I dreamed Saturday to hurry up and come. The first day of summer – the day I would see my Poppy again. He would drive his old, bouncy truck up the gravel road, and announce his arrival with a squeak of questionable brakes and unsettled dust.
I held fast to his pocket watch and put it to my ear and listened to the tick, tick, tick as each second passed by. Poppy gave it to me and said, “Marni, when you miss me, you hold this old watch to your heart and you’ll feel my heart beating too.” I did and often. That old watch was important, they gave it to him after he gave them thirty years of work and sweat. I didn’t know who they were but I knew the watch was dear. I knew he loved me the most because he gave it to me.
Saturday was so near and each tick brought it closer. I imagined us sitting at the end of the dock, trolling for catfish. We’d catch two, at least. Poppy’s special bait of white bread and Cheese Whiz was irresistible to catfish. Oh yes, at least two catfish for Mama’s frying pan. After we took pictures of our prizes, we’d nail them to the ancient hickory and skin them good. Then give them to Mama for a light dusting of cornmeal and a bath of hot lard.
We’d eat and laugh, and Poppy would steal my nose between bites of catfish and sips of coffee. Afterward, we would wander through the woods and scavenge for wild berries and violets. The tin bucket pinging out a tune with each handful dropped into its hungry mouth.
“If I go to sleep, Saturday will come. Poppy will come,” I told myself. And as the moon rose and shimmied through my windows, the angels wooed me to slumber. Cradled me in dreams of giggles and adventure.
Morning came so quietly I almost missed it. The house was still and I worried everyone had forgotten about me. I hurried into my dungarees and pink plaid shirt – then raked excited hands through tangled curls. Poppy didn’t care if my hair was a fright. He called it my mane and proclaimed, “You’re my little queen of the jungle, lion girl. That you are.”
“Poppy!” I sang out as I burst into the kitchen. Empty. No Mama, no Daddy – no smell of coffee and eggs and the hot rolls that Poppy loved. The old pocket watch that hung around my neck felt different – heavy – and my hand trembled as I put it to my ear. No, tick, tick, tick…