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Moments

Drowsy sounds. The sterile smell of an institution
A blurred face moving toward me, a nurse
Muffled voices over me
“Stroke, poor old man.” A sigh

Then, a place from long ago, the tea dance at Tamarack Hall
Sunlight fell upon her sculpted Marcelline waves
She serenely stood by the potted palms, a Venus in white satin
My breath caught, I wanted to be hers

“Go on, Shep, win her over.”
It was Bill, in an oversized tux, making fun of my fear
I moved closer and inhaled her lavender. She turned
“And you must be?”  I gazed into playful violet eyes

“John Shepard, Miss,” I stammered, a hot wave rose from my tight collar
“But my friends call me Shep,” I added hopefully
Her laugh high, childlike, the crimson bow lips parted into a wide grin
“Well then Shep, my friend, I shall not be a lady and invite you to dance!”

Life began
My Helen now, she went by Kydd, her last name
It suited her spunk and effervescence
For me there was nothing before her, only a glorious after

Lazy picnics on the Sound, stolen kisses by the calliope
Heavy warm nights, fingertips touching
Flaxen strands on smooth linens, skin pressed to skin
Always the lavender, whisping through, filling my senses

The diamond circlet of love in my breast pocket,
I carried her laughing, swinging her up, holding her fast
My joy boundless, assuaging, filling me with wonder
Her brother Alex, the violinist, would travel from Europe to stand with us

“So this is the lucky man!” he paused dramatically, looking me up and down
“Well I must say, sis, you always did have good taste.”
His crystal flute caught the dinner candlelight
“A toast to the happy couple!” he cried

On the town, her fox brushing my shoulder, his step brisk as mine
We piled into a yellow cab, faces fresh from the cold
“The Ritz, my man! And make haste, the bourbon beckons!” he shouted
She snuggled between us and I caught a quick look from him

Wedding bells at St. Michael’s, rice and old shoes
She was never lovelier, the well wishers said
Alex catching her garter at the Savoy reception
Waving it at us, his florid face effused with laughter

A telegram months later. The news sombre
A palsy of the hand
He would never play again
She sobbed into my shirt, wanting him to return to us

Arms around each other, we watched him on the porch
He idly slouched in the wicker divan, a ghost of his former self
Nights we heard his gramophone in his bedroom
The plaintive cry of pain, bow on resin

Kydd summoned to Chicago, her friend Tansy, suffering melancholia
A soft kiss, tight embrace. She waved a gloved hand and was gone
Alex at dinner, more bourbon, he studied his glass, then me, then suddenly despaired
“Oh God, John. What will I do?”

I moved to him, knelt and stroked his numb fingers
As if somehow I could summon a miracle
I looked up to see unbidden tears streak his handsome face
His eyes searched mine for answers I could not give

He jumped up, and pushed me violently away
“Damn and blast! I love you both!” he cried, running for the door
I tore after him, imploring him to wait, then stood frozen
Watching his tail lights fade in the distance

His body found the following morning, in a deep ravine
Alcohol the villain, police said, but I knew
My wife after the funeral, silent, withdrawn, avoiding my arms
The hesitant taps on our bedroom door unanswered

Alex buried. A dull quietude permeating the house
An old bridle path led through silent woods
I stumbled along, head down, heart broken, and fell to the ground
A curlew cried in the distance

I awakened in a film of damp mist
Helen! I panicked. I needed her now
We would talk about it. All of it
The house ahead, solemn, forbidding

Upstairs, our bedroom barren, a wisp of lavender lingering
The ivory envelope awaited me, propped on her dressing table
“John” the script read, in a bold and steady hand
I opened it with trembling fingers, fearing to go further

Shadows falling in this place. An old, familiar scent.
I see her clearly, Marcelline waves falling over her book
The white satin dress. I call to her, she looks up, the playful smile returns

“Come, John,” she whispers, “We must find Alex.”

 

Post Script

It is with pleasure that I announce, “Moments”, garnered a first place win at the “Rising Spirits” Ontario wide writing competition in Niagara on the Lake recently. I was very happy to have family and friends there to celebrate with me!

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