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Copyright (c) 2017 JT Therrien
Cover Art (c) 2017 by Fine Form Press
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The characters are products of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously.
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"Over Yonder" original image copyright (c) 2017 by chumlee10
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"Summertime" was originally published in the Guppy Soup short story collection by JT Therrien (Fine Form Press, 2013).
In the stifling sun-filled bedroom Eugenia lay silently dying, her small body racked by age and disease. She groaned with the effort of pressing her ear against the faded wallpaper. If she listened closely enough she could hear bits and snippets of Fred and Ethel Murtz's conversation. Something about plumbing but Eugenia was unable to make out exactly what.
"Fred and Ethel," she whispered, pushing stale air through parched lips.
"What's that, Mother Adams?" Fanny's high-pitched voice startled Eugenia and she groaned again as she pressed withered fingers against her greying temples in the hope of suppressing the steady pounding. Fred and Ethel's voices gradually faded away, overpowered by the unceasing throbbing in her Eugenia's head. Through a veil of white pain, she reluctantly let them go.
Even though Fanny had been married to Martin (Eugenia's fifty-seven year old accountant son) for twenty-one years and although she had made every effort, admittedly mostly in the beginning, Eugenia had never gotten used to Fanny's nasally, grating voice. Whenever she opened her mouth to speak Eugenia's skin would crawl, making her feel uncomfortably like a nervous, angry cat coiling itself, readying to pounce. Upon further consideration, she'd never taken much of a liking to her daughter-in-law's given name, either.
She sighed deeply, her chest straining to lift the layer of dry hot air that was smothering her. There was a time, a long, long time ago, she recalled painfully, when the hot summer weather had been much more enjoyable. "Round up my son for me, will you?" Eugenia softly asked Fanny without looking at her.
Long, thin motes of dust, like crumbling marble columns, swirled upward in search of sunlight as Fanny 'harrumphed' and then left on her errand.
Eugenia closed her heavy eyelids and waited for Martin. Slowly, tentatively at first, as if loitering near the frayed edges of her consciousness for their entrance cue, Fred and Ethel returned. The new subject under discussion had to do with a wedding. A fur coat. Yelling, threats and loud tin-can laughter that periodically drowned out the couple's voices.
* * *
A strong wind blew dust in Eugenia's eyes, making her eyes blink spasmodically. When she could open them again she squinted against a clear blue sky and a brilliant noonday sun. She'd been told more than once that her green eyes turned a shade greener, sparkling emeralds, when they reflected the sunshine, and that thought always made her happy to be outdoors.
The car, a shiny blue convertible with wide whitewalls, travelled swiftly down the bumpy country road, trailing pink billows of dried clay behind it. She inhaled deeply, offering her senses up to the heady potpourri fragrances which conspired with the colourful patchwork of wild summer flowers to overwhelm her.
Eugenia quickly glanced to her left, suddenly realizing, remembering. Her heart beat wildly and she lost her breath when she gazed at the man sitting next to her, confidently driving the car. Black, immobile hair, cut as if he had just come out of the army; a strong, square jaw and clean-shaven face that seemed both rugged and tender. Zach's big callused hands rested easily on the black steering wheel, guiding the car down the serpentine dirt road with ease. Yes, Zachary was there.
Of course, he would be.
"Zachary," Eugenia sighed, love filling her.
"What are you smiling at, sweetheart?" Zachary asked as he returned her glance. He grinned from ear to ear, looking like a kid who has finally got his hands around the biggest and best prize at the county fair.
"Nothing," Eugenia replied, smiling, feeling like a prize. "It's just that . . ." her voice dropped, became sombre, as she admitted, "I've missed you, Zachary." The rushing wind whipped strands of hair into her eyes and she was surprised at its length and colour; the dark henna of her youth. She marvelled at how Zachary's black crew-cut obstinately resisted the constant onrush of air. Eugenia took hold of her husband's free hand and squeezed it tenderly.
He glanced down, seeing her small fingers lost in his wide palm, and he smiled self-consciously.
She happily threw her head back against the seat and closed her eyes to the pressing wind.
As the car went over a small crest in the road she exclaimed, "Ooh . . . . That tickled my tummy!" and laughed easily.
Zachary smiled at her, white teeth, perfect smile.
"You still haven't told me where we're going." Eugenia's small voice was all but lost in the roar of the wind and the rumble of the Ford's powerful engine.
"Port," he replied, keeping his eyes fixed on the road.
"Port Colborne. To look at the boats," Zachary added after having covered a few more miles down the scorched dirt road.
"The boats!" Eugenia exclaimed. "Oh, I just love to watch those big ships going through the canal. It's been such a long time since we've seen them!" She smiled. "Remember the last time? We spent a whole afternoon just watching those huge, grey ships float by on their way to the east coast? Or was it the west coast?"
"It was both. They go both ways, Genie." Zach laughed at her confusion.
They rode in silence, happy to be in each other's company. Eugenia asked, "When are we stopping for lunch?" She glanced at her watch. "It's going on quarter of twelve and I'm getting a bit hungry. You?"
Zachary was about to reply when the black and white Holstein lumbered across the road, emerging from a break in the dust-covered brush. He quickly stepped on the brake pedal, but . . .
"Oh, Zachary," whispered Eugenia, feeling hot tears well up and roll down the craggy wrinkles etched in her face.
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