by Raji Singh
It’s the 1890’s. ‘Ol Efraim, he’s a teller of tales and a crier of wolf from way back – a hypochondriac to boot. He’s on his deathbed, so he claims.
My great grandparents Doc and Shelva Fiction are enduring jail accused of selling him a wretched dose of patent medicine elixir. A spanking new scaffold and noose loom outside their cell. Will they be the first to test it if Efraim’s ‘claim’ comes true?
* * *
Mine husband, mine sweet druzhyna, paces our shadowy and cold jail cell: ‘What to do?’ He is considering what seems impossible: How to help Efraim if Sheriff cannot get Doctor to him in time. But for the rhythmic thumps of his shoes on the stone floor, so quiet. I hear whispers.
‘Come Shelva. Join your Luny Mum in her warm glow. Bask in the magic power of my beams and ease your pain.’
I muster strength to rise from cot. I clutch my abdomen. The pain in my womb it comes and goes with such fury. I am just certain it is my nerves – so frayed. I look out the barred window.
On the desolate street – the most beautiful woman, ever I see. Immerse in Luny Mum’s glow- light, slowly she spins. Each circle takes just seconds to complete. Yet, her long white-blond hair, all the way to her narrow waist, and her ankle length ivory gown, they twirl like a dervish. Thin alabaster arms are raised high, gentle moonbeams. They seem to continue skyward as far as the eye can see.
Her movements stop. She looks my way. Her face is round, milk smooth. I cannot explain how, why, but seeing the gentleness of her face, my hurts – vanish. I am unable to distinguish her features, only the smooth swipes of the saintly faces of church statures I’d amazed over as a little girl when our family visited St. Petersburg. I know this face. I visit with her nearly every night. “Mum?”
“Did you say something to me, Shelva?” Doc asks. His voice is tired. He sits, nearly collapses onto the cot.
“Nyet, mine druzhyna.” I tell myself, ‘the woman, she is Luny Mum, come alive, come to earth to help us with our troublings.’
Her figure reaches down to lift something. From my vantage point, I cannot see what it is. Ever so slowly, she continues on her on her journey, as Luny Mum is apt, traveling through the dark on a distinct celestial path. ‘Mustn’t tell husband about her coming to our aid. Break spell. Magic, disappear.’ I go to him. He sleeps. I slip blanket over. Half-dozen butterfly flit through the barred window, light on his neck. Their tender thread-legs massage him. Strain disappears from his look for first time in many hours. ‘Are you all sent from Luny Mum?’
When I return to the window, the woman is gone.
“I have something for you,” I hear someone say. I turn. She is on the other side of the cell.
“I did not hear the jailhouse door open.”
“I have a secret way in. Only the Sheriff and I know of it.”
I hesitate for a moment before I ask, “Mum, is that you?”
She smiles. “Why, yes! A new mum. Can you tell by just looking at me? I only just realized it a few hours ago. Do I have a glow? Am I flush?” She carries picnic baskets. They are what she had lifted when she was outside. She sets them on a small table and examines her face – stroking, patting. She looks at me, but doesn’t see me. I realize she is blind.
She approaches and raises creamy hands, inches from my face. They orbit slowly near my forehead. Her smile is so natural it appears her mouth almost-always crescents happily upward. “I feel the warmth of the sparkle in your eyes, sister Shelva. Just as I can imagine a spark is in mine, now too,” she says. Her sky blue eyes possess both the twinkle of night and the crystal of day.
I blink, suddenly realizing I’ve a warmth I never before felt. Maybe it is from my condition. I breathe in, wondering – has the warmth a scent? I swallow. Has it a taste? Yes, both! But I cannot recognize, or identify either since never in my life have I experienced them. The warmth has even a sound – as if the jail bars buzz gently because hundreds of bees inhabit them.
My journey into the senses is broken when she informs me, “The warmth you exude tells me you too are with child.”
I smile broadly as she. I am so happy my news is now shared, even with a celestial force. Boldly I query. “How did you come to leave your high home and come to this place, Mum?”
Her face suddenly reflects what I would call confused merriment. Her unseeing eyes seem to study me coyly. A lilting laugh barely grazes her voice. “You’ve mistaken me for another, sister. I am Millie. Sheriff Jackson’s wife. You’ve not told your husband yet – about your sweet and loving condition, hmm?”
I nod, knowing she already senses my answer.
“Nor I the Sheriff. So that is one more thing we have in common.” She opens the baskets. “I bring supper.”
Savory scents of hot chicken, corn, potatoes freshen up the dank prison. As I nibble, saving plenty for mine voracious druzhyna, she says, “We met briefly in the crowd of anxious women and equally anxious men purchasing your, quoting your husband as he pitched from the wagon. ‘Rrrose Heather’s Whure’s Delight – a sensual recipe for a delightful boudoir.’ I come to tell you, Shelva – I know your name because someone said it was printed on the side of the wagon – that the ‘Delight’ worked instantly for the Sheriff, and me.”
I see she is now blushing, pinkish red, and she hides her face slightly, shyly. “You helped me, Shelva. Now I am here to help you…”
I know that my face reflects my puzzlement and that Millie senses it through her ability to read me via my warmth.
She continues. “…Of course I just can’t release you. But there just has to be a way.”
~ ~ Luny Mum smiles through the cell window, washing the two women with her milk glow. ‘I have brought together, my sisters. And together, will they work.’ ~ ~
“Why do you spin as you did on the street?” I ask.
“To take into all sides of my body the soothing beams of our mutual friend, Luny Mum.”
I glare, surprised. “You know her?”
“That is another reason I know your name, Shelva. Mum told me of you. When I felt your warmth at you and your husband’s sale, I knew we were bound to meet again. I just sensed it would be so. Or, maybe Mum told me through my senses.”
My reaction; complete confusion. “How can you know her, without being able…?”
Millie completes my question, “…to see?” She touches my hand – so warm. “You see and speak with her through your eyes, Shelva. I feel, and then speak to her through my sense of warm touch. It is through some mystery probably only Luny Mum can explain.”
Our conversation awakens Doc and he rises. He runs fingers through his hair groggily.
“This is Sheriff Jackson’s wife.”
“Greetings Mrs. Jackson.”
He stares intensely at her for long moments, as someone might; at someone, perhaps they have long ago known. But no, that is not mine husband’s reason. Luny Mum, at just the moment he saw Millie, had glinted brightly, intensely into her eyes. He comes to the cell bars, and gets close to her as he can. “I’ve seen your condition just once before; when I interned in Lindia after medical school. I thought it a miracle what my mentor Dr. Singh did. And perhaps it was. He cured – Blindness. I have the same combination of medicines in my bag that he utilized.”
I see Millie’s sudden doubt, confusion, and trepidation.
Luny Mum’s beam reaches to caress Millie’s shoulders. I am allowed – maybe this too is a miracle – to be privy to their warm and touching conversation. Their form of communication is exhilarating.
‘Have no doubt that what he says is possible, Little Sister. For I have observed it to be so. Now you shall see as well as feel your Luny Mum. You shall gain sight’s freedom as well as expand your warmth. You shall see how both of these powers will come to assist the Doctor and Shelva.’
NEXT WEEK: HE MAKES THE BLIND SEE. CAN HE MAKE A WOLF-CRYING HYPOCHONDRIAC RISE UP AND SEE THE LIGHT?
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story. It’s available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©Raji Singh, 2013