Under the Hawthorne Tree
Mary Douglas holds a lace-trimmed hanky to her eyes. "Those asters are superb."
"Yes," Virginia says. Her eyes are guarded.
"Virginia, I think Lillian would be pleased. Don't you?" Mary asks in a soft voice.
Virginia nods but does not answer. She lowers her head.
They stand under a fully leafed Hawthorne tree in the backyard of Virginia and her husband's
Queen Anne cottage. A shovel rests against the tree. Behind them, an official from the county
leans against the picket fence with his hands crossed. His Model T Ford is parked nearby. Virginia
cannot see his eyes under the brim of his hat, but she feels his boredom and wishes that he didn't have
to be present, but she knows he must.
The brick wall of the nearby, abandoned farmhouse seems forbidding and unforgiving this morning. If only
Charles were home, but he is somewhere in the south selling cars for Henry Ford and can't be reached.
Mary, Virginia's sister, steps closer. "Virginia, you must cry. You must."
Virginia sighs, kneels and using her trowel, plants the cluster of pink flowers at the head of her child's
grave. A small, wooden cross reads: Lillian Carlisle. Two days old. May She Rest in Peace. 1923. Her
thirteen other children surround the grave.
As Virginia works, her wide brimmed hat sweeps the loose earth. Dirt clings to the fingers of her only pair
of black gloves. "Oh, dear," she says. "Oh" Her voice cracks.
First published: November, 2006
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