Chapter 4 That Which Mere Words Cannot Describe


Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

- Dorothy Parker


The following morning dawned much as the previous one had upon the tranquil scene of Hellman’s Crossing, sans the sounds of screeching tires and rending metal. This morning, however, found Kate sitting pensively in the window seat of her bedroom, gazing out at the scene of yesterday’s accident. Fred could be seen below, methodically bounding from tree, to shrub, to telephone pole, pausing to sniff and anoint each. Kate allowed a small grin to quirk one corner of her mouth at the sight. He’s nothing if not thorough, she thought. The grin widened as she glanced over her shoulder, hearing a muffled stirring from the king sized bed angled against the far wall. "Ah, does the princess condescend to join us this morning?" she laughed. Beneath the voluminous comforter and assorted pillows, a small tumult made its way from the foot to the head of the bed. Like a disorganized mole, Kate thought fondly. Shortly, Ethel’s long, elegant black nose poked over the top edge of the comforter, thrashing around in search of a familiar shoulder. Not finding her customary morning perch, Ethel wormed further out from under the covers, and, spying Kate across the room, gave her a reproachful look.

Kate couldn’t help it. "Snooze ya lose, Ethel."

It was indeed rare for either of the dogs to outsleep her in the morning. But, truth be told, Kate felt as though she had hardly closed her eyes all night. And finally, when the late summer dawn began to lighten the room, she gave up all pretense of sleeping and, curled up on the window seat, continued the litany of self recrimination that had run intermittently non-stop through her head since arriving home the night before.


Kate had stalked out of the hospital the previous evening and was on her way home, working up a full head of righteous indignation, when her eye fell on one of the post-it notes stuck precariously to her car’s dashboard. It said: Precious Angels. Tuesday PM.

Glancing at the dashboard clock, Kate uttered a single word: "Shit." She altered her course via an ill-advised u-turn, careening for a brief moment onto the (luckily deserted) sidewalk. She then aimed the SLK roadster north towards her destination, and let the 3.2-l kompressor power plant rocket her out of town.

Mere moments later, it seemed, the tall woman was vaulting over the driver’s side door and sprinting for the gaily-painted door of a large rambling house. Prominently displayed in the front yard was a sign proclaiming:

Precious Angels

Early Childhood Education Center

Ages 2 — 5

The sign, and in fact most available surfaces, were festooned with artists’ renditions of cherubs, angels, and other heavenly beings, all of a particularly sappy demeanor. Kate was struck, as always, by the sheer excess of adornment lavished on the otherwise unremarkable property. The house, a large, nondescript brick structure, was painted a celestial blue, the better, Kate supposed, to showcase the aforementioned cherubs, angels, etc. On the roof, a large, gaudy, tinsel-laden star was fastened precariously. Giving it, and the other booby traps a wary glance, Kate made her way through the door to the sign-in area, and, breathing a sigh of relief, glanced again at her watch. She flipped to the ‘seraph’ section of the school’s log book and, finding the name ‘Harold Hellman’, wrote ‘5:57’ in the ‘time out’ box next to the name.

"Plenty of time," Kate muttered to herself. Becoming aware of a continuing conversation from the hallway behind her, she turned and beheld the school’s headmistress making her stately way towards her.

"Miz McCullers" she nodded.

"Well, Katie, can it be that you have made it by the appointed time two weeks in a row? As I was just saying to Rolanda —Rolanda -- now where did that girl get to — well, doesn’t matter. Anyhoo, the seraphs are out in the St. Francis courtyard, I think only Harry and one or two others. . ."

"Seraphim" muttered Kate, and began a slow sidle down the hallway. Just as the headmistress’s monologue gathered steam as she rambled on, so Kate’s sidle became a purposeful stride, and reaching the corner, a brisk trot. Thus escaping another lecture on one or the other of her former nursery school teacher’s favorite subjects, Kate made it to the playground, aka St. Francis courtyard, where several small children were gathered at the far end.

"Yo, Harry" she called. None of the gathered tots seemed to be the object of her quest, but as she moved across the yard, a small, caped figure rose up from the top step of the slide and hurled itself towards her.

"Aunt Katie!" it yelled.

"Urf! God. . .bless it Harry, why’re you always sneaking up on people like that?"

Harry, a small, black haired, blue-eyed, 3-year-old version of his aunt, was a boy of few words. He simply grinned at his aunt from his vantage point on her back, and urged, "Gimme a ride!"

"Yeah, right, Harry. Like I can still carry you, as big as you are. Giddown!"

The two were soon ensconced in Harry’s favorite vehicle, Kate having dredged a child’s seat from the trunk and firmly strapped the boy into it.

"Okay, Scout, let’s head out. Wanna go play with Fred and Ethel?"

"Ethel. You can play with Fred."

"What’s the matter with you playing with Fred? Don’t you like him any more?" Kate queried. She know Harry, a typical 3 year old, loved all dogs and particularly hers, so she was a little puzzled at his response.

"Fred hided from me."

Aha. "Honey, Fred only hides if you’re irritating him. Remember what we said about irritating the dogs, now."

"OK. I won’t ear tate dem."

As they drove along, Harry gamely trying to reach every gadget on the dashboard, and Kate absentmindedly swatting his little fingers away, she reflected on how her brief encounter with Cameron had so oddly affected her. She had almost completely forgotten her regular Thursday date with Harry, which never happened. Soon after moving back to Hellman’s Corner, she had offered to pitch in to help out her brother and sister-in-law with picking Harry up when needed from his school. Precious Angels was extremely strict about the 6:00 closing time, and sometimes neither parent could make it there in time. Soon, she and Harry had a standing date on Thursdays, and she often picked him up other days as well. As someone who had never had a desire to have children of her own, Kate had been surprised to find how much she had come to look forward to her times with him, hellion though he was. But today all thoughts of Harry had been driven from her head, and she had almost left the poor kid there.


And now, the following morning, Kate found to her chagrin that she was still in a turmoil over the previous afternoon’s encounter with Cameron. She had tried, at various times during her mostly sleepless night, to justify her abrupt departure and maintain her righteous indignation. As hard as I work on that front garden, people just come careening around that corner onto my property, and then have the nerve to call my rare, beautiful New Guinea impatiens weeds. . .

Just as frequently, however, she berated herself and tried to think of some creative way to make things right.

.Maybe she doesn’t even remember, she was on big time painkillers. I be she doesn’t even remember me leaving.

I could just show up and pretend like nothing happened.

Maybe I’ll just stop by the hospital later on. And. . . and what? Just passing by? Just happened to be in the neighborhood? Visiting… visiting. . . there’s gotta be somebody there I know that I can visit. . .

"Hello? Admitting? Can I speak to Carolyn please?" Kate paced up and down the length of her patio as she waited for her friend and erstwhile lover to come on the line.

"Hi Carolyn, it’s Kate."

"Oh hi, Kate. So what do you want," her friend asked in a wry tone, knowing the call was not likely to be simply a friendly hello.

"Well, now that you mention it, there is one thing I wanted to ask you. I’ve been meaning to start getting more involved, in, you know, the volunteer things you all do there, and —"

At this, Carolyn interrupted with, Kate thought, a rather rude and uncalled for shout of laughter. "Don’t tell me you wanna be a goddam Candy Striper, Kate. You wanna get to know the nursing staff up close and personal, is that it?"

"No, that is not it," Kate said, with dignity. "I was thinking more along the lines of volunteering for Pets-on-Wheels, if you’d give me a chance to get a word in edgewise."

And that is why, some several hours later, Kate and Ethel could be seen making their rounds, spreading cheer and dog hairs amongst the sick and bedridden of St. Anne’s.


Continued in Chapter 5

Return to the Academy