January 6, 2010

Arthur, Spring, 2009

We crept along the rocks, and how gallant we were, and how brave, through petrified forests of pilings and finally an upturned boat. Rubbish to one soured by too much ambition and too little time, but for us a magnificently sordid chapel, in which we placed, with reverence, the treasures delivered to us by the sea. Clouded from their tumbled journey, bits of glass and shells, none of the blushing citron of the encyclopedic illustrations, but subtle, pale violet and silver, chalky white along the edges, smooth mother of pearl within.  There was a tide-pool, home to hermit crabs and the fossil of a sand dollar, round like a small pancake, but smooth and hard as bone. Behind us climbed the rocks, mingling with the pasture-grasses above until, tickled by the sour Bermuda buttercup, they tumbled back down to the beach.
            The tide was in, and there were no crabs to pluck up by their shells, watching them dance in the air until they’d pinch our fingers. The waves lapped at the edge of our stronghold, so we removed our boots and our thick woolen socks, tucking them as far back into the dry boat as we could. Our trousers and shirts we dealt with likewise. Then, wearing only our white underpants, our skin goose-bumped, we waded out into the sea. The green water, breath of the Pacific, was bitingly cold and as it rose up our legs we shrieked with the numbness and dived. Keller was the tallest and the water had little more than reached his knees, “Wait for me!” he cried, collapsing after us, Sanders, Dana and me, into the next wave. And we four splashed and leapt and grabbed one another around the ankle. Past the black mud, churned up by our kicking and through the eelgrass, “I felt something alive, I did!” and soon we were beyond our little cove.

Moon Jelly, Spring, 2009

In the middle of a morning thick with gulls, the old woman passed. Her bed had been moved onto the sun porch where a lethargic wasp buzzed idly in a corner. Beyond the large panes of glass a low fog rose slowly from the bay, seamless, then pixilated into thousands of swooping birds. At the time of her last breath, slow as it was, deliberate, she was alone, and it was upon this solitude that she closed her eyes.
Presently, her niece returned to the house. She was accustomed to finding her old great-aunt asleep, cheek squished into the pillows, bulging to the sides like a pear fallen upon flagstone. Marie hung her key on a nail by the door and went straight through to the kitchen. At the cranberry-painted table she set aside a seed catalogue and a magazine put out by the Sierra Club. She opened a padded, official- looking envelope addressed to her aunt. It bore no stamp and no postmark. Inside was a stack of bills, crisp and new. She counted, ten thousand, five hundred dollars. As always, she considered simply tucking the money into her bag and driving forever, but leaning so that she could see in the living room the mound of her aunt in the fading light, comfortable and safe, convinced her otherwise. Habitually, Marie set aside the thousand that would buy their groceries and other expenses, and with the rest, went out into the garden.
A warm southern wind blew her graying hair about her face and the chimes hanging from the corner of the house clanged wildly. The sunflowers along the fence swayed piously like a row of old monks. They were beginning to mold and a raven lurched jerkily around in the dirt, picking at the seeds. Marie slid aside the wooden latch that barred the door of the garden shed and stepped inside. The light was dim, old, and ivy crept in from the one, high window. At the back of the shed, Marie crouched down and felt around for the tin. Her fingernails scraped against the cold aluminum and she drew it toward her. A flaking Christmas wreath was painted onto the lid. She added the larger portion of bills to the growing pile within. Then she replaced the lid, and slid the box back under the potting bench. Outside, she re-bolted the shed door and stared out at the bay. She would send a portion to the orphanage in Bolivia, sufficient to merit the thank yous cherished by her righteous aunt, a bushel of crude paper cards, drawn on by the orphans. Every surface in the house was already cluttered with decades of them, the images changing over the years, flowers, rainbows, racecars.