The Collector

Sandra blamed John’s unemployment for his confusion.

They were finally lonely together, like two birds mated for a season and subject to the mysterious light of autumn that would bid them go.  What she had seen in him, she still saw–the gentle and perceptive eyes, the large hands roughened by washing dishes at The Grill, the heart of one who sees things and cannot forget.  In fact the man was an endearing collection of memories, and it was sad to see him subdued by them when the drum of her own life beat loud.

He said he didn’t understand how or why he had failed.  He had been as compromising and practical as it was possible for him to be, and, she agreed, didn’t she, that his work was good, so what was the matter?  Of course, there was politics, but there were people much less politic than himself who were doing well . . . .

She listened.  She forgave him.  She believed that he knew what he was about, and it was really not his fault that he couldn’t get hitched into the economy.  She told him that he would never have to apologize to her for what he did.

He said he would never, in any case, apologize to her.  He could not bring himself to do it, she wouldn’t let him do it, and he seemed to understand through that just how very much she loved him.

“I want to stand with you,” she had said, her arms full of the damp laundry she hung out on the line once a week, “but it’s hard to believe in the future.”  What she had meant was his future.  As he turned back to his work, her wreck of a heart made her wish she had said nothing, but she went bravely down the rickety back steps of their home and into the dirt yard where the clothes line was.  A cardinal perched amid the waxy leaves of a small holly whistled for a moment as if to draw her attention before its dark feathers spotted the air like blood and vanished in the cooling afternoon light.

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