Pineapple Finials- Day 480: 5 Minute Freewrite: Tuesday – Prompt: pineapple
*my daughter’s old walnut four-poster | in freewrite
Her husband was dead
and she couldn’t sleep in their room, not with his old faded Levis piled under those leather boots leaning like the Tower of Pisa against the giant ceramic pot of his ludicrous avocado tree, not with the scent of Irish Spring soap still emanating from the master bath, not with the little Caspar dog bed Rocko had loved lying empty by the floor-to-ceiling window.
So she slept in the bed her parents and grandparents had used, the one with the bedposts that terrified her all through childhood. They looked like spears wielded by cannibals who ate missionaries. Not until she met Layne did she learn that this solid walnut bed was hand-carved into pineapples at the “finials.” She only knew the wood had darkened to ebony over the years, and the bed was smaller than a full size but larger than a twin, which made it twice the price for a custom mattress.
Pineapples and finials. The words Layne knew! “Dad just has to show off,” the kids would say. “Nobody says pylon when they could say orange traffic cone.” Well, call her a nobody. She said pylon, but Millennials were woefully uneducated. They knew this much: Never challenge Layne Davis at Scrabble. Every crazy word he came up with turned out to be a legitimate science term that appeared in the dictionary.
Never again would she lose a Scrabble game to him. Or an argument. One minute he was here, annoying and presumptuous as always. An hour later, half a mile from their front door, he was dead in a ditch.
Accidents happen closest to home, people say, as if “home” is dangerous. No. Statistically, drivers are near home more often than any destination, so it only stands to reason that…
Her brain froze up. She tried again.
The car starts out from and returns to the same spot no matter where the driver is heading, so, duh. It was just numbers, not fate, not some Twilight Zone vibe marking HOME as the scene of most fatalities. The riskiest room in the house was not the kitchen but the bathroom. As an E.R. nurse she knew a quarter of a million people a year visited emergency rooms because of injuries suffered while bathing or showering, and fourteen percent occurred while using the toilet.
The toilet! People actually suffered ambulance-worthy injuries while using the toilet!
So for Layne to drive off in her dad’s old Dodge and get rear-ended and killed was really not such a terrible surprise. Stranger things happened all the time. He was a brain surgeon; he’d drilled holes into the skulls of many a crash victim to relieve pressure and swelling. His friend Bill might have had at him with that drill had Layne not died before the texting idiot who’d killed him could summon 9-1-1.
The voice startled her even more than the figure at the door. Jack. So much like his father but also like his namesake, the uncle he never got to meet.
Normally she’d bounce up and greet him with a hug, but normally, he wasn’t watching her like she was a grenade that might go off. “You were just here two weeks ago,” she said. “You don’t have to check on me in person, you know.”
He shrugged. “I just fed the dogs.” Then he looked at her as if awaiting a reply, or a dawning realization.
Had she forgotten to feed the dogs? No. No. She was not that far gone. But she hadn’t heard him pull in. Hadn’t registered the chorus of joyous yipping that always heralded Jack’s arrival.
“You know, that bed isn’t as ugly as I remember,” Jack said. “The granny quilt with the flowers can go any decade now, but the bed. It’s really something. Solid walnut!”
Big yellow poppies wound their way up the old bedspread, looking a little faded nowadays, not as cheery and bright as they did when Sarah’s brother bought it for their mom one Christmas. As if they didn’t have enough quilts made from old work shirts and scraps from hand-sewn dresses, Mom scolded him. Jack Savage was dead of a burst appendix before Mom could get to the return lane with a bedspread that suddenly became priceless to her.
“Mom.” Her son’s voice brought her back to the land of the living. “Didn’t Dad try to get you to sell this bed?”
“He tried. Yes.” She finger-tipped some dust off a finial. “Columbus brought the first pineapple to Spain from Guadalupe. New England sea captains marked a safe return voyage with ripe pineapples impaled in fence posts outside their homes.” A sigh escaped her. “I don’t suppose pineapple finials would have increased the odds of your father coming home safe with Rocko from his little trip to the store.”
The girls would be rolling their eyes at her or making snide remarks at her history lesson, but Jack was so patient. She had to give him that. He was here to insist that she leave the house and get out of her rut, and he knew she knew that, but at least he wasn’t so obvious and so in-your-face about it. Abby and Mandy just never let up on her.
“I didn’t come here just to check on you, Mom.” He shifted his feet, looking tall in his faded Levis and buff in his white T-shirt that fit loose at the waist, tight in the arms and chest. “I came to see if you wanna watch me at the Demolition Derby.”
“You? In a derby?” Her breath quickened.
“Me.” He cracked a smile. His eyes lit up the way Layne’s did at the Chicago car show every February.
Jack knew her soft spot. He knew she had been Sarah Savage, queen of the Demolition Derby, before she became a good Queen Mum to a prince and two spoiled princesses.
Her mind raced, considering what he might be driving in a derby.
“You didn’t get that old Chevy Impala running again!” she said in the same scoffing tone her dad had always used on her when she did something unbelievable.
“I did indeed.”
A vision of the old Dodge rammed from behind, an image of Rocko airborne, then releasing his last sigh: Was she up for this?
God, it would feel good to smash something.
That was her go-to after she lost her brother.
Sarah unclenched her fists and pulled herself to her feet. This was what the Savage family had done for three generations in this old house: both feet on the floor. One foot ahead of the other. Her parents had buried their only son; her mom had lived another twenty-five years after burying her husband. Sarah would go on too because that’s what people do.
One step at a time.
We have an antique bed with pineapple filials, but you all know me. I had to see what was up with pineapple designs showing up in antiques and the doilies my mom used to crochet. The hard, prickly pineapple used to symbolize a home’s warmth and hospitality. Pineapple motifs were carved into wood bedposts and entry doors, window frames, shutters and stair risers, and stenciled onto walls, floors, and ceilings. source
My mother has a pineapple doily pattern,
and I am in awe of her spider-like talent for taking a stick and a string, counting the loops on and off the hook, and creating things like this while watching TV: