The Long Summer

George Zamalea

© Copyright 2023 by George Zamalea


Photo by Sandeep Kr Yadav on Unsplash
Photo by Sandeep Kr Yadav on Unsplash

The town across the Joaquin Valley of California is under the fog of the night before and the tiny crystal drops are all over the leaves. It is a nice morning. Not later than four o’clock when the 103-year-old Maribelle Furlough is already awaking and waiting for the rays of the sun to come out. Holding by the bony fingers, she has her small mug filled with coffee. It is hot and without sugar as she likes it. Little by little as nothing in this world can rush her, she will drink from the mug. It will be three mugs before she decides it will be enough.

She turns her head and tilts a little. She will smell the roses and the trees and the soil from Mt. Vermont’s garden backyard and these smells of the local basking breads from Hanna’s shop a hundred of miles away. After that she will enjoy the solemnity of the streets: its quietness and its soundness. Soon, she thinks, the milkman will come by and she will hear him saying about the weather and the day and the gossips and the newborn of Mr. Jackson’s son, Lou. She will be expecting him any minute now.

Instead, there is a different man. He is framed with the cloudlike that comes down from the sky. He wears a long jacket and loosen trousers. His head is uncovered with a forest of gray hairs like a foil cascading over his scorched face and shoulders. He is tall; a genuine fellow. He has long arms and legs. His eyes are all of these kinds: small, bright, impressive, sadness. They are surrounded by white foam of eyebrows as his lips seem to melt away. His teeth are long gone. His expression is spontaneous by the transformation of his age and act. He is younger than Maribelle Furlough. He is closer to 100 years old where all seem to be adjusted to that distinctness or obscurity from those individuals who have reached that level of maximum contemplation where there is any alteration between life and death because appears to retrieve themselves in this delightful portrayal of nothingness.

His name is Carl Ergo.

Through the trail that goes to the next town, Carl Ergo is coming. He walks funny. He makes one step after step. He balances himself in that scramble rhythm of fear to fall. He examines carefully the way he goes as he's afraid not to put too much pressure to his legs because of that inflammatory of his bones. Anything else it is just a survival tool under the most slowness without having any rush getting there; but somehow, believe it not, he will reach his destiny soon enough.

He has a big smile across his cooked face. It is a beautiful smile actually. It is a friendly smile if Maribelle Furlough can see it. When he smiles he revives his malnourished muscles of age once comely and delicate in which his hollowed cheekbones are still his ruggedly, almost wolfishly expression of handsome. All now there is a leathery complexion seems not too bad across this past gregarious man. She will agree also that smile and gaunt feature are indeed full of someone she may be remembered.

“Rockin’ you’re quite up earlier, good woman,” says he.

“Good morning!” She pauses. “Your voice is new around here.”

“I lived long time ago by the fluky, but it’d been a long time past. It’s nothing left except my remembrance and times, I might say.”

Carl brings to Maribelle that curiosity of time behind his words there is the depth by allowing her to think. Her moments of her head reflect such exploration; threatening at every moment to break even, rather to follow him carefully.

“You describe your past as a whirl,” Maribelle Furlough observes. “Along the blade of a doorman as my mother used to say.”

“It is.”

“Where are you headin’?”

“Just closer to Green Road.”

“Ya go straight to it.”

Then he comes at the usual spot where Maribelle Furlough’s vision can be taken for measure. He looks at her so lovely. One can say whatever it is to him and what he has inside his head there is for sure a day to go by and it appears to visualize a relationship that had been rotten long back. Write to it on a leaf from a rosy garden that he thoughts if he were kind of a bee to her. Say that a friend requests the love merely to look upon it once again a summer slope. She would remember, wouldn’t she? She could send this message back with a grain of rice. Could she?

As he can predict it, he knows there is an answer before him. It seems to be suspended by his own shameless that is beneath the soil of his tired eyes.

“I smell coffee,” he tilts his head up and around. “Homemade from old hands, actually.”

“It’s almost done,” Maribelle Furlough says with such pleasure across her eyes. “Do you have time to join me for a sip?”

“Rockin’ I sure do,” says he watches the hills. “Not later to see the sun comes.”

“That’s my favorite beginning of the morning when the sun is coming up from the hills.”

She gets up of the rocky chair and she moves slowly to the street-leveled house door. Her movements are remarkable slow; her gestures are slow as well. All these motions of her appear to build such slowness of her persona and that junction paces to get there. So she gets there all right and there she will get the mug of coffee for the strange man named Carl Ergo.

The mug fills with coffee is here.

He looks at her and thanks her. He raises his arm. He halts. His right hand is shaking a little. He pauses. He brings up his left hand to support the right one. He smiles at her. Finally he takes the mug from Maribelle Furlough’s hand.

Slowly, he sits beside her.

“It’s hot. Don’t burn yourself.”

He tastes the coffee as Maribelle Furlough does. Sip by sip. As he seems to bring up with that unique manner a personal pleasure of understanding and opportunity to be there next to her.

They are both silence for some time.

After a while Maribelle Furlough asks:

“How is the good coffee?”

“Just a little stronger,” he replies.

“I remember as papa always said as a coffee can be.”

“I won’t mind if you say something else.” He nods, and all then he looks at her.

“There isn’t anything else,” Maribelle Furlough says. Then she smiles. She raises her hand with such skillful slowness and she tips his right shoulder. “You sound familiar. A friend, a long time ago, perhaps—goes to war and he never came back.”

Carl Ergo closes his eyes.

“Rockin’ I don’t want you to be sad.”

“Oh no. It’s just a memory,” Maribelle Furlough replies, sipping her coffee. “What is your business in this earlier morning’?”

Carl Ergo glances at her. A thin tear escapes from one of his eyes. He would say I come here to see you, Belle and to see the sun as you have described in your letters.

Instead he says:

“Nothing in particular.” He pauses. “Sometimes I can’t sleep and I like to walk. It seems to relax me.”

“Me! It’s about the sun.” Maribelle Furlough rolls her eyes toward the hills. “It’s a way of time.”

“For me it’s a time of remembering…It’s a time of silliness as the sun walking behind me.”

“I prefer to see the sun coming in front of me. It’s that pleasure that makes me living.”

He smiles tenderly.

“I recalled one who has that preference.”

“I rockin’ as you say she’d dead by now.”

“I reckon she’d alive and well, but it has been a long time past.”

He drinks more coffee.

A painted expression fades away.

“I should ask you for more?”

“More coffee, I presume?” Maribelle Furlough asks.

“I sure do!”

Maribelle smiles to such twist expression of her homely face. She stands up and goes inside.

This time she is moving a little faster; but in a way to please the stranger.

When she comes back, the man is gone.

Next to the coffee mug is a dried rose with a name and a date. It is very difficult for her to see that. Maribelle doesn’t say a word. She tips the rocky chair and sits.

“Good morni’, Maribelle,” one of the cutters says as he goes by.

“It’s a good morning, I must say, Mr. John Hoaler.” Maribelle Furlough replies. She puts down the emptied mug beside her and starts to drink from the new one. It is still hot and good.

“Buenos días, Maribelle.”

“Buen día, Señor Rodriguez.”

Maribelle raises her head to the sky. Her emptied eyes are like two white black balls moving back and forth. Soon, the sun would come. Her eyes are still. They look like rotten beans sometimes, unlocked from the inside out of her dried beautiful face.

The brothers Pickers will come out of the trailer and they will start pulling onto the middle of the street the old truck. At that moment the entire street of Salina valley in San Joaquin is filled with sounds and voices.

A day has begun.



“Morning to you, Mr. Pickers!“

“Morning to you as well, Mr. Kapplan!”

“Soon it will be here, Miss Furlough.”

“Yes! I know! The sun!”

Then there is a silence again. But it is not for so long.

Behind the hills, like a brown muffin that is still drowned by the white clouds the sun is coming up slowly. The string of its light like cords of violin is weak and then he starts to grow by minutes.

Maribelle smiles and then she closes her eyes and for half the morning she will be like this. All her pleasures and all her harmony will be part of her.

Not much difference from the dried rose that is next to the emptied coffee mug or the framed smile that a man like a shadow under the oak reflecting on the terrain can be taken as an expression of the past or nothing else that a tip , a tip that will be left inside like a desolated road ahead, hold up on such cheerleader’s land of beauty.

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