Preface: I suck.
Any good blogger worth their salt never uses the excuse, “But I just haven’t had the time to blog!” and I am guilty of this blog sin. Denying my own credo of, “even if it’s just a paragraph and a picture of Jack, I’ll blog!” I am guilty as charged.
So please accept this piece of short fiction as a sign of my undying love and affection. I assure you all of your angry fan (e)mail has kicked my butt into gear. (I’VE GOT FANS! I’VE GOT BLOG FANS, MOMMA!)
Here ya go, Take 12. Oh, a title. Let’s go with…
“What did you think about Father Tim’s sermon today, George?”
George paused before he answered. He always thought before he spoke. If you don’t know George well, you might think he was being rude and not answering you. But George is very thoughtful and economical with his words. And besides, this was a trick question.
He took a bite of his slice of boysenberry pie and wiped his mouth. He sat the cloth napkin on his lap and said,
“I think it was about husbands and wives and children.”
“Well, of course it was,” Marlene said, her face scrunched up unsatisfied. “But what did you think about Father Tim’s message about husbands and wives and children?”
Again George paused. He held his fork in his hand and didn’t budge. There’s no getting around Marlene when her face shows you’re past the point of no return.
“I think he was saying that children are like the ambassadors of their parents.”
“Well isn’t that a nice way of phrasing it, George,” Bill said, sitting up a little straighter and looking at George sideways. “That was nice, indeed.”
“Yes, it’s very nice,” Marlene said quickly, “but I think you’re only looking at the sunny side of things, George. Father Tim had more to say than that.”
“Oh, Marlene if you’re determined to make this a fire and brimstone Sunday, then I will take my pie and eat it elsewhere,” Bill said. He added a quick nod of his head for affirmation at the end for emphasis.
“Hush,” Marlene said. “Don’t you two realize that Father Tim was trying to say that he thinks we’ve let down our family? That we’ve amounted to no good nothings that are as ordinary as spots on a dog?”
“You’re out of your mind, Marlene,” Bill said. “You think every sermon of Father Tim’s is meant just for you.”
“I said hush! And you would think so too if you weren’t day dreaming about what you were going to eat when you got home from church. I’ve given up on you, but George, now, you know better than that, don’t you?”
As she said this, she cut another piece of pie and slid it onto a porcelain dessert plate painted with tiny irises around the edge. She reached across the doily covered table and poured George another glass of iced tea. She was going to feed him until he agreed with her.
George watched her fill his half full glass. Marlene knew George’s pattern of think then speak. She was showing him that she was giving him time to think. That she understood him, in the way she expected him to understand her. Or at least to understand her point about this Sunday’s sermon. Tomorrow it would be something else.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in being ordinary, Marlene,” George said.
“Didn’t you just say children should be the ambassadors of their parents?”
“I said I thought that’s what Father Tim was trying to say.”
Bill giggled into his iced tea. Marlene shot him daggers and he gave her a gaping look that said, ‘what?’
“Now, George, regardless of whether or not there’s any harm in being ordinary, our parents were not ordinary, and if we, their children are supposed to represent their lives, then can you honestly say that we’re abiding by that?”
Without hesitation, George said,
The lack of empty air jolted Marlene. She looked at George and wondered where she went wrong with her youngest brother. Here she was, widowed and running the family house herself. Bill and George had families of their own in other parts of town. She thought of the sacrifices she had made to make sure the family house remained just that, the family house, and her temper got the better of her.
“You honestly think that Momma and Pappa would be happy about the way we’ve upheld their name? Look at this house. It’s been in our family for years and you two want nothing to do with it. If you really heard what Father Tim said, don’t you think you two should do a little bit more to be something in this town?”
“That’s it!” Bill said, “I’ll be on the veranda with my pie.”
George watched Bill stick his napkin into the collar of his oxford shirt and swipe his silverware off the table and lob off another piece of pie onto his plate. Pie in one hand, tea in the other, he marched out the bay doors to the veranda. George understood what this house meant to Marlene. The weight of her world was in the foundation of this house. The comfort she felt from living in the house and the cobwebs of constancy that spun themselves around the house made it heavier and more swaddling every year. That he understood.
“I think Momma and Pappa would be happy that we are happy,” George finally said.
“I’m not talking about happiness. I’m talking about legacies and family responsibility. We aren’t half the people Momma and Pappa were.”
Marlene pulled lines like that out on occasion, when she was really trying to bring home a point. When in doubt, use guilt, was Marlene’s motto.
“Did you love Robert, Marlene?”
“What kind of a question is that? Of course I loved Robert.” She played with the wedding band she still wore on her right hand.
“Do you love me and Bill?”
“Yes, of course.”
“I think Momma and Pappa would be just happy with that.”
“George, you think too simply. You’re naive.”
George didn’t say a word. He took another bite of his pie and let the tiny seeds of the boysenberry pop under his teeth. He tasted a pocket of butter in the crust, just the way his mother used to make it. He looked at Marlene. The fight was out of her. She would never admit surrender, but she had learned, that along with his slow way of speaking, there’s no getting a fire in George’s belly when he doesn’t want one there. That she understood.
“You should have churned some ice cream, Marlene!” Bill yelled from the veranda.”You can’t eat pie in August without a healthy scoop of ice cream on it. C’mon now!”
Marlene pursed her lips from a scoop of pie she just shoveled into her mouth and smiled.
“Some days Bill’s a little harder to love, though,” Marlene said smiling.
One corner of George’s mouth turned into a smile. He eyed Bill’s bobbing penny loafer out on the veranda, tapping to the beat of some bebop tune he was always humming, an empty dessert plate resting next to his rocking chair.
“Yes,” George said. “Some days we all are.”