Katrina woke to a typical Tuesday morning. She fed Sebastian and made her first cup of coffee. She downed that before retrieving her books and journal from her bedside table and brewed another cup.
She jotted a writing prompt into her journal, an idea she left to skulk around in her mind and sneak up on her while she was living life somewhere else. She gleaned wisdom from a book of quotations, copied one, and scribbled notes for a blog entry. But, when she opened Monroe’s poetry book and reread “The Sugar Maple,” something about
…a certain falling
from sudden gales
or gradual gusts
when leaves will plummet…
stopped her mid-thought. The inevitableness of change settled on her, shifted her into restlessness. She slapped the covers together, capturing her bookmark in place. Setting down her book pile, she headed to the bathroom to resume routine. Sebastian pattered after her so he could stick his pink tongue under the shower curtain and paw at the droplets falling on her toes.
Once she was ready, she shouldered her satchel and bade Sebastian farewell. She started her usual route to the coffeehouse, but detoured along the riverfront instead. The crisp air wisped through her threadbare sweatshirt and nearly knee-less jeans. The pencil holding her damp, sloppy hair-bun slipped, so she gave it a hard twist. It cracked. Sighing, she untangled the halves from her strawberry blond coif. The wind could blow her hair dry.
She neared the Mill Street Museum, shielded her eyes to momentarily gaze up at the Flour Tower rising from the Mill’s charred remains, and turned toward the Stone Arch Bridge. Leaning on the railing and closing her eyes, she listened to the roaring St. Anthony Falls. The word plummeting from Monroe’s poem came to mind. Yet, she stood on this pavement over aged stones, this landmark bridge from the days of railroad mogul James J. Hill. “Hill’s Folly,” it had been dubbed. That is, until it connected the commerce of Mississippi’s east and west banks. She wondered, as a line of bikers rode past her, what the man, who said “When we are all dead and gone, the sun will still shine, the rain will fall, and this railroad will run as usual,” would remark about his bridge now being used as a pedestrian and bike path.
When she arrived at the local coffeehouse on Washington Avenue, Fabian was at the counter as usual. He must have seen her coming because he had her coffee poured and steaming on the counter. She flipped her pre-paid card at him, and he caught it mid-air.
“Missed you yesterday.” He scanned her card and shoved it across the counter for her to pocket.
“I had a meeting at the nursing home, so I decided to write at home.”
“Well, I had to give your coffee away. How’s your great-aunt?”
“So far so good.”
“Glad to hear it. Couldn’t have been easy.”
“No, but it was the right decision.”
“Sure. I’ll let you get to work.”
She air-toasted him with her cup and found her usual place by the fireplace. Opening her laptop, she decided, Better to start with the prompt, get my poetic juices going, and then blog. But she left the computer screen locked.
Instead, she watched the passersby on Washington Avenue. She rarely envied them. They always seemed hurried and stressed about getting from here to there. She enjoyed the freedom gained by her inheritance from Uncle Rainor. It was the only way she could be a poet full-time. When she lived with Aunt Minnie and Uncle Rainor, poetry became part of her recovery. Her therapist said it would help her process the recurring dream, too.
“Will it help me remember not just the accident, but what happened before the accident?” she had asked.
“It might. But, not if you force it. Just write about what comes to you.”
“Why do I remember some things and not others? I know I am only getting bits and pieces of my life before the accident. Why not the whole thing?”
“Probably it is because all your mind can handle is the bits and pieces. If it all came flooding back to you at once, you may have a relapse.”
“You mean, I might be go into another coma?”
“Not exactly. You could have a nervous breakdown or harm yourself. It’s best to take it slow.”
“But, if there is something I am supposed to be doing…”
“All you need to be doing right now is focus on getting better.”
How long have I been working on getting better? Is it seven or eight years now? Knowing no one outside the window knew the answers locked inside her, she turned back to her computer, entered her password, and began writing.
Around eleven-thirty, she bought a spinach and feta croissant and asked Fabian for a refill. Then she logged into her poetry course portal. Although she enjoyed going to public readings, Katrina preferred the online courses to the in-person ones. She entered the course on her own time, never concerning herself about appearances and remaining mostly anonymous. The other thing she loved about the online courses was the ability to meet people from other states and countries. She commented on her Boston classmate’s poignant imagery of the North Church, the Liberty Bell, and the Boston Harbor as viewed from the poet’s personal history. She suggested, Keep us on the cobblestones, when the Bostonian made a leap beyond the regional, historical, or personal themes. Her instructor from Portland, Oregon formatted the course around the ordinary being extraordinary. Several of the instructor’s examples included clouds, rain, and the color gray. But, in each, Katrina noted the deep, delicate balance between the benign and the beautiful.
She wasn’t looking forward to the course ending, especially as she enjoyed the book recommendations. The Linna Monroe book especially resonated with her. A reminder about early-bird registration for winter classes flashed across the portal screen, so she decided to check the course offerings. Excitement made her jump in her chair. A whole online course featuring Linna Monroe’s poetry was being offered in January. She whipped out her credit card and registered.
With a satisfied sigh and smile, she gazed out at the bustling street again. Monroe’s poem flitted into her mind:
then rustle over roads
press against windows
gather in raked heaps
or succumb to decay.
Her own words came to her then. She opened her word-processing program and added a new text document.
Standing on stony arches
I want to be locked in
only a drip or two
Life’s dam ayfgiaugu
A sudden sound—a high-pitched screech—caused her fingers to leap and land hard on the keyboard. Annoyed, she looked up. A mother and two boys had entered the coffeehouse. The mother—her eyes smudged with dark circles underneath but crinkled with laugh-lines at the corners—asked her boys what they wanted. The youngest announced he wanted hot chocolate. The other child, who appeared to be older, studied the ceiling fan.
“Philip? Philip, look at me.” She gently pulled his chin toward her. His taut neck seemed to battle, longing to obey the nurturing hand and yet resisting along with eyes that darted from about-face to corners. Eventually, both chose an awkward angle, giving him an almost suspicious countenance. He reminded Katrina of a circuit breaker, one that might simply light up a room or another that could surge and sap energy for days. Her own body tensed as the mother asked again for his order.
“All right. One hot chocolate, one cold chocolate milk, and one dark roast. All small, please.”
The boy resumed staring at the ceiling fan, rotating his head as far as possible to match its rhythm.
“No school today?” asked Fabian, filling the milk glass even as he glanced sidelong at the kid who towered over his average height by four inches.
“We home school. So, basically, school is every day.”
“Right. Well, enjoy.” He shelved the drinks though he was close enough to hand them over to her.
“We will.” Her voice remained pleasant, but Katrina noticed the feigned smile as the three made their way to a nearby table.
Curious, Katrina kept her eyes focused on her screen, but tuned her ear to the mother’s paper shuffling and the crackles of opening book bindings. After explaining a reading assignment to the younger boy, the mother turned her attention to Philip and his math lesson. Philip was still distracted, but Katrina overheard moments of clarity that proved his knowledge. At one point, he made a mistake and Katrina jolted as he banged his head with his hand. His mother gently took it, told him to stop, and continued the lesson. The younger boy, long ago finished with the reading assignment, had moved onto his own math assignment. Katrina heard the heavy thunk of a science text, too, as Philip struggled over the same math problem. The younger brother rustled a handwriting sheet from his backpack just as the mother looked at her watch and said they had to leave.
“We’ll finish the rest of your math later, Philip. Thank you for working quietly, Zack. You both did a great job. Let’s go get Maddie from her lesson.”
They made their way out to Washington and toward the music school. Zack skipped ahead as Philip held tight to his mother’s purse handle.
Into my panes
glows a child’s cheeks at play
blows tree petals as kisses
tinting my view with promise.
Katrina mentally stowed away Monroe’s words as she gathered her own books and laptop into her satchel, then entered the throng on the street.
When she arrived back at her apartment around one o’clock, Sebastian, unmoving, purred from his perch on the bookshelf. She walked to the kitchen, touched the blinking button on the answering machine.
She recognized the resonate voice—its deep warmth loosening the ligaments in her knees—but not the name until he said it.
“It’s Aric Hammond from The Refuge. Your aunt Minnie has gone missing. We are doing our best to locate her through the local police. If you would please come…”
She grabbed her purse and ran for the door before she heard the rest of Aric’s message.