Week's Ten Word Challenge will be: France, cold weather,
backhoe, light and shadow, Humane society, ambivalent, “Happy Birthday, Sarah Jane,”
Martians, Thanksgiving Day Parade, green eyes
Mini Challenge: she’ll be comin' round the mountain when she comes, pumpkin pie,
yellow jacket, short-changed, life after 50
Charlie maneuvered the backhoe skillfully, tunneling into the obdurate November clay. He had always been able to muscle his way through tough times. This was his 10th straight shift with Century Granite. And he had signed up to work on Thanksgiving. Of course this meant that he would forgo the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the chestnut stuffing and the homemade pumpkin pie.
But that was just nostalgic claptrap as far as he was concerned. Sarah Jane was gone. And there was no way he could bring her back or punch his way through
She might as well have been abducted by Martians. In fact, that was a comforting thought since he had lost all faith now and was ambivalent about the whole afterlife deal.
She’ll be comin’ round the mountain when she comes. Oh what a vision she was to behold. Green eyes, the color of young apples. He called her Pippin.
Her pet name for him had been Yellow Jacket because of his bumbling ways and because with his widening girth, he was fast becoming a John Belushi double. She teased him mercilessly.” Too many jelly bellies, I guess.”
It had all happened in an instant. Like a flash of lightning crackling across the sky. She was driving home from graveyard shift at Ebeneezer as she had a thousand times before. The old Dodge rambler should have known its way home. Yet the car willfully skidded through the sleety intersection at Oak and 1st. There wasn’t enough time for Mrs. Diaz to hit her breaks.
Charlie felt short-changed. Life after 50. What did it matter now? He could shutter himself in with a bottle of Smirnoff or numb his grief with work. Whatever it took to slog through the empty days. He was dancing between light and shadow.
The cold weather was coming. This had always signaled celebration. Long mittened walks in the brindled dusk. Hot cider at Dee’s. Yanking off flannelled layers as if it were their first time. Happy birthday, Sarah Jane.
The air was crisp and tangy like a pippin apple. He could taste it.
Sarah Jane had dreamt of going to France. He had never understood it, this yearning to leave home. She loved Rousseau, Gide and Proust. Here, she explained, was a modern day humane society where the social contract was still alive. She had joked about having a brood of little yellow jackets in the 16th arrondisement.
Charlie worked unflinchingly through Thanksgiving shift, earning triple time while everyone he knew was sitting around a table with folks they saw once a year stuffing themselves blind. He felt lucky.
A week later, he cashed his check and bought a one way ticket to Paris. He would go to Notre Dame, climb the 387 steps and show Sarah Jane the roof tops that only the gargoyles see. He didn’t know much French, but he did know that notre dame means “our lady.”