Donald Shephard

“How are you feeling, sweetheart?” she asks.

He searches for an adequate word, a symbol for the euphoria he always feels after making love with her but euphoria is a pale substitute of a description.

“I,” he says, blue eyes twinkling at her, “am a magnificent specimen of American manhood.”

“And studliness, don’t forget about your studliness,” she laughs with him.

“I believe, my love, you have taken it all away.”

“But really, how are you feeling?” She asks again.

So he tells his love as best he can just how he feels and she feels it too. There is the feeling of floating on an undulating cloud of silk or milk or perhaps this is what clouds feel like. These clouds are lined with petals. They are floating on a sea of petals, large purple, rose-pink, and white petals from a saucer magnolia tree. These are mixed with the petals of a tree peony that grows in her mother’s garden. They have named the shrub after Oprah Winfrey. They call it the tree peony Oprah. They laugh together at that story.

The sky above the sea of petals is the blue of forget-me-nots and a breeze brings the scent of honeysuckle and star jasmine in delicate wafts. Iridescent dolphins leap through the cloud-sea and silently arch back into it. Bright yellow birds soar effortlessly above them, rising on the air currents heated by the lovers’ bodies. The sea and sky and cloud are all one and endless and there is no time. They drift off to sleep.

At two in the morning he awakens thinking of all the tortured souls in the world. In his sleepiness he starts to examine a particular method of torture. He fights it off and tries to redirect his mind. Think of all the times you have made love to your wife. Think of the happiness of thirty years of marriage.

“Think of Abu Grabib,”says his semi-conscious mind. Redirect. Try again. Think of the good times. Remember the time the valley oak split and each half of the tree fell on a different side of the house just at the final “Yes!” Yes, that was good timing. He remembers. The earth moved.

“Remember, too, Guatanamo Bay,” says the voice in his head. Redirect – redirect your mind.

Remember the time the cat pounced and drove his claws into your rising buttocks. Not such good timing that time. It is hard to lie on a sea of petals when you are thinking about tetanus and rabies. It is hard to sleep on your stomach.

“Contract prisons in Uzbekistan,” suggests the voice in his head. Redirect! Redirect!

Remember the time in the Sierra, in the grotto formed by a stream and a small waterfall. There was spirea growing out of the rocks and…if you do not think of the victims who will? If nobody thinks about them, no-one will help them. Especially think of those who are tortured in your name. Redirect now. Turn over your thoughts. Turn over.

He turns over onto his other side, a trick he had learned from his mother years ago. It moves the acid in the stomach to a less painful spot and allows sleep… sometimes. He reaches out, touches his wife’s hip.

“Sweetheart,” she mumbles. He holds her and, comforted, drifts down onto her sea-cloud of tree peony Oprah petals. Peace comes to his mind with the morning light.

Back to ... Love Stories | Home page