07 April 2013

The Stranger and SuzyMae

A stranger came to town and she didn’t make a sound.  She swept in on a wind from the south, her feet bound in colorful rags, that let her glide slowly across the smooth wood floors of our grandparent’s house.  No one saw her.  No one but SuzyMae, our sweet baby sister, who barely spoke before the stranger’s visit.

The stranger came, and when she found SuzyMae curled up on the seat of Grand Dad’s huge upholstered chair near the fire, she gathered the little girl in her arms.  Together they settled back into the cozy grey wool.  SuzyMae had awakened by then and snuggled into the stranger’s bosom, soft as a pillow.  SuzyMae said the stranger’s clothes were of bright woven fabric, with embroidered scenes exotic and colorful that echoed of the stories the stranger began to whisper.

Into the curve of SuzyMae’s left ear the stories traveled, through the canal and tapping gently on the tiny drum.  From there, they grew into images of towering green trees with leaves as big as the goats that SuzyMae fed each morning and again at dusk.  Birds more brightly feathered than creatures any of us could conjure filled her mind and she grew drowsy upon their wings.  But in the shadows lurked predators hidden by clever markings in their fur and stealthy movements by which they hunted, quieter even than the stranger’s feet.

SuzyMae later told us again and again that it was like she was asleep, but through the stranger’s clothes she could glimpse a pulsing light - like a heart beating, she said - first blue-green, then red-orange.  She couldn’t feel the pulse but rather she sensed a slight heat in those colors and their rhythm.  When we pressed her on details, she told us the stranger’s face was lovely, dark and smooth.  Her hair was hidden beneath a colorful, embroidered wrap.
SuzyMae spoke of the stranger so often, and for so many years that we began to think of her as the stranger, or maybe simply as strange.  We never believed her stories.  We teased and taunted, yet she never mistrusted her own memory.  She clung to it like a doll and we tried and tried to take from her but never could.  She never wore rags on her feet or head, but took on an aura that was odd and unmarriageable.  She was eventually hired on by the dressmaker, after the rest of us were married and no longer living in the house that Grand Dad built.  So as not to disturb the customers, though, SuzyMae was relegated to the back room of the dress shop.  And while her peculiar stories no longer shocked us, the dressmaker had to let her go when customer after customer began to discover strange, colorful embroidery hidden in the dresses SuzyMae had made.

And then one day, SuzyMae was gone, having glided from town as quietly as the stranger she had described to us so many times.  It wasn’t until months later, when the postcards began to arrive that we considered that we should have tried harder to understand.  Sepia-toned images, with tiny bright feathers arranged and glued just so, postmarked from the Yucatan.  By the time each of us received one, we finally came to believe in the stranger that had indeed come to town, perhaps only to lure our SuzyMae away.

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