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She lived quietly, by herself, at the lake shore. The iridescent ducks never fled from her, nor did the hedgehogs scatter when she arrived with her carton of cream. Even the thin green grass snakes didn’t interrupt their basking on hot stones as she passed them. Dusk fell late and rosier those days. The crickets stayed up late in their flower beds.

Dear, on a day like this…, She spent the mornings mumbling, sinking her trowel in the soft earth by the tart tomatoes. The years have fled, my blood is watery, my fingers clumsy…

She went on well until the afternoon, ignoring a sun that was unable to tease a single drop of sweat from her lukewarm body. The breeze was scented with mud and pollen. Her elbows and grimy knees were on fire.

In the small home, the brittle plastic tablecloth held in the stained napkin-holder the pack of letters, just as yellowed and salt-stained. After lunch she cleaned the sink and carefully set aside: the notebook, college ruled, the pen with the pharmacy logo, the roll of stamps, a crisp new envelope, and she began.

Dear, today…

She paused, trying to recall the morning, she stared at her hands, only liver spots and the gleam of gold, she couldn’t remember that many things, she could see right through them onto the blank page.

Spiders climbed on top of me as I was dozing off on the front porch, in my sleep I thought I could speak their language, then the mosquitoes came too and all of them got into a big argument, in the end the spiders laughed and ate them, and I woke up with the cat on my lap and I had forgotten its name. But this is a secret.

She hummed a song along with the kettle.

Around eleven the girl came, she tidied up, said I should expect her around six. I envied the flesh spilling out from her blouse, with its shiny stretch marks and the small blond hairs. What thoughts, in our time of life! I’m simply drowning in lemons, the lemon tree is never bothered, it lets them fall, and I give bagfuls of them to the girl.

Another pause. Surely there was something she had to remember to do, she wanted to pour something into this mug, the sunbeam hit the box of canned milk, that shouldn’t be, the snakes were watching her today on the garden path, at least her legs were still strong.

Dear, I can see everything, the bones, the veins, the lazy tendons, I’ve become transparent, I’d like to put on make-up again and not see them, I’d like you to take me out again, out in the city. Fine weather, the apricot trees are glistening but it will rain, this day, tomorrow, the day after that, it will rain, it will get mucky, in the spring the blossoms will be gone and there will be no sour cherries, my children, the cherry trees, the lemon tree, who stand here and watch me, who will one day eat me, one day, hopefully one fine day, when it will be sunny.

She paused – was that too grim? But where was the sadness, it’s gone, all of it is gone, she doesn’t even notice such things anymore, all days now are stretched and faded, a sweet yawn and a broken radio, there’s not even enough saliva to seal this envelope, to keep the letter from getting lost, to keep the words from falling off, to keep the wind away so it won’t carry off my dear, one day, hopefully one day, one really fine day, full of delicate little grasshoppers and papery wildflowers and dusky stars…

The sealed letter went to its corner alongside the others, in the family shrine with the old photos and the dry wedding wreaths, with the wispy flame of the burning oil lamp, the yellow papers, the playful breeze, the wispy flame, the fluttering curtains, the brittle envelopes, the flame, the wispy flame…

She lived quietly, by herself, at the lake shore.

 


Clio Velentza lives in Athens, Greece. She has been a winner of Queen’s Ferry Press’ Best Small Fictions 2016 and was anthologized in 21 New Voices (Eleftheroudakis Publications, 2011). Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in several literary journals, including “Maudlin House”, “Literary Orphans”, “Gravel Magazine”, “Atticus Review” and “Wigleaf”.

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