After the fever, Marla’s bones ached like the marrow was seeping out. She wasn’t a malingerer. She refused medical treatment. Her father encouraged her to carry the pain while it piled up like a bank of snow against her body’s unyielding house. She’d been raised a positive thinker.
Though her steps slowed and she took more frequent rests, Marla, an ecologist, worked outside destroying invasive plants and replacing them with native species. She outpaced her co-workers, cheering them, finally collapsing under a tree.
Diagnosed with Lyme disease, she took a desk job. One of the lucky ones, she got better.
The chair, a lucky garage sale find, tucked itself under the desk after Anne’s husband died. She thought to never change it. Her sister thought otherwise and upholstered it in maroon brocade.
“Much better,” Marla said, deploying a tack to the seat’s bottom.
“Like Burgundy, his favorite wine.”
The new fabric smelled different. She sat in the chair, holding the original brown corduroy. After a year, she gathered her husband’s belongings: the chair, his books, his desk, etcetera and sold them from the driveway. Neighbors shared memories with Anne, bought remembrances. She stowed the proceeds in her brown corduroy purse.
Women liked Anton as a friend. Some reminded him of his mother. They had the same sense of humor and quick efficiency. But he felt nothing of the easy affection that characterized the relationship his parents had.
He hadn’t paid much attention to dating. Too busy busting for A’s. By college, he’d started to wonder whether he was different from his father, though he’d always thought they were the same.
A night of drinking and philosophical discussion with his college roommate changed everything. In the morning, he felt confused. And inspired. And in love with someone who loved him back.
Ace’s mother cleaned houses. His father held a mortgage on a twenty-acre farm. They wanted more for their son and, like a miracle, he got a full ride at Stanford. Everyone smiled for weeks.
Ace worked hard, the way his parents had. He graduated into a computer job in Silicon Valley. Sending money home every month, he spent his leisure time playing on-line games and running an office pool because it gave him an excuse to calculate odds on sports, world events and romance. But, he never saw love coming, even when Lady Luck said the chances were good.
When the fish landed on shore, it talked so glibly that everyone thought it must be magic. Lines formed to ask for wishes. People shook their heads when they found themselves hoping for better roads and cleaner water, not personal fortunes. His silver scales reconfigured into a shooting star, he streaked away saying, “Work together and your dreams will come true.”
Two leaders arose. One saw the dangers of talk with no action, the other advocated action with no talk. Some chose the quickness of autocracy. Most bided their time. Talk takes longer, but the results are worth the wait.
Marleybones had loved Lambykins since second grade. Never married, never asked, she’d persevered through his other women and ego-filled outbursts.
Geminis are mercurial, he’d explained.
It all changed with a Tarot reading. The significator, an upside-down heart pierced by three swords, foretold sorrow. But the outside formation moved from karma through completion. Luck was with her. Her boss was like a father to her. Her new ad campaign had won awards. She’d met someone else, just friends, but someone who liked her. She ghosted Lambykins. When he called, she was firm. She was free. Aquarians are not afraid of change.
Applauding a soprano note, the musician’s circle welcomed Katie. A
yellow school bus served as the troupe’s rolling home. The air burned
her lungs, but it was better than staying at ScareCity with Affluenza
three times her age.
“State of the art filters there.” She pointed to the
building edging the lot.
While the flutist gave her a brownie baked on charcoal, the viola
player found a mask. They tuned up. When Katie sang, the timbre of
her voice was untouched by the scourge of wildfire smoke. In the
morning, she left with them to see the world.
From a young age, she worked with her father on weekends at a community garden halfway between his home and her mother’s. The relationship developed slowly, the way carrots do. The woman did well in school and married, expecting a happily ever after.
On her son’s fifth birthday, her father collapsed while frosting a superhero cake. The cake was perfect. The party was not. Winter set in, hardening the ground.
In the spring, her mother dragged her daughter to the old garden plot. “It’s yours now.” Sifting the soil, she and her children planted seeds for future remembering.
Theodore grew up in a family that was asset rich, but empathy poor. He dreamed of escape. Filling panniers with snacks and casual clothes, he biked inland, towards Fresno, meaning to sample cappuccino in every coffeehouse in every California town of fewer than 500 people.
Ted, his road name, was shocked that people in some places hadn’t tasted espresso. In one cafe, they percolated coffee on a stovetop using Folgers regular grind from the can. A dark brown, it smelled burnt. The waitress said, “Folks here like this brand.” It broke his heart. He married her. Then, she changed his life.
The law degree did him no good. The teaching position tied her down. Free spirits, Alice and Steven couldn’t bring themselves to follow a conventional path any longer. They had some savings. They sold the condo and bought a shack in the woods.
After Eden, the arguments about money started. He found a side gig writing briefs. She asked her father for a book advance. If it hadn’t been for that, they might have starved. Settled in and surprised at the ways their paths diverged, each found happiness elsewhere. Ten years on, at the station, they didn’t recognize one another.