by Nathan Moseley
The river would not recede…or so they said, arriving, one after another, at Narcissa’s door. They brought flowers: snapdragons, delphiniums, marigolds. One gifted her a mossy bulb, advising Narcissa to throw it in the ground once the ground was good and ready—not a minute before. Before long, wet bouquets draped over shelves and spread out across the floor. Picture frames were shadowed by evening. The whole house reeked of soil.
Visitors crowded into the kitchen. They told stories and nodded their heads and wiped the wetness of tears and sweat from their cheeks. Yet Narcissa, seemingly indifferent to it all, looked on without comment. This reaction, or lack thereof, did not go unnoticed. And many of the mourners, particularly those from the old town, said, You look good, dear. Meaning, You look better than you should.
Well, all this commotion was upsetting Bishop the Younger, who, as the visitors knew, was excessively skittish. He was frightened by thunder, by crowds and slammed doors. He clung to his mother’s leg, hiding right up under her dress. And each time the door opened to a new visitor with flora in hand, Bishop the Younger heard the thunder boom just a little bit louder, causing his grip to tighten around his mother’s thigh. He felt his fingers tearing into Narcissa’s skin. Blood, tickling like a feather, slid down his wrist. He did not let go.
Just days before, Bishop the Younger had seen a bird drop from the sky. He’d been playing outside when the bird suddenly crashed at his feet. He scanned the road, but found it unusually bare. Above him, too, the sky was been big and empty. Not a single cloud to interrupt the blue. And where, he wondered, had such a bird come from? Beak half broken with a worm still squirming out.
Eventually, Bishop the Younger emerged from beneath his mother’s dress. The visitors laughed and applauded the unexpected appearance. Some, with a wave of the hand, beckoned Bishop the Younger to come closer. But then came another boom of thunder, and the boy quickly glanced up at Narcissa, who seemed, right then, as tall as any tree a forest could fit. What else, he asked, they got in the sky?
His mother gave no response. Just a slight twitch of the lips, as if a fishhook were dragging her smile away.