(Part 1 appeared on this blog Wednesday, May 20, 2015)
…Someday maybe they can be a part of my life again. Just not yet.
I go to the pantry and pull out the box of ready-made single-serve pizza crusts. “Sade, come put your pizza together.”
Sade dashes in from the living room. I hear the blaring music video switch to the news just before I hear her footsteps.
“I want Canadian bacon and pineapple on mine!” She pulls a can of pineapple out of the pantry and then grabs the package of Canadian bacon from the refrigerator meat drawer. “You want cheese like usual?” She grabs the packet of shredded three cheeses and lays it on the counter.
The tv newscaster’s voice blares into the room. “And today, outside the McAlester State Penitentiary, the crowds have gathered, waiting to see if there will be a stay of execution for Daniel Levine. It’s in the hands of the Governor now, with Levine scheduled to be executed at 12 midnight tonight.”
I knock the package of cheese off the counter, and Mack, our Scottish terrier, trots over to see if there is any spillage.
“We talked about that today,” Sade says as she pulls the wooden bench over beside me and steps up on it. “That guy’s going to get executed tonight. He killed some poeple. Do you remember that, Mom? I was too little.”
My fingers go numb. “Now why would you talk about that in school? That is unrelated to anything you are studying.”
“Mrs. Donnelly does current events on Monday, and Neesha Meers brought an article from yesterday’s paper. There was a photo with it, but her mother kept the photo of that man and the people he murdered at home ’cause she didn’t want us kids in Neesha’s class to have nightmares about him.”
I could picture Neesha Meers in my mind. Red hair, glasses, and freckles all over her arms and face. I had met her and her mother at a PTA meeting, last year, not long after they moved to town.
“Her dad works at the penitentiary. She says he doesn’t like the long drive every day, but his family is a lot safer living way over here in case there’s a break out at the Big House.”
I look at Sade. She is placing the Canadian bacon slices precisely on her crust so the edges touch but don’t overlap. Then she carefully arranges three pineapple wedges on top of each slice.
I don’t know what to say, and so I say nothing. Break out. Big House. I wish my daughter knew nothing of prisons. Why did the poison of it reach her, even here?
My cell phone rings and Sade dashes across the room to reach into my purse and retrieve it. “It’s Uncle Ben!” She punches the phone on. “Hi! We’re making pizza! Mine’s tropical. You coming over this weekend? Bring Boxer Boy, would you? Here’s Mom.”
She bounces across the room, lays the phone next to me on the countertop and goes back to creating her pizza.
I wipe my hands, then pick up the phone and carry it outside onto the back deck, away from the blaring newscast and Sade’s miraculous hearing.
“You doing okay?” My brother asks.
I squeeze my eyes tightly closed. “Think so.”
“You wouldn’t tell me if you weren’t.”
“No, I’m fine, really.”
He waits silently on the other end of the phone signal. I picture the sound waves bouncing through space, up to the satellite and back down, straight lines, with no fluctuations for his voice or mine. A scientific human version of the whale song, vibrating through space instead of through the ocean.
“Okay, then. Call me tomorrow?” he asks.
“You bet.” I disconnect and stare up at the twilight sky. Stars are popping out, twinkling out of the blackness. I close my eyes and concentrate as hard as I can, sending strength, sending gratitude, sending love. This message must get through now. Right now.