Marie Harris

Waiting

 

I knew I'd broken my ankle the moment my foot twisted off the edge of the tarmac and I hit the ground. I struggled to stand up without letting go of the dog's leash. In that instant I'd risked upstaging my son's long-planned art opening. In the same instant I'd ruined the trip my husband and I were about to take to Puerto Rico. Instead I'd signed up for an hours-long stay in Asheville's hospital.

 

There was intake. And a waiting room. There were x-rays. And a waiting area in the hall where I sat in a wheelchair with my leg propped up and wept quietly in exquisite self pity. Then there was the reading of the x-rays, the verdict and another waiting room. Next the temporary bandaging and casting. And finally the last room, a closet of a space where those of us who had been treated waited to be discharged.

 

The room was dark and close and my need to escape back into my life and everything that had to be dealt with was becoming increasingly urgent. I was at the frayed end of pain and patience. An orderly poked his head around the door. I signaled him and he approached. Please get me out of here.  I spoke in a half whisper.

 

He looked around so I looked around, conscious for the first time of my fellow sufferers. Elderly men and overweight women, fidgety children and sullen teenagers occupied the molded plastic chairs. They were all of them black.

 

The orderly nodded. I understand, Ma'am, he said quietly. I'll find you another room.

 

I waited for the words to come, explaining that he did not understand at all.

 

 

Boston Public

 

My granddaughter found a slim volume discarded or left behind on a bench near Fanueil Hall entitled: SOLV-A-CRIME PUZZLES (Singer Media Corporation; Dover Publications; 1972).

 

Have you ever wanted to be a detective? Well, now is your chance! Read each mystery very carefully: there are clues cleverly hidden where you least expect them!

We amused ourselves for a while reading a scenario or two,

matching wits with a host of devilish burglars, con men, murderers,

until we were

ready to give up,

at which point she turned the book upside down where

the solutions are printed.

 

After a while we headed for the T stop at Government Square, boarding an outbound train for the Museum of Fine Arts stop. The car was packed. A young man next to us was speaking loudly into his cell.

 

"Get out of the Old Port area. Right now! Drive up Munjoy Hill. Keep turning right and left without using your signals. Just don't turn into a cul-de-sac. You'll lose him, I promise. It's going to be OK. Get to I-295 as soon as you can. You'll be able to outrun him then. Oh. We're coming to a tunnel. I'm losing you. I'll call you back." He got off at Symphony.

 

Do you have what it takes to be a real detective? Or listen to a suspect's story
and be able to spot where the truth ends and the fiction begins?

 

 

 

You’ll Know Me

 

The rising pitch of their voices causes me to look up. From my table at the sidewalk café, I watch as the Trailways bus driver stands by his open luggage bay arguing with a passenger, an older woman who seems to be trying to explain something. Her down vest is torn near the pocket and stitched with yellow letters: FIVE YEARS OF SAFETY. Her boots look like they might once have been some man's. The driver's loud complaint competes with the noise of diesel idle. Abruptly he breaks off, boards his bus, slams the door and pulls away, stranding his passenger and her luggage between two white lines on the pavement.

 

She begins to transfer her belongings from the gutter to the sidewalk, picks up a red sleeping bag wound with duct tape and bulging with towels, shrugs a large pocketbook onto one shoulder and grabs a blue suitcase, leaving two nylon duffels behind. These she retrieves next and stacks with the rest against the window of Federal Cigar. She sits on the blue suitcase, unzips a compartment in her handbag, pulls out a Marlboro box from which she extracts and lights a flattened, half-smoked cigarette, then fishes for a pencil stub and a small green spiral-bound notebook. She begins writing.

 

Twenty minutes later, another bus pulls into the square. I finish my tea and prepare to meet the mother of my son's girlfriend. But the only people who get off past the line of passengers waiting to board are three women and a young man in uniform. I've gotten something wrong. The date. The time. I toss my cup into a trashcan and start toward my car. Plans will have to be altered. Phone calls made. Appointments changed.

 

The gray-haired woman looks up. She smiles a lopsided smile and sticks out one foot to nudge a dufflebag out of the way. Eighteen years from now she will perish on a November night in a cabin in Haines, Alaska, alone but for her dog—an animal without a name anyone can remember. She will die in a swift and consuming blaze almost certainly ignited by multi-colored Christmas lights strung on extension cords over listing stacks of newspapers. But now, today, on a sidewalk in a seaside town, somehow I realize I must introduce myself.

Marie Harris

Marie Harris, NH Poet Laureate 1999-2004, is a writer, teacher, and editor. In 2003, she co-produced the first-ever gathering of state poets laureate. She has served as writer-in-residence at elementary and secondary schools throughout New England and is the author of five books of poetry, the most recent of which is Desire Lines, the latest volume in the Hobblebush Books Granite State Poetry Series. Her books for children include G is for Granite: A New Hampshire AlphabetPrimary Numbers: A New Hampshire Number Book, and a picture book, The Girl Who Heard Colors.

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