WILLA BESIDE ME

WILLA BESIDE ME
By: Darrelyn L. Tutt

Two nickle-sized bandages are applied to my arm at the conclusion of an annual "wellness and preventative" visit, small but ample reminders of the shingles vaccine and flu shot received.
Initially, I feel great so I plow into the day's furrows and tasks with my usual passion and energy, even taking a five mile walk in the chilly cold. But I can feel it creeping in on me ... each block I walk, each step I take, the chills and a light fatigue settling in.
Blast and bugger, I will not stop ... but I'm so very glad to be home.
I plop down on our gray leather couch and immediately relieve myself with a heavy wool blanket and bottle of water, leaving my hiking boots and outdoor gear on, and curling up into a fetal position with arms tucked in beneath the blanket and the chills accompanying.
A temp is creeping up on me along with a mild nausea.
Blast on the flu shot, I would've been better off without it, maybe even escaped one less flu for the season. Who really knows about these things.
-----
The night is early and my stomach is empty. No appetite.
I crawl into bed at 7:00 PM with Willa Cather and begin the exceptional classic,
O PIONEERS.
"One January Day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to blow away."
Her lines deliver me to open plains, prairie lodgings, and old dirt roads. I'm rooted to the soil with Willa and feel myself drifting off with an articulate and challenging creature. I love her at once.
"Of all the bewildering things about a new country, the absence of human landmarks is one of the most depressing and disheartening."
 I drift off to sleep in an echo of "Willa" words.
-----
At 2:30 AM I wake.
I've evidently slept hard, experienced the height of a fever, and it's broke and left me drenched in an unappealing puddle of sweat.
My brow is cooler and the weight of the three extra quilts piled on top of me seems all-of-a-sudden stifling and suffocating.
I push them off and they surrender into a heap on the wooden floor.
I slip into a clean white "tee" and reach for my book.
More of Willa,
"In eleven long years John Bergson had made but little impression upon the wild land he had come to tame. It was still a wild thing that had its ugly moods; and no one knew when they were likely to come, or why."
Small wonder that Leon Edel, the renown biographer offered her the generous compliment, "The day will come when she'll be ranked above Hemingway."
I drift off to sleep again with Willa ...
-----
In the morning I rise and survey the remnants of the night:
-Bright colored quilts recklessy heaped on the floor.
-An Ibuprofin bottle open with a missing lid.
-Sheets askew and a vacant pillow.
-A large white button-up in a mangled ball by my feet.
-Blue jeans, button-up red plaid, and white and red wool socks sticking out from under the bed.
Do I know this untidy foreigner I slept with in the night?
Restless behavior notably regarded.
But then something more familiar:
 Willa remains beside me, book open and on top of me ... her presence and writing inside of me. She's right here with me.
A "shot in the arm," an early inspiration, and my day's not even begun.
I feel good and there's writing in me.
And I remember ...
"It was a still, deep-breathing summer night, full of the smell of the hay fields."
-----