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Sunday, 09/22/2013 – Nora: Omitted

Claire read the words again.

It took her no time at all, the entire article was only a few short sentences.

She shook the newspaper, straightening out folds where some text may have fallen then pinned it down on the table with her finger holding the words in place.

She read the same words again then shook her head as if the problem might not be with the print but with her ability to understand. When nothing changed, she rubbed her eyes and squinted at the page.

Jack sipped his coffee and stole a quick peek at her over the top of the sports section he was pretending to read. He could ask, but he knew that if he waited, she would tell all he needed to know.

He didn’t have to wait long.

“But…,” Claire’s voice trailed off, her thought unfinished

Unseen behind the news, Jack let her thoughts gather like a storm in her head. If he remained silent, it might blow through without too much damage. No sense standing himself up as a lightning rod.

Taking the last swallow of coffee from his mug, he lowers his paper, and risks the question. “Coffee?” he asks.

“Hmmm? Sure,” she says still staring at the page.

That could be a good sign he thinks as he collects her mug and heads for the half-full pot on the counter. As he pours, he hears the newspaper rattle behind him.

“Omituary!” Claire’s voice was a little too loud for the small kitchen. The word was startling, not because of its volume but because he was unsure if he had heard her correctly.

Jack clinkles the spoon against the mug as he stirs in her cream and sugar.

“Out! Out! Out!” with each word, Claire’s finger stabs down on the paper like bolts of lightning.

Her approaching storm has arrived. Jack sets her coffee on the table just beyond her reach. Once she lets loose, there is not telling where her hands will go. He moves behind her and places his hands on her shoulders. It is a risky move but none of the pressure that has been building has been directed at him. Yet.

Another tentative move.

“Claire, honey, what’s wrong?”

She points to the obituary making no move to hand the paper to Jack. He makes no move to pick it up, just leans in a little closer and reads over her shoulder.

Nora Blount. He does not recognize the name. The short obituary provides not clues about how he or Claire might know Nora. He searches his memory for a clue about her.

He ventures a little closer to the storm, “I’m not sure that I know Nora.”

Claire’s shoulders begin to quake. Somewhere inside her a dam is being eroded and a river of tears is beginning to spill out.

“That’s the problem,” she sobs, “You don’t know her, I don’t know her, and now nobody will know her. Look here, a couple of dates: born, died, and nothing much in between. Not a single detail about who she was.”

He waits.

“Everything about her has been omitted.”

In all of their years together, Jack has never been able to tell when these little thunder clouds that darken Claire’s world will arrive, or how long they will stay.

Claire wipes her eyes.

Jack hears her sniffles as the last rumblings of thunder moving off in the distance. He reaches around her, folds the paper and slides her coffee closer.

“Thank you,” she says.

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  1. cooperthom Sep 24th 2013

    As always, I am impressed by your writing.”The short obituary provides NOT clues…” Correction needed there. You have an amazing ability to write about a “slice of life” and make it real. Keep it up, Greg.


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