I started this little story as I waited for Maureen Doallas’s Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems. I had been so looking forward to the release of the book, had ordered it the second I heard it was available–and then was frustrated by what seemed like a terribly long delivery (it was only a few days, but felt much longer). It was very windy that week–I watched religiously for the mailman each day amidst flying little bits of this world–leaves, papers, my neighbor’s flag. As I waited, I entertained myself with the story of Amy Pinkleberry–a young divorcee who struggles with depression. Amy’s depression is characterized by auditory hallucinations–destructive voices that prevent her from finding the happiness she so longs for. Only one thing stops the voices…
This is part three of the story. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for links to Part I and Part II. I hope to post a little each week. Enjoy!
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs
The gate was open. Just a little.
Even the watchers were scared into silence as Amy gingerly pushed the big iron structure open just enough so she could squeeze through. Once inside, however, she was seized with sudden uncertainty. The house was not as large as she’d expected. It was only one story, for starters–a pale brick that seemed to wind around the property. The landscaping was immaculate. There was a ramp that curved around from the side of the house.
She looked up and waited for the watchers to tell her what to do. The wind had died down, leaving a gentle breeze that tickled her skin. Not a cloud in the sky and the words tumbled about in her head–
A sky dyed
deep in indigo…
She needed that book.
Sighing heavily, Amy marched forward. She climbed the steps determinedly, but before she could put finger to bell, the door opened.
“Oh, good, you’re here. Follow me.”
The girl couldn’t have been more than ten years old. Her heart-shaped face and blonde ringlets were shockingly cute. But right now she was moving quickly and there seemed some sense of urgency. Amy ducked through the door and followed the girl, quickening her pace to match.
“She’s been sleeping in the Great Room for a couple weeks now. It was the only place we could fit the hospital bed. It’s worked out good, though, there’s a full bath right close and here she has all her books she loves.”
As she talked, they entered a large, circular room. The ceiling arched up into a glass dome and sunlight cascaded down, coloring everything in golden hues. The circular walls were ensconced with shelves and Amy felt dizzy as she turned in place to take in all the books. She recognized this giddy, lifting feeling. This was how she had felt the first time she visited the library as a girl. Paradise.
Her gaze circled round until it landed on a peculiar sight. At the far arc was a hospital bed and in the bed was a very small, very old, very angry woman. Her white hair was carefully coiffed and lipstick amply applied. She sat bolt upright, arms crossed and steely eyes fixed defiantly on Amy.
Amy was bemused. Just then she noticed the small red and black book on a table beside the hospital bed. She could only just make out the sensuous colors of Randall David Tipton’s The Assumption of the Virgin in the middle of the cover. Without thinking, she moved forward.
“Granny, this is your new nurse,” the little girl was saying. “Now you be nice to her! Dad had a lot of trouble convincing the company to send another…”
The elderly woman was watching Amy approach. Say something, the watchers said, but she couldn’t seem to form the words. She had her eye on that book and that was all that mattered. She had found it. It was hers. She would take it and go home. It was that simple.
Say something, the watchers repeated.
“I’m sorry, but you are mistaken,” she nodded at the little girl and offered a quivering smile to the old woman. “I live up the street and just came to collect my book. It seems it was delivered here by mistake.”
She reached out a shaky hand to pluck the book from the table.
But the old woman beat her to it. Before Amy knew what had happened, skinny fingers had grabbed Neruda’s Memoirs right out from under hers.
Amy looked up in disbelief. The old woman had the book pressed to her emaciated chest, holding it in both hands like a prayer. The scowl on her face had disappeared and there was fear in her eyes. Amy watched as she struggled for composure.
“I—I…well, you must be Amelia.”
She gave Amy a watery smile. The way the woman said her given name awoke a memory deep inside Amy’s body and she felt herself responding physically to this frail creature. She began to relax.
“My name is Justine,” the woman smiled again. “I fear I owe you an apology…Alice opened the package by mistake and before we could return the book to you, I sort of…well, I fell right into it.”
She laughed nervously and glanced at Amy.
“Yes, yes, I understand. Maureen Doallas writes beautifully, doesn’t she? Now if you don’t mind…”
Amy reached out her hand to receive the book.
But Justine continued to clutch those bound pages and her eyes filled with tears.
“It’s just that…” she lowered her voice and locked eyes with Amy. “These words are the only thing that makes the pain stop.”
This sudden admission took Amy aback, but before she could respond, a voice boomed down the hall.
“What is the gate doing open? Alice, how many times do I have to tell you to make sure it latches when…”
He stopped speaking when he saw Amy. Amy felt her knees grow weak as his eyes burned into her.
“Miss Pinkleberry,” he said. “What are you doing here?”
She thought she would never see him again and shame burned her cheeks as she remembered their last encounter. The bank manager she had fled from last week was her neighbor..