Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Death and the Maiden

“There is too much confusion in my world,” thought Lila, as she wandered through her garden, checking which tomatoes were at the point of green perfection: large, firm and if left till tomorrow would start turning red. These she plucked from the tenacious vine, allowing others to continue with the ripening process. Her basket was heavy and she set it down on the step before sitting down beside it, her elbows resting on her knees, her weather-worn face in her hands.

As soon as she’d caught her breath, she figured she’d pick some summer melbas and get to work on an ovenful of pies. They said the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, and Lord knows Elmer sure doted on her green tomato and apple pies, but why did it have to take so darn long? She had been waiting for that man to pop the question for 45 years already. She didn’t know how much longer she could keep this up. If only she could somehow get him into that church, but he’d kicked over the traces of his Baptist past years ago and hadn’t set foot inside a house of worship since. Well, a civil ceremony would suit her fine, just as long as she had a ring on her finger and Elmer in her bed.

Lila sighed, feeling the ache in her arm from carrying the basket, the stiffness in her joints from the arthritis. She folded her hands in her lap and looked at them. Once she had played piano with those fingers, Elmer had complimented her on their deftness and cleverness with a needle. Now she couldn’t see to thread that needle and her fingers were gnarled, the nails ridged, and the backs covered with age spots.

“I’m not a young woman anymore,” she thought to herself. “Somehow, somewhere along the way, I got old. I’ve no husband, no children; I spent all my time waiting for Elmer, and now I’m an old woman.” She closed her eyes for a moment and let her thoughts drift, unaware as the sun moved across the sky and the wind changed direction.

Lila woke up suddenly as she was pelted with large, cold raindrops. “Oh dear, I must have fallen asleep!” she exclaimed to herself, quickly picked up the basket of green tomatoes and went through the screen door of the porch, taking off her muddy shoes and hanging her hat on a peg. The large clock in the hall said it was already late afternoon, and Elmer would be over for supper. She’d better get a roast cooking and get to work on those pies. There were still enough apples in the pantry that she didn’t need to pick more, and Elmer would likely bring her a basketful anyway.

As quickly as she could, Lila got the roast going in the oven in a large pan surrounded by new potatoes and chunks of freshly picked carrots. She just hoped there was enough time to cook it and the pies. Elmer hated to wait for his supper. Then Lila started peeling apples and slicing them, remembering that she didn’t have pie crusts made. Oh bother, that would take up more precious time! She put the sliced apples in a bowl, sprinkled lemon juice on them to keep them from browning, and got to work with flour, lard, and her rolling pin.

Suddenly she felt very weary and needed to sit down. “Just for a moment,” she thought. “The pies won’t take much more work.” She collapsed on one of the kichen chairs and put her head back.

At six o’clock on the dot Elmer drove his truck up Lila’s driveway, wearing his fedora at a jaunty angle. In his arms was a basket of apples from his endangered variety trees. He clumped up the porch steps in his favourite boots, the ones he kept so well-oiled and polished, and shouldered his way through the screen door.

“Lila,” he called “I brought you some more apples.” He set the basket down on the hall table, slightly surprised that there was no response from the mistress of the house. He smelled a roast burning and entered the kitchen where he found Lila quite cold in her chair, resigned to her fate to die a spinster and a virgin, and never to make another green tomato and apple pie for her indecisive suitor.


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