The car is loaded up and ready to go. Sheila comes out of the house sucking on her cigarette. “For God’s sake,” she says. “Let’s get out of here.”
I was born in that house the day that Kennedy died; Mother, the day that Roosevelt died. And her mother, whose face I cannot conjure, died in it the day that Truman dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. We measure out our lives in presidents.
Today the house is empty and I listen to the water and let its salt intoxicate me. I drift back to a time when I was holding Mother’s hand, learning to negotiate the surf as it lapped up on the beach. The cape was my happy playground then, filled with wonders to discover—sea shells, dune grass, the mysterious creatures in the water, and always, the mournful birds hovering, held aloft by the winds.
But that day the sea was a sad greenish gray like the faded shingle siding of the house. Mother wore her favorite beach dress, the bright scarlet one, and whispered in my ear to run back and get the salt water taffy she’d bought at Tuck’s Candy the day before.
I ran exuberantly through the house, into the kitchen, and found the hoard next to her Sunbeam. Selecting a licorice one as my fee, I took the bag and hurried back to the beach. But amidst the sand and green and gray, Mother had vanished.
Later, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my bag of taffy when they came to tell us they’d recovered the body at low tide, her dress torn and stained with sand, no longer red.
Sheila gets in the car, looks at me, and drives us away.
© Lawrence Aronovitch 2011. All rights reserved.