|Waiting for Brother
John R. Cobb
Under the white glow of a kerosene lamp, a little girl cut pictures from a magazine. As oily smoke drifted to the kitchen ceiling, she hummed a melody that was muted by autumn rain dancing on the tin roof.
“Mama, when’s Brother coming home?” she asked, not expecting an answer.
Earlier in the afternoon, her brother had paddled his canoe across the Penobscot River, so he could get to the Veazie dump before the truck arrived from Labree’s Bakery. He wanted a chance to pick through the
discarded bread products before the seagulls and rats converged on the weekly offering.
“I hope he brings home donuts this time,” whispered the little girl.
On a foggy night last week, her brother had brought home two big Atlantic salmon netted from the rapids. Her mother baked the fish in the woodstove oven that same evening. Other than wanting butter for the
potatoes and donuts for dessert, the little girl thought it was a grand meal.
“Mama said, ‘We’ll have butter next time.’”
Next month, her brother would be trekking the woods of North Brewer. He was a fine hunter, and he could be counted on to shoot a buck or doe during hunting season.
“Deer steak would taste good for supper tonight,” muttered the little girl, her mouth salivating at the thought.
She heard a shuffling from the living room. Her mother paced back and forth; her thin figure cast a misshapen shadow across the floor.
Mama’s worried ‘cause Brother isn’t home yet. It’s getting awful dark outside. I wish he wasn’t taking so long.
The little girl placed another picture on the table and rearranged bits of paper into the desired shape.
“There!” she exclaimed quietly. “Just one more.”
She searched through the yellowed pages until she found the last piece to complete her puzzle. She carved the edges of the black and white photograph with intense concentration…
The little girl was clutching bloodied fingers to her chest when her mother hurried into the kitchen. After rinsing her hand with icy water under the faucet, her mother wrapped it in a clean towel and promised to
bandage it later.
“Mama, I didn’t mean to…”
The little girl saw her mother staring at the table. A dinner plate had been set with photos of roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and biscuits. A slice of apple pie was placed to the side of the
main course for dessert. Where the knife and fork would have been, the blade of a double-edge razor gleamed dully.
“I’m sorry, Mama. I was just playing.”
Her mother hugged her tight and carried her to the living room where they stayed together throughout the windy night, waiting for brother.
|Duplication of the above story by permission only
|Dedicated to my Mom
"The Little Girl"