The mockingbird trilled in the spring, but Camilla couldn’t hear it through the panes of her bedroom windows. Yet it wasn’t truly the windows’ fault because as the weather warmed, and she raised the sash, her extended stay in deafness continued.
She only became aware of the bird’s soft call in mid-summer after a crossing zephyr parted the sheerest of white-cotton panels and kissed her shoulder good morning. Sal’s lips whispered. Was Sal here? Her subconscious placed the thought along the stepping stones she’d begun following.
She wished she could remember where this path led.
Up ahead stood the clothesline, crooked underneath the rising sun. The posts leaned in with a half-smile warbling between. The bird sang out again, but Camilla reasoned the whistles must be the electronic sensor of her washing machine. A load of rugs off center. Had she washed rugs last night?
It had been forever since she’d left the house. Cornflowers sprung at wonderful angles, crisscrossing with buttercups and Camilla longed to stop and gather some. There was once a toddling boy who had found delight in a yellow chin.
Perhaps she’d pick a bouquet on her return home. Or what if she didn’t go back? One of her few arguments with Sal had been over that two-story structure. She had wanted vinyl siding, not because she liked the imposter material, but because Sal worked too many hours as it was.
“Just imagine,” she had said. “No, scraping, sanding, repainting.” Sal was a big believer that every important thing in life should happen twice—once in the imagination, once in reality.
“No, you just imagine,” he returned. “The three of us lounging on wicker sofas, the gleam and smell of white semi-gloss a backdrop to your reddest geraniums.”
But then he went on, insisting there was too much fake in this world—foods, jewels, woods. He wanted only what was real.
Was there any person alive free of hypocrisy? She didn’t think so.
The path bridged an empty creek bed, rocky and craggy, thirsting for a spell of steady rain. It hadn’t run full since the summer Angelo had floated makeshift sailboats. How long ago was that? Time had compressed itself and she couldn’t be certain.
She was, though, suddenly certain where this path was going. She was about to be let out at Tully’s Junction. On the left would be Tully’s Cash Store, and catty-corner from that, St. Luke’s Cemetery.
Camilla turned west onto Back Road, the Appalachians spread across an almost cloudless sky. The Gochenour’s fields were to her left, high with corn, fenced in white. Fenced? There’d never been a fence before. She approached the “T “in the road, the top of which had always been the Gochenour’s unfenced fields. The road leading to it, Bunker Road. This was important because in the winter parents stood guard as all the kids in the area flew their sleds and tubes down the steep hill, crossing Back Road, until gliding to a stop on the Gochenour’s property.
Camilla whimpered. It was a shame parents didn’t stand guard in the summertime, too. When bicycles replaced sleds and eight-year-old boys forgot to listen to their mothers.
And there was no one to blame, no one to be angry at. Not Mr. Coffrey. Not Angelo. Not God. Maybe Sal.
Let’s go see a doctor.
I don’t want to be medicated.
It might help you through this.
What’s wrong, Sal? Too much real for you?
The sorrow she felt became ineffable under the pressure of people wanting to help. So she disappeared into stillness, God hearing the groans of her Spirit—every bit and byte pooled and streamed from her heart to His—human communication bypassed.
Returning home now all by herself, she felt a pang of loneliness.
“Camilla!” Miss Tully called from the bench in front of the cash store. “Come sit, child.”
“Ahhh,” she uttered in mute protest, but felt herself drawn in, head down.
They sat, Miss Tully taking up half the bench. They sat some more.
A good while later Camilla straightened in bewilderment of the heat. She noticed Miss Tully’s eyes red and full, in line with the cemetery across the way where geraniums brightened a small headstone.
Miss Tully raised her arm above Camilla’s shoulders.
One minute, two minutes.
By degrees, Camilla began imagining herself wilting into the waiting crook.
The next morning when the mockingbird sang, she heard it and recognized it for what it was.
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