Little punishments

I sat on the porch where Jeremiah used to sit, and listened to nothing. It was late in the day, a time when all things hushed. Even the leathery, rubbing sound of the corn was still. I thought of Jeremiah sitting in his chair, staring at whatever passed him by, collecting whatever thoughts he might snag before the liquor overtook.

That little French fella, remember him, Charlotte? How he liked to dance.”

I didn’t know any French man, dancing or otherwise, but agreed that I remembered him well. Jeremiah would nod and go onto the next thing, if there was anything left to tell.

My husband was mostly kind, except when he wasn’t. It was the unkind moments that left hard shadows over the good ones. Holding hands or a peck on the forehead won’t hold against a belly-punch because of an unwashed plate or a film of dust on the radio. He would curse like he had a devil down his throat if I forgot or misplaced or slowed down. Then it would be tender kisses for a time, and then a cuff on the ear if I didn’t answer quick enough. Those were small things, he said, little punishments compared to what most men doled out. Seeing as I wasn’t married to most, that was no comfort.

It is possible that a person can be lonely when they’re not alone. Now, when the night starts to bear down, the loneliness isn’t so bad. The sky is just as tall, but there’s a great lay of land that folds around me.

And I never believed in ghosts. At least not when I’m sitting in his chair, watching the same milk-white sky he used to contemplate. There are no ghosts that I’m aware of. or at least none that run me scared.

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