Writes With Pencils

fiction, memoir, essays and poetry

Category: Scene

Smudged Lenses

an excerpt from a novel in progress

 

Smudged Lenses

When I was little there were always smudges on Daddy’s glasses from Mama’s nose, from when he bent down to kiss her. I don’t think he’s kissed another woman since, not like that. Looking through those inexperienced, love-hazed lenses he can be forgiven for not thinking much of it when I came into the world less than 8 months after their wedding day. Weighing in at 5lbs 12oz I was healthy, but scrawny by Grady family standards, all of whom had topped 8lbs in the past two generations. When you’re young you believe what you see, what’s on the surface without digging deep to verify whether there’s a solid foundation under the brick house of appearances or whether it’s just a house of cards stage-painted the color of Georgia clay with lines of mortar over top.

Since Mama’s passing, his lenses have been clean and clear, but they’ve no more helped him to see the truth than a fortune teller’s cards. And Dr. Miller hadn’t corrected Daddy at his exclamation of relief at his tiny, premature son’s safe arrival. “They were married now,” he’d thought, and it wasn’t his place to give the church ladies something to gossip about just because a couple hadn’t been able to keep their hands off each other and wait until their wedding night. It wasn’t his place to judge. That was the Lord’s work. His was to deliver babies, and he’d done a fine job of it that morning.

Daddy’s Favorite

an excerpt from a novel in progress

 

As soon as I walked in the house on that day when everything changed, I headed straight for the kitchen and put the kettle on. Chicken soup is fine, but Granddad’s tea made from bourbon and acacia honey from the farm down the road, is grown-ups’ cough syrup. It’s medicine in a glass. Steaming, its vapors once breathed in begin to comfort and heal even before the first sip. Not just colds, but a mug of that steaming balance of sweet and citrus sour will cure just about any common ailment I can think of. Headache from a hard day at work; tired shoulders from hauling lumber off the truck on a drizzly day in January; and that hoarseness in the throat from hollering over the band saw’s din can all be soothed by that simple concoction. By the time the water boiled the honey, wedge of lemon, and a heavy pour from Granddad’s bottle were already in the glass. When the kettle whistled, I poured the water over the shades of amber and watched it melt with three turns of the spoon. These simple tasks of pouring and stirring were all I could manage. I was numb from the day’s events.

The hours that evening had the same viscosity as honey and flowed as slowly as the last bit clinging to the bottom of the gallon jug Bob Swenson sold us each June from the first harvest of his hives. It was Daddy’s favorite. Said he could taste the flowers in the fields and see the blossoms in my mama’s hair on their wedding day, each time he spread it on buttered toast. Anything that reminded Daddy of Mama was his favorite. Time lay thickly, a sticky weight trapping me to my chair as a fruit fly on a drop of nectar looking for more, but without the sweetness. The light passing through that sticky weight of time caught its golden hue and glowed. I’m not sure whether it was the light or the second cup of Granddad’s tea that warmed me more, but I melted into the chair and examined my life of 22 years through this new lens. Unplanned and unforeseen I hadn’t chosen it, it had chosen me, an unintended secret; discovered.

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