MINCHIATE: XI The Hermit

Misanthrope

Herman’s Hermits sang “There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)” on the old turntable. Dust particles danced in the sunlight that glimmered though the open windows; birds chirped in the trees. Miss Ann Thrope bopped her head to the tune, careful not to ruin the beautiful landscape she was stitching; the kind she always wished she could have visited.

It was too late now, those pipe dreams were all flushed down the drain decades ago. Now, her dreams only came true in the form of needlework, quilting, painting and the solitary crafts of a solitary life. Over the years, she’d filled her house with castles embroidered on pillows, pictures of rivers that babbled only in her imagination, and collages of places she’d never been. She’d retreated from human contact and faded into oblivion as those she’d loved died one by one. 

The song ended, and it took her a few moments to realize it was all too quiet. Miss Ann Thrope glanced around the room, the strange hush oppressive, yet pacifying. It filled the room with an odd tranquility, palpable and engulfing. Her eyes fell on the grandfather clock, her grandfather’s grandfather clock. 

She clicked her tongue; the clock had stopped. Never in its century of existence had that clock stopped. Her grandmother often said it would only stop when doomsday was nigh.

Miss Ann set her stitching aside, reached for her crutch, and, with painful effort, hobbled to the clock. There seemed nothing wrong with it. She glanced out the window. A mist had fallen over the outside world and she wondered whether it caused the strange silence. 

She limped to the backdoor, but a sharp pain coursed through her ulcered and crooked legs. The crutch slipped on the floor and Miss Ann tumbled to the ground. She fell in slow motion, as if invisible hands guided and cushioned her fall. Not a thud or thump sounded, and Miss Ann hadn’t uttered at peep as she fell. The strange calmness hovered in the air, and far from afraid, Miss Ann thought now would be a good time for a nap. 

She closed her eyes. Florian’s alluring smile flashed, his hair waved in the wind as they flew in his shiny Roadster. He laughed; the grandfather clock chimed. Hadn’t it stopped? 

Miss Ann’s eyes flew open. Beside her lay an angel. She doubted not he was an angel, she’d never seen such beauty. Not even Florian, so reckless and dazzling, had been so beautiful. The Angel’s eyes were sapphires and his hair like sparkling diamonds. 

“Am I dying?” She asked. 

The Angel shrugged and smiled. 

“Depends on you,” he said, his voice tinkled like Heaven’s bells, “if you could correct one mistake, would you?”

Miss Ann Thrope nodded, tears welled in her eyes and a sob caught in her throat. 

“I would never get in drunk Florian’s car.”

The Angel beamed and rays of light shone out of his eyes. He ran his fingers down her face. Miss Ann closed her eyes and let the radiant warmth flow down her head, her back, her arms and through her mangled legs rendered useless since that day with gorgeous Florian, who hadn’t lived to see what he’d done. Miss Ann Thrope sighed and the painful memory dissipated with her breath. 

The turntable sputtered and crackled; Peter Noone sang “I’m Into Something Good”. Miss Ann Thrope opened her eyes and braced herself for the effort to stand. To her surprise, her body was light and her movements ginger. She gazed down at her twisted legs, those bandaged stumps, but saw only the beautiful healthy legs of a young woman. 

Miss Ann rose onto those strong, agile legs and ran to the mirror. She laughed—tears streaming down her eyes—at the young face reflected at her. 

Miss Ann Thrope reached for her dusty purse, opened the rusty door, and for the first time in years, walked out into a new life. 

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