Saturday, November 24, 2012
Melody Clinkenbeard took her sleeping father's right hand into her own and rubbed it in the manner of her mother, Patricia. George C. stirred, mumbled "Trish" and settled again. Melody looked up into that great round face; George was a good man of fulsome, wholesome appetites and his face waxed year by year like a moon come closer and closer to its primary... she turned the purloined hand over and traced the good, working man's scars. Her father bossed a ranch and led by his cheerful example. If he was so tired after dinner, it was because he had been going hard since before dawn.
He was smiling in his dreams.
Melody laid the hand back with its' fellow on her father's belly as he set in to snore. She pulled crude sweet-grass paper and charcoal to her and began to draw that great hand and then the face, losing herself for a time in two dimensional space-
"You okay, sweetie?"
Melody looked up over her shoulder at her sister Hannah, who had come up behind her at the kitchen table.
"Yeah. Daddy's taking a nap-"
She was interrupted yet again, this time by a thunderous snore. The sleeper woke himself and owlishly peered at half his brood of girl-chicks, absently swiping a curly lock out of his eyes.
"Hello?" He said tentatively, just come over the border between the land of sleep and full wakefulness.
"Oh, Dad, you need a haircut," Hannah said. She and her little sister shared a look. George had curls to die for, in the unanimous opinion of his womenfolk. Their mother said that she used to tease him unmercifully for his errant locks, his deep blue eyes and his strength, the strength of two North Country Men and three or four from down by the sea in Shanghai-town. He was their 'Samson'- "And I made sure to scratch out Delilah's eyes, oh yes, my kittens, in a fair and epic cat-fight!"
George looked from one to the other and shrugged as he was wont to do. He was outnumbered and had been for years; had admitted defeat long since... and it was a fine captivity. It suited him.
"Well then, I'm your lamb, girls; shear me!"
They giggled and Melody said somewhat redundantly, "Daddy's silly!" Before scampering off for the scissors and such. George stood creakily, running a hand through the not-quite filthy and still warm, soapy dishwater of the new sink, wiping his face with his dripping hand, for it was sweaty and maybe a little greasy from dinner, and drying off with a towel. He returned to the table and sat admiring his youngest daughter's little scratches. The Sergeant had been one for drawing, developed from sketching out battle-maps and such, but it turned out that he had a real talent. This drawing echoed his not-father in a way that made his heart ache a little. The old warrior and second to his mother, Captain Cee, had loved her boys and taught them many things, including light and shadow, perspective and line... here, Melody had suggested laughter with the fine lines at the corners of his mouth and around his eyes. A laughing face set off by an enormous rough and open hand. George glanced down at the model, really looking at it for the first time in years.
"A mind to imagine what might be, two strong hands to make it so, and a heart to love and feel full well this strange new world you were born into..." It was his mother's odd litany, and it made much more sense now than it had as a boy. Patricia had scribbled it down from him when they had been courting and had pronounced the old woman a better poetess than she knew. George had thought that that was great praise from a good writer like his Trish.
His girls finally came back with their mother in tow.
"Did you get lost?" George asked, smiling. His wife ran her hand through his hair and kissed his forehead. She sat at the table by his right hand and glanced at the drawing while she answered him.
"They raided my sewing room for my good cloth scissors, and I decided to watch over the work, lest they get carried away or forget to put things back." She lay her own weary head down on her outstretched arm, head turned to him, wry smile and a sparkle before she shut her eyes briefly. George took her left hand in his hands and found them cold, so very cold. He lifted her hand to his lips and blew on it, kissed her knuckles and then the palm, blew on it... she giggled and pulled her hand away.
Melody giggled, his little giggle-puss, but Hannah smiled a little ways off, it seemed to George. The girls started in on the 'shearing' and he asked Hannah, "Who're you smiling about, Huckleberry?"
That won him a smile of his own. She hadn't insisted on that nickname so much lately, but it was her own bit of identity, priceless in a small mob four sisters. And he knew, as well as she and her mother or sister, which boy she was thinking of.
"A father bird wants the best for his girl-chicks, you know..."
"Dad!" Hannah combed out his hair carefully and started cutting; George decided not to distract her from her work. Trish asked the little one a few questions about the sketch, and Hannah said quietly by his ear, "Heibai looks at me like that; like he sees me and is amazed, maybe..."
"No 'maybe' about it, I'm sure..." he thought about how the eldest two were on the 'wild-husband hunt' and didn't think Hannah was liable to be joining them, which was a thought both comforting and alarming at the same time. He cleared his throat. "Ah, you two-"
"Not to worry Dad," Hannah interrupted, sounding a little sad.
"Now I definitely am. Tell me?"
"There's a lot more to it than just the two of us... I don't want to be this great lady down in the city, and Heibai isn't going to marry me some day, it's just a ridiculous idea."
"What are we going to do with you, kid?"
"That's not your problem-"
"It is; it's my job and my pleasure, anyway. Worrying about my strange little girl-chick comes with the territory. Hey! I know you can take care of yourself, but you don't have to do it alone, y'see? Let your Dad help, please?"