Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Woman's Wait

Kathleen Thompson


The woman waits alone with her book by the Gulf seaside, wishing for an early sunrise. The woman waits for the sky to become pink and purple so that she can reread the collection of poems. The woman waits in a low chair with her steaming first cup and digs holes in the sand with her toes.

The woman waits as she waited at the dorm for her husband to arrive in his old '49 Chrysler for their first date, as she waited for him to press his shirt before the wedding photographs, as she waited nine months for their first child, as she waited six years to get pregnant with their son, as she waited the six hours it took her to drive from one state to another for the birth of her grandson. The woman waits for her husband to come home from work to serve supper and for him to finish watching the ballgame before they rake leaves.

She waits at the dialysis center the spring his kidneys fail. She waits with him for a kidney donor. She waits at the hospital for fifty-three days. When the new kidney is rejected, she waits again at the dialysis center. The woman waits as he learns how to administer peritoneal dialysis. The woman waits with him for another year for a kidney. She waits during the next surgery and the successful transplant.

The woman waits while his boss's wife in Buenos Aires buys huge platters at the pewter outlet. Back home, the woman waits at Talbot's for her mother-in-law to find a silk pants suit in a twelve petite in lavender. The woman waits sometimes patiently and sometimes impatiently.

Vacationing in Gulf Shores, the woman waits for Zeke's Lady two hours past its scheduled return time. She waits and imagines why the boat is late—the snapper beds were farther away than this young captain reckoned, a radar problem, they were catching so many red snapper no one wanted to leave. Then when the boat arrives, surrounded by seagulls, the woman waits to see him step out onto the bow. The woman waits with other women as the anxious men, gripping their coolers, bound up the steps and off the boat, sunburned—somehow afraid, relieved. The woman waits while a younger crew member shakes clinging tenacious crabs from his trap, rattling in the wire cage, banging as they hit the bottom of the plastic cart. The woman waits while the coast guard interviews the nonchalant captain. She waits for every detail while this captain rinses and fillets all the red snapper and then stares beyond her, his eyes like those of the fish. The woman waits as the captain tells how her husband would not cut the line and let the shark go, how her husband had stumbled over a rope, how they had combed the water for hours after they first saw blood.

This year the woman waits for the week of his birthday to vacation. As she had done every summer, the woman waits with tourists at the top of the embankment surrounding Ft. Morgan, built during the War of 1812 on the finger of land that looks south to the Gulf of Mexico and north to Mobile Bay. The woman waits as she waited once at Cowpens for two hours on the promise that he and their son would only go in for a peek and would not take the tour, as she had waited for him at the Savannah Yacht Club to return from fishing with the guys from work. The woman had long waited on these passions of his—wars second only to the sea.

The woman waits during the week he would usually find yet another brilliant specimen to add to his wall-sized coral reef aquarium, some rare piece of the sea for his own birthday present. The woman waits to be served lunch at the Beach Club on the way back from Ft. Morgan. The woman waits at a quiet table beside the aquarium with the coral reef where he had named all the species in the tank last year when they stopped in to try the restaurant—the cleaner shrimp, the purple anemones, the Flame Hawk, Yellow Tang, Blue Damsel, Fox Face, Striped Damsel, Clown Fish, and the Maldives starfish.

The woman waits and tries to recall the other starfish names but can finally only remember how much he had admired the one with long, flexible, and hairy tentacles, how much he coveted it for his own tank at home, how melodious his voice had been reciting the names like a litany.

A ridiculous idea occurs to the woman as she waits alone after the other customers are gone. The woman waits for the idea to leave her but it will not. She waits for reason to return. The woman waits but the sudden plan consumes her like loneliness, grows whale-sized. The woman waits for the manager to leave the room before she rolls up her sleeves, climbs up on a chair, then the table, and scoops up the starfish he had admired into her water glass.

Now that it is daylight the next morning at the Ocean House condo, the woman is waiting for high tide, waiting for the surf to climb over her feet to the back of her chair. The woman waits and wishes that she had one more cup of coffee, wishes that his passions had not always involved danger, wishes she had left a brief note for her grandson who looks like his grandfather. Waiting and wishing have always been her twin curses.

The woman waits to reread the last lines about Orpheus and Eurydice. Shivering, the woman waits a moment, scatters the hungry sandpipers, picks up the white plastic bucket from the Crab Shack, and wishes she knew how long the starfish could live in it. Wading in farther, the woman waits as a wave strikes her at the waist, but she does not, will not, look back. She holds the bucket safely above the waves. She waits as each wave becomes larger and contemplates how long it will take to reach the shrimp boat on the horizon, and beyond that, a coral reef. The woman waits and walks on past the solid sand under her feet.

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Kathleen Thompson holds an MFA in Fiction/Poetry from Spalding University. Her new poetry books are The Nights, The Days, Negative Capability Press, and The Shortest Distance, Coosa River Books. View them at www.wordforwordforword.com or www.wordspinningbyKathleen.blogspot.com. Her short story appeared in Christmas is a Season! 2009, Excalibur Press.


© Kathleen Thompson

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012