Mary Grimm ~ Her Sketchbook, Found Among Her Things

Red cov­er, 9 by 12, one hun­dred per cent rag. She was good at art, the nuns said, and she walked home from school with her water­col­or pic­ture of the church tow­er, the out­line of the bell vis­i­ble in the shad­owy win­dow. (On the cor­ner the drug­store where eighty years lat­er she will have cof­fee with her daugh­ter; she will be thin and light as a girl again, her bones as porous as a bird’s.)

But this girl, her think­ing eyes, white blonde hair, her face smoothed of its need for hap­pi­ness, this girl, pic­ture in one hand, her dress a starched handme­down from a chain of sis­ters – she walked home to the house that eighty years lat­er she will not be able to dis­tin­guish from the hous­es on either side.

Her sketch­book had 24 pages but only 6 are left. She has drawn a vase, a bird, a fern, a face begun and rubbed out, a tree with no leaves. (She will sit drink­ing cof­fee from a too-big cup, her wrist trem­bling with the effort.)

The tree has no leaves, it reach­es off the page, branch­es lopped by the edge. (The side­walk is slate, the trees in the park are new trees, the drug­store a cof­fee shop now, the house any house on a cer­tain street. Her eyes, milky blue, look intent­ly at her daugh­ter, her shadow.)

Holding the pic­ture of the church, she skipped, almost home, know­ing its exact dimen­sions, the shrill creak and clap of the door, the scrape of the chair as she put the pic­ture on the table. The tree leaf­less, is grace­ful, ends with the paper’s grain. The house is there, there, there.


Mary Grimm has had two books pub­lished, Left to Themselves (nov­el) and Stealing Time (sto­ry col­lec­tion) — both by Random House. Currently, she is work­ing on a dystopi­an nov­el about old­sters. She teach­es fic­tion writ­ing at Case Western Reserve University.