The Valley

[This is a fiction thread I'm going to follow for awhile; same title, but I'll add to it each time]

You shall be like a dove whose wings are covered with silver...Psalm 68.13

She had underlined those words from the Book of Common Prayer years ago. They had slowly, naturally, become her petition, her longing: Please, make me a silver dove. But the whisper beneath the prayer was to be his silver dove.

It was his hands she noticed first. They were not huge, bearlike gloves, adept at handling tools or rope. Neither were they small and demure. The hands of this man, his hands, would hold you and hang on. That is what she knew the aching moment she saw them, holding the hands of wife and children. Since that first sighting she was haunted by them almost every day. Not every day, mind you, for there were days when her mind felt rid of him. But the emancipating sun would always set and dusk would invite her back to the chains, the freedom of her chains. And the whisper: make me his.

How can you love, truly love, from afar? Is not proximity the core of affection? How she wished that the distance between her point and his were a straight line. If it were, she thought he might see her, notice her, hear her. But there was too much between them, too much that mattered.

A good friend bested cancer two years ago. She faithfully sat with her friend through the chemo, the loss. As each treatment would yield, she would rise to go, but not before a benediction: It's just a shadow, Lucy. Hang on.

Her good friend was in remission now; wigged, but alive. Lucy had dropped a statement once, during chemo’s reign: Tell me about the valley of the shadow of love.


Ah, he began to know
and is quiet now, exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
– Rilke

He swore he’d heard her that day, years ago. It was only a whisper, but sometimes that’s all it takes. Such was that time, that day. The whisper grew into a statement that scared him, quieted him.

Mutual friends were celebrating 25 years of marriage. It was July. She had worn a simple linen blouse, cut so clavicles were prominent. To those his eyes were immediately drawn; from the Latin clavicula meaning “little key.” Those long bones turned something in him leaving him exposed in the moment. And also from then on. He was certain they shook hands as a greeting, but he could remember nothing of her hands, her touch, her smell. Just the sound of bone.

He would now celebrate 20 years, come September. Time had once seemed a stream to fish, but now it had become a torrent tossing him into each new day. He held on. It was what he did, who he was. He was confident in his strength, always had been. His was not a swagger of pretense, but rather the arrogance of belonging.

Shoulders brush in an elevator. Eyes meet at a stoplight. Hands reach for the same piece of luggage. Moments. Whispers. Little keys which spring something in us, something unexpected. We find ourselves short of breath, blushing, apologetic, quiet.

After being relocated to his town, he and Brad had ridden horses together most weekends for over 5 years. He was thankful for the opportunity to ride with his younger brother again. It made them feel like boys. That boyish feeling caused him to interpret Brad's slump a month ago to be a joke, a prank. His brother momentarily leaned on the horn and then fell from his saddle. The fall broke his collarbone, shoved it straight through his shirt. The doctor said aortic aneurysm as he held his sister-in-law's widowed hands. He gave a short eulogy at the graveside and then placed his carnation on the casket.

Now, most weekends, he rode alone, listening.

1 comment:

  1. I'd say that counts as a valley...

    More, please.