He saw their faces but did not remember their names.
July 28, 2014
A VG Serial: Jory Sherman’s Hills of Eden
He looked into her eyes. She had stepped close to him, close enough so that he could smell her perfume, see the red of her lipstick, the dark of her eyeliner, the strands of gray threading her hair, the wide forehead, the soft blue eyes shining like translucent star sapphires. Beautiful eyes. Eyes he should have remembered, but did not.
“You pushed me so high once, I flew out of the swing and landed on my knees. I still have the scars from the sharp peanut shells the janitor scattered on the playground.”
“Yes,” he said. “I have small scars on my knees, too. It was like flying, swinging so high and jumping out.”
“I had a crush on you, Thad. Back then. A lot of the girls did. But, you hardly noticed us.”
“Well, I was pretty dense as a boy.”
“You were madly in love with Carol, the tall, dark-headed girl that lived next to you over on Maple Street. Whatever happened to you two, anyway? Did you two get married?”
“No,” he said, shifting his cane to his other hand, a new position for support. “She married someone else, and so did I.”
“So did I,” she said, and smiled. “We always marry someone else, don’t we?”
“I don’t know. We marry who we’re supposed to, at the time, I guess.”
“I wanted to marry you, Thad. Oh, I had more than a big crush on you. When you sang at assembly one day, I knew you were the one. You had such a beautiful voice.”
“I barely remember that.”
“Carol played the piano for you. I saw the look in her eyes when you were singing.”
“She played piano well.”
“Best in the school.”
“Well, I thought it was you when you drove up. I live just across the street.”
“I must be a disappointment for you,” he said, sorry that he didn’t remember her.
“No. You didn’t notice me much back then, when we were kids here at Cedar Shade High School, so I didn’t expect you to remember me now. I’m old and tired and widowed. My husband left me enough money so that I’m comfortable.”
“Did you ever do anything with your singing?”
“Not much. I performed here and there. Cut a few records. Then, I got tonsillitis.
Doc ripped my throat out and I lost my voice.”
“Too bad. I saw you in a movie once. You had a small part.”
“Yes, I acted some. Hated it.”
“You were good, I thought.”
“My heart wasn’t in it.”
“Too bad. I always thought you would be famous. So did some of the other girls, Diane, Lisa, Betty. A whole bunch of us.”
“Fame wasn’t what I wanted, I guess. I ran from it.”
“Well, it’s good to see you again, Brad. I’ll go now. I just wanted to say hello.”
There was a wistfulness in her demeanor as she turned away, lifted a hand in farewell. He watched her walk across the street and enter a frame house with the white paint peeling, the front porch sagging, the fence broken down. He sighed and turned around, looked at the wooden carousel, its green paint faded to a dull olive drab and worn away, its metal handles turned to rust, its gears frozen and silent. The basketball court had gone to ruin, too, its concrete broken up, the net gone, the hoop bent down at an awkward angle, the backboard a gray set of boards rotted through so that he could see the pale blue sky through its holes.
He looked again at the swings. He remembered Marianne now, remembered her as a young girl, a pretty girl, with long reddish hair soft as silk, those stunning blue eyes, full, sensuous lips, freckles. He remembered the other girls, too, and some of the boys, boys he played basketball with at recess, and fished with, and picnicked with, played softball with on summer afternoons with the smell of hot dogs and mustard as fresh and tangy as the breeze that blew off the creek that ran through the green grass of the park and made the leaves twist and turn on the oak trees and ripples run through the soft drapery of the weeping willows. He didn’t remember their names, but he saw their faces now and it was like watching an old movie where the faces run by very fast and then the screen fades to black and all the faces have melted into an empty street running past deserted buildings.
He turned and walked back to his car. He did not look at Marianne’s old house, but got in, leaned his cane against the passenger’s seat and started the engine. He drove down to Main Street and saw the drugstore on the corner. It had changed, had a different name, but he remembered it. Marianne had worked there the summer his mother had sent him down there to buy a package of Kotex. He cringed inwardly at the thought. He had been embarrassed and couldn’t bring himself to ask for such an item. He waited until his mother called and talked to Marianne. She had brought him the box of Kotex and put it in a brown sack so that the name wouldn’t show. He had walked home in shame, humiliated, but Marianne had never teased him about it. Had never mentioned it again.
Hills of Eden will be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Please click the title, Hills of Eden, to read more about Jory Sherman and his books.