day my sister Evy hung herself on Grandmother’s largest Oak Tree, the ants on the middle anthill were, quite mistakenly, busy discussing a baloney sandwich.  At the time I knew nothing of what had happened - I would not find out for more than a decade.
 … I was trying to explain to the ants that this was not a baloney sandwich -  the ham was uptown ham - that the people Mom worked for had given her some uptown Black Forest Ham and them - the ants - ought to damn well appreciate it.  I only swore in front of the ants, not in front of the goats, and certainly not near the “banny” rooster - the colorful banty rooster is very quick and will use any excuse to bite me on the heel.
 Grandpa came up beside me and said, “Boy let’s go in the barn, I need to talk to you.”  I thought I was getting a horsewhipping, but if so, why did Grandpa not have me pick out a green switch from one of the young cottonwoods that he had planted?
 “Son, you know how sometimes when a mare has her foal, she gets sick, and sometimes she even dies, like what happened over at Jenner’s last year?  You know what I mean?”  Billy Jenner is the oldest boy in the Jenner family - well I wish we were best friends, but still, we were pretty close; I could not understand why Grandpa was calling me son - I was his grandson.
 Grandpa was acting more gentle than usual, more like Grandma than his usual self, and he kept touching me on the shoulder, which was odd; something that he normally did not do.  I figured - certainly somehow - I was in for a whipping - even though this time I did not know what I had done wrong - even though as usual I did not feel I deserved one.  I remember thinking: why were the ants having such a nice meal and I am being punished.
 Anyway, Grandpa said Evy was going away for a while and no one knew when she would come back.  I figured she had gotten knocked up without getting married first and they sent her off to a nunnery or a boarding school, but I was not supposed to know about those kinds of things just yet.  And what did that have to do with Jenner’s mare dying last spring?
 Momma was crying an awful lot during dinner and Dad was his usual quiet self.  I was busy putting scraps in my overall’s pockets for the ants; our mutt dog Spotty who could smell the scraps whined as usual.  Not only was Evy nowhere to be seen, but my cousin Carrie, who lived with us because her stepdad beat her so bad - Carrie was nowhere to be seen either; maybe she had been sent to bed with no supper.  
 The Melbournes, who lived a good distance along the railroad track ...Mrs. M knocked at the door; she apologized for interrupting supper and I heard Mom whisper “he doesn’t know.”  The two ladies, Mother, and Mrs. M had a good cry out on the porch. Mrs. M seemed to know about Evy going off to the nunnery because she brought two cobblers to mark the occasion - one was blackberry and one strawberry - so Evy going, you see, was kind of paying off in a certain way.  At least I thought so at the time.
 When we visited Grandma and Grandpa, they always, and I mean always - ate with us … tonight they were nowhere to be found.  “Your Grandpa had to go into town on business,” Dad said, even though the sun had set a while ago and nothing in town was open.  I was hoping to get back home.  I wanted to visit the red ants in the moonlight as I gave them the scraps that I had collected.
…. ….  

Over the years, Carrie and I of course fooled around together, as cousins usually do;  I did not go too far with her because I did not want her running off to the nunnery.  You would have thought Evangeline would have come back, but she never did; I finally figured out that she probably liked being a nun and I supposed that she gave the baby away.
 Carrie got married to a football player and I thought she and Jethro would certainly leave town, but he did not make the team at Jefferson College - so he, Jethro, went to work at the Ford plant just like the rest of us.  One day Carrie and I were sitting in her new shiny green 1968 Camaro convertible - that car Wow!  And Carrie’s legs that day Wow!  Yes, even though now she was a married woman, we had stayed quite good friends; we each told the other our troubles.  Today Carrie was telling me how she and Jethro had been trying for a baby for almost a year and nothing had happened yet.
 “You mean you are not pregnant yet.?”
 “Yes dumbbell,” Carrie said, straightening out her skirt, “Yes and I wonder if Jethro will eventually leave me?”
 “Well, you can always join the nunnery,” I said, which was something I had frequently said over the years any time it was Carrie’s turn to tell me her troubles.  Carrie turned in her driver’s seat and stared right at me, as though she was going to give it to me with both barrels.  “Martin,” she said.  She nearly always called me Marty and not Martin.
 “Martin,” I have to tell you something.  This seemed even more serious than her marital problems.
 “What Carrie, what is it.”
 “Evy … Evangeline.”  
 "Yes,"  I said.
 “Evangeline never did go to a nunnery or a boarding school or to live with our cousins in Tennessee.”
 “Ok, so what happened?”
 “Marty, she hung herself - she hung herself to death on the big oak tree - you know the one cattywampus of the front porch.”
 “The one by the mailbox side of the porch?”
 “Yes, Carrie said, I was in my room doing math problems right there after school; I was concentrating like all get out on long division, and then I happened to look up.  She was- well - blue and her head was at an unusual angle like an overripe cucumber.  And then I realized Oh My God, she is up in the damn tree and she is just hanging there - that means …”
 Carrie took my hand and started playing with each of my fingernails in turn, which was her way of doing things.  
 “I meant to tell you all these years but your Mom and Dad don’t know that I saw it happen.”  The silence pronounced itself; the silence stuck solid.
 “Oh my God, Carrie, you have been living with this all this time, by yourself.”
 “Oh my God, Carrie, what can I do?”
 I stared at Carrie and somehow - I know it is impossible, I also, at the same time, stared straight ahead out of the shiny new windshield.  I imagined a chickadee on the hood of the car, strutting through a field of dandelions.  “Let’s go for a drive,” Carrie said.
 So we did.  We took a drive up route 122 through Ashland, Paintsville, and other parts of northeastern Kentucky; it is pretty this time of year.

- © Marc Isaac Potter 2021 

Marc Isaac Potter is a writer living in the Bay Area.  Marc’s interests include blogging by email, creative writing, and Zen.    Since 2001, Marc has produced a TV Talk show at the Community Access level; the show is called In Our Community

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