The Lonely Hour

Pita hated taking naps. She was always sent up to sleep on the cot in the attic so the household noises wouldn’t keep her awake. It was warm up here beneath the rafters of the old house, and everything seemed so far away. She could still hear the neighbor’s dogs barking and the click of silverware as Mother did the dishes, however. Not that she minded staying awake, mind you.

She hated taking naps because she felt left out of whatever was going on downstairs, because that’s what children have to do and she was seven, and because nap time was a lonely time. Pita took a deep breath and lost herself in the dust particles floating in sunlight from the dormer window.  Her eyelids grew heavy as she watched a lazyu spider in the corner slowly spinning its web ever so slowly, as though in a dance. Her eyelids grew heavy and she closed her eyes.

Suddenly, from behind the cot she heard a giggle. A giggle? Pita raised up on her elbow and looked behind her. She saw a girl about her own age sitting cross-legged on the floor, playing jacks. Seeing Pita raise up, the girl laughed, swinging her long braids from side to side as she did so. “Daddy bear said ‘Somebody’s been sleeping in my bed and she’s still here.’!”

Pita sat up, shocked into silence. She must be dreaming. If so, it was the clearest dream she had ever had. “This is your bed?”

The girl continued bouncing the ball but picking up no jacks, and nodded. “It was.”

The sound of dishes rattling in the sink downstairs cut a swath of reality–or unreality–through Pita’s mind. She felt a twinge of nausea. “What’s your name?”

“My name is Lydia Perkins and I’m one of your great great grandmothers.”

Pita scrunched up her face and blinked hard. “Huh? You don’t look old enough to be one of my grandmothers.”

Lydia responded with a tinkle of laughter. “Oh, I’m not now. Just on the calendar. Right now I’m your age, seven.”

Pita was at a loss for words. Finally she stammered, “Are you a ghost?”

Lydia laughed again. “Yes and no. Yes  I’m  a ghost because I’m here and I’ve died, but no, I’m not a ghost because I just slid sideways through a pocket in time. I got curious and wanted to see who was living on the farm now.”

Pita blinked again, thoughts and questions pinging around inside her head. Finally she managed a “Huunh,” whereupon Lydia broke into peals of laughter again.

“I’ve never done this before, but others have told me how much fun it is.”

Pita studied the girl;. She had a heart-shaped face, brown hair, dark brown eyes and was wearing white cotton stockings and a pale pink pinafore tied with a sash in back. A look of scepticism crept over Pita’s face. “Who were–are–your children?”

Lydia drew in a deep breath and exhaled. “Well, I don’t know it yet at seven, but I’ve been told I had three boys and a girl. Willie died of brain fever as a baby, and Johnny was three when he died of scarlet fever. My daughter Phoebe caught whooping cough when she was five, and we buried her in the family burying ground. They–we–are all in the family cemetery beyond the third pasture. My third son lived to carry the family line all the way down to you.”

Pita placed her hand on her chest and softly said, “me.”

Lydia shrugged. “I don’t really directly remember anything but being seven years old and sleeping on that cot.” She looked around. “Not much has changed up here, after all these years.”

She stepped across the attic floor and rubbed some dust off an old rusted high-backd trunk. “Did you ever look in this trunk?” Pita slowly shook her head and blinked once more. She knew Mother was downstairs in the kitchen, oblivious of Pita’s visitor.

“What’s in it?”

In answer Lydia raised the top of the trunk and sighed with satisfaction as she reached out and ran her finger around the cover of an old scrapbook. Pita glanced toward the attic stairs. Shouldn’t she get Mother? Lydia seemed to read her mind. “It’s got to be our secret,” she cautioned. “That’s the rules, the only way you can have visitors your own age through the time pocket. You can’t tell. Anyone. Ever.

Lydia and Pita sat side by side on the cot, their reflections captured in the old mirror propped against the wall.

To be continued?

 

 

About Nan Mykel

I used to think I would be a child prodigy, but then I got old. Formerly I had fantasies of rubbing elbows with cultural and academic leaders but that did not come to pass because I did not become a cultural or academic leader or any other kind of leader, for that matter. I am not even an "Alpha Dog," a term learned from a friend who had to become "Alpha Dog" in order to influence her own pet. (When gazes lock, she never looks away.) For years I expected to become a published author, but in passing I could not avoid the fact that I had little to contribute to the world's bulging dumpsters. I'm embarrassed to report that I also considered my primary process artistic productions powerful, rather than mildly neurotic. Which is not to say that I disrespect myself, only that I am beginning to doubt my potential for making a mark on the world. If I focus on strict self discipline I may be able to keep my garbage removed on a weekly basis, to keep the kitty box changed, the clothes cleaned, the dog watered, fed and walked, but that just catches me up to the starting mark again. When writing I physically grapple with words, wrestling them from their indifference into attempted chunks of awareness. I sit heavily on my chair; I breathe in artificially cooled air; my ear drums note the tap tap of the keyboard and the steady uninterrupted sound of the air conditioner, What is that sound? The roar of the ocean from 30 yards away...Inside, my thoughts are are balls in an electronic game machine, bouncing hither and yon from lever to lever. I am a little grim and intent until I recall a dream related by a black man in the prison where I once worked. He said that when he was a small boy, back home, he dreamed he was standing on his front porch pissing, and that he suddenly found himself pissing stars...
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