The Rucksack is Packed and Hidden in the Pantry
Now, I will thread my arms through my raincoat and pull on my galoshes. Heave the rucksack onto my back. There is little I’ll miss in this house I’ve been scrubbing for forty years.
I’ll hitchhike into the city. Tighten the straps and follow the crow swooping east, head toward the scent of death and rebirth—of decaying leaves composting into moist earth—until I reach the boulder that juts out into the river where I will stretch tall and shed years of dust as I watch the geese lighting on the sandbar. Each year, these geese stay long enough to raise their goslings. I’ve got my passport and cash. I’ll reunite with the lover nobody suspects. He is always waiting for me, always beckoning me toward adventure— Cochetopa Dome, Yellowstone. Now, he is on a beach off the coast of Italy, where he eats seasoned bread and grilled aubergines, and everything is soaked in sun. I will go to him, drink the fountain of youth from his mouth, make love in the vineyards, and vow never to fall asleep again.
I’ll hitchhike into the city. Tighten the straps and follow the crow swooping east, head toward the scent of death and rebirth—of decaying leaves composting into moist earth—until I reach the boulder that juts out into the river where I will stretch tall and shed years of dust as I watch the geese lighting on the sandbar.
No. I will put the rucksack back in its place. Return to where I belong, at the sink scouring the cast iron frying pans. I’ll watch grey water swirl down the drain just before I hear knocking at the back door where my grandson will ask if I found his stuffie, the blue bunny I gave him at Easter. He’ll look up at me with his sad obsidian eyes, and it will kill me as it does every time I realize my son became a man like his father. He does not have time for children. No time for a mother. Perhaps his ex-wife took my existence as a warning, and so she escaped. Every Sunday, I clear the table with my grandson while my sons clear their throats in the living room, exchange sections of the Globe & Mail. My grandson and I play Old Maid, the crows cackling outside, and make plans to gather obsidian at Yellowstone like his father and I did when he was a boy. I’ll mourn my grandson’s departure but know that I can fill my lonely time with scrubbing. Next Sunday, we will be sitting here again because this cycle of my life is never-ending.
No. I will put the rucksack back in its place. Return to where I belong, at the sink scouring the cast iron frying pans. I’ll watch grey water swirl down the drain just before I hear knocking at the back door where my grandson will ask if I found his stuffie, the blue bunny I gave him at Easter. He’ll look up at me with his sad obsidian eyes, and it will kill me as it does every time I realize my son became a man like his father.
No. My grandson will not be crying when I open the door. Blue bunny clutched in the crook of his elbow, he will extend a dandelion bouquet. I’ll put it into the golden macaroni jar his father made one Mother’s Day long ago. A crow will caw from the jack pine as my grandson and I walk past the obsidian inukshuk his father and I built in the garden an eternity ago. As my grandson buckles up, I will talk to his father about what needs to change. Show him the macaroni jar. Try to convince him that I am still alive and that we should return to Yellowstone with my grandson, remind him of how much fun we used to have together. But my son will shake his head and say, The boy must return to his mother’s. My grandson and the blue bunny will offer sad little waves from the back window as they drive away before I go inside to polish the worn linoleum as I cry.
No. There won’t be a knock at the door. It will be a crow pecking, reminding me that my lover is waiting. I’ll return the rucksack to its spot in the pantry before I head into the living room where Jake is clearing his throat. Slippered feet crossed at the ankle on the velvet ottoman, he will be lazing over the Globe & Mail. He won’t look up when I enter. He forgets he used to choose me over the stock exchange, so I will yank a slipper from his foot and toss it at his head. Tell him I never planned to grow old in a still-life museum where we don’t touch or talk. He’ll get that look that says, Haven’t I given you a good life? This house, our boys, the seasonal pass to the golf course? And what about our trips to Yellowstone? I’ll remember the large crow heckling until I followed it back to our campsite, where Jake pelted it with chunks of obsidian I’d collected until it screeched and swooped and knocked him down. “Relentless,” Jake spat as he patted gravel and pine needles from his knees. The crow cackled and shook its regal head. A blue-black feather fell at my feet. When I tell Jake I am leaving, he won’t be listening. Won’t notice the raincoat or galoshes. Won’t notice my absence until his stomach growls. By then, I will be pulling my passport and some cash from the rucksack, buying a ticket to the beach where I’ll join my lover and sleep in his arms again.
No. There won’t be a knock at the door. It will be a crow pecking, reminding me that my lover is waiting.
No. I will only be thinking about threading my arms into the raincoat, picturing the rucksack and the possibility of my lover. A crow tap-tap-tapping at my window will surprise me. Its beady black gaze will pierce my thoughts, convince me it’s the same crow from Yellowstone. It will beckon me to the back door. An ebony feather will flutter to worn linoleum, reminding me that the feather it left for me in Yellowstone is tucked into the rucksack with the chunk of obsidian from my lover. I’ll hesitate because there’s always the chance that I’m going senile. Heartache plays tricks on the mind. The crow will screech and swoop past the gate, land on the Jack pine at the edge of our property and convince me to heave the rucksack onto my back. In the distance, geese will honk their return, reminding me that it’s time to leave.
Rachel Laverdiere writes, pots, and teaches in her little house on the Canadian prairies. She is the creative nonfiction editor at Atticus Review and the creator of Hone & Polish Your Writing. Find Rachel’s latest prose in Burningword Literary Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Bending Genres, and Five South. Her creative nonfiction has appeared on The Wigleaf Top 50 and been nominated for Best of the Net. Rachel is a finalist for this year’s Anne C. Barnhill Prize for Creative Nonfiction. For more, visit www.rachellaverdiere.com.