Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Musings, 14 June 2014

Good morning,

I hear the round cry of a strange creature, whoo, whoo, whoop, something I don't recognize.  Above this mournful note, a chitter bursts -- chhhttchhttchtttchttt, and I lie in this guestroom bed and wonder what lovely beings make these noises.  The low foothills of the Arkansas Ozarks surround me.  Here in Fayetteville, in the home of my friends Brian and Trudy, I have no responsibility and I let myself linger near sleep.  The sun has risen but lazily, as though it has not quite committed.  I share its slothful, gleeful reluctance.

A half-memory drifts into my mind.  Little Rock, 1987.  I'm alone on a porch, watching the cars pass.  I haven't moved yet; everything I own still sits in Kansas City, except a suitcase full of unsuitable clothes.  I have misjudged the weather; Missouri still lingers in winter while here in the south, spring reigns.  I've just entered the first of what will ultimately be three marriages though I had no way of knowing that; I said then, "I'm newly wedded," and my heart rose in gladness.

Chester, my new groom, is at work.  We're supposedly on our honeymoon.  What's actually happening is that he is working and I'm nursing the foot I broke dancing at our reception.  The emergency room doctor did not believe my account of the chicken dance during which the injury occurred.  He found evidence of prior breaks and segregated me from Chet to ask:  Is someone mistreating you at home?  Apparently the shape of my feet lends itself to spontaneous stress fractures.  Didn't your feet ever hurt, he inquires, with that incredulous tone saved for the demented.

Always, I tell him, smiling.  He is not amused but he lets us both go home with a prescription for painkillers.  I throw it in the glove box.  I've plenty of those.

I shift on the porch and gaze out at the dirty city.  A figure draws near, a man walking down the sidewalk.  He's thin; his clothes hang from his shoulders with barely a ripple for the body beneath the fabric.  He turns his angular face towards me and pauses for a moment.  Our eyes meet.  I think he must intend to ask for food, or money, or to spit out some foul curse.

But he does none of these.  He nods, briefly; a short, spare movement.  I return the silent greeting.  He pauses for less than a second, almost too short a time to believe he's really broken the rhythm of his walking, and then continues, past me.

I linger on the porch.  The warm afternoon air ripples around me.  I strain to see down the block, but the man has vanished.  He didn't vary from his straight path to enter one of the yards and no trees obscure my view.  I can't figure out where he has gone.  I rise from my chair and walk down to the curb.  It's been just minutes; I should be able to see him.  But the street is empty.   I stand on the sidewalk and wonder what has just happened, who or what I have just encountered.  After a few moments, I go into the house to start fixing dinner.

Years later, on the street where I live in Kansas City, I saw the man again.  As I drove down Holmes Road, I glanced across at the sidewalk and there, walking towards me, I swear, was the man I had encountered in Little Rock.  Same lean frame; same angular face; same clipped grey hair.  The car drove itself for a dozen feet as our eyes locked.  The man deliberately moved his head from left to right, telling me no, no, not today before my vehicle moved beyond him.  Just for a moment,  light shimmered around him, some splintered, fragmented light, bursting from the rags he wore and then my car moved beyond him.  I tightened my hands on the wheel and dragged my eyes to the front and drove on, wondering, again, who or what I had seen.

I hear the bird's cry,  long and low.  It's nearly seven.  I close my eyes and wait for the answering chitter and when it comes, I find myself smiling.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.