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Mrs. Lambert

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Well, she said as she adjusted the small pillbox hat, Emily Lambert, it's time. She'd waited all day, dressed in her best clothes with every silver hair in place, and now it was finally five o'clock. Walking through her apartment, she checked to see that everything was in order. The old furniture still shone from repeated polishing and knickknacks stood dust free on tables. Company ready, that's the way it looked, she thought. But no one would call, there was no one to call, there was no note to leave, for at the great age of eighty-seven Mrs. Lambert had even outlived her own children. She sighed deeply and as she left, closed the door behind her but didn't lock it.

Mrs. Lambert's suede pumps echoed on the marble steps as she went down the winding staircase. Going down the stairs had never been a problem but lately, climbing up them had never not been. She would hold on tightly to the greasy wood banister and pull herself up step by step, then the breathlessness would overtake her and she'd have to stop and rest on a garbage strewn stair. Only for a moment though. The noises and smells of the tenement would overwhelm her, and she'd force herself to climb the rest of the way.

As Mrs. Lambert left the building she stopped to straighten her suit one more time. The suit hung on her now, a soft teal wool with gold colored buttons. The matching hat sat loosely on thin white hair, which once had been a chestnut brown, thick and long. She could remember him running his hands through it. He was gone an eternity now, and friends and family that shared the moments of her life were gone too.

It was Mrs. Lambert's custom to do everything exactly the same. A cold January night wouldn't stop her. She went to evening mass at the church but couldn't look up at his statue. Then to the store on the corner where neighbors waved and addressed her in a language she'd never been able to learn. The store keeper at the bodega inquired about her health.

Somewhere by Julie Lance

Somewhere
by Julie Lance
Her pumps now clicked on the pavement as she briskly walked toward the park and she watched each foot as she placed one in front of the other. Such practical shoes, I used to wear such high heels as a girl, she thought. The breathlessness and pain overtook her again and she stopped to rest on a bench that wobbled as she sat on it. It was missing an arm and graffiti covered its splintered frame. Passersby kept going on, not noticing the slight, frail, nicely dressed old woman who was out of place in a slum. She attracted little attention. Mrs. Lambert looked at them, but they never looked at her. They didn't know what she was thinking, they didn't care.

"You have to go to the hospital for surgery, Mrs. Lambert," the doctor had said. What sense does it make, she asked herself as she sat there, what sense to wait to die.

Hundreds of years ago the Alaskan peoples, put their old on an ice floe to die. They were considered primitive. Was it really primitive, she thought--or was it a kindness? "No one's going to put me on an ice floe, or in a hospital." She realized she'd spoken out loud and looked up. But still the passersby kept walking on. The voice of the neighborhood was loud, their music was happy. They were laughing and talking as they walked past. She lowered her hearing aid to shut them out. There was no room in her head for their happiness and music. There was only room for her memories.

She rose with an effort, the pain in her chest sharper now, and walked deep into the woods that surrounded a small pond. There was another bench she'd sat on in summer, when she'd watched the children throw bread to the ducks. This bench was sturdy and clean and had been painted at the end of the season. She put her hearing aid on, but there were no children's voices laughing and playing, just the sound of an icy whistling wind that sent a chill through her as the temperature started its drop toward zero.

Mrs. Lambert stood for a moment looking out across the frozen pond, the stinging wind bringing tears. There were no ducks to catch the bread now, no summer sounds. Images of bygone times and bygone people visited her and she could almost see the old ones on the ice, waiting, their backs straight as they sat wrapped in a soft leather shawl in readiness for the great Alaskan bear to come and get them. "No one is going to put me on an ice floe," she said determinedly, but now, there was no one to hear her, no one to notice, the slight, frail old lady named Emily.

She sat on the cold bench feeling the iron rails through her wool suit and kept looking out across the pond, her back straight, the suit jacket pulled tightly around her. She sat waiting for the great Alaskan Bear to come and get her and as the cold and night enveloped her, she waited for peace, and for the sun to set on a long fine day.

Fluffy snow flakes started to fall and coat her good wool suit. They stuck in her eyelashes and on her hair. She sat very still with her eyes closed, reliving the memories and precious moments of her life. Thoughts of warm summer days and happy times made her smile. Family and friends rose up to greet her, and as a great white bear crossed the icy pond and took her hand, the night wind lulled her, the soft snow warmed her, and the children's voices soothed her as she fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.

A secretary by day and a writer by night, Regina Phillips is married to a lobsterman and lives in Long Island, New York. She has been published in a variety of magazines and had a reading in SOHO New York last year. She is currently working on her first novel, Just Whisper, and dreaming the dreams of authors all over.

Also in Song and Story:
Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography by David Bogle
Family Treasures    Untangling Roots    Dynamic Range   
When They Take Your Breasts Away
From the Kitchen Window    Reflections

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