by Ellie Forster ’24
Lucy had a talking problem. She was small, but not small enough to not be a bother. So, she did just that. She bothered everyone she met. She pulled on shirts, she asked too many questions, she demanded attention. Lucy was seen and heard. She just wasn’t listened to. And that was what she had begun to crave—for someone, anyone, to listen to her. Her older sisters thought she was a pain, her parents thought she was a problem. So, they sent her to the old woman down the street.
Mrs. Hall was a widow, and she smelled like mold. Each of Lucy’s siblings had had her as a babysitter at one time or another, and each had come back quiet. Now it was her turn. She walked down the road, a bag with some coloring books slung over her little shoulder. She counted the trees on her way there, and how many ones had leaves that had begun to change colors already. She picked up her favorites from the street. When she got to the door, she knocked but as she did, she dropped the leaves and twigs she had collected; they spilled out of her arms onto the top step. Mrs. Hall opened the door.
Lucy straightened up, shoving leaves into her bag and pushing hair out of her face. She smiled and stuck out her hand, which was smudged with marker and dirt. The old woman shook her head at it and ushered the girl inside. She turned briskly once Lucy was inside and closed the door behind her. It was cold and neat inside her house, but a warm light streamed in from a picture window in the parlor. Lucy gazed lovingly at the window seat. It had deep red cushions, and books stacked in the shelves beneath it. Her bag fell from her shoulder and she bounded over to it. She laid out on the cushions, bathing in the light. She mused to the woman gawking at her about the warmth and the beauty, asking when her house was built, when it was sold to her and her late husband, and then how did her husband die? And was he a handsome man? What was it that he first did that made her know she loved him? Or did she never love him? Was there someone else? And—
“Young lady! I daresay you may be the rudest of all your siblings, and that Clara was an ordeal! Take your shoes off immediately and go wash your hands. And that incessant chittering and chattering will stop now. Off with you.”
Lucy did as she was told. She was never a disobedient child, just a talkative one. As she left the bathroom, toweling her hands, she asked the woman about that word she had used, “incessant,” and what it meant.
“For someone so curious I’m surprised you don’t know.”
Lucy was quiet.
“Alright, it means constant, nonstop.”
Lucy thanked her and sprung to the kitchen, leaving the towel on the ground in the hallway. She began to ask more questions, about the food and what each appliance and utensil was for.
“That’s for dicing…well, it’s for cutting vegetables very small…I suppose it wouldn’t have to be used on vegetables…no, you couldn’t use it on candies…well, they’d get it all sticky…that’s a juicer…yes, it is used for vegetables, too…”
The girl then asked her again about her husband. This time she answered.
“Robert was kind. I suppose that is what drew me to him at first…romantic? I dunno if he was romantic necessarily. In the traditional sense. Well yes…”
They sat on the floor of the kitchen talking for the duration of Lucy’s visit. When the clock struck six, Lucy jumped up, saying she would be late for dinner. She hugged Mrs. Hall and collected her things. She was halfway out the door, then she asked if she could come again. The old woman nodded, and as she watched the little girl run away, down the street, she picked the towel up off the floor and folded it in her hand.
She made her way to the picture window and sat on it, picking up a leaf from the cushion, and closed her eyes as the sun fell from the sky. She sat and listened to the silence.