Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Tapping At The Window
a short story
by Virginia K. Bergman

The Southbridge Apartment complex encloses a sterile courtyard bereft of any sign of nature. From my window, I see only a small section of sky above the rooftop across from me. My neighbors and I face opposite buildings and for privacy, we keep our blinds partially closed.
It’s Sunday, and I debate splurging on gas for a trip to Brownsville where my children grew up. Sentiment wins. Beneath an open sky, fields and forests beckon. Leaving Chicago behind, I exit the freeway and head down a two-lane road. It’s early fall. A few trees aflame with reds and yellows are still outnumbered by their companions, lush and green from plentiful rainfall throughout the spring and summer.
Today, the weather is clear and due to cataracts developing in both eyes, I’m blinded by the bright light. I miss my turn a couple of times, and the needle on my gas gauge creeps south. I’m in no hurry, though, and when one driver after another tailgates me, I pull over and let them pass - far be it from me to cause someone to miss his or her soap opera.
Down the road apiece, signals from my bladder grow urgent, but no golden arches punctuate the rural landscape. The sign up ahead reads: “Henderson – 15 miles,” and I floor the gas pedal. Minutes later, I spot a Subway Restaurant in this larger town a short distance from Brownsville. I run inside and dash for the restroom. Back at the counter, I part with a couple dollars for cookies and lemonade. Resting arthritic knees, I sit near the window to enjoy my mid-afternoon treat, but I can’t tune out the voices of the middle-aged couple in the next booth:
“So that old fossil called you in and told you it was all over?” she said.
“Yeah,” he replied, “Harley laid me off. It’s that Great Recession they’ve been talkin’ about on TV.”
“Didn’t that panel of experts just say the recession was over?”
“So, what’ll we do now?”
“I’ll start looking right away; we’ve got a little money saved.”
“That won’t last long. I’ll see if I can get a few more hours at WalMart – they’re not hurtin.’”
My eyes mist over as I pass the couple on my way out to my car.

County Road 15 from Henderson merges with Brownsville’s Main Street. I turn right on Walnut, and there it is. Our former home looks just like it did nearly 30 years ago. I circle the block and go down the alley past the backyard where a few perennials still bloom, and the black Maple tree radiates its mystical aura.
I fell in love with the dazzling white house the first time I saw it. Its features include a bay window in the living room; an open stairway setting off the dining room; and a sun porch that brings the outdoors indoors. The east windows face a small grove of pine trees screening the view from the neighbors. The three-bedroom house easily accommodated my late husband George and me and our two children.
George worked as a TV technician back then, and I clerked at the drugstore. Shortly after our younger child graduated in 1979, the Savings and Loan crisis struck. First National folded, forcing several local business places, including the TV repair shop and the drugstore, to close their doors. Out of work, George and I took a loss on the house and moved to Chicago.
Circling the block again, I flashback to rolling out pizza dough as George and the kids scrounge up pepperoni, onions, and mushrooms. Saturday nights, we ate in the living room while watching All in the Family and the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Weekday evenings, we slurped chocolate sundaes or munched popcorn while catching the news and an occasional variety show. When the kids trudged off to their rooms to do their homework, George and I sometimes turned off the TV and enjoyed a game of cribbage.
The late afternoon sun is still bright when I head back to the city; I fear missing my exit again and winding up in fender-bumping downtown Chicago. I finally pull into the Southbridge parking lot. Upstairs in my apartment, I microwave a frozen dinner – living alone, I’ve nearly forgotten how to cook. I eat my macaroni and cheese while gazing at a family portrait taken a few years ago when George was still with us. 
Then comes a tapping at the window. A snatch of gray. Wings flutter to stay aloft. Our windows lack outer ledges, and the gray dove hovers in mid-air like a hummingbird. It taps its beak once more before soaring over the rooftop of the opposite building. Roused from the past, I make a cup of honey-flavored chamomile tea, settle into my favorite chair, and resume knitting an afghan for that homeless shelter down the street.

No comments:

Post a Comment