Pieces of the Casino

Poetry and photos by Sarah E. Murphy

I used to drive by religiously

to make sure it was still there. 

Every time I rounded the Heights Hill

I held my breath

wondering what would greet me at the top

knowing any day it could all change.

And each time I saw the vista of my youth

familiar relief washed over me

like the feeling of the surrounding waves

or the season’s first swim.

Everything was as it should be

when I spotted the barn-like structure

and the seaside deck overlooking Vineyard Sound.

The green and white awning

and the weathered boardwalk we strolled 

with our Great Danes

Ophelia, Sinead, and finally Max.

“Shall we go around the Hill?” Mom would ask

on the way home from St. Patrick’s on Sundays.

A suggestion more than a question 

for the answer was always yes.

Dad would bear right at the island 

past Holiday Cycles and the Chapel

heading left at the Yacht Club. 

But on Thanksgiving

I walked into the kitchen to hear Mom on the phone

updating my uncle on local news.

“Well, the Casino’s gone,” she said. 

“It took a few days to come down.” 

And as her words settled in the air like dust

panic and grief washed over me

as I realized in the holiday rush

I hadn’t gone around the Hill that day.

Checking on the turkey

I saw flashes of summer nights with my siblings

and twilight treks across the ballpark 

for soft serve and penny candy

which later became midnight cocktails.

It was like learning of a friend’s death 

after the funeral had already passed.

Before dinner, Seton and I went for a drive.

“Are you ready?” he asked starting the car.

I hesitated,

for like any other loss

the child in me thought 

that if we didn’t go around the Hill

it wouldn’t really be gone.

Maybe for now we could just pretend.

But I had to see it

to make myself believe it

and as we drove

I remembered the night

I looked through the crowd 

to see my underaged brother

walking across the beach

grinning sheepishly

casually joining us 

on the overcrowded deck.

The older sister in me knew

I should have sent him home

but somehow I didn’t have the heart.

Or dancing with Andrea on Road Race 

to The Gap Band

or with Courtney to Third Eye Blind.

Flashes of countless nights 

once commonplace.

The sun shone disrespectfully 

as we tried to pay our respects.

Neither of us spoke

and as we rounded the Hill

there was nothing to greet us

but a pile of rubble

and a chain link fence.

Monday on my way back to Newton

I returned with my camera

knowing I would regret it if I did

and even more if I didn’t. 

No seagulls soaring for scraps 

where Scoops and Ladders once stood.

Instead a greedy steel bird  

scooping up pieces 

of what was once the Casino.

Copyright Sarah E. Murphy/2007

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