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By Carol Fanning
Note: Flicka is the Swedish word for girl. Greta Garbo was often called Flicka.
Swedie's flicka was the absolute limit, she truly was. Old men still ask me about her. What ever happened to her? Where is she now? Once at a square dance, a lifelong bachelor, awash in liquid courage, said he had seen her swimming in the river with my son, and he'd had dreams about her for years. Imagine that.
That was the problem entirely. Too many people took her at face value. No more was required. With her wonderful construction and that face, it didn't seem to matter if she could talk at all.
Half-Swede, half-German, she was a walking devastation. She took no notice of the appreciative attention that came her way. A strange thing happened when she first reached beauty: she became totally absorbed, smitten, enthralled by our young blond son. He was a head shorter and two years younger than she was, and he was still in junior high, but something about him fascinated her. "What does she see in him?" we asked each other. "What does she see in him?" her parents, rudely, asked us!
Teacher friends told me, much later, that she would stand outside his classroom watching him when she certainly had better things to do. Our boy was still pudgy--cute and talented, smart and funny, but definitely pudgy. She saw something else. She was watching the transformation. To her, each and every day, he changed, he grew, he unfolded.
They were both such nice kids that neither family seemed to mind when they became inseparable best friends. They rode, they fished, they hiked and went camping with each other's family. It was the most natural thing in the world that she would pull up a chair with us. Her mother had only one problem. She felt her daughter should spend more time with kids her own age, in her own class. Being so attached to our son was a way to avoid growing up, she said. "I love him. I shall always love him," the flicka told her shocked mother. "Don't be ridiculous," her mother replied.
School, music lessons, parties kept them moving. They were never underfoot. She was a true Swede in that she was an outdoors person with boundless energy, colossal appetite, and not an ounce of fat on her. She walked that baby fat right off our son, who was now right behind her wherever she went. For a while, they were the same height and could have been mistaken for fraternal twins. Then he shot up, and she strode behind him trying to keep up.
Puppy love, we called it, when she wrote him endless letters or left long notes in his room. We didn't notice when this changed, matured; something arrived premature and perplexing. For three years this blaze continued. Our boy was the idol, the envy of the other boys and pretty stuck on himself due to the attention his romance attracted. Not to say that they were demonstrative, clingy, or touching. No, what they had was graceful and private. They were so confident with each other that they were at ease with the world.
Their schoolwork improved rather than suffered, so it was too bad when Swedie called up and said his missus said it was time "this thing" was stopped.
That summer, we sent our boy off with his brothers to work on a ranch in Corvallis, Oregon. The flicka knew the hour of his return and was sitting pretty on our porch when the boys drove in. All the following year, I heard a great deal more from her determined mother, a great deal, so we agreed to send him to the ranch right after the flicka's graduation.
As the time grew near, the youngsters began to argue and spat. She wanted him home for the parties after graduation, the boating and the picnics. She wanted to thwart her mother's wish to separate them. Until then, we had only seen the sweet side of her personality, her easygoing charm.
Our son wanted to buy a car, and saw the summer's pay as the means to this end. He knew her arguments had merit, but certainly a car to use to go see her in college would be worth another short separation?
The flicka stood between her mother and me as we waved the boys off. Swedie's wife was radiant; her daughter would have a whole summer with her own classmates, her own age group. The flicka's jaw set and her eyes narrowed in a most unattractive way as she was led away to a summer of enforced merriment. Of that summer I can only remember the frantic phone calls we had from Swedie's place, middle-of-the-night calls looking for their flicka. She was seen at the beer busts and barbeques, never leaving with the same fella twice.
When the truck finally brought the boys home from the ranch, the flicka was there like before, but hanging back in the shadows. Somehow he knew, our son knew, what had happened at home while he was gone. And he was heartbroken. You could tell it by looking at him sitting in the truck. He jumped down and walked directly out into the fields, and she followed along behind. We didn't see him again for hours. We didn't see her for years.
I still get letters from her, with photographs. Her beauty hasn't faded a bit. She asks for news of our son. She wonders what he looks like. Could I please send her a picture?
Our boy comes by and gets these letters and carries them away. He won't allow me to send her his picture. It's really a shame. She was the first to see what he would become.
Carol Fanning and her husband Tom are native Californians who live in Bernal Heights. She has written hundreds of stories, some of which were published by Five Six Press in the collection Bandon Tales in 1997. She is currently at work on a mystery novel inspired by a cruise she took to Mexico. You can reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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