Elizabeth Toole_Magnolia Dreams_1

Magnolia Dreams 

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We bought the house when we were in love. The pillbox Cape Cod had moss-laden shake shingles, weeds in the gutters, and dangling window boxes. We stood on the doorstep, your computer fingers entangled in my gardeners hands, and smiled at the narrow entrance. You flipped my braid, and we laughed at the uneven floor boards. The kitchen spilled over to the living room, mashed together but compatible. The one bedroom was too small for our queen bed. But we had dreams.

Well convert the attic into a bedroom,we said. Cut a window through the wall and the neighbor’s roses will be our artwork.

Well plant a Magnolia tree near the window.Sugar-air will permeate the room as we curl between the sheets.

Standing in that hot attic, the dense humid air filling our lungs, we saw it all.

And we paid for it. For the house, the land, the taxes, the broken sewer pipe, the leak in the roof, the toilet that jammedand finally for the window. The carpenter came and cut the wall open, letting in the sun and framing it. His experienced hands sanded the floors and lay the carpet beneath our feet. He helped me plant the Magnolia, digging the dirt, stamping the soil.

But you and I had a problem. With the angle of the roof above us, we couldnt put the bed against the wall without pressing our noses into the ceiling. We couldnt sit upright. This slope forced our bed into the middle of the room, an empty space behind it.

So I planned a right triangle of a headboard. I saw it fitted to the slope, sliding in behind our bed and filling the gap. I drew a picture of it for you with the headboard painted aquamarine, and offered it to you like a present.

For our bed,I told you.

Whos going to build this thing?you said.

But do you like it?

I said, whos going to build this? I cant do it.You flapped the paper up and down, creasing it at the pivot with your fingertips.

I suggested the carpenter. He could probably do it. Hes handy.

Your face twisted in a vinegar-grimace, as if our mattress was soaked with that sour smell. You want the carpenter back here? Hows he going to get paid?

We have enough for this.But I spoke from hope, not knowledge.

No, we dont,you said. You spent it. And I have nothing left.

I could pick up extra hours at work.

Not gonna be enough. Not unless youre working on your back for him.

You held my drawing in your hand, the blue crown to our queen bed drooping down, pointing at the ground.

Do you even like the headboard?I asked.

Dream whatever you want, Babe. Its never gonna happen.

But my carpenter built it. He carved his name into the crown, and beside it I scratched in my own.

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Elizabeth Toole is a writer, lawyer, mother, wife, and cat wrangler who lives and works in Indiana but escapes to Chicago as often as possible. She mostly writes fiction and keeps sending her stories out into the world, hoping they’ll find a home. She feels a novel is percolating within her and looks forward to its time-consuming emergence.

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