The Quiet House

By Lynne Handy

My neck is swole up from itching. Scratching doesn’t help. Maybe it’s the soap—too much lye.

I hear music. Someone’s singing out in the garden. Tomatoes will be ripe soon. What I wouldn’t give to have a bite of those yellow ones. Sweet, they are.

Would like to play my guitar, but couldn’t bring it with me. Wouldn’t Mary love to hear those old songs I used to sing to her? After she was gone, I’d sit out on the mountain and play them, hoping she could hear me in heaven. Then I went back to town. I heard people were looking for me.

Can you hear me, Mary? I like to think of you laying in the bed, your yellow hair spread out like one of those lacy scarves the Mexican women wear to church. Mantillas. Isn’t it funny, Mary? I can remember that word, but can’t remember your dying.

Damn that itch! Wonder if a bug bit me!

My window looks out on a lake. Man-made, I think, but over yonder there’s a real lake with trout swimming around in it. Love to fry fish in a big black skillet. Sop ‘em in a little milk, roll ‘em in a little cornmeal, and throw ‘em in the fat. Fry ‘em golden-brown on both sides. Salt and pepper. Get one of those yellow tomatoes and you have a meal fit for a king. Yessir, a meal fit for a king.

Let me take a minute to loosen my collar so it can’t chafe my neck.

I never believed those stories about you, Mary. When I was out on the trail, I knew you were there in our quiet house, watching out the window for me. I never believed you were carrying on with the deputy. I never doubted you’d be waiting for me when I got home.

It troubles me that I can’t remember your dying. I recall going home, needing love, and finding a quiet house and a garden needing water. The bed was made, no crumbs on the table, the floor was swept clean—the only thing amiss was the garden. The corn was shriveled up, the tomatoes rotting on the stems, the pole beans turning black.

I went to town, looking for you. Somebody said you were at the deputy’s house. I come up the walk, saw a yellow-haired woman in a nightgown, emptying out a chamber pot. That can’t be my Mary, I said. Then you looked up, said my name, and tried to run back in the house.

I guess it must have happened then. Your dying.

The padre’s here. No I don’t want a blindfold on my eyes. I want to see the sky, blue as my Mary’s eyes. Let me feel the rope. The rub will take away the itch.

Lynne Handy writes both prose and poetry. She lives in the Fox Valley where she enjoys family, friends, and nature. She recently published Spy Car and Other Poems and will soon publish a novella, The Untold Tale of Edwina. Go to her blog at for information about her work.

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