The Lost

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It wasn’t the hunger. Or the cold. Or the worry that their bruises won’t have time to heal before another layer made lace of the colors on their skin, to serve a lesson in horror and morals for their kin.

It was, more than anything, the despair.

The utter loneliness within.

The feeling that there will never be another way to be. Another way to live. Another place to be.

For the Commune was The Law, and The Law was The Faith, and The Faith was the whip and the rope and the cellar’s dirt floor.

The Law was everything.

Until.

That day when someone – who some later said was of the lost who were forbidden to be let back in – breached the fences. Ignored the “No Entry” sign circling the fields. Climbed through the grasses. 

With a lens. And later, with the law.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Nana’s Will

floral-truck

 

“So how exactly will this work?” Maria scanned the detritus left by the fire. Remains of a lifetime of work and investment. Gone. Shards and a handful of charred pots. Is all.

“We start from seed, as it were,” Steve pressed. “We get Dad’s old truck out of the garage. Use it as a wheeled nursery.”

Maria sighed. It could work, but was she even up to it? Where there’s a will there’s a way, Nana had always said, and it matters most where there’s little will with which to find a way.

“A willed nursery…” Maria nodded. “Nana’s way!” 

 

 

For Friday Fictioneers

Photo by: © Jan Wayne Fields

Arrowed Cloud

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(Photo: engin akyurt on Unsplash)

 

“He’s not cooperative,” his teacher warned me when I called to find out more about the boy who’d been referred to me for speech-language therapy. “He’ll find a hundred excuses to not do the work.”

“Sounds creative,” I interjected.

“He is,” the teacher conceded, “but it is exhausting.”

For him, too, I was sure.

“You’d think he’d settle down,” the teacher sighed, “but it’s like he’s gotten worse.”

Al* had language-learning issues. He struggled to express himself, to understand what he read and what was read to him. He mixed up letters. He mixed up messages. Exposed to alcohol (and quite likely to other substances) in utero, his early childhood was marked by constant shuffling between foster-care and reunifications with his biological mother, until parental rights were terminated, and he became eligible for adoption. He’d never known his dad. Al suffered from asthma. He had difficulty attending but reportedly “no difficulty misbehaving.” He scuffled. He cursed. He broke things. He kept getting in trouble. He spoke little, read less, and his writing was filled with errors. He was in fifth grade.

The “settle down” was a reference to his recent adoption by relatives of his biological mother. Now that he was in a “forever home with family besides” he was expected to move on. He was expected to “make gains,” close gaps, and be happy. He was undoubtedly happy for stability. He was also grieving, furious, frustrated, and failing at school. He acted out. He shut down. He “did not cooperate.”

He’d had at least four previous speech therapists. The teacher informed me that “he hates ‘Speech.’”

 

“You don’t look thrilled to have another speech therapist,” I noted on our first session together.

He raised a single eyebrow so perfectly that I wondered if he had practiced the move in front of a mirror.

I smiled. “Speech can be fun …”

“It sucks.” He stated.

I nodded. “I hear ya.”

“So, I can go?”

“Good try,” I chuckled. “We’re stuck together for now.”

He shrugged but didn’t flee.

“I don’t do work.” He warned, testing.

“So let’s not call it work,” I agreed. “Let’s just figure out ways to make the other work you have to do, a little easier. Because I think you’ve had to work way too hard.”

He narrowed his eyes, suspicious.

“I mean it. And … I can understand wanting things to be easier.”

He shrugged. Crossed his arms. Leaned into the backrest of the chair.

I saw it as truce.

The next few sessions were like pulling teeth. His attention flickered. He vetoed some tasks. He tried to sulk. But he listened. And he didn’t disappear into the boys’ bathroom when it was time for sessions. He tolerated me, which was better than what the teacher (and Al?) had predicted.

We took it slow.

Then I brought Shel Silverstein’s poems to a session.

“I’m not a baby,” he bristled.

“It’s not for babies,” I retorted. “It’s also for grownups. The illustrations may look silly, but lots of this is about serious stuff.”

He folded his arms and closed his eyes. On strike.

Or not.

I read.

His eyebrows were knit together, but then his shoulders lowered, and he took a breath. He frowned. He chewed his lip. He listened.

When I finished, he opened his eyes. Held my gaze.

“Cool, eh?”

He shrugged.

“Poetry is like that,” I said. “I love how it can find words for things, sometimes.”

He shook his head. Twisted his lips. Stared at the book. Flipped through the pages.

“Want me to read another one?”

He shrugged.

I did.

I read three more.

He scribbled arrows piercing clouds.

 

The next time I saw him, he pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. Fiddled with it. Shy.

“You have something?” I chanced.

Shrug. He stared at the poetry book I had prepared for us again. Unfolded his paper. Refolded it. Coughed. Took a breath. Thrust the note in my direction.

“Can I look?” I asked. Consent is tricky with kids who’d had others decide everything for them. I didn’t want him to think he had to show me.

He nodded. “I write it.”

I unfolded the page. Eight wobbly lines of transposed letters in phonetic spelling. A poem.

“Can I read it?” I checked.

He looked up at me, vulnerable and holding up an olive branch of trust, “yeah, but … but not loud …”

 

 

 

(Originally published in the March 2022 issue of ISSTD News as “Arrowed Cloud – The Use of Poetry in Therapy” )

*Name and details changed to protect privacy.

Bookended

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She stood back to appreciate her handiwork.

A mix of tidiness and lived-in disarray. The books. The pillows. The cozy afghans on the couch.

“She’ll love it,” he said from behind her, and she jumped. She hadn’t heard him enter.

She leaned against his chest. Felt the thrumming of his steady heart.

“How do you know?” she fretted.

“Because it’s not about perfection, but about having enough support so that no matter how you wobble,” his hand rose toward the bookshelves, “you’re bookended by love.”

She kissed his palm.

“Let’s go get our new daughter, then. Bring her home.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s FridayFictioneers

Photo: Dale Rogerson (thank you for the homey, inviting photo prompt inspiration! This room makes me wanna curl up with a good book on the couch. xoxo, your NYNF)

 

 

Turned Out Well

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(Photo: Emilie Dwire on Unsplash)

 

She was never big on plans.

It drove her parents mad, but her impromptu projects did turn out well more times than they did bad.

So they said nothing when she began digging a hole in the backyard.

And weren’t sad

When gold was found

Amidst the sand.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Impromptu in 48 words

 

 

The Shut One

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They’ve learned to speak naught about it.

So well that they almost forgot it was. There. Tabooed.

She had tried justifying to herself later. How there had been much to cope with and such minuscule leeway. How choice never truly was, a choice.

But as well as she could explain the circumstances, she could less and less forgive. Herself for the blind eye that she’d turned. Them for making it so that she’d needed to. For making it so that they could not even talk of it amongst themselves.

The crushing price of secrets. A cost calculated not with arms and legs, but hearts.

It haunted her. Nowadays. Now-a-nights.

The shuffling beyond the darkened window. The locks. The cries. The scraps that weren’t really for the dog.

By the time she’d grown enough to contemplate a rescue, there was naught to save.

Her sister. Feeble. Gone.

 

 

For Cristina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

The Tallest Tears

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(photo: Na’ama Yehuda)

 

The tallest flowers caught her eye, but it was the withered daffodils that caught her breath and pressed a fist into her heart.

His favorites.

The stalwart sentinels of spring.

Outnumbered now. Outshone. Outdone.

As was he.

After utterly too short a time.

Her throat constricted. A reflex of holding what she’d learned would be a solitary cry.

“Look, Mama!” a child trilled. “The daffodils are tired!”

“Yes, darling,” a woman’s voice returned. “They did excellent work and are resting now, sleeping till next spring.”

Tears slid. It was something he’d say.

She should have known he’d send a messenger.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers.

Thank you, Rochelle, for using my photo for the prompt this week. And, for all who manage loss, especially of those taken too young in all manners of war – may you know that we remember, and we listen, and we will not forget.

Spring Unfolds

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(Photo: Na’ama Yehuda)

 

The sun shone

As spring gently yet

Resolutely strode

On.

The park evolved into

A luminous

Expanse

Of green

Shoots

And pink petals

Unfold.

A respite

From the winter’s

Cold.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt of: Luminous in 30 words.

 

Out-Strutted

 

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They knew they’d need some help. They knew where to find it.

They weren’t very good at building anything, even less at securing it to withstand the snow, the winds, the cops.

Or so they hoped.

It was better to make use of what was already present.

What others, who had better skill and quite possibly better sense, had built.

Sure, some called it squatting. Some found them vagabonds.

But why not when the struts provided good foundations?

It was a pity, really, that so many did not understand.

The cops raided one night. Tossed the tents.

Kept the struts.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Photo prompt © Ted Strutz

 

 

Herself

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(Photo: Lorenzo Fattò Offidani on Unsplash)

 

They told her to not

Make waves.

That to speak out is

Provocative

And that it is

Unladylike.

Unseemly.

And goes against the word of

God

As interpreted by

Themselves

Who see it as their duty

To

Control

Her.

They told her to be meek.

To atone

For the sins

Of

Eve.

She stood.

Unfurled.

Provocative.

As the Goddess made her.

Herself.

 

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Provocative in 62 words