Winter 2009

Table of Contents - Vol. V, No. 4


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

Adelaide B. Shaw


. . . Five, Six, Seven, Eight

A gentleman of about 60 years of age sat dozing in a wheel chair. The blue flannel robe he wore was the same blue as his eyes, which he opened periodically only to close them again. The warmth from the sun streaming through the solarium and the glare from the snow were conducive to dozing. Each time he dozed he dreamt of a place or a time that upon waking would seem familiar, but he couldn’t exactly remember it as being part of his life. Each dream was like watching a movie.
A ranch house with a well-tended lawn in a neighborhood of other ranch houses and well-tended lawns in one dream, in another, a cheerful woman, in jeans and an apron in the kitchen baking cookies while four fair haired boys ran through the house. He thought he was one of the boys, but couldn’t remember which one or what was his name.
Every day he had these dreams. Sometimes he was older and there was a dark-eyed girl with long dark curls in his dreams, the girl with the laughing face. “Let’s race,” she would challenge and run off, sometimes winning, but always laughing, even when she lost. Sometimes they were kissing, sometimes they were at a football game or a school dance, or at a funeral. Someone’s mother or father. Funerals and weddings. Laughing Girl in a bridal gown. Was it his wedding? He didn’t know.
“Mr. Marshal?” A woman in a starched blue smock was tapping him awake. “Time for lunch. Mrs. Marshal will he here later. Perhaps she can take you outside if the sun stays out. You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Mr. Marshall.”
Was he Mr. Marshall? He stared at Blue Smock who looked familiar, but from where? He tried to rise from his chair.
“I know you want to walk, Mr. Marshall, but the dining room’s too far. You got to go in the wheel chair.”
The routine was also familiar, like he and Blue Smock had done it many times before, like a long run play. He sighed and did as he was told, wishing he could cancel his performance.
“Did I tell you I saw you on stage once? Frankly, I couldn’t afford the tickets, but they were a gift. You shouldn’t have let those theater people charge so much. Who can afford it unless you’re a Rockefeller? Do you understand me, Mr. Marshall? Do you even hear me? The doctors say we should all talk to you. Part of your therapy to get you to talk again. So, like I said, I saw you on stage with . . . “
Oh, he heard her. He heard everyone. Just didn’t always understand what they were talking about. He looked up and blinked at the spotlight. He blinked again. No spotlight. No stage. Just the sun off the snow.
Blue Smock had put him in an old wheelchair today, the kind with wooden arm rests and wooden wheels and a large, comfortable cushion. Leaning his head back he rolled with the wheels. Rolling, rolling. Like a train. Rolling across country. On the road with Laughing Girl. One town, then another, playing the same show. What was her name? What is his name? Blue Smock called him Mr. Marshall, but that didn’t seem quite right.
The girl with black curls called him Sammy, pulling him back on stage. “Come on, Sammy. Take another bow.”
Applause. Applause. Flowers tossed.
“This one’s for me,” Sammy said, catching a bouquet of daisies. “Just a humble flower for me.”
She laughed--- like pealing bells--- and thrust all her bouquets into his arms.
Applause. Applause.
“Here we are.” Blue Smock’s voice broke into his dream as she wheeled him into the dining room. It was a cheerful room with flowered curtains on windows that gave a view of the snow covered grounds.
“Hello, Sam,” a wrinkled old woman with frizzy red hair called from one of the tables. Blue Smock stopped the wheel chair next to her. Was he Sam? Laughing Girl called him Sammy. Nothing matched up to his dreams.
Also sitting at the same table was a fat, bald man who, looking up from his food, mumbled “Hi ya, Sam. Can you believe this food? Just tuna salad with lemon. I like mayo.”
“Lemon’s healthier. “ Frizzy Red moved the dish closer to Sam, as if he were a child who needed encouragement to eat.
She wasn’t Laughing Girl, not if Laughing Girl were a real person and not someone who came only when he slept. He looked at the other people in the dining room. No one looked like the girl in his dreams. Maybe that’s all she was, a dream girl, a product of his imagination.
“Mr. Marshall, your wife is in the solarium waiting for you. Blue Smock was back, but Sam shook his head. He wanted to walk. He didn’t want to be treated like an invalid, like a child who needed watchers. He was . . . He was. . . He didn’t know what he was.
“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Marshall. You ride in the chair until we reach the solarium. Then you can walk. O.K.?” Sam nodded.
At the entrance to the solarium, Blue Smock stopped the chair and motioned another Blue Smock to give her a hand. With one Blue smock on each side of Sam he was helped to his feet and began a slow shuffling walk. He had done this before, not this slow shuffle with the two Blue Smocks, but before that. It was . . . it was with Laughing Girl. And a slim man who wore a penguin suit, as he did. Laughing Girl was in red spangles, glittering across the stage with him and Slim, shuffling, not like now, but with a rhythm. . . . five, six, seven, eight.
“Easy, Mr. Marshall,” Blue Smock said. “Take it slow. Yeah. That’s right.”
“Was he counting?” Blue Smock Two asked. “I think he was trying to count.”
A woman with silvery hair waved and began walking toward him. Sam didn’t know her. Her hair shimmered in the sun, the waves brushing her face reminding him of someone, someone with black hair. She had a smooth walk, her long legs seemingly not touching the ground, a dancer’s walk. Now, why did he think dancer? She smiled, but it was a sad smile, not like Laughing Girl’s smile. It was forced and didn’t succeed.
“Hello, Sammy darling.”
Sammy again, but this woman had silver hair not dark. Yet. . . He sensed that he knew her, not just from her coming before to the solarium, but from before that, from way back, from a real life and not a dream life.
...five, six, seven, eight... Once more...five, six, seven, eight...
“He said it again,” Blue Smock Two said. “He’s counting. I heard him say seven, eight.
Sam dragged one foot forward, then another, straightened his back and came face to face with Silver Hair. She looked troubled and reached out to take his arm. He pushed her hand away and shuffled another step, paused and took another. ...five, six, seven, eight.
“I heard it too,” Silver Hair said. “Just now. He is counting. Oh, Sammy. You do remember.“ She stood close by Sam, but didn’t touch him, as he made his slow way toward a couple of wicker chairs. “Remember, Sammy, the marquee’s and posters? Sammy & Lydia Marsh. Our last name shortened so as to fit, but always on top with Chuck Taylor underneath. Both of you in white tie and tails and I in a sparkly dress. Remember the rehearsals and how many times we practiced our routines?”
When they reached the two wicker chairs Sam allowed her to help him sit and put a pillow behind his back. “Sam...y. Lyd...a Mar...” He studied her face, watching a smile appear.
She took his hands in hers. “Yes, yes. Sammy and Lydia Marsh. You remember.” She squeezed his hands and laughed, a bell pealing laugh that rang clear and sweet. “You remember and you’re talking and walking.”
She continued to laugh until he had to laugh with her, as he had done so many times before. Yes, he knew that laugh. The dark haired girl with the dark eyes. Lydia. The Laughing Girl. She hadn’t been just a dream, but was here. And, so was he.


© Adelaide B. Shaw



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

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