A Marriage

“Why do you always run off to the shower after we make love?” This could be the man or the woman asking. On this particular night, it is the woman.

The man, her husband, slides back into bed beside his wife’s naked body, reaches over, kisses her lightly on the lips. She resists his kiss.

He withdraws to a few inches from her face. “You know you can join me in the shower. It’s not like there’s not enough room.” The best defense is a good offense.

He’s not ready to give up on that kiss. He tries again for her lips.

She is having none of his attempts at getting on her good side. “All I want is to be close,” she says, moving her lips away from his.

“I’m trying to be close now.” He catches her cheek with his kiss.

She pushes him away. “It isn’t the same. After we have sex, all you do is run away.” Slipping over to her edge of the bed, she gives him her back, then pulls the sheet tight around her, making it into a cocoon.

He drops off to his side of the bed. “But … Lenore,” he protests.

“Why do you choose to call me that?” she tosses over her shoulder at him. “You know I don’t like it, Sam.”

“What do you mean? Call you what?” he speaks to her back.

“Lenore,” she says the name as if it is a curse.

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Of course it’s her name.

“It’s what my mother calls me. But I’m Nora and you most definitely know that.” Of course he knows it. He has called her Nora a thousand times and more. Her back is now a wall and she’s not allowing any climbing over it. Not for this night anyway.

”I like Lenore. It has such a romance to it. Just like you.”

Silence. Not a sound coming from behind that wall.

After several minutes of waiting for a truce and a goodnight kiss, he reaches over and switches off the bedside light, sighs and slides deeper into the bed. He lies on his back and studies the shadows spreading out across the room as the night grows deeper.

A sob escapes through a crack in that impenetrable wall lying next to him. His wife is crying, pouring herself into her pillow. He reaches over to offer her a tender, comforting touch.

She moves away from his hand and rolls over and faces him. “My name is Nora. And just why do you always feel the need to wash me off after we have sex? Guess you can’t stand the smell of me, the taste of me, the touch of me on your skin. Bet you can’t even stand the sound of me.”

He starts to protest but holds it in.

“Next thing I know you won’t even be able to stand the sight of me.” Shoving the covers off, she jumps out of bed, grabs her robe, heads for the door. Takes one last look at the man in her bed. “Ever since Candace went away to college,” she says, changing the subject but not really. She throws the robe on and heads off down the hall.

He calls after her. “Candace doesn’t like Candace for a name, you know.” Their daughter likes to be called Dash.

“That’s her name, Sam-u-el,” she cries out into the night. She’s Candace’s mother and she can call her daughter any damned name she wants. Why doesn’t he understand that?

“And Lenore is yours,” he wants to yell back but doesn’t. She is the woman he loves, has always loved, and he knows that this is not a good time to call out “Lenore”.

He moves over onto his side and faces the wall, pulls the sheet closer around his body. He hates these dark, restless nights when nothing seems to go right. When everything he tries is wrong.

He waits in the dark and hopes. What is he hoping for? That she’ll come back to bed? That he can somehow show her that he didn’t mean for the night to turn out the way it has? Maybe that, after twenty years of marriage, things can change? That he can change? He keeps hoping but he knows. This will not be the night.

It’s one thirty and he has to get up in the morning for work. But he’s not going to get any sleep. Not till Lenore comes back to bed, and they make up.

Why does he keep calling her Lenore? he wonders in his sleeplessness. He knows how much she hates it. It’s only at times like these when he drops his guard that she she is no longer an average, everyday Nora. She is the Lenore of his best dreams and he is recalling their honeymoon in that long-ago before twenty years wore down their marriage.

He glances over at the clock on his nightstand once again. It’s two and she’s not coming back. He slips out of bed, pulls on this pajama bottoms and a robe.

Downstairs and out on the patio, she hears him slide the glass door open behind her. “I’m not mad,” she says to nobody in particular. “It’s just that, well I’m not mad.” This time she’s speaking to her husband.

There she goes. Making peace. Why does she always do that? he wonders. “I was a jerk,” he says, looking at the back of her neck. The moon throws its light across the room, and he can’t ever remember seeing anything so beautiful.

“No, you were just being you.” Her voice is soft and lonely. Then she thinks, “There I go again, making peace. Why do I always do that?”

He doesn’t know what else to say or do so he waits.

She looks over her shoulder and up into his face. His eyes gaze at her the way he did that first night oh-so-many-years-before on the the beach where they first fell in love. Her hand reaches out for his, takes it, draws him to her side on the bench. “I love this house,” she says.

“It has been a good house.” He sits down next to her.

“I wasn’t sure it was the one for us.” She leans her head on his shoulder.

“I didn’t know that.” He squeezes her hand with all the affection that comes from years of loving and arguing and making up and arguing and making up some more. “I wasn’t that positive myself.”

She squeezes back. Her head feels the strength of the shoulder she has always known that she can lean on no matter what. No matter what. She then takes her head off his shoulder and looks up at the sky. “That sure is a pretty moon.”

“We didn’t think we’d we be here that long.”

“And, my god, the mortgage.” She laughs.

“We’d never owed that much money to anybody. But Dash loved it.”

“We thought we were buying the moon. Five years old and Candace knew it was for us.”

“Why do you keep on calling her Candace?” he whispers. “You know how much she hates it.”

“Why do you insist on calling me Lenore?” she whispers back. “It spoils everything.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says, unsure how to tell her all that her name means to him.

“I can see we got what we paid for.” She is back thinking about the house.

“It was a good price.”

She points toward the sky. “We got that moon too, and it is much better than the one we thought we were buying.” She looks at it for several minutes. “You think that Brett and Dash will last as long as we have?”

“I hope so. He seems to love her but not as much as I loved you then, Nora.” He kisses Lenore, not a soft easy kiss, not a deep passionate kiss, but a kiss that makes up for everything. And she kisses him. Then he whispers, “And still love you.”

She stands, reaches for his hand, and they go inside.

On the way up the stairs, he says, ”If you let me call you Lenore every-once-in-a-while, I promise not to run off to the shower after we make love.”

“Only when we’re alone,” she says from the stair above him.

He nods yes, and they are back in bed and soon asleep.

Forgiveness fills the house as it has so many times before and they continue their married life together. At least for one more day.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

“It’s just the wind”

“It’s just me, the wind,” the wind howled, trying to calm our fears. It was not working. No, the bewitching lie of that West Texas wind was not working on my ten-year-old brother and me. Ralph and I buried our heads under the bed sheets, shivered in our pajamas and hugged each other. We were barely breathing, trying to keep that wind from finding us all alone in the house.

“Th-th-that wind d-d-d-don’t like us, do it?” Ralph said. There was a hope in his quiet, chattering voice that I would contradict him. But I knew that he was right. That Old Devil Wind was outside, circling our house and hankering to come at us inside. I swallowed hard and there was nothing to swallow. My throat was dry.

Just then my brother surprised me. He buckled up his courage, wrestled himself free from my hold and threw the covers off us to face the dark. Sitting bolt upright in the bed, he said to the wind, “You’d better leave us alone, or we’ll tell our Daddy.”

Still the wind howled. But its words changed, “I ain’t none too scared of your daddy, but he should be scared of me,” it laughed. It was not anything near a human laugh. More like a banshee screeching at us.

I sure wished my Daddy was home to prove it wrong. He would prove it wrong. At least, I could hope. Mother and Daddy had gone out to a party for the evening and wouldn’t be back until past midnight.

Ralph ducked back under the sheets and pulled them completely over us. He scrunched up beside me and grabbed a tight hold of my twelve-year-old body. I wrangled myself free. The wind’s screech turned into a wail. A tree branch clack-clack-clacked against the bedroom windowpane. I reached for my brother and we held each other close. I felt him shiver; he felt me shiver. The smell of his sweat filled the bed. His strategy had not worked and now the wind knew where we were. It smelled our fear. It was coming, and it was coming for us. It was just a matter of time.

“Do you have to sweat so much?” I asked. “That Old Devil Wind is going to smell you. It’ll know exactly where we’re at. We’re going to be goners. It’s going to eat us alive.”

“I can’t help it. I’m scared and I sweat when I’m scared. That thing out there scares me. ‘Sides you’re sweating too. More’n me actually.”

I hadn’t realized. My pajamas were soaking wet with sweat.

Everything went quiet. The house. The tree branch. The wind. Nary a sound, not even a whimper. No wind wailing at us. Just a dead silence, the kind of silence you hear in a cemetery in that evening twilight after everybody has departed from their loved ones’ gravesites and before the spooks come out to go on their nightly haunting. Seemed as if the wind had left us in peace, and maybe, just a big maybe, headed out across the West Texas plain that reached out and shook hands with the sky.

“You think?” Ralph whispered into my ear.

“Shhhh.” I was taking no chances. Could be that Old Devil Wind was lying outside in the grass like the snake it was, waiting till a cloud slipped over the full moon and dowsed its bright light. In the darkness, it would strike. “Boo!” It would be out again and on the hunt for my brother and me. We couldn’t drop our guard. We had to keep scared. That wind loved to eat brave boys. At least that was what one of my friends at school had said. Said he knew a boy that stood up to the wind. Rumor was that his scream from the wind’s bite could be heard across three counties.

I whispered back to Ralph, “It’s just waiting on the moon to slide behind one of them clouds. That’s cause the moon and the wind ain’t friends and it ain’t coming out till the moon has disappeared. You know that, don’t you?”

“No, I never heard.”

“Oh, it’s true,” I said, trying to keep my mind off the thing that scared me most. “Those two, the moon and the wind, they don’t get along at all. ‘Least that’s what Daddy says. And he ought to know. He’s had dealings with the moon.”

But it was quiet and, after a while, we were feeling a little safe, relaxing our grips on each other.

“Look,” I said in my quietest voice, “and see if it’s gone.”

“I’m not about to look. What if he catches me looking?”

“He won’t ’cause he’s gone.”

“If you’re so sure, you look.”

“Aw c’mon. Be brave.”

“You be brave. You’re the older one. Mom says you’re supposed to watch out for me. I’m just a dumb little kid. I’m allowed to be scared. So you be brave and look.”

Well, it was quiet. Seemed like it was safe enough to slip the covers from over my head and down to my neck. Couldn’t hurt anything. My head peaked out from the bed. The moon filled the window. The shadows grew longer and longer as the moonlight reached across the room and shone in my eyes.

“I got to go pee,” Ralph said, throwing the bedding off of the two of us.

I grabbed his hand. “Are you crazy? He’s probably waiting to ambush us like some outlaw gang when he catches us by ourselves. You stay here, y’hear me?”

“But I can’t wait. I got to go.”

I choked back my fear. Maybe it would be all right. We hadn’t heard from Old Devil for quite some time. Maybe it was in Amarillo by now and wouldn’t be back. I released my brother’s hand.

“Well, go,” I said. “But you get back here in a hurry, y’hear? Before you-know-who…before it’s back and at us again. And leave the lights off so it won’t know you’re up.”

Ralph jumped out of the bed and lunged for the hall. The moonlight was fading, a cloud passing across the sky. A shadow crossed my face. Then the room was dark, then chilly. It seemed like a good idea to go all the way back under the covers to warm up.

The wind rose from the grass, then whistled its way across the field and toward our house. Under the sheets, I heard that hunter coming for its prey and prayed that my brother might make it back to the bedroom before the wind go to us. Maybe together we could fight it off. Alone there was no hope for Ralph or me against the beast.

I thought about giving a yell out to warn Ralph. But he could hear the wind and would hurry back to the bed as fast as he could.

The whistle outside grew stronger and transformed itself into an even scarier howl than before. The tree branch tap-tap-tapped against the window. The howl became a banshee scream just the other side of the window. The branch kwak-kwak-kwak, and it broke the glass. The wind was inside our bedroom and slammming the door to the hall shut. Every board in the body of the house creaked under its weight.

Under the covers and shaking, I heard Ralph from the hallway. He turned the doorknob and pushed at the door. “Let me in,” he said. Let me in.”

The demon of a wind laughed, knowing it had me trapped.

“Let me in, Door. Please. Let me in,” Ralph said, struggling with the door.

The banshee was coming for me. I could feel its cold breath and it was turning frosty under the sheets. If I didn’t move, maybe.

“I’ve got you,” the wind’s words seeped into the bed.

But it was not talking to me. It was talking to the door. It was threatening Ralph. It was readying itself to let him fling the door open and rush into its arms. Then that would be the end of my brother.

“No,” I said and threw the bedding off my body. “You leave my brother alone, y’hear me?” I jumped out of bed and made for the door. I grabbed the knob, turned it and jerked the door open. Suddenly the wind was gone.

“Dad?” I said.

My father’s silhouette stood behind Ralph in the dark hall. I hugged Daddy’s waist as tight as I could.

“What’s the matter, boys?”

“The wind, Daddy,” I said, relief surging through my body. “The wind was coming for us.”

“Ah, the wind.” He looked down at me and, even in the darkness, I could feel reassurance in his voice. His fatherly smell of Brut Aftershave calmed my nerves that had been all shot up with fear from that Old Devil Wind. “Where is it now? I don’t hear it. Do you, guys?”
I had to agree that my Daddy was right as he usually was when it came to things that go bump in the night. “No,” both Ralph and I said.

He took my brother and me by the arms. He ushered us back into our bedroom, still dark from the lack of moonlight. “Get back into bed.”

Ralph and I did as we were told. Tucked into bed and under the sheets, I looked up at my father standing at the end of the bed. Though I could not see it, I could feel his smile. I knew that there was no wind in the world that could challenge that smile.

“Haven’t I told you boys not to be afraid of El Diablo. It can’t hurt you. That is unless you let it scare the fear into you. James, when you suspected your brother was in danger, you stared it down face to face. You wouldn’t let it bully you. Now, look. It’s gone, and it will stay gone as long as you don’t let it get at you.”

Daddy reached down and mussed my hair, then Ralph’s. Then he said, “We’ll repair that window tomorrow.” He walked out into the hall.

“Is everything all right, Alan?” I heard my mother’s soprano ask my father.

“No need to worry about our boys. They’re brave boys.”

Their steps receded down the hallway and outside onto the back porch. Safe in my bed, my brother already dozing, I looked through the broken windowpane and saw the moon peak out from behind the clouds. My mother and my daddy gazed up at it. Then my parents, two werewolves, raised their heads toward the sky and bayed their love song for that moon.

Nuptials

Inspire by Psalm 19.

Each dusk Moon appears,
a bride dressed in light.
Stars carry her train.

She walks in radiance
the aisle from evening
toward the dawn

and the altar of morning
to meet Sun, her groom.
Along her journey she smiles

upon Earth and her children.
And Earth returns her smile.
Flowers bend her way.

Trees raise their limbs,
toasting her generosity.
A rabbit gazes

awestruck by her beauty.
And a couple
strolls along the Seine,

bathed in her blessing.

micropoem for the day: night skies

I woke up this morning thinking about night skies. How they spread out before us and give us a sense of wonder. Now that brings a large hmmm to my mind. I am not one of those people who go out and spend a lot of time out in the open looking, and perhaps studying, the night sky. But maybe I will start. Like the old fellow said, “It’s never too late.” And his wife said, “Better late than never.”

blue moons, harvest moons,
full moons and moon pies,
a moon for every season