‘Meeting Morris’ by Laura Wang Arseneau

From the bakery, I walk down Bagot St toward the smell of the lake. I bought one bagel to share. It is still warm in the paper bag. I asked for butter so it seeps, grease staining brown paper dark. You will not mind.

I walk my bike right at corner

BANG!

It hits a post of steel, bolted down to concrete.

I upright the bike and carry on.

Across the way rattle wheels of a walker, a moving cage for a Mister; a shuffling old man, moving slow, head down.

Passing by black iron fences the front yard of a mansion.

Maple tree denuded of maple keys.

Leaves yellow veined, and fresh blood red, scuttle over and around an overturned urn, empty on the walkway.

All the pretty flowers gone.

Bark.

Gateway opening, closing.

Child’s voice.

A red wagon being wheeled over chalked, hopscotch squares, numbers smudged.

Followed by yellow dress, hop skip cartwheeling limbs and a red ribboned ponytail lassoing.

Hey, I too have a red ribbon on wheel, flap flap flap with each turn of my front bicycle tire.

I do not want to be late to meet you. So I hop on and pump pedals.

Gain speed, taxi runway, take flight.

Too soon

I reach the boardwalk and get off and wheel my bike along. It is heavy going, so off! it goes.

BANG! Wheels spinning Ferris wheel.

Now I am set free to go to our

BEACH.

No Morris. I am early. I am late. You are early. You are late.

I will wait for you just a little while longer. The planks beneath my soles are silvery, stripped down and smooth. I kick one shoe, then the other off foot

FALL.

My bare feet move one step, two steps on wind bleached boardwalk.

Step onto smooth stone.

Bend and pick stone, pocket.

Toward waves.

Break, foam, roll, repeat.

Break, foam, roll.

Plank gives over to sandy grit.

I button my sweater against wind.

Tear a milkweed pod and pocket.

Snatch a gull’s feather, caught in shrub and pocket.

I am early, so

LONG I wait for you. You will see me, here won’t you? Step off the platform. Heels sink into sand. Toes dig shovelling each step. I am looking for

FIVE, six, seven flat stones arranged in a half circle. Here it is. Eyebrow to eye of burnt out fire. I sift through charred driftwood, choose the nicest one that fits snug in the palm of my hand.

Fingers enclose.

Smudge char black markings onto my fingers.

Char

KOHL lines on my face.

I will do my makeup just how you like it Morris.

Eyes rimmed in kohl. You used to say, I like it when you put makeup

ON again off again; here there; there there, there there, don’t worry. Morris, you told me I look like Mata Hari. Dance for me? I pocket a charred stump and move with the wind. Feet spin, slip, twist too the music on the wind. I am your muse, your model, your lover, how oft.

TEN, nine, eight you remember? We promised to meet here. It is getting colder. I will leave a note. But with what?

In pocket, why this charred stump will do.

Sharp end of a blackened wood writing tool.

Big letters on silver wood.

MORRIS I WAS HERE. I write a message for you to see

HOW I kept our promise? Where were you? Where are you now?  Oh! It is getting darker.

Sun’s weak eye through clouded lids.

Time to turn back come back tomorrow is another day

TIME, night-time.

Wind at my back. Hand in pocket. Here is stone. Drop.

Here is feather, buoyed up in wind, fly away little birdie. Bye bye.

Here is milkpod with white soft inside like dog fur, opened and picked clean. Run like the wind little doggy.

Last one

In pocket charred driftwood stump in fist.

Palm and fingers black.

I keep this for you, Morris. You, artist man. You, who gestured charcoal on my body. Do you know

WHY, look here.

Someone left a bicycle, lying on the boardwalk, wheels spinning with red ribbon flapping. Beside it lies two halves of a bagel and a torn paper bag stained black.

 


LAURA WANG ARSENEAU‘s short fiction has been published in Canadian literary magazines such as The Antigonish Review, Fiddlehead, The Windsor Review, Hammer’d Out, and JoyPuke. She has been an arts writer and curator, now based in the Niagara region of Ontario.

Copyright © 2019 by Laura Wang Arseneau. All rights reserved.