She looked out the window and wiped away the tears that threatened to keep falling at any moment. She swallowed and pushed them back down again to live inside her stomach.
She could see the mesquite trees in the horizon, it was winter and their bare,black branches looked like fingers grasping towards the cold,gray sky. If she were outside she’d be grasping towards the sky as well. Trying to understand why and how she’d be able to make it now without her mother.
“How are you doing, Hon?” said the voice behind her,”It can’t be healthy not to cry. Why don’t you go rest and just let it all out?”
She turned to look at him, this man who she’d shared her life with for so many years. His kind eyes invited her to share her burden. And yet she just couldn’t share this, not yet.
“ I can’t cry Ted, I just can’t. If I start I won’t be able to stop. I just know it…I can’t do that now. Maybe later after everything is done, I don’t know. I feel so numb.” She smiled that smile that wasn’t really a smile at all, just an uplifting of her lips for a second.
“Okay Linda, well I suppose you know best.” He squeezed her arm “But I’m here if you need me, you know that.”
Just then the sound of little footsteps could be heard down the hallway and Linda knew that their daughter Sally was home from her play date next door.
He swooped her up and held her close. Linda let them have their moment, Sally was a daddy’s girl in every sense of the word and right now Linda didn’t know if she’d be able to muster up a greeting worth her anyway.
“Hey peanut, what’s the scoop?”
“Daddy,” and she squished his face between her little hands,”Mr Bus Driver.”
“Sweetie, maybe now’s not the best time.” he looked over at Linda and she nodded that it was okay.
Ted put Sally down and then squished his own face between his hands.
“Mr Bus driver.” he said still holding his face in.
“Yes sir?” asked Sally laughing
“Mr Bus Driver.”
Hysterical giggles and then,”Yes Sir?”
“Mr Bus Dri-ver, I think I’ve got my face stuck in the door.”
Sally was beside herself now.She held her stomach and laughed deep, pure peals of laughter, the kind only a child has the capacity for, the kind that took her breathe away. This was their favorite joke. And Linda remembered the last time she had heard it.
It had been at her mother’s house the last time they visited. Sally had begged Ted show her grandma the funniest joke ever.
Linda smiled to think of them in that closed sun porch in her mother’s house and the way the sun had come through the windows adding a glow to go with the laughter. The little particles of dust dancing over their heads.
They had each had a turn with that joke over and over, her mother did the bus driver voice the best Sally had said. She wished she had thought to take note of everything better. She hadn’t known it would be the last time.
For a moment her tears threatened to choke her,but she still wasn’t completely ready to let them go. Whenever she did allow them to come though, she knew that she’d make it and that she’d always remember that moment and her mother’s laughter.
The story above was inspired by the red dress writing prompt.
This week's prompt was to write a short piece in which a character told a joke and a character cried. The piece has to be maximum 600 words and must be able to be read aloud in no more than 3 minutes. It is from an NPR contest called Three-Minute Fiction.