A Brushed Crumb

By | November 8, 2011

Freewrite 2011-11-07. We get the first line (in italics, below) and 15 minutes. No backspace.

Capri dandled the baby on her knee, momentarily oblivious to the noise of the wake. She looked like her father even at that age. Not even six months old, but the same clear, confident blue eyes and ready smile. Darleen was as sweet as spun sugar on cake, she thought, and remembered just last week when they’d celebrated her first tooth and Matt’s birthday.

Now he was lying up at the front of the room, cold and quiet, so unlike him and Darleen. She leaned against the pillar and closed her eyes, holding Darlene now against her shoulder. Matt’s face appeared, laughing and confident, and then the accident and the hospital and the quiet buzz of conversation in the ER as the machine breathed in, out, in, out for Matt. She’d scrawled something on a page, two pages, and then they’d turned off the beeping machines. “Your daughter would not want to know him as a man lying in a bed. She’ll be thankful one day that you did this.” Her sister’s face appeared, mouthing these comforting lies.

What Darlene needed was her Da, and she would grow up as Capri had – fatherless and rootless, wandering from boy to boy and man to man, looking for comfort and assurance.

Someone touched her shoulder. It was Myrna, Matt’s sister. “You’ll be wanting someone to put the baby down for her nap, surely.” She nodded gratefully and handed Darleen to her sister, then brushed the crumbs from her lap. Where do crumbs come from when you haven’t eaten for days, she thought. No matter. Maybe she’d grabbed something to eat. She didn’t remember much anymore. Just the slow ticking of the clock and the quiet struggles as Matt slowly left, and finally the last quiet release of a sigh. And with that, Matt was gone.

Now there was music and boisterous talk, and glasses raised to Matt. His boys were there – Danny and Rolf and Big Mac and Sal, in a circle, sharing stories and laughing and slapping each other on the back. She smiled at that, knowing that Matt would be alive in their memory for a while. They’d gained some and lost some – Eamon had left when he’d fallen in love in school and moved off to California, and Sal took his place, a short dark quiet thinker in place of the loud brash football player. But it was as if Sal was always there, and Eamon never left – he’d shown up at Christmas with his girl, snow on his hair, wanting them to meet his future wife.

Her pregnancy hobbled her, but she’d put on a spread for them, jam from her mother’s garden and fresh bread, and tea, which Matt promptly spiked for them all “in honor of Christmas and Capri and little Caden in there.” Matt was convinced Darleen would be a girl. He’d raised his eyebrow, once, when the doctor held her up, then was all smiles and tears.

She watched as Myrna came out and closed the door behind her, nodding to her to let her know. Darleen was sleeping in the cool quiet of the nursery.

And she was alone in the crowded room with her memories and crumbs and the slow tick of the clock on the wall, counting down the minutes and hours and days.