LEFTOVERS AND FINGERTIPS

By John Thomas Tuft

The brine of the sea air is bracing. She loves being at the beach. She pulls the door closed behind her as the breeze catches her hair and floats it around her shoulders like a comforting shawl. Picking at the fried bologna sandwich in her hand, pulling at the soft bread that somehow doesn’t quite complete the journey to her mouth. She is distracted as she makes her way down the weathered steps, across the dune, and onto the old friend comfort of the wooden dock. She follows it to the end, sits down, feet dangling, and gazes out at the water. “What is happening?” she asks the gulls circling overhead. “I don’t understand.”

*Since you’ve been gone/I feel my life slipping away/I look to the sky/and everything is turning gray…

How could he do this to her? What has happened to that dear man who swept her off her feet? Were all those long walks, excitedly making plans for forever, really real? She tenses at the sound of footsteps on the planks behind her. “Mom?” She relaxes at the sound of her daughter’s voice. There are grunts and groans as the younger woman takes a seat beside her at the end of the dock. “Six months! I’m gonna be bigger than a house before this baby comes.” They sit in silence for a while, watching the sandpipers skittering across the sand ahead of the waves scouring the beach.

All I made was one mistake/How much more will I have to pay?/Why can’t you think it over?/Why can’t you forget about the past?

“Remember?” the daughter begins. “Remember how we’d always have the big Sunday dinners? The roast beef, the mashed potatoes smothered in your special cornstarch gravy, peas with pearl onions, the brownies and ice cream. You know what my favorite part was?” She takes her mother’s hand in hers. “The leftovers. My favorite part was opening my lunch bag the next day in school. There would be my sandwich. Leftover beef sliced up, lettuce, sweet pickles and mayo, just the way I liked it.” She gives her mom’s hand a squeeze. “And I’d know you thought of me as you made it. Dinner was for the family. That sandwich was just for me. The leftovers were the real feast.”

Since you’ve been gone/I’ve been in a trance/This heart needs a second chance/Don’t put me down, babe/Can’t you see I love you?

In the distance, dolphins are playing tag in the swells. The woman sighs, seeking strength from the timeless ebb and flow of the tides. A squall line appears on the horizon, but for the moment they are sheltered in the leeward. “I remember.” She feels so lost. “I remember we used to watch MisterRogers Neighborhood together. Even when you were in high school, I’d watch it after you left in the morning.” Her daughter smiles, passes her free hand over her belly. “Yeah, I know. You always left it on that channel.” The woman stares at her free hand. “He used to talk about getting his feelings out through his fingertips. That music helped him as a boy. He was alone so much, but he could get his frustrations and fears out on the piano, through his fingertips.”

And I know I ain’t got no right/To ask you to sympathize/But why can’t you think it over/Why can’t you forget about the past?

The rain starts to conquer the sky, and they are now in the windward. The daughter slides her arm around her mother’s shoulders as though to shelter her. The woman stares down at the water beneath her feet, lapping at the pilings. “The hardest part,” she whispers. “the hardest part is when he’s aware that it’s winning. When he knows what all he’s losing as parts of him slip away.” She presses her fingertips to her head. “I just wish…” The wind flings her hair into wild patterns. “I just wish for one more day. One more day, Baby.” The daughter nods, traces the grain in the wood with the tip of one finger. They hold each other tightly, then set off back along the dock.

Seeking a feast…

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.

johnthomastuft.com

*Second Chance, 38 Special