Why had she taken a train out of Minneapolis instead of making a direct flight to Seattle? It postponed the inevitable conversation with Bea, true, but made the anticipation of it a torment, stretching out like the endless lines of cattle fence rushing past her window; she had spent the last several hours (last several days, if she was to be truthful) running over various scripts and monologues in her head of how she was going to approach the topic with Bea. Hell, I can’t just walk into her house after all this time and say “Hi! Guess what? Daddy’s alive, but not for long, and he wants to see you.” She groaned audibly though no one heard, unless her moan got picked up by the wind and was now startling some poor prairie dog family minding their own business in their den. But Alice couldn’t deny that she had been happy to see him, terrified by his cancer prognosis. She, who avoided all things having to do with sickness and mortality; she, who could not summon up the courage to visit her mother (for she still thought of Adriane as her mother) until the week before she died; couldn’t bear to see her sick and failing. She knew Bea was furious with her, maybe even hated her. She felt an ugly, malignant sort of cowardice that she wouldn’t admit to anyone. Well, now she was getting paid back in spades.
Alice gazed out into the distance. The parched, dry ochre hills and plains were so opposite to the life she made in the lush Hawaiian Islands; this landscape seemed like the no-man’s land threshold separating her past and her present. Unbidden, her memories started to bubble up: Daddy teaching her about fireflies; dinners around the wooden kitchen table in the dining room or the picnic table in the back yard in summer; her mother reading to her and Bea at bedtime in the room they shared, the warm pool of light from the bedside lamp illuminating the page of Wind in the Willows and their mother’s concentrated expression.
Peggy Acott is a writer in many forms, who shamelessly takes advantage of the rainy weather in western Oregon to help maintain her (mostly) regular writing practice.