Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Man And The Girl

The Man And The Girl

The man sat in the morning light. He was drinking thick coffee and smoking on the open porch of the weatherbeaten house, but mostly, he was waiting for the girl.

As he looked down the road, he did not see her at first. Then she became more and more visible as the narrow morning light broadened in a brush stroke over the fields.

She was running erratically and kicking up dust as she ran. When she fell, the man grimaced, but remained seated. He said something indistinct, some word that got lost in the morning breeze. Maybe not a word at all. Maybe just a sound you make, a ripple of thought that never finds completion.

When the girl staggered with a wheeze to the foot of the front steps, he looked down on her. Her face was streaked with tiny rivulets of mud-caked tears. She clambered up the steps and threw herself into his waiting arms.

"He's gone," she cried.

"Yes," the man said softly.

Then she took it back.

"Nooo," she insisted, "he can't be gone."

The man parted a strand of her hair that had cascaded over her face and pushed it back behind her ear.

"It was time," he spoke in a half-whisper. "It was simply his time."

She pushed herself away from the man. Her dark eyes darted from side to side.

"He was too young to die," she blurted. "He was just a puppy."

The man reached for her and brought her back close to him as he stood from his chair. He took her hand, guided her back down the steps, and walked with her across the yard to where the fenceline met the road.

Her small palm was heavy in his, and for a moment, he worried. Her steps were uncertain, a stumble of shoes dragging in the dirt. He slowed his pace, then stopped.

"The sun," he said as he looked across the sweep of wild oats past the fence, "seems much brighter today."

She looked up at him. She pulled her hand from his and pushed at his leg.

"You don't care," she murmured with newfound anger. She pushed at his leg again.

"No, I do care," he offered quietly. Then, as he began to walk away from her, he added, "I care that the sun is bright today. I care that you are here with me."

"But you don't care about Sparky," she shouted after him. "You don't care that he's gone."

The man did not answer, but turned and reached for her.

"I will miss him so," the girl sobbed as she stepped into his embrace.

"Yes," the man confirmed, "you will for a time, but soon you will know he is still here."

The girl looked up at the man. "Where?" she sobbed. "Where is he?"

The man reached down and touched her forehead. "He is here," he assured quietly. Then he took her hand in his and placed it over her heart. "And he will always be here."

The girl pressed hard against her chest, and her sad face caught the morning light, now drifting from failing reds to a golden glow. She looked across the field, then closed her eyes, and felt the warmth of the sun on her cheeks.

The man waited.

The girl opened her eyes and took his hand in hers again. Then she whispered to the dawn, "Be good, Sparky. You be a good boy."




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