A mad man is rising to power in Germany.
Junior is on his way home to the U.S.
An aging architect of some former renown has no clients or prospects.
And Liliane’s husband has embarrassed her further by paying thousands of dollars to a competing department store (it is this fact that makes her feel most betrayed) to lavish jewels on his most recent conquest. Once conquered, however, one falls. This one fell so quickly that Liliane’s husband attempted to return the six diamond and platinum bracelets and to reclaim his cash. But the savvy competitor will not return the money, and now Liliane’s husband is doing his battles in court, and the Pittsburgh Gazette is documenting the trial for the public and the wife to consume. Love the kind you long for indeed.
The Depression has taken its toll on the department store’s employees and on the B&O train from Pittsburgh, which has reduced trips to Bear Run. Thus the country retreat for company employees is no longer attended by company employees. The family’s primitive wooden quarters, a mail-order cottage, hangs precariously over a ridge. Liliane’s husband dubbed it, “The Hangover.” Oh how he charms.
To walk through the woods near Bear Run is to walk through populations of ghost trees, their dry, fallen chestnuts rotting on the earth floor. Nineteen hundred acres of blight. Each year, fewer thriving green trees, more ghosts. In just two decades they have all become shades. But their wood is strong and good for fences.
“And furniture,” her husband decrees. “Slice some stumps for rumps. The rest will be minibars.”
Everyone’s favorite spot is on the stream’s floor where Bear Run falls in a brisk and noisy shower. Liliane’s favorite space is just behind the falling water. She likes to press her back and her palms against the wet rock and imagine a room: a bed, a desk, and a shelf full of books behind the wall of water. This is where one should live. Strömt von der hohen, Steilen Felswand /Der reine Strahl, Dann stäubt er lieblich. When she walks through the plane of water to join the others, it is like passing through the transparent gauze that separates this world from the next. She finds the group sunning and picnicking on the oversized rock above.
Her husband is a city boy, but Liliane loves the Pennsylvania country—the perfume of Mountain Laurel, the crick and chirp of insects and birds, the nighttime hush of stars caught in the webs of tree branches—and she loves even more the sharp tug of a trout on her hand-tied fly.
Although the railroad has cut back service, the road from Donegal has just been paved, and there is talk of a new highway that will be built from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. So Liliane’s husband transfers the title of the Bear Run property from the department store’s Beneficial and Protective Association to Liliane herself.
“Now,” she says to her husband, who is, for the moment, not in love with anyone else, “we need a proper country house.”
KELCEY PARKER is the author of LILIANE’S BALCONY (Rose Metal Press), a novella set at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Her story collection, FOR SALE BY OWNER (Kore Press), won the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award in Short Fiction and was a finalist for the 2012 Best Books of Indiana in Fiction. She is the recipient of an Individual Artist’s Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission and a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary journals including Notre Dame Review, Bellingham Review, Santa Monica Review, Indiana Review, Third Coast, Redivider, Western Humanities Review, and Image. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati and currently directs the creative writing program at Indiana University South Bend.
Excerpted from Liliane’s Balcony, by Kelcey Parker, copyright © 2013 by Kelcey Parker. With permission of the publisher, Rose Metal Press.