Anne Caryl

Page forty

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        Abraham sat, stunned, looking at the door through which Maxine had left, trying to decide what would be the right thing to do. He could offer her a ride home, the bus stop was blocks away, but she wouldn’t accept. He’d thought she’d stay. That’s why he’d told her. And to protecther. As long as she knew what they were dealing with, she’d watch her step. Not like Macie. Tooyoung, too na´ve, that one. But Maxine had lived…she knew what life could do. Between the twoof them, maybe they could protect Macie. Maybe they could figure out a way and no one would have to know about him, what he was.

            Respect. You should choke on it. Gantser k’nacker. Big shot, you are. Maybe if he gave them the papers from the camp they would let him be. Austin thought so. But no, the research only went so far. And there were names and descriptions of a man’s dying. Some things should not see many eyes. A man’s conception, and his birth, and his dying…these were private things. And his shame. That, too, was private. There had to be some

way to appease them without…

            He stood and ran to the door, ignoring the pain in his knees. “Maxine,” he shouted into the late afternoon hush. He saw her plunging ahead, almost a block away. “Maxine, come back.”

            Abraham watched her figure grow smaller until he couldn’t see her anymore. He was alone. He went back inside and shut the door. His eyes searched the room.

            “An old man’s house. Where are the flowers? Where are the soft things?”

            Mama always kept fresh flowers. Papa brought them to her. Abraham closed his eyes and inhaled deeply straining to pull in the long-lost fragrance. Shoe polish. Abraham’s house smelled like shoe polish. He gagged, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

            “Why, Abraham, did you shut everyone out? Not even Sh’aul can help you now.”

            His brother’s image flashed before him, and the memory of perfumed air disguising the scent of urine.   Saul’s fractured mind was his protection, but what about Macie? Macie, who was pregnant, with a hopeful young husband. What would she think of him when she knew all the truth? Who would protect her?

            “A man of honor. Dignity. Chosever mentsch,” he hissed before the sobs overtook him.

            Abraham sank into his chair and buried his face in his hands. His chest burned, heaving and contracting over each gasped breath. He wept for his mama and his papa and for Sh’aul. He wept for the twisted bodies and the mutilated faces of Bergen-Belsen. He wept for his sterile life, the terrible price he’d paid to expunge all of their ghosts from his mind.

            Finally, pain seared his head and he sat back panting with the effort of his grief. He heard the knocking at the door and ignored it. It came again, louder. Abraham pulled himself up and crossed the room, stood and listened. His vision was blurred and he couldn’t think for the pain that knifed through his skull. Again the knock. He gulped a breath, turned the knob and opened the door.

            “Maxine.” The tears came back.

 

***

 

            Phil scraped his uneaten dinner in the trash and put the dish in the dishwasher. He

picked up the phone and dialed Macie’s cell.

            “Come on, come on,” he said, pounding the counter with his free hand.

            “The Cellular One customer you have dialed is unavailable to receive calls at this time. At the tone, please touch tone the number where you can be reached.”

            Phil slammed down the receiver.

            “Mace, if you’ve gone shopping for the baby, I’ll...”

            Phil knew Macie wasn’t shopping. She’d never spend money like that without asking him. That is, she’d never have done it before, but lately…well… No. No, Macie wasn’t shopping, and she hadn’t said anything about being late…this late anyway. He hit “redial” and waited. The monotone computer message played again.

            When she didn’t show up by eight-thirty, he called Dr. Sorkin’s home. There was no answer. The old man was probably in bed, too far from the phone to reach, or maybe even to hear it.

            Maxine answered her phone on the third ring.

            “Hello, Maxine? This is Phil. Do you have any idea where Macie might be?” Phil tried to keep desperation out of his voice.

            “She’s not home?”

            That was Maxine. Come on, you old dingbat, if she was home would I call you and ask where she was? “No. Have you seen her?”

            “Not since last week. She came by the doctor’s with some strawberries.”

            “You haven’t heard from her since then?” Don’t be impatient. Keep her calm and thinking.

            “No. She ran out of there that day like she was on a mission, though. Phil. I think I’m to blame for letting the Right-to Life people know when we were in the clinic. I...”

            “We’ll worry about that later. Right now, I need to find my wife.” Macie hadn’t told her about the threats or the stalker, he was sure . Maxine loved being in the spotlight, and Macie worried about giving her too much information. She was on a ‘need to know’ basis. Phil hung up and tried the cell phone again.

            “ Pick up, Mace. Where are you?”

 

***

 

            “You don’t care about what I need, do you?” Paige plopped her flowered toiletry case next to the small, wheeled suitcase on the living room floor.

            “You know, Paige, you’re right. I don’t care. Never have. I don’t give a rip about you.” 

             Paige narrowed her eyes and glared at her husband. “And you act like it.”

            “Does it occur to you maybe I’m sick and tired of walking on eggshells around here so you won’t freak out on me?” Ron moved to the doorway, blocking her exit. “Maybe I want you to act like a wife sometimes and not a mental case.”

            “Don’t go there. I wish, just for an hour, you’d go through what I do when I have the nightmares.”

            “Believe me, the way you carry on, I do go through it.”

            Paige stiffened and took a deep breath. Ron was studying her, evaluating. Readying for the attack. She began thinking praise song lyrics; filling her mind with them so she couldn’t hear what he said. But he said nothing.

            “It’s only a women’s retreat. You’d think I was going to a Chip and Dale’s review.”

            Ron bit his bottom lip. “No one’s accusing you of immorality, Paige.”

            Paige blew him a taunting kiss.

            “Not now, anyway,” Ron finished.

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”

            “You know what it means.”

            “No I don’t. Suppose you tell me.”

            “If you hadn’t gotten pregnant in the first place we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

            Paige felt tears stinging. She blinked them back. That’s what he wanted, to see her cry. Well, she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. She put her cold hands to the back of her neck, focusing on the sensation. The Cause. The Cause. The Cause. She let the words tumble through her mind.

            “Paige, I’m sorry. I—”

            “Just…don’t. Don’t say anything.” When she got back, they would hash this out. She’d be calmer then, and he would, too.

            She pulled up the handle and leaned the large bag onto its wheels. Then she put the smaller tote over her shoulder and shoved it toward her back. Paige stood for a moment, trying to think of something to say to Ron before she left. We should say something, she thought, if only goodbye. But her voice wouldn’t make the sounds. Her lips wouldn’t form the words. So Paige turned the knob, opened the door and went through it.

            The trunk flew open and she set the bags in it. Paige could feel Ron watching her from the picture window. She thought, for a moment, he might race out into the cold, take her in his arms and beg her not to go. He didn’t. She couldn’t back out now, anyway. Later. There’d be time for making up later.

            The engine sang and her mood lifted as she pulled out onto the street. By the time she turned onto Pecos, the confrontation with Ron was nearly forgotten. In its place, a nervous excitement grew.

            Paige signaled and changed lanes, pulling up next to a jeep with skis fastened to the top. The driver glanced at her, then turned for a better look. She grinned, keeping her eyes straight ahead, and flipped her long hair back over her shoulders. Then she accelerated and left the Jeep stuck behind a slow-moving minivan.

 

***

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Anne Caryl
504 East Furry St.
Holyoke, Co. 80734