Miss Smudge

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The incident was forgotten. After all college days are rather a distant, faded, memory. The letter brought it back. The letter from a kindred spirit whisked me back to a sun-dimpled creek bank. A bit of sand, a murmuring creek, the refreshing green of the encompassing woods, what better place for kindred spirits to escape the academics of upper campus? The conversation, when we were inclined to rouse from laziness, was books. We discussed good ones, bad ones, predictable plots and ridiculous romance scenarios.  We mocked the innocent lover who reached a tentative finger to wipe a smudge from an alabaster cheek. Why was getting a dirty face romantic? We laughed at the nonsense. We laughed harder when later I informed her that it had happened to me. Really. My future husband received a raucous burst of laughter when he wiped a smudge from my face. He even called it a ‘smudge.’ At some point I acquired a ceramic piggy bank. She was dubbed, “Miss Smudge.” Coins deposited were supposed to signify something. Perhaps keep a count of real smudges removed. The bank, most likely broken (in a household of nine children what chance does a ceramic pig have?) or lost with the incident.

Miss Smudge has yet to appear, even in a passing reference, in the text of my books. Since receiving the letter, I have replaced the orginal with a second Miss Smudge, complete with a smudge on her cheek. She stands guard over a collection of fairy tale books where I can see her from my work station. I have plans for Miss Smudge. Her story will fit nicely with the book I intend to begin in July. Characters Katie and Nancy will find a sun-dimpled creek bank and talk as only kindred spirits do.

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The post should end with that last line. It’s a closer. But though Miss Smudge did not make it into Steeple the sun-spotted woods with the creek did.

“Don’t worry, I have no intention of moving.” Nan settled the blanket more comfortably under her head and let her thoughts drift. “I wish,” she murmured, giving voice to a fancy she had thought before, “I wish I could capture this, bottle it up—the breeze, the sun flirting among the branches, the drone of the insects, Claire’s head resting here, the peace of the day. I would put it all down in my summer room. I’d label it, ‘Contentment.’ During the winter or when things are difficult, I could open it up to use it a little at a time. A pinch that reminds me how peacefully content we are now. I’d tie a creamy white ribbon around it, the color of the clouds, slightly lazy ones, the ones which hang and float with no hurry or destination, peacefully content.”

Later in the story, (which has been carefully edited so no surprises are spoiled):

“His satisfied “Aha,” alerted her to a strike. She held her breath, watching the rod bend, the line tighten with the fight of the fish against the hook. The surface of the creek churned with its thrashing.  He reached and grasped the line. Water glittered from the fish twisting uselessly against its fate…The warmth of the day, the sounds of the creek and insects were tranquil and soothing. Her fight against sleep was as useless as the fish’s against the hook. She started suddenly when water dripped on her face. “I am not sleeping. I am resting my eyes… and thinking.” Her statement was met with a hearty laugh.”

The library was, I recall, the setting that inspired part of the above passage. Right Nancy?

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