Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs

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 eleven of the story. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for links to previous parts.  I hope to post a little each week. Enjoy!

Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs

Oliver called hospice the next day. The nurses came and went like ghosts—helping Justine with pain management and soothing the rest of them with knowing words. Amy was shocked at the sudden deterioration in her friend. She brought a bag of clothes and moved them in to a spare bedroom. Just for now, she told Oliver, who simply hugged her. He moved a cot into the living room for her after finding her on the couch nearest Justine that first morning.

Moments of lucidity were scarce and Amy grieved quietly the loss. Most often, Justine mistook Amy for her daughter, which Amy found unsettling.
“I love you, Marylynne,” she said one day. She gripped Amy’s hand with untold strength and stared fiercely into her eyes. “Don’t you ever forget that, Ok?”
Amy stared into those milky eyes and felt her insides melt like sugar in water.
“I love you too, mama,” she said.
She knew it was right by the peace that settled over Justine’s face. She lifted her hand and smoothed the old woman’s hair back from her brow.
“I love you so much.”
 She continued to read the poems to Justine’s limp figure. And though it seemed a pointless task, Amy noticed that during the reading, her friend slept less restlessly. Amy whispered the words deep into the night, grateful for the way they calmed her too.
Alice was another story. The girl had taken on insomnia, and often Amy would wake up in the wee hours to find her standing over her grandmother, still and watching.  She said nothing to her at first, knowing the way fear can gnaw away at the insides. Alice’s world was about to change.
Amy awoke one night to the sound of muffled sobs. She found Alice on the couch, a crumpled ball of a girl.
The sniffing slowed to a drip.
“Alice, honey?”
The girl padded over to Amy’s cot. Amy said nothing, just lifted the blanket and let her climb on in. She wrapped herself around that bundle of sad, willing her arms to be strength enough for them both.  She slept better than she had for days and she thought Alice did too. In the morning, she was aware of a shadow standing over them. She opened her eyes to Oliver’s. His were soft from looking at his daughter in sleep but she saw something else there too. Was it…fear? Grief? Maybe both she decided.
“You okay?”
She nodded.
“Call me if you need me, ok?”
She nodded again. He turned to leave but stopped. Slowly he turned back around, kneeled beside the cot and kissed Alice’s forehead. Then he searched out Amy’s hand under the covers and lifted it to his lips too.  His eyes were glistening and he spoke without looking at her.
“These are your best parts, Amy. These pieces of you…you were right, that first time we met. Can’t put this on a resume. For what you give…I am so grateful.”
The last was said in a whisper. And then he was gone. Amy lifted her hand to her nose. It smelled of him. She slowly inhaled and fell back to sleep with his daughter breathing soft beside her.

Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part I
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part II 
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part III
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part IV
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part V
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part VI
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part VII
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part VIII
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part IX
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs, Part X


  1. says

    “These are your best parts, Amy. These pieces of you…you were right, that first time we met. Can’t put this on a resume. For what you give…I am so grateful.”

    Loved that.

    And I read through these today, in a row, and they are… wow. Yup, you’ve got a new genre. It’s wonderful. So unique. So intimate.

    The way reading feels: you’ve captured it by folding it into these stories. It’s the most terrific layered experience. (Especially for those of us who’ve read ‘Neruda’s Memoirs’! 🙂

  2. says

    Hospice is such a gift. My mom wasn’t on it for long (too stubborn to admit the Lord wasn’t going to rescue her yet again), but those people were quiet and still and gentle in our storm.

  3. says

    Can you put all of these into an ebook and offer it on your site? I haven’t been able to keep up with this story and I’d love to read it in one setting. 🙂

  4. says

    Laura, This has been the most wonderful serial to read = thank you so much for dreaming/designing such a creative, thoughtful, endearing story to tell. Just lovely in every way. Sweet, tender, sad, joyful, full of promise and word perfect. What a gift – in every single sense of that wonderful word.

  5. says

    The sad little girl, Amy on her cot, Oliver’s rising humility….and Justine, slowly giving way.

    I can see this. Smell it. Hear it.

    And certainly feel it.

    Thank you for sharing your tremendous gift.

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