Her husband found work
Teaching in a backcountry schoolhouse
After the war.
It wasn’t her first choice, she said,
But in lean times like those,
You took what opportunity presented.
They headed west
In a beat up Ford truck
Given to the couple in dowry.
The birth of their first child followed—
A boy with sandy hair and blue eyes.
She named the child after her husband,
But everyone called him Little Bit.
It was a happy time, she said.
Living in an old farm house
On the edge of an alfalfa field
Paid for by the school board.
The teacher’s salary was paltry,
But the children’s parents would bring them:
Potatoes. Onions. Ham. Apples. Butter.
Whatever bounty the season had to offer.
The weather turned sour early that year
And the baby caught a fever.
People remembered it as the worst winter ever.
Despite the prayers and doctoring,
Sickness took the child one moonless night.
But the man and woman had to wait
To lay their firstborn to rest
Until some men from church
Built a fire to thaw out
The iron hard ground for burial.
Even in her 80s, when she talked about
Dressing her son for the funeral—
Her hands moved hesitantly
In their grim remembrance of that day.
And in that instance,
I saw, not an old woman,
But memory’s ghost: A young mother
Standing at the edge of a bed
Where a child lay bathed in lemon water
And slanted winter light,Brushing the boy’s hair for the last time.
Tom Darin Liskey spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. His fiction and non fiction have appeared in the Crime Factory, and Driftwood Press. His photographs have been published in Hobo Camp Review, Roadside Fiction, Blue Hour Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal and Midwestern Gothic.
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