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  • A Hundred Fires
  • Polly Farquhar (bio)

It was an old house and in bed at night she felt her history, and the only two times in her life when she remembered her dreams was when she was pregnant with her daughter and now that she was a widow. Mostly, her dreams now were of things she didn't know she remembered – but not as she wished, not pieces of her husband, and this was what she wished to dream of most of all, to feel him with her. Instead Rosalie dreamed of men and boys she never thought she had paid enough attention to; she never thought she had the tilt of their heads, the way they moved their hands, still in her mind. She didn't understand how she had remembered these things. Or maybe she made them up, as clear and as precise as a movie, and she recognized the images with such sharpness only because she wanted to, only because it was her wish. Was there really a man at the train station twenty-five years ago in Madrid who had smiled at her, who had a scar cutting off the top left bow of his lip? How could she remember this so clearly? She must have made it up. Had she made it up?

When she was pregnant with Flora, Rosalie had dreamt of Spain, of beggars in the street – injured from the Civil War – blind, maimed, crippled. She dreamt of a girl with legs that were not legs, more like knees and feet, and arms that were just shoulders and fingers. One night she dreamt of a man on the street corner on Good Friday: no legs, no arms. He sat on a blanket on the sidewalk, a cup for his change. She couldn't remember if she had given him any money. She wondered about his family. Did they carry him, trunk and head, down to the main street?

She would awake, trembling and slick, heavy with baby and guilt for dreaming such awful things while pregnant. Her belly rose up under her flannel nightgown, and even though it was as dark outside in the room as it was inside where the baby was, she [End Page 93] could see it. Her belly. The wet red muscle of her womb, the tiny baby curled within her and looking more like a fish than an infant.

Tonight she had yet to dream of anything – her semester abroad, those mysterious boys, her dead husband. This sleepless night the snow outside was thick, and Rosalie could see it falling in the streetlights through a gap in the curtains, and she knew it wasn't just dreams, it wasn't just history that held her awake, but the soft, cold world outside, and the return to her lonely bed as she had known it before her marriage, before Flora, Flora who was still awake, who moved about the downstairs as if there were no need to be quiet, as if she knew her mother was awake, as if there was no reason to take care, Flora, her baby of Spanish dreams.

Rosalie rose from bed and dressed in a sweater and flannel-lined jeans, two pairs of socks, her husband's old coat, and, as quietly as she could, slipped out of the creaky old house where one door betrayed another, and onto the front porch and into the coldest night and the coldest time of the year. The snow was silent and no cars were on the road. This, too, was like a soft, insulated dream world where movement was thick and awkward, where senses were dulled by sleep, though only here, now, on the front porch between Christmas and New Year's Eve, the solid snow shovel in her hands, it was the cold – the sting of it on the eyes, the burn on the skin, the freezing she felt inside with each breath – that told her she was awake.

The snow was heavy but she struck the shovel through. It was an old shovel, and her husband had said they don't make them like this any longer, of steel and wood. She dug through...


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pp. 93-107
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