by S.C. Hickman
was dead and gone. Only lines of kindness
in her face remained…
—Richard Hugo, Making Sure It Goes On
Mrs. Noraine stood on the porch silently listening to the dogs and children and sirens in the distance. The two girls playing across the street stopped and watched her, then waved. She waved back. They were nice girls, never had a bit of trouble out of them. But times were changing now. Some of the boys in the neighborhood were mean looking, and taunted her at times when they walked by. They never used to do that.
Ever since Roland passed on she’d felt a little fearful. Her daughter had been trying to get her to move down south for a while, but she’d lived in this old home for most of her life. She wouldn’t know what to do if she left it. But more and more things were not right, she was having those dreams again. Seeing her son crashing in that car, again. His big beautiful brown eyes so full of terror. She’d wake up feeling a knot in the pit of her stomach. She’d sit there the rest of the night unable to sleep. Things rattling in that old house now. Frightened her.
Even Roland seemed to come and go now. She’d be sitting there concentrating on a sweater for Amy or Tisha and feel a hand slide along her arm. Look up and see him standing there with his big grin just gazing at her. She’d say, “What you doing here, Roland?” Surprised he’d come to visit her. “She’d reach over to get her glasses to see him better and he’d be gone. She’d get up and wander around that big old house looking for him, but wouldn’t find him anywhere and then she’d remember. That would upset her so she couldn’t even drink her night tea.
Mostly she knew she wasn’t thinking right anymore. It was a terrible thing to be missing things, especially things one used to have so well preserved in one’s mind. She’d pull out the old photo albums and try to refresh her mind, but it just confused her more. Faces she knew she ought to know no longer registered a name she could attach to her thoughts. This disturbed her the most. Losing names and faces. She told her daughter about seeing Roland. Her daughter flew up the next day. “Mama, you coming home with me, you hear?” She was a nice girl, but she didn’t want to leave her home. So much to do, so many things left undone. She just couldn’t leave, not yet. But her daughter insisted. Said it was no longer up to her. “Mama it’s for your health, you have to come. I can’t take care of you, and I can’t leave my home. Billy and I have a nice place for you all fixed up. You’ll be happy. You’ll see.”
So she’d fretted over all the little things in her house. Her daughter hired some people to pack it all up, said she needn’t worry about that at all. That they were professionals and would take extra care to insure nothing was lost or broken in process. So she’d just sat there in her big green chair and watched strangers put her life away in box after box after box. She felt lost now standing here not knowing where her life had gone. She walked slowly through that empty house feeling sad and lonely. She didn’t want to leave Roland to roam that place alone, either. What would he do? Her daughter said: “Roland’s in a good place, Mama. He’s just fine. Don’t you worry about Roland. The Good Lord taking care of him.” She wasn’t quite sure of that. Roland wasn’t much on religion like she was. So she wasn’t at all convinced about the Good Lord taking care of him. She was fearful for her Man’s soul.
She walked back into the kitchen where she’d cooked so many meals. “Good times, here,” she thought. A woman shouldn’t have to leave her kitchen to strangers. Just didn’t seem right to her. Everything gone. All my pictures gone. It’s like saying goodbye to myself; it’s like I won’t exist anymore… just then she felt his hand on her shoulder. She wanted to fall into his big strong arms, let him hold her one last time…
"Mama," her daughter said, a little afraid. "You all right, Mama, we're packed up and ready. Let me take you out to the car."
She turned around and saw Roland standing there in the doorway just a smiling. He looked twenty years younger. His thick bushy black hair had a dusting of gray, but not much; and she could see he was plump, but not overly; in fact he even had on that smart new suit she'd bought him from the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue. "My, my," she thought: "How handsome he is in that suit." He nodded at her as if to say, "Go on now, sweetpea; it'll be all right, you wait and see. I'll take care of myself just fine, don't you fret none; so you get on down south..."
Rosie, her daughter, worrying and fretting herself, said: "Mama?" Her daughter shook her on the shoulder a little.
She opened her eyes and Roland was gone, and her daughter was standing there with that worrisome look on her face, so she said: "Okay, hun, it's all right, everything goin' be all right; let's go south, I'm ready."
S.C. Hickman writes daily on his blog Southern Nights. Having lived in the South most of his life he writes within the Country noir and Southern lit traditions. He dovetails the Southern lit in with his own brand of Southern humor and serious themes.
Belle Rêve Literary Journal is a southern literary experience. Our mission is to capture everything that makes the South and its residents unique through the best contemporary literature we can find. We publish new works weekly.
Passionately Ran, Compassionately Fed.