Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: MARRIAGE (08/25/16)
TITLE: Interlude, Pianissimo, With Syncopation
By Jan Ackerson
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In the quiet dusk, after the work is done, she sits in her chair by the window and reads or crochets. The bass rumblings of the furnace and the clicks and taps of various homely noises accompany Joan’s evening enterprise. Sometimes she works a crossword puzzle, muttering about the clues and impatiently erasing mistakes. The seat of the chair is too long for Joan’s legs, though, and her feet dangle uncomfortably, not quite touching the floor. She never remembers right away, but after a few minutes seated, a tingle in her toes reminds her, and she pulls the ottoman forward with a sigh.
Louie’s place is across the room, closer to the television. He’s a bookish man who spends his evenings turning pages, taking off and putting on his glasses. Occasionally he grunts at a particularly impressive passage, or rubs his temples. Often he hums in a sweet tenor, a melody from his inner landscape. When a nature show is on, he might put down his book and watch for a while.
If Louie decides he wants a bowl of popcorn or an apple, or if he needs the bathroom, he has to walk by Joan’s chair. Louie and Joan are quiet people, not much given to long conversations or passionate exhibitions of affection, but the years of marriage have settled their spirits into a companionable silence. And sometimes on the way past her, and sometimes on the way back, Louie reaches out to touch her right foot.
Joan can always tell when Louie is going to touch her foot.
When he stands, her heart skips one beat in syncopated anticipation. She pauses at her work, holding her pencil suspended over 19-Down or the crochet hook hovering over the next stitch. She does not look up. If she feels that Louie’s about to walk on by, she resumes her task, not minding much.
But if not, her toes almost rise to his hand.
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