Sunday, June 1, 2014

Downstream

1952

Rebecca Beeson drove 18 miles each morning to work in a men's clothing store in town and came back each evening in time to fix her husband's dinner. It was a job that had paid for a second automobile, a funeral for an aunt and a new stove, but it left her depressed and stranded now, at fifty-six, as if it were a clear defeat, invisible but keenly known to her.

Her husband operated a gas station and logging supply shop in Beaver Creek, a small town on the river where they lived. They had no children, the only time she'd been pregnant the baby was stillborn, which had caused Cawley Beeson a kind of dismay from which he'd never recovered. Maybe this wasn't a place to raise children, he'd thought. He lived as though he were waiting for wounds to heal before moving on.






He hardly noticed, when she helped him in the shop on Saturday's, that someone often came by with wildflowers her, or to tell a story, to ask if she'd seen the skunk cabbage in Watson's field or the pussy willows blooming, sure signs of spring. Cawley appreciated these acts of kindness, while he finished a job for whoever it was, as a duty done that he had no way with.

Men were attracted to Rebecca in an innocent but almost hungry way, as though needing the pleasure she took in them. Because there was never a hint of anything but friendship, their attentions both pleased her and left her with a deep longing, out of which, unashamed, she lay awake at night in a self-embrace of fantasy.

Late at night, when he couldn't sleep, Cawley would roll over to her and try to speak. Sometimes he would begin to cry and sob in anger at a loss he couldn't find the words for. He cried against her nightgown and drove his fist weakly into his pillow. On these nights she held him until the pain ran it's course, and said nothing about her own yearning.

She had hoped that at some point they could go away for a while, in a deeply private place she wished to go to Europe, alone; but she could not bear the thought of his loneliness, and did not believe that in a journey together there could be any joy.

One summer evening while Cawley was in the living room reading, she sat on their bed with her face lowered to a glass bowl of dried blossoms in her lap. Twenty years of anniversary roses, flowers from her first garden, wildflowers from men who were charmed by her. She felt the tears run the length of her nose. She wished to be rid of it, and rose with the bowl and left.

In the dark yard by the side of the house she walked down to the river and stepped in, wetting her dress to the waist. She scattered the first handful on the water, the pieces landed soundlessly and tettered away. She flung the dry petals until the bowl was empty, then dipped its lip to the current to swirl it clean.

Of the flowers she threw on the water, some floated down to the log jam, and washed up on a stump that had been cut with a saw, and had a fading dark stain on it's surface. They stayed there until the first fall rain washed them away.

18 comments:

  1. Life is what you make of it. Sad they could do no better.
    Wonderful old picture.

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    1. I suppose I could have written something about them living happily ever after, but.......

      The picture is from the early 50's, on a Oregon coastal river road, kind of where I picture the story line.

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  2. This reminds me of some of Faulkner's short stories, Neil Young songs and the melancholy odor of late fall rains, when everything is either dying or trying real hard to go to sleep for a very long time.

    Write more. This vignette was good, very good.

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    1. Hi Martha
      I've got maybe one more up my sleeve somewhere, I started the series (it is a series of sorts) about a river on the Oregon coast, headwaters down to the mouth and the people that lived there years past.
      If you like the short stories of Faulkner you might try Raymond Chandler, but he's a tad depressing sometimes.

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  3. One rare old talent there. Captivating.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. Thanks Steve, hope things are well over there.

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    2. A little sun a little rain, but all is good.

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  5. You really are good at painting a detailed picture in a short time. I envy that.

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    1. Thank you, I think your blog is very well done.

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  6. Melancholy, yes, but also very beautifully felt. When I was still too young to do so properly I once wrote a story about a woman who made her own chains. It's not that they can't be broken but the weight of them remains.

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    1. I think men and women often forge their own chains......if I should go as far as giving Rebecca, a fictional character, actual attributes, I'd say she made a conscious choice.

      It's kind of like those things that are done in early grades; show a child a picture and have them make up a story. We see in it what we are prone to see.

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  7. Such a lovely, and yet lonely, piece.

    So few people ever really know us. And so infrequently do we try to tell them.

    Pearl

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    1. Yeah Pearl, you're right. We're afraid it'd put them off, alienate them, not be what they wanted. Few know us.

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  8. Painful and forlorn. Beautiful, but, yeh, painful and forlorn.

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    1. Like life, eh Robbie? What is it you say, 'so it goes'.

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  9. This was dripping with the sorrow of unfulfilled dreams and unmet expectations. I could feel the agony of both Cawley and Rebecca. In my mind's eye, I could see the tears running down her nose.
    This is REALLY good! If you included a link to more of it, I'd be there reading, right now.

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