Leaves glowed red and yellow under the morning sun. She could hear strains of Billie Holiday in her head—that unmistakable voice. “Body and Soul”—that was the tune. Other commuter’s walked the same path to the same train, but they all had different destinations: one train to many places. They moved through the turnstiles—all together and so separate, and then down the stairs to the tracks. Crisp air. Autumn air. City air. Soon enough, she felt the familiar rumble of wheels as the train approached. All the commuters lined up, positioning themselves, waiting for the doors to slap open and closed long enough to admit them. She stepped onto the first car and sat on the long bench-like seat just under the windows. The train started up again, and she watched the blur of buildings, the sun lit brick, go by. On the wall of the train posters advertised: attend this college, watch this show. One poster displayed an old photo of the Beatles—young and so full of possibility. Of the four of them, George stood out the most—his face shining. The train slowed toward its next stop. She looked out to the buildings and saw the graffiti: “There is no god” and “The world ends now.” The train stopped. Its doors slapped open and closed. A few stepped off, and a few stepped on. And then the rumble of wheels again, the blur of buildings. She looked into George Harrison’s eyes.
“Chant with me,” he seemed to say. “Bodyandsoulbodyandsoulbodyandsoul.”
She watched from her window as the snow fell. Actually, it flew that day. The wind blew flakes sideways and upside down until everything was covered—even fences and signs and windows. And when she stepped outside and into it, she marveled at just how much the landscape had changed. Curbs were now huge mounds of plowed snow. Mountains, really. Trees and bushes were now white creatures, bent low and heavy. There were no longer streets or sidewalks—the world had gone white and vast and pathless. She looked down and noticed that her feet with their red boots had all but disappeared in the deep snow—her red hat and mittens the only color for as far as she could see. Gray sky matched gray trunks and blended into the deep, snowy ground. She looked for the horizon, but it did not exist. She dug her woolen hands into the snow and out of it molded a ball. She held the ball in the palm of her red mitten, and then she laid it on a drift. It should have disappeared, white upon white, but instead it glittered. The snowball glowed back at her, full of promise or loss—a crystal ball waiting out the storm.
The bare trees covered the hillside, and from a distance, it looked as if the hill was covered in fur. Funny that way—how hard branches soften. She drove a stretch of Vermont highway that even in the fall can ice over in spots. Her dog Gray slept beside her in the passenger seat. He curled up face to tail, and occasionally she laid her hand on his belly just to feel the slow rise and fall of his breath. She pulled the car off an exit and made her way down a back road and then to a dirt road. The tires hit ruts and bumps. Gray woke up then, propped himself on his hind legs, and looked out the window.
“Wanna take a walk?” she asked.
Opal looked out the window. A gray overcast filled the sky. Leaves hung on trees—orange, yellow, red. She watched one fall. It twirled and almost seemed to shine against the dark day.
She put on her red jacket and her brown shoes.
Readers, I’m trying a new approach to the Opal stories. Instead of writing in sequence, I’m just letting myself discover this character in various circumstances. I gave myself the exercise of putting Opal into a situation and seeing how she handled it. This is what developed from that.
Opal was a afraid of the dark—especially Aunt Frances’ cellar.