Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Orange (the color) (11/19/09)
TITLE: The Feather Boa
By Debbie Roome
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“I brought it, Gran.” I whisper as I kneel beside her grave. “It was in the dumpster but I rescued it.”
Dark soil is humped over her resting place and I close my eyes, remembering the funeral two days earlier. My tears fell on the coffin before they lowered it and I imagine them trapped there, soaking into the earth.
I pull the boa from the bag. It was magnificent in its day, top quality merchandise made with hundreds of feathers. The inner layers are a deep orange but the tips have faded to pale pumpkin and tangerine.
I twirl it around my neck and memories somersault freely. Gran kept it in her dressing-up box and each weekend, we would dream up a new game. One week I was Rapunzel with long carroty locks; the next I was a princess with the boa wound like a fiery crown. Sometimes Gran would pull the boa along the floor and I would be the intrepid snake hunter or a fearless superhero. On other occasions, she would hang one end out the window and tell me it was a prayer line to God.
Gran loved God with all her heart and taught me how to pray. “It’s just like talking to me.” she’d say. “He’s our friend. Now let’s pretend this is our power cable and we have a direct line to heaven.” Our games would often end like that - with me sitting on Gran’s knees, talking to God through the end of an orange feather boa.
My mother thought it was a disgusting old thing, especially when Gran insisted on taking it to the rest home with her. “Look at it!” she proclaimed. “It’s filthy and bedraggled. Why don’t you just toss it out?” I was the only one who understood its value.
Over the years, Gran’s mind left her, memory by memory, until only slivers of sanity remained. Even so, she always responded to the boa. I’d pull it out her cupboard and she’d stroke it like a cat or wrap one end round her hand and one end round mine. We’d sit in a comfortable corner, the boa connecting us as I prayed and sang for her.
In my grief at her death, I completely forgot about the boa until the day of the funeral. By the time I got to the home, they’d tossed it out along with the dregs of dinner and the contents of the vacuum cleaner. I pulled it out and washed it with pure soap flakes, my hands caressing brittle feathers and fragile cotton. When I was done, the water was the palest shade of coral.
I unwind the boa and with tears streaming, I start to pull the feathers loose, scattering them across her grave. The breeze picks them up and for a second I’m caught in a storm of marigold, peach and orange. Then the lighter feathers dance and jiggle, lifting into air, spinning with the currents. They remind me of all the prayers we prayed, of how Gran taught me that God caught each one and answered it.
A sob catches in my throat. “Go well, Gran ... you taught me well ... thanks for everything.”
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