Write On!

A Sentimental Breakdown

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm

by Jennifer Gregory

In her heart it was hers and she wanted it back. The beautifully restored country home that her great grandfather had built stood up on the hill every bit the way Emma Jean had imagined it would, except it wasn’t hers. And that irked her greatly. Each day on the way to see her great grandmother at the nursing home she had to drive by the dang thing. She had spent every Easter and Christmas there. Her fat little feet had been part of the whole that made the golden oak floors worn thin down the middle of the hallway. Her feet, not Mr. and Mrs. “We Sell Pony Rides”.

That dainty little woman would be out on the new wide veranda porch watering her ferns. A white sign with neat black letters said “PONY RIDES HERE!” A pony farm! Emma Jean was sentimental and Emma Jean had wanted in every way to own that little house. Problem was the bank didn’t see fit to loan her the money and God knew there wasn’t a person in her family with over a couple thousand dollars in savings. She had tried every bank she could and she lost that little house to some pony hustler. Grandpa would roll over in his grave if he knew. It wasn’t right.

She would drive her little Honda van by each morning and each afternoon. She’d look at the new shiny white siding and the glowing little lamps that lit up an immaculate wooden porch. Ferns and rockers adorned. Mrs. Pony Ride obviously had Emma Jean’s good sense and taste. That was what made her so fighting mad. It looked exactly like she dreamed it would, was meant to look. Only someone else whose feet wore cozy little slippers and had never slid down the hallway at a run was padding around dripping coffee on the kitchen floor on her way to one of the front porch rockers that should have been Emma’s.

Sometimes she would stop at the bottom of the hill and stare at it. She could still smell the patch of honeysuckle off to the left of the back porch, hear the squeak of the screen door over the din of voices inside and out on a hot summer day. She could taste the fried fish and see the thick air of evaporating propane hover over the big pot. It would be surrounded by men in wranglers and coveralls smoking and dipping and telling stories the kids weren’t supposed to hear but did because they could hide under the latticed porch where the men couldn’t see them.

Out past the first gate was the pond where she had caught her first fish. Her grandpa had cooked it up in a pan and they had eaten it. It had been the best fish she’d ever tasted. The rough brick steps had been her spot to sit and read while her great grandma baked. It wasn’t comfortable but she could perch there and look out down the hill and see the pond and the barn and the growing corn fields.

Emma Jean would crank up her Honda, sigh and head home to her trailer where Beaux waited for his supper. Beaux was her dog and her best friend. She doted on him like she would have a husband, if she’d have had a husband. No, Emma Jean didn’t inherit the house but grandma’s hips on the other hand, were all hers. She had birthing hips but birthing hips plus some extra weight sure made it hard to find a man to have a baby with!

Five days a week Emma Jean parked her car in the gravel drive, hopped up her three wooden porch steps and opened her trailer door discontent. Five days a week she drove by that house, her house. Each time her eyebrow would twitch or her hands would be squeezing the padded steering wheel too tight. When grandma had moved to the nursing home last year it had never dawned on her that they would sell the family property before Sally Lowery died. It certainly never occurred to Emma Jean that they would sell the property to someone outside of the family. But they had.

Good old practical Uncle Richard had wanted to liquidate so that the family would have money for Grandma’s care. She was in her nineties and though frail, her heart beat strong as ever, her little blue eyes still sharp and seeing. Her ears, on the other hand, may as well have been filled in with concrete.

Emma Jean loved her Grandma Sally. Each day was devoted to making sure she had everything Emma Jean would want if she were ninety-five, a good shower, a good breakfast, a good hair-do and some lipstick.

Each day as Emma Jean arrived at her little single wide trailer neatly trimmed and landscaped she would set about her own chores and dote on Beaux, the basset hound. Beaux would lope around while Emma Jean trimmed this and that in the yard and talked sweet to her small clay pots that held all variety of green vine and flower. Then he would sigh and sit on the couch, his red rimmed eyes following Emma Jean as she bustled about dusting this and vacuuming that.

After her cleaning, and just in time for her shows, she’d heat up a microwave meal or scramble some eggs for herself and for Beaux. From seven to nine they would sit on the couch and she’d rub his ears, talk to him at commercial breaks and maybe just maybe if some genial single fellow could have seen Emma Jean at rest like Beaux did, he would have loved her just like Beaux did, with a firm patience.

One night at bed time just after her prayers and Bible reading Emma Jean started crying. She had no man, no money and no house. Well, not the house she wanted anyways. Beaux put his rotund little paws up against her thigh and rested his head there, his velvet curtained lips splayed against her blue jeans, but he was little comfort. Emma Jean looked at his sad, saggy eyelids and felt she had failed Beaux too. A good dog like Beaux needed land to romp on, flowers to run through and a shady spot to lie in. Her trailer had none of that, no yard at all just dirt road and a little tuft of grass tucked next to the edge of the lattice work here and there. It was a Wednesday night and she patted the bed for Beaux to jump up, which he did with a little help, and they lay there together, sad for each other.

That very next day was a rainy Thursday morning and Emma Jean walked out of her house like she always did, with resolve. Only today’s resolve had taken on a slightly illegal air. If she couldn’t have that house and she wasn’t going to have a man or any money she could have a few souvenirs, by-God.

She went straight to the nursing home and took extra good care of Grandma Sally, painting her nails neat and pink. They drank a coke together just before time to go. Emma Jean kissed her grandma’s cheek twice and said, “I love you so much Granny Sal.”

She cranked up her little silver mini-van and headed down the highway to home. She did all her normal things except at prayer and bedtime she put on new clothes, grabbed some gardening tools and headed out, giving Beaux a quick kiss on top of his broad velvet head.

The neighbor next to her swore that hound dog howled all night. Beaux, it seems, knew something was wrong. Had some man been attentive enough, humble enough to love Emma Jean it would have dawned on him just as it had Beaux that Emma Jean had snapped. Emma Jean was in trouble and if Beaux howled it was as much grief as it was warning.

Trouble is exactly what Emma Jean got, too. She had gotten to the family farm right at ten o’clock, her little car silently parked at the bottom of the hill. She gathered up her tools as quietly as she could and staked out the place just like she saw the folks on her shows do. She walked the full width of the property to the left and took the fence toward the pond. When she got to the pond she started clipping and digging all her favorite plants. When she finished there she placed it all in a recycleable shopping bag and marched a little too boldly to the back yard where Grandma Sally’s mother had planted  tea roses such a dark red that the green leaves shined brighter. She might not have a man or money or this house but she was going to have those roses if it killed her.

She had just begun digging around the roots when she heard a voice. She pressed herself up good against the shiny white siding but it buckled making a loud popping noise. She heard feet and clamor and the familiar creak of a screen door. She leapt up to run when he shot her.

Poor Beaux. They say that if ever a dog loved somebody, that dog loved Emma Jean. Uncle Richard had been the one to come get him. Beaux had refused to leave. He had planted all seventy pounds on his haunches and Uncle Richard had had to get the neighbor to help lift him into the back of the truck. They rode Beaux down a ways to a shiny white house with a wide wooden porch. A nice lady in fuzzy slippers greeted him and showed him a bowl with food in it. His long silky ears dragged the shiny oak floors making a sad shuffling sound.

She said to Beaux, “We can’t make it up to you fellow, but this is your home, we hope you like it.” She patted his soft broad head and her eyes teared up at the sight of his drooping bottom lids filled with what she was sure must be tears. She walked him to the back yard where he started sniffing around. She found him under the tea roses just laying there, his red rimmed eyes fixed and still, looking at ponies pasturing in the field. Beaux couldn’t stand ponies.

Had there ever been a man who’d have loved Emma Jean he would have felt the same missing things. For all of her fussing and doing she had been a warm ray of consistent affection. The kind of warmth a man or a dog can bask in when there is no sunshine. Beaux aged and got fat and lay day after day under blood red roses trying to soak up some of the sun.

Every day Beaux shuffled down the uneven wooden floors in the hallway to pat at the door so he could go out. Every day he walked out by the pond Emma Jean caught her first fish in. Every night he would howl as his new owners shut their bedroom door and left him to the plush little bed in front of the same fire place Emma Jean’s Grandma Sally had popped corn in for her grandchildren. He had everything Emma Jean had wanted. He only wanted her though. He would turn to the left and right sighing and snorting, his flappy, whiskered lips discontent, his paws lightly scuffing the oak floors. He was never quite sure how to get comfortable without someone to love.

Emma Jean had died because she wanted more. Beaux only ever wanted Emma Jean. Had a man loved Emma Jean the way Beaux loved Emma Jean he would have felt the same lonliness. And in his hound dog way he guessed he understood Emma Jean a little more than he had. She had just wanted something kin to a good ear rubbing and Beaux now knew how sorrowful life was without one.


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