Twenty Three Steps to Goodbye

Martha Brentwood stood stoic against the first arctic gale of the season, as she waited for the number-seven to carry her to Saint Ann’s Cathedral for the sixth time in two years. A trip she never got used to. The harsh breath of winter bit at her as rabid flecks of crystalline powdered snow threatened to bury her where she stood. Her mourning-black Cashmere coat was faded by time, and it did nothing to cover her bare hands, but she didn’t shiver, she didn’t blink, and she didn’t move. Her heart was warmed by the precious memories of Anna, as she recalled their first encounter at the fourth street USO where they both worked so many years ago…Lost in her memories she hadn’t heard the number-seven slide to a halt in front of her—she was somewhere in time.

A barrel chested man bounced off the bus with the grace of a younger man. His chiseled features, leather skin, and gray hair—all marked by time, gave him the look of distinguished charm, contrasted only by his simple black slacks, and weathered pea coat. Blinded by the snow he stumbled to a halt mere inches from the statuesque beauty before him. Her soft-powdered-pale skin was nearly lost in the backdrop of winter’s fury. But her sea-green eyes and luscious ruby lips cast a luminescent glow like a watch keepers lantern meant to guide lost sailors home. He knew this beauty, and rusted memories of a love long past broke free from their moors as he recalled a four day furlough, a sailors first kiss, an enchanted honey moon, and a sobered divorce sent first class mail from Normandy.

“Martha—Martha, are you ok dear?” Martha was pulled back into the ferocity of the storm as her memories faded back into the shadows of yesteryear.

“Excuse me, do I know you?” Martha asked.

“It’s me, your ex-husband, John Brentwood.” As frozen tears of remembrance welled in her eyes, John asked, “Where are you going, Martha?”

“I’m going to say good bye to an old friend at Saint Ann’s.”

“Me too,” John said, “but why are you standing here?”

“I’m waiting for the number-seven to take me there,” Martha said with a tremble in her voice.

“Martha, honey, you’re standing in front of Saint Ann’s.”

Startled by this revelation, Maratha’s knees buckled and John reached out to her. As they clasped hands, the cold-cheap -gold bands they had given one another over half a century ago were reunited. But this reunion was cut short by the somber chimes of funeral bells.

They turned, facing the marble steps of Saint Ann’s, solemnly remembering why they were there. It was Anna who had introduced them all those years ago, it was Anna who had brought them together on this day, and it was Anna they were going to see. Arm in arm, walking silently, they faded into the storm as they climbed the last twenty-three steps to good-bye.

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Buttercup Memories

Buttercup Memories

It was the season of daisies, spring was in late bloom, and the warm breath of an anxious summer gave me an early morning hello.  The sky was a gentle shade of springtime blue, and  cotton candy clouds made their way to nowhere—a day I couldn’t resist being lazy.  In search of a bit of inspiration, I grabbed my copy of, Selected Poems by Henry David Thoreau, and walked to the park

Washington Park, and the adjacent zoo, in my hometown of Michigan City, Indiana, is gorgeous this time of year.  A gentle breeze blew across the clear calm of Lake Michigan, past the sculpted sands of a deserted beach, and ruffled my graying hair.  In the distance, a lion welcomed in the day with a mighty roar—as macaws, peacocks, and ring tailed monkeys chimed in, not to be out done by this king of beast.

To my surprise, the park was all but empty except for a young mother who sat on a cool carpet of green rocking a newborn in her arms.  She kept a watchful eye on her other child, whose curly locks of golden hair, and precocious giggle, reminded me of a young Shirley Temple.  Her daughter, who must have been four, was lost in a world of magic—chasing fairies, dancing, and talking to leprechauns—or so I imagined.

I watched this enchanted child dance to the rhythm of the day as flecks of shimmered sunshine pierced the luscious emerald canopy—the golden hues fluttering about her like translucent butterflies.

Twirling barefoot in a sea of daisies, her yellow sundress took on the shape of a flower as she began to sing—accompanied only by a robin’s song.

“Buttercup, Buttercup, I love you.  Buttercup, Buttercup,  do you love me too.  Buttercup, Buttercup, it’s time to wake up.  Buttercup, Buttercup…”

Soothed by the lullaby melody, the scent of lilacs and early morning tulips, I leaned against an ancient oak and turned to my favorite Thoreau poem, Mist, and read.

“Low-anchored cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain-head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream-drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields!”

The spell cast on me by the day was broken when I heard the mother call, “Buttercup—Buttercup, it’s time to go.”

I looked up from my page into the sparking blue eyes of innocence now standing before me—a bouquet of daisies in hand.

“Hello little one,” I said.  “Is your name Buttercup?”

“That’s what everyone calls me,” she said with a giggle in her voice.  “What’s your name?”

“Everyone calls me Terry.”

“Terry, these are for you.”  And she thrust the bouquet of daises into my hand.

“What are these for?”  I asked a bit perplexed.

“They’re for you silly.”

I let out a laugh.  “No-no-no honey, I mean why are you giving them to me?”

Buttercup smiled a child’s toothless smile and said, “Because you’re here.”

“Thank you very much, Buttercup.”

“You’re most welcome,” she said with the voice of an angel.  “Bye.”

“Bye Buttercup.”

As she ran back toward her mother, I took in the intoxicating aroma of kindness, and a warm tear trickled down my cheek.  It was the first time in my life anyone had ever acknowledged my existence with a gift for no other reason than I was here.

I had come to the park to find a bit of inspiration in a poem, and instead I found it in the heart of a child.

Terry Elkins (whyguy)