He Who Sleeps In Harvest

Time was. That time no longer is.

“You can do better. You know you can.” This had been his father’s frequent refrain.

Yeah, probably, he thought. But there’ll be time for that. I’ll get it all together, I will.

Then, one day, he closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, his father was gone.

But yeah, the days keep coming. And no one tells him anymore that he can do better.

Because no one else believes it.


“He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
  He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.”


Only 2 Out of 5

Reghan Flynn, twenty-six, was looking at recipes and meals on Pinterest, when it struck her forcibly how ironic that was. She was taking in ideas about cooking through a medium where she could neither smell nor taste. Nor touch, for that matter.

By rough calculation, given her phone and her laptop, she figured she spent something like 4 to 6 hours a day online. That’s four-to-six hours a day where only 2 out of 5 of her senses were engaged. True, she might be drinking coffee or petting Keegan (the cat) while she browsed, but those were disconnected activities.

Maybe that’s why I feel so disconnected, she thought.

When a very, very small child is first engaging and learning about the world, they use all of their senses. The strongest memories she had (and the best ones) almost always had components of smell, and touch, and taste as part of them. But she had reduced herself, in some way, to sound and image, because those were so easily available.

And easily manipulated, she also thought.

As she sat there, pondering, she thought about Vihaan, who had been her first real love. She thought about the totality of him, how he looked, his voice, his scent, how his skin felt. When things had been good, they were very good, but his family disapproved of her, and sent him to school (and then medical school) as far away from her poor Irish family as they could manage. He had loved her, she knew, and she had loved him, but practical life had interfered, and they’d each moved on years ago.

Amicably.

She periodically viewed videos of him and his wife and their young twins on Facebook. So 2 of her 5 senses still had access to him. The other 3 senses were the province of his more culturally suitable wife, she mused.

She lay down on the bed where Keegan was sleeping, resting her head on his gray fur. “I guess the Internet is not really different than television was,” she said to the cat. (She had decided to continue what had been an internal monologue out loud.) “And in the days of books, sight was all there was. Just words and images. It’s not like fully realized fantasy lives used to be available on a platter.

The cat had opened his blue eyes. He was a very clean cat, was Keegan, and unusually patient when she would rest next to him like this.

It wasn’t like she had no life, or that the life she had was bad. But she had been feeling kind of disjointed, like wherever she was, she was only kind of half-there. Her first thought was maybe she needed to change her diet; that was why she had been on Pinterest looking at recipes in the first place.

Keegan, I think I need to make some changes.

He purred.

Not major ones, or anything, no need to panic.

There seemed very little danger of that on his part, as he had once again closed his eyes.

I think I’m going to try that cooking class, the one that meets down on Olive Street.

All that was left of his previously loud purring, was a low-level vibration.

Well, that’s settled then.

She got up to leave the cat sleeping on the bed. As she left the room though, she would have sworn she heard a sleepy voice saying

“And you could even put pictures of your class on Pinterest…”

Fourteen Waves

It’s summertime now. Next year, Lexi starts high school.

Each year has been like a wave; they’ve come in gently and receded with deliberation, gradually giving way to the next one.

It was early afternoon, and her mother was looking at baby photos, remembering with fondness what her daughter’s smile looked like before she had teeth. Her father was absentmindedly reading an NBA playoff summary, all the while hearing echoes of what his daughter’s laugh had sounded like before her voice changed.

Lexi’s birthday had been the previous day; plastic plates with bits of cake stuck to them were overflowing from the kitchen trash can. She herself was still in bed, a place she would occupy for roughly 20 more minutes.

The birthday party had been a simple affair: her mom and dad, cousin Derek, and her four best friends from school. The singing of Happy Birthday and present opening involved everybody; after that, she and her friends went waterskiing on Derek’s boat, which had been a blast. She’d never been able to slalom before, and it was pure joy dropping a ski and negotiating the waves on just one.

When they finished skiing, it was almost eight o’clock. The boat pulled up to the smell of her dad’s grilled shrimp. They ate dinner with the gusto that only fourteen-year-olds have, including multiple slices of cake ; her friend’s parents had then picked them up around ten, and she was asleep not too long after, as she was completely exhausted.

But now, it was 12:32 in the afternoon, and bright light was streaming in her bedroom window. Today was also a big day, as she was starting her first real job that evening.

Lexi also smelled coffee, the presence of which always made getting up so much easier.

Lexi’s mother placed a cup in front of her as she sat down at the kitchen table. Her father touched her lightly on the shoulder and kissed her hair as she squeezed his hand back.

“Are you leaving already?” she asked.

“Yes. You have been asleep for awhile,” he said, with a smile in his voice.

“I have to be there at 5:30. I don’t want to be late my first day.”

“You won’t be, I promise.” He then left the room.

“What are you going to wear?” her mother asked.

“The long skirt we talked about. I mean, I’m hostessing, so I just need to smile, and greet people, and assign tables. I don’t have to pick up dishes or anything.”

“That will look great. I was really proud of you yesterday, watching you ski,” her mother added, changing the subject. “It’s hard to believe fourteen years have gone by.”

Lexi had leaned back in her chair, feeling the sun coming through the window as she sipped her coffee. “Waterskiing is so much fun. Seriously.”

“What do you plan to do today?”

“Oh, not a lot before work. I told Anna I’d call her; she wants to get an early start on discussing our summer reading. UGH. But you know Anna, she’s very enthusiastic. I told her my books hadn’t come in yet.”

“They have, though,” her mom said. “They came the day before yesterday, I forgot to tell you.”

Lexi laughed. “Fine, then. How many are there again?”

“Six.”

“Braille or audio?”

“Three of each.”

“Give me the longest of the audiobooks first, those take will take the most time,” Lucy sighed thoughtfully, after pausing to listen to the slow sound of the waves through the open window.

Driftwood Beach

Every morning, she walked down to the seashore to watch the sunrise.

They had won a five day, five night vacation to this place in a contest held at the neighborhood grocery store. She had never won anything in her life before that, and when they called to notify her she was the winner, she was pretty sure it was really her brother-in-law and his idea of a joke. But it was legit: five days and five nights in a place called Driftwood Beach, on Saint Simons Island off the coast of Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean. All they had to pay for were snacks: lodging, transportation and meals for two were included.

When they had checked into the resort five days earlier, she felt a little like Dorothy in the Emerald City: everywhere she looked were high marble walls, fancy carpets, spiral stairways, and a host of other things she’d only ever seen on TV. She half-expected to hear Robin Leach’s voice describing it all. Her husband, too, seemed almost something like moved by it all.

Almost.

Although they had been given a resort map when they first rode up to the compound, and she had suggested several things she would be interested in trying, he figured out the location of the various bars in the place within 20 minutes of arriving, and at one or the other of them he had been for most of the last five days. She would be asleep when he would come in, beginning a nightly ritual that started with a sickening smell of alcohol, tobacco and sweat, and ending with angry words and tears. Her favorite night had been the one he was so drunk, he didn’t make it past the couch to the bed.

In other words, it was exactly like home.

What wasn’t like home, though, was the ocean. She would wake, very early, and taking advantage of the twenty-four hour coffee available in the lobby, head out the back door of the resort and off into the dark to watch the sun come up on the beach. The first morning, she wasn’t really sure if it was safe (she would never walk outside in the dark at home), but a kind of recklessness had come over her, and she charged out into the black like she’d been doing it her whole life.

The ocean says things in the dark that it doesn’t say in the light. In the light, the ocean often defers to the sun, or the clouds, or even the birds, but at night, it has the floor to itself, and it spoke to her of hidden things, and secret wishes, and desires she’d never admitted of to anyone, least of all herself.

As the last vestiges of night began to peal away, she looked over at the now-familiar driftwood. Driftwood made her sad; these had been living trees, roots planted firmly in the soil, leaves open to the sun, drinking life in slowly and growing surely. But they’d been torn away from their roots, shorn of their leaves, and set adrift on an ocean large and more chaotic than they were built to handle. To see these bits of wood now, they had always been homely and gnarled; but they had been glorious, once. They congregated on the shore, whenever possible, within sight of their still-living cousins, who seemed to spread out their branches to shield them, to give them whatever dignity was possible. Much like this resort had done for her.

She thought about divorce, but, unless the grocery store was running another contest, she wasn’t sure how she could afford it. The sun was up, now; and foamy waves reached out to tickle her bare feet. In a few hours, the car would take them back to the airport, and back home to real life.

Real life, ha! she thought. Strange term, considering it’s neither.