A 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.”
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.