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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/27/15

Meeting Lila

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Inside, mother was packing a basket of food for the day. "I ironed your special blouse," mother told her. "It's in your room." Lila went into the small room she shared with her brother, who was sitting on her bed, the lower bunk, brushing his shoes to shine them. She took the blouse, which mother had embroidered for her eighth birthday, into the bathroom and put it on. It was pretty but too big. Mother said that was so she could grow into it.

As she came out, father told her, "Go make sure grandpa's ready. We have to leave or we'll miss the bus."

Lila knocked on the door of grandpa's room at the front of the house. He didn't answer, so she went in, asking, "Ready to go?" First she noticed a chair lying on the floor, then she saw grandfather swinging slowly back and forth, feet not touching the floor, a rope tied from his neck to a ceiling beam. Lila screamed and ran to him, tried to lift him up from the rope, but she wasn't strong enough. She cried out again and fell to the floor as her parents rushed in. They both gasped then wailed as they saw the body, now swinging wider from Lila's attempt to free it. Eyes filled with tears, they held grandpa up away from the rope, but his head sagged limply to the side. "Father!" Lila's father cried, "Not this! No!"

Her brother stood in the door, eyes wide, mouth gaping. Mother called to him, "Bring a knife, quick!"

Lila's father was holding on to his father and crying, head against his chest. Mother was holding on to her husband and crying, head against his shoulder. Lila knelt on the floor crying and holding on to her parents' legs. Grandpa hung above, looking down on them with bulging eyes.

Brother ran in with a knife, and father stood on the chair and cut the rope. Mother and brother held the body and eased it down onto the floor. Lila picked up her grandpa's hand, then dropped it because it was cold. The cold seemed to creep inside her and freeze something.

Father took a sheet of paper off the desk.

"Did he leave a note?" mother asked.

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William T. Hathaway is the author of eight books and was a Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany, where he currently lives. His environmental novel, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, tells of an old woman and a (more...)

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