It is Linnea’s idea to set up the tent in the yard and Jimmy Jr.’s to play pirates.
“No one taught the boy that pirates sleep on ships?” James asks, dropping beside me on the wooden porch step and filling my sherry glass.
I smile. “He just wants company. You know . . .” I cover one eye with my hand. The doctor gave Jimmy Jr. his patch to correct a lazy eye; I fashioned a matching set for Linnea and her friend Ella.
We watch the kids at the end of the walk, their voices conspiratorial and happy. Across the street, the Smithson men are fixing up their mother’s place. Tomorrow James begins a new job, his first in a year.
James refills my glass and the alcohol begins coursing through my body. This must be how mud flats feel in a rising tide: transmuted from their dullness into something flowing and shiny.
I kick James’s boot. “If they don’t sleep in the tent tonight, maybe we could.”
He winks, pours more.
Linnea breaks away from the group and races up the walk. It is hard not to laugh at her sweet face blotted by the crude black patch. “Can Ella’s kitties sleep in the tent with us?”
I nod. “That sounds immensely cozy.”
She is halfway back when James calls out, “Pirates don’t sleep in tents!”
“James,” I say, quiet and low.
Linnea turns to us, frowning beneath her black eye.
Moments later, the children’s voices rise in discord. Jimmy Jr. flees the group and hurls two eye patches onto our laps. “Now I’m the only pirate!” Hot tears slip down from his right eye, pool under the patch.
“Are you sure?” I slip one of the girls’ eye patches over his father’s head and don another. “Arrrr!” I say.
James flicks his patch onto the floor and Jimmy Jr. runs off.
“They were having such a good time,” I say, folding my arms across my body.
“They were going to end up fighting anyway.”
I shake my head and look away to where Roy Smithson hammers. “You just won’t let anything be good.”
James turns my face in his direction and traces the edge of my eye patch with one finger. For a moment, I think he is going to kiss me. Instead he pinches the fabric and lets go, snapping patch against skin. I jerk in surprise.
“Funny,” he says, “I could have sworn you were wearing rose-colored glasses.” He swipes the bottle and goes inside.
When I look out again, Jimmy Jr. has rejoined Linnea and Ella on the curb. Little Betsy from next door has wandered over to inspect the tent. The children talk. The cats cavort. I slide the eye patch slowly over to my right eye. Then back to the left. Slide it right again. Then left. I could sit here doing just this for hours. I see kids, sidewalk, tent, and cats, but never all of them at once. I see grey and black and blue and green and yellow.
Artwork by Laura Christensen. Photography by John Polak.
Laura Christensen is a visual artist who paints on found vintage photographs. Her artwork has been featured in galleries and museums throughout the U.S. Recent awards include an A.R.T Grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Laura is a full-time practicing, professional artist who lives and works in Western Massachusetts.