The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Don’t Mind the Rest, pt.3

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…continued from yesterday…

Tim’s boots only got dustier with each step away from the farm, despite the damp soil and drops of dew that clung to the points of corn stalks poking out of the ground.  It wouldn’t do to show up in Esther’s back yard like that, but the boots could be wiped off in the restroom at the train station where he’d stop anyhow to recomb his hair and wash his hands.

He tuned his ears to the sounds of the land as he walked.  He wanted to take it all in, everything to be heard and then seen once there was ample light.  It was his final chance to pack his sense memory, and it was as important to pack it as carefully as he had Slim’s Army duffle.  A robin sang in a trilled tweet.  There was the bluebird’s chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp, and then the squawk, squawk, squawk-squawk of the magpie.  There was the low rumble of a tractor taking to a field.  All of it was a chorus struck in anticipation of the sun soon to break the horizon.

The shuffle of his boots on the soil between rows soon formed a rhythm.  His breathing fell in with the rhythm of the shuffle, and his heart beats followed.  He felt a part of every living thing around him, as if a root system burrowing beneath the soil connected all of them, and that indiscernible strings and fibers from those same roots tethered even the birds in the sky and critters skittering among the trees.  They all belonged to this place at this time; they all somehow made the whole greater than the sum of its parts.  So immense was that greatness that it felt immeasurable.  His thoughts fell to Iowa City, which laid in the direction of the rising sun but was too far away to fully reckon.  What is life like when green veldts of gold-tipped corn don’t surround you like a blanket?  What did late summer smell like there if not the sweet smell of corn rolling off the fields?  Where was the inspiration among the limestone buildings and asphalt?  It would come, wouldn’t it?  He tried to clear his mind of all that was too far past the horizon to see, and focus instead on what was going to happen within the hour.

Once at the train station, he would purchase his ticket and ask Milt the ticket agent if he would mind the duffle for a few minutes.  He would walk to Esther’s house, cutting down the alley that ran behind their property and come up the back yard.  He would toss a pebble at her window.  When she came down to the yard, he would explain everything, give her the poem from the last page of the leather-bound journal, and if nothing else, leave her with a kiss.

He had to be perfect.  If he didn’t get this train, there was no way he would be able to see, much less talk, to Esther.  The townsfolk would know he was leaving, and the news would spread like a brushfire.  Some would make their way to the station; others would insist he wait for the train on their front porch or in the parlor.  He’d be loaded with more food than he could ever eat or take with him.  Esther’s ma and pa would be awake by the time the next train came through, and there’d be hell to pay if he tried something so bold as he was going to try within the hour.  They were sleeping off their Saturday indulgence right now, so her pa was in no shape to charge into the yard again.

He would show Esther the thick stack of bills and explain its legitimacy.  There was enough for him to establish himself in Iowa City and cover two years of expenses and tuition once the university accepted him.  And the university would accept him.  She’d have to trust him on that.  Rising from the grass roots like this, it would be a great start for a poet, wouldn’t it?

He would find a job right away, maybe even on campus, and squirrel away everything he made.  Soon, he’d send her a blank postcard and that would be the cue that there was a ticket waiting for her at the station the following Sunday morning.  Once her folks gave in to their whiskey, all she would have to do is pack what she needed, and then slip out before they stirred.  They’d marry right away so nothing and nobody could break their bond.  Not ma or pa.  Not the sheriff.  No one.

She could do this, right?  They can always mend fences later.  But she could do this, right?

*

            The full body of the sun had inched above the horizon by the time Tim arrived at the train station.  He fished through the duffle and pulled out the envelope of cash and the leather-bound journal with the pink stationery tucked inside.  He purchased his ticket, and then stuffed the envelope into the back pocket of his jeans.  He handed the duffle over the counter to Milt the ticket agent, and then double-checked the train schedule.  He had twenty minutes, exactly as planned.

He stopped in the restroom before he left and combed his hair and washed his hands.  He wet his handkerchief at the water cooler and wiped the dust from his boots.  Once outside, he felt a gentle breeze moving across the town.  With any luck it would cool him as he walked and keep him below a sweat that felt inevitable.

He walked with his shoulders back and his chin up.  It was an unfamiliar but quickly comfortable posture.  He walked on the strength of his convictions.  He was the only person still alive who believed this would work.  It felt like somehow Uncle Slim and Aunt Joan were walking with him, and that Mom was watching from somewhere above.  He strode to the rhythm of Aunt Joan’s words, you know you’re right for her…  she knows it, too…  don’t mind the rest.  Don’t mind the rest.  Don’t mind the rest.

Within a few minutes, he was standing at the edge of the Giles’s back yard.  Sunlight was kissing the roof and working its way down to the darkened windows.  It had already illuminated the top of the willow that hung over most of the grass.  A cobblestone pathway led from the alley to the back door, cutting between a distended garden on the left and grass on the right.  A tire swing hung from one branch of the willow, but the rope was frayed and ready to snap should someone try to take pleasure in swinging.

Tim found a pebble, tiny and smooth and perfect like it had grown in a field.  He walked across the lawn and tossed it to Esther’s window.  It dinked the glass, fell to the roof, and rolled to the ground.  Tim picked it up and cocked his arm again.  Before he could fire, the curtains in the window parted and Esther appeared.  Her face lit up and she waved excitedly.  Tim waved her down.  She drew the curtains, and the window was again expressionless.  The sun was almost touching it.

Tim imagined Esther tip-toeing through the house.  She padded around a squeaky floorboard, eased her long legs over a footrest, and impetuously scratched the cat behind the ears as she passed.  She would emerge in a moment, beautiful even with her sleep-saggy face, her blonde hair mussed but still lovely in its imperfect state if only because it was her hair.  In his mind, he jumped ahead to the indeterminate time when she would step off the train in Iowa City in her lavender church dress, her powder blue sweater on her shoulders.  He would sweep her in his arms and inhale her heavenly scent, feel her warm cheek against his, and for the third time kiss her.

She emerged from the back door, but stopped to gently place the door back in its frame.  She wore jeans and a red Henley with the cuffs rolled to the elbows.  She carried a small suitcase in her right hand.  How could she have gotten ready so fast?  She stepped quickly to him, reading the puzzlement on his face.  “I knew you were coming.”

He pulled the envelope of cash from his pocket and showed it to her.  “I know,” she said, covering the money with her hand on top of his.  “Ain’t nobody seen you in the fields.  My uncle’s been downright giddy.  He told pa everything.  Didn’t count on me hearing it.  I asked him why he was so danged happy, and he was all smug.  He said, ‘A man can just be happy, can’t he?’  I figured a girl could, too.”  She giggled with her hand over her mouth, and then stopped to catch her breath.  “I knew you were going somewhere.  I just wanted to make sure I was ready.  Call me crazy.  Or a romantic.  You’re heading to the train, right?  It’s the only way out of here.  Let’s get there.  After that, I don’t care where we go.”

Tim looked at her, and again the words wouldn’t come.  A smile broke across his face as bright and fresh as the sunlight that was washing most of the town.  Esther took him by the hand, his feet again not really touching the ground.  She looked into his eyes and pressed her mouth to his.  When she finally released him, she looked into his eyes and giggled again.  “Let’s go.  It’s going to be fine.  Don’t mind the rest.”

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Written by seeker70

February 14, 2015 at 6:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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