Ivory, Ghosts and Snow Geese
Bethany died of a plague before we were wed. Her face was pale and colourless, but there was light in her eyes, until the day she closed them forever. She was buried on a Sunday in a paupers grave. The money we had set aside for the wedding now paid for a simple ceremony and a modest headstone. In the weeks and months that followed I grew lonelier and lonelier. I visited the grave everyday and when I could, I brought flowers. As time passed, it eventually grew wings and flew by, my station in the world grew. The money I received for my hard work in the coal mines had doubled as I no longer paid for her meals. Eventually, I received enough money to pay for a steam boat ticket and I fled the past, (or at least tried to). I arrived in America all traces of my former life gone as I saw the welcoming green shore of the East Coast.
I found work easily enough, unloading the great green hands of bananas that arrived in the huge ships. The years rolled on, the Snow Geese came and went and I began to miss Beth again as I watched their slow wing beats of an evening. There was a harsh wind in the air and the garden smelled sweet with flowers as the final geese winged their way north.
On the fifth year, the world had once again been good to me. I found a place to sing and play the piano. It paid well enough and once again the geese returned after a northern summer. It had been six years since I stood by the grave or laid a modest bunch of flowers by the rough headstone. I was at the piano beating out a well-known love song when I saw her. I only glimpsed her for an instant but I knew it was her. I saw the eyes and I knew. Like two pools of life and hope and love. Then she was gone, disappearing into the crowd as my fingers stumbled over the keyboard.
I came back to the club whenever I could. I played the old untuned piano till my fingers were raw and the keys stuck down beneath them. No matter how long I waited and played, I never saw her again. I began to go over it in my mind as I played the melancholy notes of my thought processes and the seventh year scattered the leaves of autumn and banished the geese again to the north. One night as autumn choked itself into a colder than usual winter, I began to walk.
The club had closed and the brisk air begged to be drunken in like so much white wine. I walked over the docks and saw the looming masts and their rigging all around like a slowly rocking forest of skeletal trees. I continued on and through the town like a lost child on a determined quest to find someone before he burst into tears. Finally, I stopped by an enormous oak tree under which acorns were scattered over a low bench. I sat and watched the full moon play among the restless clouds. I don't know how long I sat, but as the first rays of dawn, lighting it in a myriad of pink and gold, a single snow white shape caressed the sky.
I watched the Snow Goose as it flew independant and free and for the first time, since she died, I felt truly happy. I still played at the club, but all the sad songs were replaced by a new and exciting style. I felt free, no stones of grief weighing me down and seven years after I had arrived in America I began my new life.