Heresies of Nature
by Margaret B. Young
[p.91] Journal Entry:
December 25, 1982
It was a beautiful, snowy day. Ben gave me the most gorgeous sapphire earrings—made them himself, of course. And the girls went wild over the Barbies Santa left.
I am grateful for every bit of movement I still have, glad I can still walk. I wobble a little, trip a lot, but I’m still upright, praise God.
Damn, I love Christmas!
[p.92] Oh we do love it, don’t we. We do.
In the Ocean Room, Ben kissed his wife on the forehead. It was late evening and he had found something in an old shoe box in the back of his closet: a necklace with a simple emerald pendant. He dangled it before her glasses. “Remember this?”
“I used to be pretty good at making this stuff, didn’t I?”
“I’ve been thinking. I’ve just—. I haven’t been having dreams lately. I used to have them. Maybe I still do and I just don’t remember.” He moved his head towards the door, then returned his focus to Merry. “And another thing,” he went on. “We need to talk about this, Merry. It’s—.” His head jerked slightly forward, following words that stopped before they were spoken. “You know that rip in the kitchen wallpaper? I wonder if we ought to re-do the whole wall. Not that I want to. But it’s getting worse. We could hire someone. Maybe after I sell the book. I’ve heard you can just paper over the old stuff. Makes things more interesting for future archaeologists. They just peel the decades away.” He made and quickly dropped a smile. “I enjoyed that daisy wallpaper you put up when we bought this house, did I ever tell you that?”
“Yeah. I did. And—.” Again he swivelled his head, as though looking for something. “Anyway, the thing is—.” He closed his fist around the emerald. “I loved making this necklace for you. I made you earrings one year too, didn’t I.”
A slow blink.
“Do you still have dreams like you used to?”
[p.93] “Do you remember them when you wake up?”
Now he got on his knees, gazing at her eye to eye. “Merry.” He swallowed, looked away, then back to her soft, gold eyes behind those thick lenses. “The toilet’s plugged up, too. I don’t know what the problem is. You didn’t marry a handyman, though. Big news, huh. So, I’ll check into the plumbing line. And I’ll put the necklace somewhere safe.” He stood, slapping his trousers back into place, looking again towards the door, and again returning his eyes to his wife. “Well. It’s getting late. Shall I take you upstairs? No? You want to stay here for now?”
“All right. I’ll check in on you later.” He stepped towards the door, then turned back, finally ready to say what he had come to say. He cleared his throat; his words rasped out anyway because his voice was so low and so sad. “Merry? The time’s coming. You know that, don’t you? There are some very good places here.” He couldn’t look at her, so he looked past her to the aquarium, the tranquil fish. “Jake Boshard was telling me about one,” he told a blue damsel fish. “Fine, caring people. Equipment. Doctors on call twenty-four hours a day. I’ll find you the best one, I promise.” He kissed her forehead again, then met her eyes briefly. “I promise.”
Ben didn’t even look in the shoe box, just carried it out to the half-frozen yard. He had sat with it in the living room for three hours, trying to let his mind go blank. It was two o’clock in the morning now, and he had decided to bury his treasures—all the jewelry he had made for his wife. Sapphire earrings. Amethyst necklaces. Garnet ring. Opal brooch. And the emerald pendant. All her birthdays and Christmases were inside the box, and all the sounds she had made when she saw his gifts (squeals, [p.94] laughter, sighs) were inside the gems. He couldn’t have them around the house anymore; they sapped his strength.
He brought the shovel from the shed, pointed it at a place where petunias should be planted come spring (would be, if he could find the time), and stepped down hard. The ground cracked, gave way an inch. It took nearly a half hour to dig the hole. Snow started just as he finished. He removed his glasses when the flakes melted on his lenses.
“Storm’s on the way,” Cody said, coming out of the patio door.
“I doubt it.” Only after the words were out did he realize he and Cody had just repeated the beginnings of his first dialogue with Merry.
“Hello,” Cody said.
She looked up at the sky. “You’re probably right. The clouds are way over there. It’s a pretty night, actually.”
“It’s a pretty cold night.”
Her hands were in her jeans pockets as she approached him. “You planting a garden in the snow?”
“I thought you knew everything.”
“Just thinking, that’s all.”
“You’re burying something.” She brushed the snow from her bangs. Her hair had grown, the dark roots were nearly two inches, the white ends lifting in the breeze.
“What kind? Diamonds?”
“Emeralds. Sapphires. Things I made for my wife.” He held the shoebox out to her.
“Why?” She opened the lid, fingered the brooch.
Ben leaned on his shovel. “Why what?”
“Why are you burying these things?”
He closed his eyes. “Because they’re making me tired.”
“But you’re not superstitious.”
[p.95] “They bring back sounds.”
“The ones she can’t do anymore. They’re making me tired.”
“And you’re thinking about the future. You want to share the thoughts? Or are they private? I won’t go where you don’t want me, Ben. I know where the walls are.”
Still pressing into the shovel, he nodded once. “I guess it is private, then.”
“That’s all right. When you’re ready?” Another statement inflected like a question. A Cody question.
“When I’m ready.”
She waited till he met her eyes. “When you’re ready,” she whispered.
She touched his shoulder. “I wondered if you wanted company, that’s all. You feel so lonely. Ben.”
And all his blood, all his body warmth, all his life moved inside him.
“Everyone’s asleep inside.” She set the shoe box on the ground.
He leaned harder on his shovel, didn’t answer.
He saw her getting close. The snow made everything bright, moonlit, though he could not see a moon. Cody was nodding, and Ben’s hand was going towards her. He let the shovel go. It stayed standing for two seconds, then fell sideways with a muffled thump.
When he lifted his arms, she fell into them. He kissed her cheek, her chin, her mouth. It had been so long.
“It’s all right,” she said as he moved down her neck. “You don’t fight the gods,” she said.
“It’s so cold.”
[p.96] “With the ocean.”
“Their rooms. All sleeping.”
He straightened again, stepped back.
“You’re going to run, aren’t you? Like before? Do it now, then. Go.”
“I can’t just—”
“God’s gift,” she murmured. Big, bright flakes drifted lazily down, melted into her flesh.
She took his hands and placed them on her neck. “You can strangle me or love me,” she said, and he let his hands cup her shoulders. “I can be her,” she whispered. “She wants me to be her.”
He blinked the snow from his lashes, felt the moisture ooze down his cheeks like cold tears, breathed deeply. “Cody.”
“She’s inside me,” she whispered.
July 1, 1984
We’re in California. Just for vacation, but still …
I feel myself getting stronger, feel the ocean calling me. I stepped into it and felt God baptizing me, washing out the m.s. with every wave. And I saw the most magnificent manta rays— I’m positive God put them there for me as a special treat—just hanging out in the water, like they knew I’d be coming.
I’m not counting on being healed. But I won’t be surprised if I go into a remission now—that’s how strong I feel! I’m due for remission anyway, since that’s supposed to come in the m.s. package.
Ben and I made glorious love.
[p.97] Yes, glorious love. Oh, happy!