Gifts by Thomas O’Connell

Gifts

Lori Beth and her mother sat on Mrs. Gilchrist’s front porch while their host placed a tray on the wicker ottoman. A bowl of mint leaves sat among the glasses of iced tea on the tray. “I like a little mint in my tea,” Mrs. Gilchrist said, “but not everyone does.” Lori Beth was bored. She should have been swinging her feet or tapping her fingers or picking her nose, but these were not options.

Mrs. Gilchrist was passing the time, telling them about the deep ruts in the front yard, caused by the cars that would park there day after day. She had hired Conner Wilson, the boy who lives on the adjacent property, to direct traffic and tell people where to park. It was like the state fair was taking place in the back yard every day, Mrs. Gilchrist said. Lori Beth’s mother held a glass up to her daughter’s chin, guiding the straw into her mouth.

Lori Beth’s mother said she was glad that there was a ramp, so they could get the chair up onto the porch. Mrs. Gilchrist said she had the ramp installed early on, realizing that they would need one. She told them how she had part of the fence taken down by the end of the driveway to facilitate the comings and goings of the cars and that there had never been a traffic light out at Norfield Rd. until all the people started coming to see her Addie. “I wonder where that girl is,” Mrs. Gilchrist said walking over to the porch rail.

“We thought, we were worried, there would be a crowd here when we arrived,” Lori Beth’s mother said. “When we saw the news story about your daughter, there were so many people around.”

“There usually were, a slew of people,” Mrs. Gilchrist said.

“But not anymore?” Lori Beth’s mother asked. Mrs. Gilchrist didn’t answer; she was gazing off towards a line of thin trees. Lori Beth’s mother continued, “Your daughter, Addie, did she lose her powers?”

“Powers?”

“Her gift,” Lori Beth’s mother corrected herself.

“She’s not a super-hero,” Mrs. Gilchrist said returning to her chair, taking up one of the glasses of tea. “After a while, they just stopped coming. It’s not like there weren’t more people in need, more hurting people, more people,” she paused, searching for the appropriate word. Looking over at Lori Beth, she continued. “They just lost interest, moved on to something else.”

Addie had folded her clothes and placed them in the low grass by the edge of the pond. She floated on her back in the water, her arms outstretched, tickling the waterline to move herself about among the midges and mayflies, the painted turtles, crappies, fairy shrimp, flatworms and leeches, the garter snakes, the crayfish, the scuds and leopard frogs, the mallard ducks and green heron, the snails and the sunfish, flathead catfish and caddis flies, the chain pickerels and bluegills and water mites, the beavers, yellow perch, diving beetles, tadpoles, and salamanders, the dragonflies and the damselflies. She heard her name being spoken.

 

The Gift.jpg

 

Thomas O’Connell is a librarian living on the banks of the Hudson River in Beacon, NY, where he happens to be the 2015-2016 poet laureate. His poetry and short fiction has appeared in Elm Leaves Journal, Caketrain, NANO Fiction, The Broken Plate, and The Los Angeles Review, as well as other print and online journals.

 

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(Picture by Khairul Nizam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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