Sweet Thyme Baby – 8

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

8

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 7 first)

 

Lance put his shoulder to the gate and the old hinges screamed at him. He stepped into the garden and clanged the gate shut behind him. He was angry with Sharon and with himself for starting an argument he could not win. Still, it was to his credit that he had not capitulated. He had not gone with Sharon to the market as if Sunday were Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. He had stood up for the word of God and had a right to feel proud of himself. They had parted without smiles. He had not kissed her. It bothered him that he had not – and then it bothered him that it bothered him. Even if it gave him a headache, a man had to be firm with his wife, it was the only way she would learn.

 

But he had never thought such lessons would be necessary. He had believed Sharon would be a wife and mother like his own, and if there was one person he knew was right now partaking of the heavenly banquet, it was Lance’s mother. A model wife, a mother who knew the world was a dangerous place. He wished he could persuade Sharon that the world was full of evil. Considering the sort of mother she had, Lance was constantly surprised that she was not more wary.

 

When he was very small, Lance’s father had often preached out of town. On those Sundays his mother had sometimes given him the job of cleaning her sewing basket while she played and sang hymns on the echoey old grand in the living room. He sat under the piano and untangled the colored embroidery thread and rolled each color neatly. Pins in a tin with a Queen’s face on it. Needles woven in and out of a piece of blue flannel, dozens of odd buttons strung on a piece of elastic thread. While Lance worked, the piano vibrated around him and he believed it was God speaking in a special code. When Lance and Sharon married, he had believed that with her beside him he would again feel surrounded by God and raised up.

 

He stopped and pressed his fingers to his temples. He didn’t want to think about Sharon anymore. He didn’t want to think about being a child. He wanted all his doubts to be gone, his questions answered. He wanted to move through the world like a lion. He saw himself beside Joel, matching him stride for stride. Warriors for Jesus. Then Sharon would do as she was told, then there would be a new car in the garage and new faces in the church.

 

The path crossed another, going south. He knew it went near the house where those two men lived. Abominations. In the other direction, the path went into the Cloud Forest. When Lance was a boy, the Ryan’s had encouraged him and his friends to play in the garden. No part of the garden had been forbidden to them except the ponds which were deep and dangerous until they learned to swim, and then it was the best fun of all to build a raft and grab frogs in the reeds. By silent consent the boys had stayed away from the Cloud Forest. It was just too chilly and damp to be pleasant. But just now as he stood on the path with the sun burning through his white shirt, no part of the garden enticed Lance more.

 

Under the great trees silence dropped like darkness. The coastal fog had been heavy that morning and the path was spongy underfoot. He stepped off the trail to walk on dryer ground. After pressing some distance through dew-laden bushes, he felt the cold like a yoke across his shoulders, and he hunched forward. Remembering the heat of the sun on his back, he wished he had walked the other way. Behind him the shrubs and ferns looked undisturbed and he had left no footprints. Overhead, the trees pointed to the sky and he felt the spin of the earth, lost his balance and fell back, hitting his head on a moss covered stone.

 

He sat up and after a moment his thoughts straightened out and he knew where he was. Ahead and to the right through the trees, he saw a ray of sunlight and a bit of blue sky. That would be the edge of the Cloud Forest where the Sea Meadows began. He straightened his back and pushed through dripping thickets of ferns and salmon berry but his head hurt and his mind played tricks on him. The blue sky and sunlight were always there but he couldn’t reach them. His eyes began to water in the cold and the sunlight flickering through the canopy made him queasy. His headache had grown much worse. He stopped and leaned against the trunk of a spruce with his eyes closed.

 

He imagined Sharon in the market, arranging red apples in a pyramid. And Hamish on a stool with a white plastic knife trying to slice one for himself. His vision shimmered, darkened and then brightened suddenly. His head throbbed in time with the pulse of light and dark. He tried to open his eyes but his eyelids were heavy. The plastic knife flashed. Metallic now. Polished steel. Watch me cutting, Daddy. Watch me, Daddy. Lance reached out to stop him and grabbed at air. Into the apple, into little boy flesh. Blood everywhere, flooding out of Hamish and onto the floor, spilling over the floor. Sharon with her feet in it. Drowning in blood and screaming, the woman and the boy. Lance reached again, a hand to each. Their fingertips touched and slipped away. There was nothing he could do, no way to save them from what they had brought on themselves.

 

He opened his eyes. Shaken by the peculiar vision, he hurried forward, breaking down the plants that stood in his way, and at last he burst onto the Sea Meadows. Before him lay a vast expanse of high grass gently sloping down to the cliffs, stirring in the breeze. He took a deep breath and salt-smell stung his nose. Overhead the blue sky was absolutely clear but far to his left, low on the horizon, the fog waited. Between the fog and the land a line of pelicans skimmed the waves.

 

If Joel could see this view he would understand why Lance stayed in Cabrillo Point. A man would have to be mad to exchange this glory for El Cajon.

 

Lance sat down and taking off his jacket, he made a pillow of it and lay back.

 

*

 

He dreams he is walking with Joel along the cliffs. They pass the spring house and Sharon is there with Hamish. Their backs are to him and he knows that if he walks in front of them, he will see they are working on the Sabbath. He is frightened and hurries on, keeping close to Joel. They cross a shallow ravine and through a row of sycamores follow a path that leads out onto the sea meadows.

 

But where the meadows should be, Lance dreams of a graceful redwood and glass structure built low and terraced to conform to the slope of the land. About it spread vast lawns and geometrically cultivated gardens, fountains and terraces where men and women congregate in earnest groups. He and Joel pass and the conversation stops. Lance hears greetings in a dozen strange languages and his name is spoken in as many different accents of respect. The building curves like a great wave. The north face is all glass and columns of marble giving onto a terrace at the center of which rises a massive piece of sculpture that afterwards, when he is wide awake, will remind Lance of Moses as he must have looked with his staff upraised, parting the Red Sea. But in the dream he sees it is a statue of himself, bearded and wearing a robe that falls like velvet. Lance is gripped by a sudden and irresistible assurance, an imperative that reaches to the bones in his toes.

 

He lets go of Joel’s hand, and his feet leave the ground. He rises over the building, over the complex of gardens and patios and fountains. He dips and cruises low like a pelican over tennis courts and swimming pools, an outdoor amphitheater, the entrance to underground parking. The people below look up at him and he sees in their upturned faces expressions of reverence and awe, and he feels their longing for him as if all their hearts beat within his own. They are moons and he is their sun.

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

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