what are miracles, she asked

‘what are miracles?

 he stopped short, spilling a few drops of milk on the counter.

‘that’s an odd question,’ he said, placing a blue bowl of cheerios – store band, mind you, with a little honey on top – in front of her.

‘what made you think of it?

she was already halfway through her first bite, displaying a hereditary lack of patience-while-hungry, and he let her chew to a finish before answering.  he used this time to wipe the countertop clean with a hand-towel and sit down next to her.

he, too, had a blue bowl of store brand cheerios.

and a healthier dousing of honey, but she wouldn’t notice, he thought.

‘i heard m

 ‘swallow, hun.’

she did, begrudgingly.

‘i heard my teacher say, ‘it was a miracle’ when talking to another teacher.  she was talking to mrs burns.’

‘now, honey, you know it’s rude to listen to adults when they’re not talking to you.’

she finished another bite,

such large bites of cereal she took, no doubt a lesson learned from her father,

and refused to be sidetracked.

‘what are miracles?’  she pressed, again.  ‘i think i know what the word means,’ she jumped in, beating him to the punch of asking, ‘but i don’t know what a miracle . . .‘

she paused, this time chewing over her word choice, ‘ . . . looks like.’

she held her spoon tightly in one hand, her other closed in a tiny fist of distracted curiosity and determination.

she turned to her father, a few blond curls spilling over her ears, and allowed him to finish his bite of store brand cheerios, but held eye contact, blue eyed-contact.

he pushed his bowl forward, an unspoken lowering of house lights, and the ushers pulled the doors, not to be reopened until intermission.  his audience leaned forward.

‘miracles,’ he said, looking at his hands, held open, palms to the ceiling, resting on the breakfast nook table,

‘miracles are the things that happen

when all we can do is hope.

when there is nothing left but hope,

no action, nothing we can do ourselves.

miracles are when the night

seems endless

and we have no light,

but a light shines, anyway.’

he looked over his left shoulder,
back to her blues, smiled,
and toned down his rhetoric.

‘miracles are when the things that scare us in the dark

stop being scary.

when those things leave us joyful,

you’ve seen a miracle.’

she blinked.

he fought off the urge to recite a list, metaphorical and literal, of examples, and chose one.

‘every day, you go to school.  i can’t control what happens when you are gone, no matter how badly i want to.  all i can do is hope you are safe and come home to your mother and me.’

‘daddy, you always pick me up.  i come home with you.’

‘you’re ruining the moment!’

she giggled and crammed a spoonful of now slightly soggy store brand cheerios in her mouth, never taking her eyes from her father’s, making this one of the messier bites of the morning.

‘all i can do is hope you are safe and happy when you are gone.  and every day you come home safe and happy, that is a miracle.  to me, at least,’ he said, reaching for the hand-towel.

the 12:05 to chicago

the train was late.

he snapped his watch closed, pocketed it, and rocked back onto his heels

his friend remained seated on the bench, idly leafing through a glossy magazine, only reading headlines and colored, full-page advertisements.  turning the page to a voluptuous cartoon woman selling eyeliner, he asked,

‘say – what do you think is the most dangerous animal?’

the standing man, now on the balls of his feet, did not turn while adjusting his cuffs and asked, ‘how do you mean?’

‘i just read this story about circus tigers, and-‘

‘you never read the stories.’

‘yes, fine, i just read a headline about circus tigers turning on their trainers in iowa. tigers seem a rather dangerous animal, and i got to wondering what you might think is the most dangerous animal.’

‘without question a man impatient and in love,’ said the standing man, again eyeing his watch and the notable absence of the train.

an errand

it was closer to 7:00 than his 5:30 promise.

she sat facing the door, on the sofa they’d picked out last summer at an estate sale.

in a well rehearsed pose, her arms were crossed, her face set, her eyes resting on nothing in particular.

he opened the storm door and fumbled for his keys after realizing the front door was locked.  she remained on the sofa.

he fit key into door, fought his way over the threshold with two armfuls of brown paper bags, and used his heel and then backside to close the door behind him.

he paused upon seeing her well rehearsed pose, glanced at the clock on the far wall of the living room, and whispered a near-coherent, ‘oh, it’s almost seven.’  a quiet ‘mhm’ was her response.

he shuffled to the kitchen table, set down the bags, and began unpacking.  from the living room, she said, ‘i only asked for one thing.  what on earth took you so long, and why do you have two bags?’

he stopped unpacking and looked at his feet.

‘honey, why do you have two bags?’

one shoelace was slightly askew, he noticed.

‘i’m not upset, you were just later than you said you’d be, and i don’t know why you have two bags.   what were you doing?’

he inhaled through his nose and said,

‘i couldn’t remember which one you asked for, so i got ours and all of jupiter’s, too, just to be sure.’

he decided the shoelace wasn’t so bad that it required retying.

at his response, she found herself straddling a line of irritation and genuine endearment (which is what love often feels like, yes?).   she stood, shaking her head and smiling, and helped him finish unpacking.

for scarlet(t)

he paused, choosing his words carefully.

she stood just behind him, fighting the urge to lean forward expectantly on tiptoe.

his hands opened and closed absently at his sides.

she waited.

they stood under an arch near a bench between two hedges parading as walls.

sun painted them in light and welcome shadow of trees and life and other things.

he paused within the pause, an almost impossible stillness before motion that only she could recognize as his.  her heels did not touch the ground.

‘until every star, the ones we see and the ones too far, looses breath and passes slowly on into the dark.’

‘. . . that’s a very long time.’

‘i know.’