Rock of Ages

rockA dusty blue VW cruises down a country road then brakes like a horse on a tight rein. A pregnant woman clambers out of the car and follows the figurehead of her swollen belly through the waves of tall prairie grass.

“Lori, where the hell you goin’?”

She disappears into the shadows of an ancient live oak tree and calls, “I found an old rocking chair. Come see.”

A young man joins her. “Looks like a stack of kindlin’. I say we go buy us a brand new chair at the Walmart.”

“Walmart’s furniture’s crap, Billy. A little elbow grease and this old gal’ll be beautiful again.”

He wrestles the chair sideways. “Sucker’s built solid, I’ll give you that.”

Lori strokes the chair’s carved back. “My Granny had a chair kinda’ like this. Wadn’t near as fancy as this one but beautiful all the same. When I was little, Granny used to rock and sing little songs to me, and I learned to sing right along with her. I was safe there.”

She pushes the rocker back and forth. “There’s something special about this chair, Billy. I don’t know why or how, but I think it was put here for me to find.”

Billy tips her face and kisses her nose. “You want this chair, Little Mama, you’re gonna get this chair.” He dials his cell phone. “I’ll see if I can borrow Charlie’s pickup for tomorrow morning.”

“Try for this afternoon, will you?” She grins at him. “Don’t want nobody stealing my chair, do we?”

Billy laughs. “Honey, that chair hadn’t moved in years…”

“Hey, Charlie, this is Billy…”

The Texas sky has changed from its bleached blue summer frock to its dark Wedgwood blue tunic of fall. Lori moves with the tall grass as it dips and sways in the breeze and laughs at hummingbirds teasing the honeysuckle blossoms along the fence.

“Charlie says this afternoon’s fine.”

Still gazing out over the field, Lori says, “You go on. I wanna’ sit out here for a while, breathe some fresh air, play in my new rocking chair.”

Billy yanks off his cap and whacks it against his leg as he paces. “No damned way, Lori June. A pregnant woman’s got no business alone out here in the middle of nowhere.”

“Bil-ly, I been taking care of myself my whole life. I’ll be fine. ‘Sides, you won’t be gone more’n a minute.”

He jams the cap back on his head. “Dammit! Okay, I get the truck, you stay here, but…”

She cradles his face in her hands. “You’re gonna’ make a great daddy, Billy Fisher. Now go get me Granny’s quilt and my phone outa the car, will you?”

Lori eases herself into the rocker and watches until the car disappears over the hill then buries her face in the soft folds of the patchwork quilt. The perfume of her grandmother’s lavender toilet water still clings to the worn fabric. “Oh, Granny, I miss you. I never had nobody in my whole life I could talk to like you.” As she runs her fingers over the odd-shaped pieces of old dresses, nightgowns and aprons, she remembers her grandmother’s satiny touch and rich contralto voice and feels the love surround her again. She squeezes the quilt in a tight hug then drapes it over the chair. “There now, Granny, you look real pretty there.”

“Thank you.”

Lori jumps up and whirls around. “Hello? Who said that?”

“I did. The quilt’s lovely.”

She spins back and stares at the chair. “You talk?”

“Yes, though my words often flap like moths against lighted windows.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You feel the vibration of my words along with the sounds. Most people don’t have that gift.”

Lori grins and sits back in the chair. “Billy’s never gonna’ believe this.”

“Don’t worry about Billy. He’ll never hear me. Only women can do that. When’s your baby due?”

“Six weeks.” She cradles her belly. “This little girl’s gonna’ be my whole world, and not only when she’s a baby either–all her life. Not like my mother.”

“Study my carvings,” the chair says. “Open the knowing place deep inside yourself and search for what your eyes may not see.”

Lori pulls her hair back and leans close. “I thought they were flowers, but I don’t think they are. They’re faces, aren’t they–dozens of faces?”

“Yes. Those are all the women I’ve held over the years.”

The girl and the chair rock and talk quietly. The girl tells about how her mother never cared about her, only wanted to dress up and go dancing, and how it was her granny who taught her about love and music and books. She asks the chair how it came to be sitting all alone out there in the middle of nowhere. The chair points to an abandoned house across the field and tells the girl that was her last home before the old woman passed and the family threw all her furniture out in the yard to be burned alive by the sun. The chair tells how it ooched across the field so it could wait for the girl in the shade of the old tree.

“I sensed you were coming, but I didn’t know how long it’d take you to get here.”

A yellow striped cat jumps into the girl’s lap. “Whoa, who’re you?”

“That’s Cat. Guess she’s been waiting for you, too.”

The girl laughs and rubs the animal’s ears. “Not much lap left, but you’re welcome to what’s there.”

The cat purrs, turns twice and lies down.

When Billy pulls up to the old tree, tiny Tinker Bells of sunlight float down through the leaves and dance across Lori’s sleeping face. A yellow cat lies curled in her lap. The chair rocks itself up and back, the old quilt wrapped around it like a shawl.

Comments

  1. Phyllis Parr says

    I love the tenderness of this story. I would like to know Billy’s thoughts as he returned to find Lori asleep in the rocking chair with the cat curled in her lap, and the quilt enveloping the scene.
    My favorite image is “tiny, Tinker Bells of sunlight.” That is amazingly poetic syntax with multiple layers of meaning.

    • says

      Excellent suggestion about knowing Billy’s thoughts at the end, but I find I am unable to access the mental and emotional gyrations of the male species, and the few times I have managed to catch a glimpse, I was horrified. Hahaha!!!

  2. says

    I love the details of this piece, parts of which I remember from another write you did. But this version evokes a really wonderful visual for me, and it felt so grounding and peaceful this morning — I really needed that! In today’s world, a lovely microcosm of serenity.

    • says

      Beautifully said, Susan, and so true. Every microcosm of serenity we can absorb into ourselves arms us to better manage in a world gone mad. Thank you old old old friend (and I don’t mean years!).

  3. says

    This piece is a peaceful slice of time. Like Susan said I, too, needed this “lovely microcosm of serenity”. Thank you, Ann, and Susan, poetic words for the heart,

    • says

      Aw, thank you, Karen, for your kind words and especially for your constant encouragement. I often keep this pen of mine moving just so I won’t disappoint you! Bless you for that.

  4. Jane says

    Ann, Your final version couldn’t be better!!!! I could picture Lori’s face this time. Lavender water, Tinker Bell light, the sky wearing clothes,,, Absolutely love it!!!!

  5. Janice says

    This post absolutely rocked me. I was swept up in the scene from the moment the blue VW braked “like a horse on a tight rein” on that dusty road. Your characters are so real, and made so authentic by the vernacular, the pronunciation. I can hear Texas in those kids.

    I couldn’t stop reading it because there is a sense that something great is going to happen. Billy leaves her alone, so compliant with her, you can tell he’d rather not, but that she, young as she is, is in the driver’s seat. Billy loves her crazy-like…. and then Billy leaves and just as we think the story is wonderful, and although the scenery is so peaceful and calm, the greatness happens. The chair talks to her!! And they’re not flowers – they’re faces of all the women the chair has held!! Oh boy, the tears flowed. This story, and that chair hit a nerve in me that runs so deep, that I actually FELT the vibration of the words from that chair. The cat coming in the picture could not be more perfect, and Billy so innocent and oblivious to the depth of this woman he loves so much, sees her so peaceful as though he just left her and she had a short nap.

    Your words need to be out there to touch all of us in that profound and personal place that makes us weep, makes our hearts beat, our blood course, makes us beg for connection, and drives us to find that inner core that connects with every woman. Everywhere.

    • says

      As always, my dear Janice, your review of my story blows me away. You always find layers of meaning that I didn’t have a clue were there. Thank you so much for taking the time to ponder my scribblings and to share your thoughts with me. You’re a valuable treasure, my friend.

  6. David says

    Excellent. I, too, liked that Tinker Bell sunlight allusion. After my Dad died we moved some of my folks’ furniture from Seattle to Honolulu. I always loved my father’s desk, and the drawer pulls rattle when you open a drawer, a sound I always associate with my dad.

    • says

      There are those who believe that rattling noise is your daddy telling you he’s still keeping an eye on you. Who knows? Guess you’ll find out when you get up there with him, eh? Thanks, David.

  7. Jan Freeman says

    Beautiful. I’m so proud of you, and happy that you have such a descriptive voice. You really spoke to me in this piece.
    Now I’ve decided to keep my Grandmother’s old rocking chair. I know I won’t rock babies in it. But, maybe I can pass it down to someone I love who will.

    I miss you Ann.
    Jan

    • says

      Thank you, Jan and I miss you, too — very much. And hey, mama, rocking chairs aren’t just for rocking babies. They’re for holding old bones in their twilight years and rocking us through our memories when we can’t skip and dance so good anymore! Hugs, dear teacher.

  8. Mary says

    I kept a night gown of my sister’s so I could still feel close to her and make me feel close to her. Love that part. Thanks.

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