A Little Sweetness in the Noonday Light

The June day a perfect honeycomb. Air thick and gold as honey. On the tables at the Honeycomb Café, blue linens, vases of ginger lilies. Honeydew melon in green bowls.

On shelves and counters, jars of honey: clover, buckwheat, tupelo. Honey from meadows in Spain. Mayhaw jelly with port wine. Through them all the gold, radiant air pours the light of early summer.

Next to a long window is a piano shaded by potted palms. A man sits playing old songs, love songs from the twenties, the thirties, the forties. Sweet, just like sugar candy….

Copper stairs lead up to a little room that overlooks a street shaded by plane trees — here called buttonwood trees — and lilac bushes. On the walls of this room, the gallery, photographs of bees, beehives, clover blossoms. Paintings of long fields of flowers visited by bees.

A dark-haired woman sits in the gallery drinking strawberry tea and reading a college yearbook called The Beehive.

A man comes in. He is tall and fair, his eyes are a dazzling blue. He looks at the woman. She looks at him. He sits down at the table across from her. She goes on turning the pages of the yearbook, smiling to herself now and then as she reads the autographs written by her classmates long ago. She knows the man is watching her. She tries not to look at him. He comes over to her table and asks to borrow the jar of honey she is using to sweeten her tea. She smiles and says, “Yes, of course.”

“Thank you,” the man says. Then, so softly she can hardly hear him, “You are so lovely.”

Then he takes the honey and sits down at his table again. She pretends to be absorbed in her book of memories.

Piano music floats up from below. The pianist begins to sing,

He’s sweet, just like sugar candy,

And just like honey from a bee.

She thinks of the words for honeymoon in various languages: lune de miel, luna de miel, luna di miele. Luna, luna. A town in New Mexico called Tres Lunas.

She remembers a river, morning spreading like honey across the water. She thinks of the river that flows through Tres Lunas.

After a little while she looks at her watch, then closes her yearbook and glances at the man. He is still watching her. She smiles, murmurs “Good-bye,” and walks slowly down the copper stairs.

The song goes on.

Oh, I’m just wild about Harry,

and Harry’s wild about me.

A week goes by. A hard rain ended an hour ago, but raindrops still bead on the lilacs.

The tall, fair man and a woman with honey-yellow hair walk into the Honeycomb Café. The dark woman walks in behind them, keeping a careful distance. She sees them climb the copper stairs, sit down at a table in a shadowy corner. She follows them and chooses a table under a southern window. She hears the woman talking, and sees the man listening.

The sun is bright now. Phoebe and mavis sing in the plane trees. Bees gather around the last, late lilac blooms.

The man steals glances at the dark woman. The woman with yellow hair tells him something about the hard rain that fell earlier that morning in the town of three moons.

The dark woman begins to look at an astronomy magazine. She tries to read about high summer on the moons of Neptune. She thinks the man’s eyes are like the blue fires of distant planets.

His wife, she whispers to herself.

Grackles land in the buttonwood trees.

The same pianist is there, still singing.

Sweet, just like sugar candy…

In the silence after the music stops, only the soft voice of the woman with yellow hair. 

 

Jeanne Shannon writes in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jeanne Shannon

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