Says Laura Boggess:
I started this little story as I waited for Maureen Doallas’s Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems. I had been so looking forward to the release of the book, had ordered it the second I heard it was available–and then was frustrated by what seemed like a terribly long delivery (it was only a few days, but felt much longer). It was very windy that week–I watched religiously for the mailman each day amidst flying little bits of this world–leaves, papers, my neighbor’s flag. As I waited, I entertained myself with the story of Amy Pinkleberry–a young divorcee who struggles with depression. Amy’s depression is characterized by auditory hallucinations–destructive voices that prevent her from finding the happiness she so longs for. Only one thing stops the voices and that is…well, you’ll just have to read on to find out…
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs
He was the brick wall behind his desk and she wrestled with frustration. Didn’t he see that Justine needs this?
“Amy, I appreciate what you want to do, but it’s just not possible. We are two hours from the ocean. That may not sound long to you, but for a woman who can break a bone by simply taking a step, for a woman whose skin could be sorely compromised by sitting in a car that long, for a woman who needs nursing care every few hours…It’s just too risky.”
She felt heat rising to her cheeks and pursed her lips. He must think her a fool.
“Oliver, I know it’s risky, but the benefits would far outweigh the danger. My ex-husband is a physician. I’ve already talked to him about borrowing one of the transport vans his practice uses for his surgery patients. The vans have special beds for skin management, there’s even potential for an oxygen tank if necessary. I worked at his practice for ten years. I know about these things.”
His eyes bored into her.
“And do you know about managing her bladder? Have you ever done a catheterization? Are you prepared to change her Depends? She lost bowel and bladder function several months ago. How do you think that will affect Justine’s dignity? It’s one reason she schedules you in between the nurses’ visits—so you won’t have to deal with that. If you traveled with Justine you would not only have to deal with it, but it may take away those few strands of pride she has left.”
Amy sat still in her chair. Of course she hadn’t considered these things. What was she thinking? She wanted to run from his office the way she had all those weeks ago. She felt like a little girl being chastised by a parent.
Suddenly, Oliver sprung up from his chair and turned his back to her. His wrinkled shirt flashed white in the corner of her eye. He wrapped his arms around himself—seemingly trying to calm down. She stood slowly, preparing to leave when she noticed his large frame shaking.
She took a step toward him.
He bowed his head and lifted a hand to cover his eyes. Oliver was crying. Amy remembered his hand over hers that first day they met—his awkward attempt at compassion—and a wave of tenderness crashed through her composure.
She edged around the desk and tentatively placed a cool hand on his shoulder.
“It’s okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize what I was asking. I only wanted to do this for Justine.”
He lifted his hand to hers and for the second time in their acquaintance covered her small fingers with his large ones.
“I’m the one who is sorry.”
He turned to face her, still clutching her hand.
“Justine has been…like a mother to me. She has been the only mother Alice has known. I haven’t really considered what losing her will mean—what it has meant to watch her slowly go down hill over these past months. What I wouldn’t give to take her to the seashore—to see her eyes light up again. I would love to say yes, Amy. But I cannot compromise Justine’s health. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Amy nodded, slid her hand out of his.
“I understand. I won’t mention it again. I better get going or I’ll be late for our reading.”
She gave him a weak smile before heading out the door.
* * *
She had just put the top on her peanut butter and jelly sandwich when there came a light knock at the door. She glanced at the clock. Who would come calling at dinner time? She briefly entertained the thought of ignoring it, but the tapping came again—more insistent this time. She reluctantly set the sandwich down and moved to the door.
She opened it just a crack, only to have it pushed in from the outside at the slight give.
“Dad said to come get you, Amy. You’re invited to dinner.”
Amy didn’t know what to say. Alice was smiling like she had a secret.
“Well…I just made a sandwich…”
“You have to come! Gram will be so disappointed if you don’t.”
Feeling slightly coerced, Amy grabbed a sweater and Alice’s hand and they walked down the street to the gated house together.
“What is this all about?” She glanced over at the girl.
That ornery smile again.
When they entered the house, it was eerily quiet. Alice led her down the hall, through the Great Room, through the sun room, and out the garden doors.
Amy drew breath sharply at what she saw.
The entire garden courtyard had been turned into a beach. The grass and stone were covered with sand. There was a large mural of an ocean scene somehow hung along the south wall. A tiki bar with coconuts hanging from a grass umbrella sat in the corner. Island music drifted from speakers.
And there was Justine, in the middle of it all, sitting in a wheelchair. Grinning from ear to ear.
“Welcome to the beach,” she said, as Amy looked around in wonder. Oliver appeared from somewhere and put a lei around her neck. He smiled down at her.
“What do you think?”
She was speechless.
To be continued…
Story by Laura Boggess. Reprinted with permission.
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