Saturday, July 20, 2013

Good Questions

            Why are fire hydrants red?
            I don’t know. I google it, tell him they’re red to get his attention. He laughs, goes on to the next question.  Why,  he says, big smile as if he knows he has me on this one, do planes fly?
            I laugh. I know the answer, and it’s not what he thinks, not gobbledygook about lift, thrust, and drag.  They fly, I say, because they are on a schedule. People depend on them. People have to go from here to there, and when an air traffic controller says go, the plane goes.
            He nods. My answer satisfies him as I knew it would. He is seven-years-old and likes explanations that border on logic and reasonableness. Even though his questions sometimes bend towards science, he is a sociologist by instinct and hates it when I google for the answer.
            So, he says, staring at the gray trail of exhaust in the sky, Why is the plane so loud?  He covers his ears. Really loud . . . like thunder.
            Air displacement? I think. My thumb goes to the phone. Or is it just the rumble of the engine we hear? Now I’m interested. I want to know, and he is waiting quietly because the plane is gone now, out of sight, out of sound.
            I pocket my phone, look at him, look at the sky, the now empty sky, and the park we are standing in, the grassy park.  It has to be noisy, I say,  so you know it is there.
            To make me look up?
            Yes, I say.  To make you look up.
            Big smile. Like the birds, he says.
            The birds?
            They sing, and I see them.
            He’s running now. A thrush called to him, and he’s looking for her, running to see her, and then he’ll ask me why her wing is brown or how many bones in a bird’s foot or why does snow melt when it gets warm, and I’ll say so you can ask me questions—and he’ll laugh that little boy laugh and take my hand, and we’ll go home.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


          The street is her only entertainment. She sits at the window with her cup of tea. Fragile cup with saucer, faded flowers circle the rim. I don’t see the saucer, but imagine the soft plop of cup finding its place after each careful sip. Mustn’t spill. Mustn’t seem greedy or eager. Mustn’t hurry. Nothing to hurry for.
            I wonder if she thinks that or knows that. Nothing to hurry for. Nothing.
            I nod and wave as I pass. Her thin cup rises slowly, return greeting, then I am gone, hurrying to the bus. A little late. Always a little late. Much to hurry for, hurrying towards my day, my life. I have a life.
            I can’t forget her today. Can’t shake the image of the old woman at the window. Don’t even know her name, this neighbor of mine, yet she has become the most familiar face on the block.
            There every morning. Watching. Waiting. For what? The parade of dog walkers, school kids, commuters, runners, bikers, a car on our quiet street now and then?


            She toasts us every morning with the gin in her teacup, toasts us as we hurry to the treadmill of work, school, life, toasts us, and when we’re safely dispatched, she rises, not as slowly as we think, rises from her chair at the window, feeds her mewling cat—all witches have cats, don’t they? I glimpsed hers at the window once, or the swish of a tail, a cat’s tail, at least.
            She and the cat go out the back way, down the alley, stopping at every trash can and recycling barrel, gathering eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, whatever, for the potions in that cup. Which isn’t gin after all. Certainly not tea. Something hallucinatory, peyote, LSD, some
concoction known only to her
            Back at the house by lunch time, to mix the potions, get it right and ready for the next morning of casting her spell on me as I hurry past, pity caught in my throat my arm raised dutifully to salute the old lady I know nothing about.

© 2013 Kathleen Coskran