Monday, April 29, 2013

May Basket

            She made the basket herself. Downloaded directions at the library, watched a video, learned how to gather the rushes, keep them supple, weave in, out, secure this, keep that tight, even. Just like Miriam, she thought more than once, Miriam making a basket for her brother to be found, cared for,
loved by the princess.
            The basket had to be strong—she knew that—it had to be strong enough to carry the weight and stay afloat. Although she hadn’t yet decided if she’d put the basket in the river or just beside it, at the edge of the shore, so he’d feel the freshness of the water, but she wouldn’t have to run alongside. What if she couldn’t keep up?
            She lined the basket with felt because it seemed strong and soft enough and then a towel from the Dollar Store, something new and blue. She finished it quickly, more quickly than she expected, and so the basket sat just inside the door to her room as if it was decorative, or an Easter basket waiting to be filled—which it was. She smiled at the thought.
            Not ready by Easter, but in May. Yes, a May basket, she’d say if anybody asked.
            Nobody would ask. Nobody had ever been in her room, so nobody would ask, and she wouldn’t have to lie. But that was it, a May basket.

            He came in the night. The long night. She was damp and crying herself, thinking her own wails were the baby’s, then she bit her lip, the sobs stopped, and she was left with the pressure, the grunting, the strain, somebody not herself, somebody else in the room making those noises, pulling her apart, apart, apart, and then it was over—the baby—the blood—the mess. The baby crying thin little cries. 
            She'd known what to do. She’d downloaded “how to give birth” too. No surprises. Except that he was a girl. Girl, not boy.
            She laughed when she saw her, really looked at her, held her to her breast, and the little mouth glommed on, knew what to do, knew more than she did.
            She could see the basket from the bed, the blue towel spread open, waiting. All wrong. Wrong for this girl.
            A princess won’t want you, she said. They only want boys. Princes.
            The baby’s hands pushed against her chest, and then suddenly she was asleep in her arms. She pulled the sheet over them both and lay back on the pillow. She could get a pink towel. The Dollar Store opened at 9.

            They dosed. She woke at 8. The child lay in her arms so perfectly that she felt as if she were drowning. She pressed her lips on the top of the baby’s head, her sweet, damp head. It wouldn’t always be like this, not this good.
            The basket was ready.
            But sometimes it would be like this, she thought, and if I put her in the basket, she’ll be gone.
            The basket was the wrong color.
            Here, she’s my princess.
            The basket wasn’t strong enough.
            I am strong enough, she said, and the little princess opened her eyes. 
            It could just be a May basket.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Sighting

            “There’s a turkey in the yard.”
            He didn’t look up.
            She said it again. “Roger, there’s a turkey in the yard.”
            “A virtual turkey?”
            She was standing at the kitchen window, waving her arm in that frantic motion that he’d come to know meant come here now, and quietly. It was a curious mixture of come! And stay where you are! get here right away, but without movement or sound, NOW.  He didn’t know how she did it with only one arm and a hand gesturing, imploring, demanding, but he knew what she meant.
            He sighed, hoped she didn’t hear, folded the paper, and stood.
            “Roger!” The hand now raised slowly above her right shoulder pointing over her head at something outside. A turkey, she had said. What was a turkey doing in their yard?
            As he shuffled towards her, he imagined a large, frozen butterball turkey on the patio, propelled off some truck lumbering down the alley or a child’s cutout, four fingers outlined as feathers, the thumb the bird’s too plump neck, a crayon dot for an eye.
            “Quiet,” she hissed.
            He didn’t think he had spoken. He was at the window now, just behind her, her bulk blocking his view of the empty yard.
            The yard, what he could see of it, was bare, nearly bare. A hint of bud on the azalea, an early dandelion leaf in the pale grass, a sheet of moldy leaves darkening the small square of cement she called the patio. Probably too early to rake the debris out of the circle of ground he called his Victory 
Garden, victory because it actually produced tomatoes, peppers, peas, and once eggplant although they never ate eggplant.
            I wanted to try something new, he had said when she waved the bulbous thing at him. He didn’t know what to do with it either, and in the end he composted it and pulled the plant before it produced another purple problem.
            “There,” she whispered and moved enough for him to see it, a turkey, a wild turkey walking up to the patio as if invited.
            “Isn’t it wonderful?” she said, leaning back so he felt her body nested into his with such  a warm familiarity that he had to admit it was indeed wonderful, all of it.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


            “It’s April, and it’s snowing,” he said.
            “I know,” she said. She stood at the window and looked at the roof of the house next door, the veil of snow outlining the shingles and the roof growing whiter by the minute, by the second, 
whiter and then whiter.
            She could see right into the kitchen next door, a man at the sink, rinsing something—a coffee cup? soup bowl? "It’s my realty show," she’d said just the day before. "The Neighbors’ Kitchen Window."
            “You need something to do,” he had said. “Get a job. Learn to knit.”
            “I have something to do,” she’d said and threw the rag at him, the rag she’d just used to mop up the coffee he’d spilled.
            He ducked, and the rag slapped the wall with a satisfying smack and then a soft skid to the floor—where it still lay.
            “Going to snow all day,” he said.
            “I hope so,” she said.
            “But it’s April.”
            “Spring,” he said.

            The man at the kitchen sink next door was now drying the bowl and the cup, slowly, deliberately, leaning towards the window to watch the snow as he dried the curve of the bowl, the ear of the cup. He set them on the counter next to the sink, silently, without a sound—she was sure of that. He was a quiet man. He leaned towards the window again, put one hand, then the other on the window frame, lifted the window, unlatched the screen and stuck out his right hand to the wrist, flattened and turned upward and watched—she watched too—they both watched as his hand was outlined in white, a sheen of snow coating the thumb, four fingers, his palm, an inch of wrist.
            She held her breath as he must be doing to keep the hand so still, and, when it was painted an even, perfect white, watched as he eased it back into the light of his kitchen, watched as he held it flat over the sink and let the snow fade in the warm, yellow light until his pale, pink flesh returned. He dried the hand as slowly as he’d caressed the ear of the cup, finger by finger by finger, then he closed the window, latched the screen, and turned out the light.
            “It shouldn't be snowing. It's April,” her husband said for the third time.
            “It's a spring ballet,” she said, "a beautiful spring ballet," then ruffled open the newspaper before he could ask her to explain what was beyond explanation.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, April 8, 2013


            I wrote the book fast, another mystery. I don’t read mysteries, but I write them. Don’t want to lose my voice by reading other people’s stories. I’m so sensitive, very, very sensitive—overly sensitive, some say, my woman says.
            So you can imagine my surprise when my agent held my last book up—The Reluctant Scofflaw—raised it in front of my eyes and said, “One more draft.”
            “It’s finished,” I said.
            “This time in Swedish,” she said and dropped it on the desk.
            Thump. A solid, definitive thump. The sound of something weighty, significant, important.
            I pointed that out to her, reminded her that I am not Swedish, that I am in fact Jamaican, that I have never been to Sweden and don’t speak the language.
            “It’s the bandwagon effect,” she said. “Nobody expects Sweden to be interesting--Larsson put it on the map.”
            “But Jamaica,” I said. . . .
            “Is interesting,” she finished, “and so it won’t work.”
            The woman is crazy. I grabbed the book off her desk. She put her hand on mine and stood up. Her strawberry perfume engulfed us both, so overpowering that I could hardly breathe.
            “Think about it,” she said and smiled that even, white-toothed smile she had perfected and saved, I thought until now, for editors, not writers. “Think about it,” she said again, “and then do it. Swedish.”
            The last word was emphatically two syllables, SWE – DISH and spit right in my face.
            I lifted my left eyebrow and looked past her to the window where a guy in a harness was washing the window. She turned to follow my gaze, and I slipped her I-pad between the pages of my manuscript and into my briefcase—a perfect, smooth motion worthy of Busta Big Guy, my all purpose detective. Busta Big Guy would never hesitate to do the wrong thing for the right reason, and I now understood him better than ever. I was excited, but careful not to let the adrenalin pumping through my system show.
            Martha had turned back to me, was smiling and about to say, SWE-DISH again when the phone rang. She raised her hand in that Just-a-minute gesture and picked it up. “Martha here,” she said and turned to face the window washer again. I helped myself to a handful of her mints.
“Gotta go.”
She raised her hand to show she heard me, sending me off to make my rasta guy track the murderer from Kingston to Stockholm and back again with the aid of his new I-pad.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Monday, April 1, 2013


            She stole the boat. Didn’t think of it as stealing, not until she was half-way across the lake, nearly out of sight of the dock where the old skiff sat like an invitation, the rope carelessly looped over the railing, not even tied. Well, tied, but in a loose knot that could have unraveled in the wind.
            She pushed it a few feet into the lake before climbing in, silently slipping the oars in the oarlocks, pulling back and rowing, rowing, rowing. She rowed with her eyes closed, both arms moving in harmony with each other, and the little boat sliding easily over the still water.
            When she opened her eyes, the sun had risen to the level of her gaze as if the great ball of fire knew what she had done and shone a spotlight on her. She didn’t care. She closed her eyes again and kept rowing. When she opened them for the second time, the sun had moved up, off her eyes to her forehead. She could see again.
            She pulled the oars up, lay them along the gunnels and lowered herself into the bottom of the boat, her back against the seat and closed her eyes again. She drifted. Sam would have called the lake a glass-off, no current or wind. The boat rocked and drifted, carried and held her without effort. He would have hated her theft, but forgiven her when she told him about the drift, how it held her, how she needed it. She imagined he was floating somewhere too. She’d seen him the night of the funeral—had to be a dream—but there he was, the day they put him in the ground, sitting on the edge of a chair, elbows on his knees, the way he sat when he had something important to say. And then he floated away without telling her where he was going.
            She’d return the boat, tie it to the dock as rigidly as she’d return to what she called her life, but for now she was adrift.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran