the healing muse

Volume 11, 2011


Suzanne McConnell


            She didn’t know. She didn’t know how to go on. She didn’t know how to talk to her mother. She didn’t know why it had happened. She didn’t know why it had happened. They had gone to Florida. It was the first and only time they had left their children. She didn’t know how she could talk to her mother, she didn’t know how she could look at her, she didn’t know. She didn’t know how to tell the oldest, who was six. She didn’t know how the baby could in one moment be sucking from his bottle, and an hour later, when her mother went in to him, her mother said, be still. She didn’t know how she could ever go to the Holy Mother again, how she could ever go to the Church of the Holy Father again. She wished she’d never come to this country, to Brooklyn, everything was fine here, her husband made money, more than ever they would have in Poland, she didn’t know why she’d come here. They were rich, they had more than in Poland if they worked their whole lives, they were rich enough to go to Florida. She didn’t know why she’d come here.


            He had asked for a puppy for a long long time and now they had given him one. He couldn’t wait to show it to Marcel. Marcel was very little, much littler than him, he was six and Marcel wasn’t even one.
            He didn’t know where Marcel was. When Mama and Papa went to Florida, his grandmother stayed with them. She made pirogis and sandwiches with bacon and spoke Polish all the time, she lived near them and she came over a lot and it was okay when Mama and Papa went. Marcel stayed home with their grandmother, while he went to school as usual. He didn’t see his Papa much anyway because his Papa worked a lot. He missed his mother though, and everyday after his grandmother picked him up from kindergarten when they got home he liked to tickle Marcel. One day Marcel was gone. His mother and father came home. He had tickled Marcel too much. Once he hid him in the closet. If Marcel came back, he would give him the puppy. Everyone talked in whispers.


           He saw the piano in a loft building he was renovating. All morning he noticed it. An old upright. It was missing ivory. It had a broken hammer on the above the middle E. It was a wreck of a piano. It was named Chester.
            That was his name.
            At lunch, he put down his tools. He told his men they should go home. “Go home, go home!” he shouted.
            He knew the men well. They looked at him, they spoke to each other. They said to him in Polish, “Let us help, we’ll keep working and you go home,” they said. “Holy God bless you.” He didn’t hear them. He told them to go. “Go! Go!” He had never yelled before.
            He sat down at that piano. He banged on it. He broke keys. He wept.


            She went to church. It was dark and cool. There were a few others, here and there. She sat a long time. Then she knelt.
            Father God in Heaven, she whispered. I didn’t do anything, You know that. I gave him a bottle an hour before. He took it, he drank, he was thirsty, he cried a little first. Like always, like normal. If not normal, I would call the doctor, one of the numbers from the long list they gave me. I had six babies myself. I know how to take care of babies.
            My daughter doesn’t look me in the eye. My son-in-law either. My daughter, my Magda. I did not want to stay with the children. I confess, Father. But I say yes, I will care for the children, I am glad for you, thank you for bringing me here, you should go to Florida. And this baby is dear. He puts his little hands on my cheeks and gives me kisses on the mouth. Father. I take him a bottle at 1 o’clock. I peek in at 2:15. He is sleeping. At three again, I go. He is still. He is still, like a doll.
           I know they know I didn’t do anything. I know I didn’t do anything. I know they know.


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