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Between These Shores
Clouds~Continued
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The Gods We See~Pairing Poetry & Archaeology
One Came Back~Sheffield City Battalion WW1
Archaeology of 'Hill 60' at Redmires~WW1 Pages & Links
Vintage Postcards of WW1 Sheffield
Vintage WW1 Postcards~British & French
Home Shores~Carousels To Castles
Farther Shores~A Variety Of Loss
More Shores~Doubts & Rhythms
Shores Remembered~Poetry of Women's Issues
'A Very Brooklyn Wedding'~Links To Women's Short Stories
Transatlantic Links

Reluctantly, she looked away from the kaleidoscope window at the woman across the aisle and whispered 'hello', which was swallowed in the squeals from the scraping wheels against the tracks. Mama's chest rose and fell in a heavy sigh, she thought she could hear above the noise. Or, perhaps she only thought she could, as she was so used to hearing it.
    "She's shy.", Mama explained.  "A shrinking violet."  Both women laughed.
    She didn't know what that meant, but it made her feel flushed and vulnerable, the thicket of her concealment falling away in brittle branches and exposing something she'd yet to grasp.  She decided quickly the scenery and smells of continental travel were more comforting than wondering why she felt this way, so she checked Daisy to see if she still slept and gazed out the window. For the remainder of the trip she smiled to herself, thinking of clouds above countries far away and how the grass there must look through them, from high above.
    When they finally reached Brooklyn, it was late night. She would have to wait till tomorrow to tell her friends of the grass and trees and sunny kitchen. Traveling was such a special thing and she felt special, planning her story for the following day. But she couldn't just sleep without telling someone; she'd burst if she didn't release some of her happiness, so she decided to begin with her grandmother. As soon as the taxi wheeled to a stop outside their house, she ran upstairs and into Grandma's kitchen. The dim, yellowish overhead light of the kitchen lit the fading green walls, once mint, now darkened by years of cooking grease. Grandma read a newspaper at the table, covered in cheap floral plastic.
    "Grandma! Guess what I saw!"  Grandma sat her down with a glass of milk and listened until she could no longer feign interest. "It's time for her to go to bed", Grandma told Mama. They whispered together as she slid away from the table. Indeed, in her delight and excitement, she hadn't realized how tired she'd become. It was very late.  Her eyes were heavy but her mind still galloped with joy. Placing Daisy in her cradle, it didn't take long to ready herself for bed and crawl under the covers. She was warmly content with her plans and would have drifted off quickly, if she suddenly hadn't realized she'd missed someone.
    "Where is Bambi ?",  she asked, sitting up in the semi dark.  Her dog should be here at bedtime, right by her side, as she had been for the eight years of her life. Mama sat on the edge of her bed for a moment. She could smell Mama's natural scent in the warmth of the little room, mixed with her cologne, like spicy, fresh baked bread.
    "I have something to tell you and I want you to listen carefully.", Mama told her. Trustingly, she sat up in bed and searched her Mama's face in the dim light coming from the living room.
    "Bambi was very sick. She was suffering. So Grandma had her put to sleep." 
    For an instant, she didn't quite hear the words. They echoed, not discernible, like a voice from another room; a television set played low or a neighbor's talking across the courtyard. Then, like a hard fall, not the words, but the meaning struck her.
    "Bambi died ?",  she asked, unbelieving, tears already spilling quickly to the blanket across her lap.
     Mama sighed. "Yes. She died. It was the most merciful thing to do. You know you wouldn't want her to suffer.", said Mama, as if she should agree; as if this decision to end her dog's life were her own. She stared at Mama in the dark, searching her face for some reason, some explanation, or more, some reassurance that this first time loss was not real. She wanted her to say it would all be gone in the morning, that it couldn't hurt because it was only a dream, the way she did when she woke from nightmares. But her mother simply stared back and repeated that 'it had to be done'.
    Gone ? Bambi ? No, this wasn't right, couldn't be right.  She should have been here to say something, stop it, try to make someone help her. There were dog doctors; she knew this. No !  If she'd been there, she would have begged, cried, held Bambi and not let go. They would have had to save her!  And then the truth of it all, the reason for the weekend magic, the travel to 'the country', stabbed her with the sharded clarity of betrayal.
    "That's why you took me to Aunt Dot's house. So you could put her to sleep. Why did you do that, Mama. Why didn't you even let me say good-bye ?",  she asked, as the truth settled within, not only of the finality of loss, but for the knowledge of deceit.  She strained the words through a tightening throat and wept true tears of mourning, for Bambi and  for shattered trust. Her mother stood and walked to the door, sighing, her tolerance wasted.
    "Oh stop it. You didn't miss her. You didn't even notice she was gone when you came home.", she said, "Now go to sleep. Tomorrow is another day."
    Curled against her pillow, she cried her guilt and shame. She didn't deserve to say good-bye. Too blissfully unaware to expect an absence, she'd assumed Bambi would be there as she always was, sleeping somewhere beneath the furniture, never expecting her to be gone; her oversight branded her. There was no way to make it up to her.  No way to say she was sorry. She slept finally, all memory of trees and grass and sunny kitchens shut away, sectioned from access by difficult truths.
    She woke next day, feeling something was different and lay for a few moments, listening to the sounds of traffic below; cars and busses and planes overhead, dividing winds of opportunity for beautiful people she did not see and who she hoped would never see her. She envied their flight, as the blind envy sight. Imaginary plenties, only vaguely comprehended and harshly denied.  Dressing, she peered closely at her image in the mirror; her uneven hair and scabbed knees a tangible testimony to her inner imperfections. For the first time, she could see herself as her mother saw her.
    Sitting on the front steps in her already wrinkled dress, she peered upward for a very long time, till the children she missed the night before approached excitedly and asked what she'd done during the weekend.
    "My dog died.", she answered, without lowering her head. For a moment, there was silence, the children waiting for her to cry. Blinking toward the sun, tearless and never turning away, she quietly suggested, "Why don't we look at the clouds ?"

    

   For more stories click below...

Dating The Second Time Around

The Things We Do Best

A Very Brooklyn Wedding

'Just A Thought' Website~Comedy & Satire

All work copyrighted 2002 and sole properties of A. C. Geraghty and P. C. Sidebottom, except where stated.
 
 To contact the author, or to obtain further copies of 'Just A Thought', email deepoceanfish2@aol.com

Vintage postcards from the collection of P. C. Sidebottom.