NDJ:3 Elizabeth Bohun, MSW

SPOONS OF HONEY

Once he died, the ghosts moved in.

Moved into every room, the hallways, even the stairways.

The eldest daughter moved into her top bedroom and rarely came out; she came down to eat in the kitchen that was now never cleaned. After he died, the mother, who had never really cleaned, gave up entirely.

The eldest daughter sometimes ate five slices of pure soft white bread, thickly buttered and spread with Canadian clover honey. The uncle who indeed felt very badly about the father’s death did not want to come too close to the catastrophe. Instead, he sent through the parcel post an enormous container of honey which looked rather like the old milk cans waiting on country roads to go to market.

The honey sat in a corner of the kitchen and all the children ate copious amounts. Perhaps the honey might sweeten or coat or dissolve the hard stones of grief in their tummies.

The mother never had honey, only cold cups of weak milky tea, while she stared out of windows for hours. She stared for so long that she never noticed the dirt or how the ivy began to cover the windows or how the spider’s sewed beautiful webs in all the corners.

Sometimes the eldest daughter stormed out of her room and in a great rage ripped back the ivy, shined the windows, killed the spiders and again slammed shut her bedroom door. One brother came out of his bedroom to grind coffee in the hallway early every morning. The sound grated through the house and up both stairways.

“Shut up. Shut up”, shouted the youngest sister and put her pillow over her head. In order for the stones to stay like pebbles in her stomach, to stop them becoming boulders and exploding through the skin, she had to count every pair of shoes in her room and touch every door knob down the long narrow yellow hallway before she could dip her finger in the honey.

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Spoons of Honey Elizabeth Bohun, M. S. W.

The grandmother always prayed and read her bible and didn’t seem to notice the father in law had died. She had no need of ghosts because she had been a ghost herself ever since her husband, the vicar, had made her leave her beloved warm palm tree lined Falmouth and come north.  She never forgave him; she stopped speaking and became a ghost. Her weeping crying puss filled legs betrayed her humanity. The father used to put bandages on the sores. Now a strange doctor came in on Tuesdays and Fridays. His black bag was like the father’s so all the children went behind closed doors. Seeing the bag made the stones and pebbles in their tummies very hard and heavy.

The father’s watch and cufflinks and signet ring lay in the top drawer of the mahogany chest in the hallway. The wife had no energy to move them such was the heaviness of her grief. The children secretly and silently crept down the hallway and smelled the cufflinks, placed the cold face of the watch against their warm cheeks, or put the signet ring on their eyes. Then they crept away, curling up in front of gas fires in Victorian fireplaces to warm the hollow sadness and to warm into understanding the new strange word whispered by friends and written in the newspapers.

Suicide seemed very bad. Worse than death by cancer, heart attack or even being run over by the train or bus. Only whispers: no hugs and kisses and stroking of hair and blankets and feather pillows and hot chocolates and more stroking: no sobbing and screaming and scratching of skin and pillows and bodies to sleep with. Just lots of spoons of honey; fingers dipped in honey and silence and cold.