Umber (77)

November 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Not knowing what else to do with them, I bundled the remaining photos from Vera’s life into a large shoebox and put them in the attic.

Weeks later, I was sitting at my desk, looking out the window at ice encasing bare chokecherry branches.  I opened my sketchbook, and a photo fluttered from its pages and fell directly onto my lap.  It was one I’d never seen before, but I recognized the faces.

Sebastian sat at a table at an outdoor cafe, writing and smoking a cigarette.  Miss Brigid and a woman who looked just like her were eating gelato, and Oleander was holding some of it out to Silvertip, who lapped it up with his floppy tongue.  Father Hoolihan wore not a priest’s cassock but a tweed suit.  He was feeding a flock of pigeons that had gathered around his feet.  He held a small laughing boy who looked just like Vera.  Alice was studying a French menu.  Vera sat in the middle of them all, sketching a bowl of apricots.

I wasn’t sure if they would still talk to me, but I said, “I’m happy for you, Vera.”

Apparently she couldn’t hear me.  None of them could, except for Sebastian, who stopped writing, looked up at me and said, “Thank you for working a miracle, Miss Marla.”

“Oh,” I blushed, “I didn’t do much–Oleander did the hard part.”  I pointed to Vera and the others.  “It looks like they’re happy.  You’re in Picardy, then?”

“Oui, Madame.”  He tipped his hat and smiled at me.

“Whatever happened to Leroy?”

“July Benbow whipped him into shape.  He had a long and undistinguished career as a furniture maker.  He gave up drinking and gambling.  In his way, he was happy.”

“Well,” I said, “I hope you’ll remember me when it’s my time to–you know–pass on…”

Saint Sebastian laughed.  “It’ll be a good while before that happens, dear lady.”  And that was the last thing he said.

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