The History of an Idea — Part 1

a black and white photo of a plant in front of a body of water

A few years ago I had a rather vivid dream.  And when I awoke, I remembered its details clearly and I thought about it a lot.  It prompted the setting for the scene which I’ve included below.  So rather than describe my dream, I will let you read a bit of the scene it inspired.  This scene is called “The Yard”.

 *  *  *  *

“Bygones.  Let them be,” she said.

But he had taken her right away from me.  Just like if a thief creeps into your house and takes a pistol.  That’s what he’d done, stole her like a pistol.  Not that I would ever own a pistol or that he would ever steal from someone, but that’s exactly what it felt like—like something you had hidden in your closet that made you feel safe at night, something solid like a pistol you knew you could count on, had been taken.  That’s what I mean.  It felt like that.

So I had come down to the yard to hear them play.  I’d heard him play before, lots of times, in fact, but didn’t remember him being all that special, special enough for her to go all gaga over it.  But I could’ve been drunk those other times and not paid attention.  I just needed to make sure my impression was right, and he wasn’t so special, after all.

I had walked down to the yard from my place which took about half an hour to get there.  Arrived a little after dusk.  By then, the sky had turned blue, like the color of a mud dauber, with Venus hanging low and bright above the back fence and stage.  Someone had paid for electricity, so the long swags of wires and light-bulbs that draped from the tall polls around the perimeter and encircled the yard were burning.  You could see pretty good, except a few of the bulbs, here and there, had gone out, leaving some places shadowy and hollow feeling.  So, I sort of stood at the back of the yard trying to pick up on the mood of the evening.

I didn’t see Adeline, yet.

Emmie Schroder was singing.  She sat on a folding chair at the center of the stage, singing into a microphone and playing her autoharp which she held hard against her chest.  Her voice made me picture a weeping willow on a windy day.  She sang Hush, My Love, a kind of sad lullaby.  Dan Coons accompanied her on the fiddle and chimed in on backup now and then.  Emmie was a prodigy, not hardly a day over sixteen, I’d imagine, but already, her songs had made her a favorite around Datesville.  That is doing something in a town chock full of talented musicians and singers.

The yard was about half full when I got there, and there had been a steady stream of new arrivals since then.  Families and couples and loners like me came carrying knapsacks and baskets full of dinner and blankets to spread on the ground.  No doubt they had brought biscuits and cornbread, molasses and apple-butter, boiled potatoes or eggs with salt, egg sandwiches, or maybe even fried chicken or rabbit, and plum or mulberry wine to go with it all.  A young couple near me spread out a blanket and sat down and opened a basket full of warm biscuits and bacon.  It made my mouth water to smell it.  I had not brought anything to eat, and I was wishing I had.

Those that came early had taken advantage of what you might call the “reserve seating” available at the yard, though the only way to reserve it was to get there before someone else took it.  Against the tall, board fence to my right and the rusted hog-wire fence opposite it, on the other side of the yard, were some dusty, threadbare couches and overstuffed chairs, their legs broken off, along with several  discarded bedsprings and, in between, some large cardboard boxes, open at one end.  The couches, chairs, and bedsprings had all been pulled from places that had had fires, so they still smelled of smoke.  But, some folks preferred spreading their blankets on these and sitting on the couches, or what have you, rather than on the hard, lumpy dirt of the open yard.  Teenaged couples and children seemed to enjoy the semi-privacy of the boxes.  From front to back, the reserve seats had all been taken and were filled with loungers, some lying in each other’s embrace.

I wondered why I hadn’t seen Adeline yet.

“Why didn’t you wave back?  Are you ignoring me?”

It was Adeline.  She had come up behind me.

“Wave?  I didn’t see you.”

“I was right up front; you looked straight at me.”

“I didn’t see you,” I said, “honest.”

“I’ll let it go this time, but I hope you’re not being a poop tonight.”

“I’m not being a poop.”

“Good,” she said.  “Tell you what, if you promise not to turn into ‘Mr. Sunshine’ on me and spoil my mood, I’ll give you a beer, maybe even a couple, if I’m feeling generous.  We brought two of boxes of quart jars from Aunt Molly’s, tonight.”

“Who’s we?” I said.

 *  *  *  *

The dream and the setting it produced were the beginning of an idea which has occupied my writing for many years now.  More about this in Part 2.  Until then:  See you around the block.  Dale

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