The seconds between crashes of thunder grew shorter. But the old man sat on the lawn in his director’s chair, his thoughts drifting through fields of yesteryear.
“Pop, it’s starting to rain. Come inside.” She spoke commands with a gentle edge, knowing his mind became more fragile by the day.
“Don’t you hear her singing?” He lifted lost eyes his daughter’s and found hers filled with concern. “You think this old buzzard is senile? Little Girl,” he spat, “don’t you fuss over me. You don’t hear her because you’re just not listening.”
A raindrop glistened on his forehead. She swallowed hard and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “Pop, please just come inside.”
“Now, you just listen here!” he demanded, waving her hand away. “Just because you’re grown doesn’t give you the right to talk to your old man that way. I know what I hear! They’re moving chairs; I hear the wooden legs scrape across the floor. They’re making room to dance.”
He sounded so confident, so sure of what he was hearing. She wondered if she should argue with him, afraid that when the realization hit him that he was losing his mind, he would crack further. But she had to get him out of the rain. She bit her lip and sighed, “Pop, that’s thunder.”
“They’re rushing to the ballroom. They’re coming in chariots just to see my Doll.”
“That’s traffic and they’re all rushing to get out of this rain, which is what we need to be doing. Come on, now. You’re getting all wet.” She no longer tried to withhold the tears. He wouldn’t have seen them anyway for the rain that had begun to pour down and blend with them.
“You’re not listening! They’re all gathering around her. They’re celebrating my Doll and her homecoming. She’s singing for the entrance of the King.” With a faraway smile, he chuckled, “I’ll just bet she’s wearing a white satin ball gown and little flowers in her hair.”
The rain was coming down hard and she hovered over him, doing her best to use her body as an umbrella for him. “Come inside and tell me all about it, Daddy.” Her voice broke. “Okay?”
“No. No. Just listen. They’re all quiet now, even her. He must’ve just walked into the room.” It had grown a frightening quiet, the kind of quiet just before the eye of a bad storm crosses over.
Suddenly the sky lit up and thunder shook the earth beneath them. “Ah, yes,” he said excitedly, smiling as though he’d not even heard the thunder. “He is surely there! What a fanfare! Oh, and look!” He stretched his palms skyward to catch the rain. “Look at all these happy tears!” Just as quickly, and almost in the same breath, he digressed, “Okay, Pumpkin, let’s go inside now.”
She left him dripping in the kitchen floor and went to get some towels. Walking through the hallway to the bathroom, she saw her parents’ old wedding picture on the wall. She laid a loving hand on her mother’s chest through the glass, “He misses you, Mamma. Me too.”
With towels in her arms, she stopped in the doorway to the kitchen to gather herself, dreading the task of helping him dry off. He stood with his face pressed to the screen door. “That’s beautiful, Doll. I sure am glad you’re happy.”
She cleared her throat and hardened her resolve. “Come on, Pop. Let’s get dried off.”
“Okay. But first, look at this.” He pointed outside to what she was sure was nothing. “Is that not the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen?”
“Yes, it is. Now let’s dry off and have some hot soup.”
He stood there smiling like a schoolboy while she dried his hair with a small towel and wrapped a fluffy one about his shoulders. Then, he sat at the table with his hands folded in his lap while she finished warming the soup.
Reaching into the pantry for crackers, the screen door was in her peripheral vision. The thunderstorm had passed quickly and most of the clouds were already gone. The breath rushed from her lungs as she saw a massive rainbow that took up the entire western sky. Forgetting about the crackers, she rushed to her father, wrapped her arms around him and cried, “Yes, Daddy, that’s the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen.”
© July 2007
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