They’re all in Jen’s scabby back yard; half weeds/half dirt but there’s fresh lemonade and a poet friend visiting from Oregon, a cloudy night sky after another scorcher, so to Mabel it feels a little like a party. The conversation among the small group is loose but intimate, talk of grad school and what’s next in a languid way, as if it can’t really be imagined now, not now, on one of the last days of summer. Tom and Mary are stretched out on a blanket, and the couple from the writing retreat are drinking wine, and Lynn and Betty cutting up watermelon. Jen is bustling around, gaudy hibiscus pinned in her hair, loose red skirt.
And Mabel knows she can hold her own here, even though she’s late to the game, late to talking about books and writing, late to sharing her work. So, she closes her eyes and just listens to voices lift and fall, to the screen door creaking open and closed. She can smell chili on the stove inside. The poet is talking to Tom and Mary about his plans- travelling to Denver, then San Francisco. It sounds exciting and exotic, and Mabel wonders what it would be like to pack up and travel, see new vistas. Maybe next year, huh?
Eyes closed, it is as if the evening is swaying back and forth, the whole summer like a hammock of loosely knotted days. And then the poet is next to her with a slice of watermelon, Taste this, he says. Oh, the first bite is so lush, and then descending sweetness as Mabel chases its pink memory right down to the rind.
She doesn’t want to let go of this moment, let go of the summer -what a dreamy routine she’s gotten into – mornings waking to cool air sieving through the screens, then the sandal-clad walks to the park, sun bright, heat rising, journal in hand, everything feeling sultry and lyrical, on the verge of being expressed. Some days Jen would join her. You should submit your stuff said Jen, send it out. What have you got to lose?
The poet is talking now but Mabel has a hard time concentrating on his words. She pats the letter in her back pocket. Three poems accepted. Three poems. It is a delightful secret she’ll share with Jen later. But for now, she’ll listen to his voice, and the insects whirring. She looks up and sees the clouds have cleared, revealing a coal black sky where she can choose her future from millions of unclaimed stars.
Published in Fixed & Free Quarterly
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash