Minnie turned her head slightly, directing her ear towards the open fields beyond the fence. “Did you hear that bird?”
Gussie, not looking up from her knitting, mumbled to herself, “You’re always hearing one bird or another, I don’t know how; I know you’re stone deaf.”
Minnie went on, not hearing her sister’s response, “It is a meadowlark, I’m sure. It’s about this time of year that they’d be arriving. Last year they showed up at the end of March. They’re one of the first to show up in the spring.”
Gussie watched a fire red leaf fall slowly from the maple tree beside the gardener’s shed. They were sitting on that section of the porch heated by the early October sun. She turned to her sister with a slow affectionate smile and added, “The meadow lark does have a sweet song.”
Minnie adjusted her shawl, looked out into the fields south of the fence line as if she was seeing something there. “James always said that an early appearing lark meant that we would have a hot summer and an early winter.
Gussie digging deeper into her knitting, “He said no such thing. That was father. James couldn’t tell one bird from another. He would hardly ever raise his nose out of one of those books of his to notice the changing of the seasons … There I go, talking to you as if you can hear me.”
Sitting back in her chair, Minnie looked over towards the maple tree and the gardener’s shed and smiled lightly. “James – do you remember James? Do you remember that one spring when he came fussing around? He said he wanted to talk to Mr. Lawrence, the gardener. Remember how he would look up here where we would be sitting. He was so crazy for me.”
Gussie harrumphed and muttered, “You always thought that it was you that James was interested in. You never considered that it just might have been me that he had eyes for.” She sighed as her face hardened. “It really doesn’t matter. Father chased him off. He never came back. I guess his heart just wasn’t in it. For all I know maybe he just had his eye on Mr. Lawrence.”
Minnie drew up her shawl even tighter. “I really think it’s going to snow soon. Look at those gray clouds.”
Gussie looked up into the sunny cloudless sky and then at her sister. Minnie’s eyes were filling with water. A big tear was making its way slowly down her cheek. She licked at it as it crossed her lips and said, “Father never did like James. He was so mean to him, never appreciated his finer points. But James was strong. He stayed around longer than any of the others.” After a pause she continued, “He sent such a dear letter when Father passed, sent pictures of his children. He had only nice things to say about Father.”
“He was the only one then!” Gussie added, looking down at her motionless knitting, her face chilled by the coming winter.
Minnie rocked back in her chair, a wet smile weakly forming on her face. “James really did like birds, you know. He mostly liked the song of the meadowlark.