Daughters of the Earth

Author: Marie Lynam Fitzpatrick

I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. -- Samuel Johnson

An earlier argument with Jenny, her daughter, triggered Mary’s night sweat and woke her at four AM. Sitting up in bed, spitting and choking, her own mother’s image danced in her head to the tune of Believe Me If All those Endearing Young Charms,laughing at her, saying, I told you so.

Words forced their way back into her mouth, choking her, filling the cavity with articles, vowels and consonants. Sentences hung from teeth as memories wrapped around gums. Visuals rattled off her tongue, slipped past taste buds, sent searing gut pain to her brain. It’s a very strange sensation to eat one’s words, she decided in some part of her consciousness.

Mary worried a minute over her dream, then dismissed it and got up to make a cup of tea. Pulling on her dressing gown, she walked blindly into the hall, still dozy.

Colors registered first, beautiful light emanating from frames hanging on the walls. I don’t own Van Goghs, she thought, pinching herself, checking the bruise, walking back into her bedroom to check. This is ridiculous. Yep, the bed, dresser and twenty-four inch flat screen, yep, definitely mine. Jenny must be getting her own back.

Mary smiled and retraced her steps. Turning the kitchen doorknob, she stopped to check the pictures once more. Raising the switch, light flooded the hall. She started at the electric effect of the impressions against the white wall. Not Van Gogh, she thought, studying the copy of Jack Yeats’s, Swinford Funeral, women, eloquently dressed in their best, ambling behind a horse drawn hearse. “Real beauties,” she whispered as she stepped through the door.

Instead of walking across her newly tiled floor, Mary stood on a dirt street with fields each side, green fog rising around her ankles. Unbelieving, she turned back, but her house had vanished and she was dressed in a shabby coat over a torn dress, scruffy shoes and no stockings.

Hair on her neck stood to attention. Mary panicked. It isn’t real . . . it can’t be. I’m in my kitchen making a nice cup of tea.

Ahead, she saw a light in the fog, dim and moving. As she walked toward it the light got stronger, fog fell from her ankles. Breath caught in her throat. Pulsating and hot, air made cartoon microwaves around her.

“Breathe easy,” she admonished.

As a retinue approached, she noticed a young woman, holding a lantern who had the most glorious red hair, complimented by ice blue eyes. Smiling, she wore a deep blue dress over green satin slippers. Moving closer, Mary found herself surrounded by a train of attendants, all very lovely, very fine women. Taking her hand, the young woman lead her to the top of the queue where the coffin waited. She pointed to the epitaph: I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. — Samuel Johnson

“Today we bury your words, Mary,” said the blue-eyed woman.

As the daughters of the earth closed in, Mary woke to the sound of her daughter’s voice. “You still in bed? Come and see what I’ve bought.”

Jenny held the print up to the light, which shone silver light onto her glorious red hair.

MLF ’07