SnapLines -  SUNDAY’S CHILD – "Vaudeville" by Jacob Lawrence

Calvin’d been sickly ever since he was born seven weeks early in the worst snowstorm of the century. By forty he’d come through enough of hanging onto life. His mother would disapprove of his decision but she’d been dead three months come Friday so he doubted she’d find out in time to stop him.  He folded up his doctor’s letter, laid it on his desk, and left the office.

Knowing it was the quickest way to the bridge he headed north and east on foot. This walk took him through a part of town he’d never visited before and if he hadn’t been intent on suicide he might have grown afraid. As it was he kept his mind on all the family that he’d buried and how there were none left to bury him and then he saw the girl, a woman really who still held herself like she was young.

She was kneeling, bent forward, her arm outstretched playing a game of marbles with some school children on the street.  She laughed when the youngest boy knocked three of her ducks out of the ring.

He watched because there was no need to hurry. She looked up, smiled slightly at him and he thought “Angel” and tried to smile in return but suddenly heard the river in the distance. The game continued until eventually she stood and gave each child their choice of one marble from a brightly colored bag tied around her waist. Then she cautiously walked to Calvin and explained how some marbles were spirals and others glimmers, cats-eye or bloods. They walked many blocks and every so often she found another group of children where she would pause to play out a game and give away more bits of her glass. “This girl holds her haw like a Turk,” she explained. “That boy uses a knuckle dabster grip.” Calvin began to grow accustomed to the rules.

Eventually they came to her house, shambly to his bankerly mind, but his eyes enjoyed the yellow zinnias planted in the window boxes. She invited him in for glass of tea and showed him all the books on marbles that she’d inherited from her great-grandma. He watched her roll and heat and mold a few and slowly he again became accustomed to the rules and tried making a marble himself.  He laughed when it was a disaster but “promising” she said and helped him try another and another until they went to bed. Behind the house, audible but unnoticed by the lovers, ran the river under the bridge, past his office and the hospital and then cut deeper into the valley before mixing with the sea.


Vaudeville” painted by Jacob Lawrence in 1951 at the Hirschhorn Gallery, Washington, DC, USA