Sardines

Photo prompt © Fatima Fakier Deria

 

“We’ll never all fit,” Sultana groaned.

“Lots of room!” the driver boomed encouragement even as he tightened screws underneath the van.

“C’mon!” Mariam elbowed past her cousin and climbed onto the vehicle, parcels and a flapping hen in hand. “Next one isn’t till dawn.”

Sultana looked around as if better conveyance would miraculously manifest. None did. She sighed, grabbed her packages and hoisted the bleating kid under an arm. She squeezed aboard, the last one on, with barely room enough to sit down.

The door slammed. The goat peed, soaking her lap.

It’ll be a long ride to Jaddati’s farm.

 

 

 

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Roundabout Waiting

Photo prompt: © C.E. Ayr

 

“He’s still there.” Morty whispered, his nose to the window.

“What’s he waiting for?” Bella pushed Morty over to make room, pressed her head to his.

“I dunnow.”

“You’re not even allowed to stop for pick-up on roundabouts,” Bella noted.

Morty sighed. Since she’d found a driver’s-ed pamphlet, his twin had turned an insufferable source of traffic trivia. Never mind it’d be a million years before she could drive.

“Should we go ask?” Bella fidgeted.

Morty shook his head. “Dad said wait here.”

“But it’s been eight hours!”

It had. And almost as long since the old man showed up.

 

 

 

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Warehoused

Photo: © J Hardy Carroll

 

The cells were small. Sturdy enough to keep them separated. Aerated enough to keep them alive. Near enough to let them marinate in each other’s misery.

What the jailers did not foresee, however, was how they were just close enough to offer comfort. Fingers laced through fencing let them hold hands. Almost.

Oh, they moved to corners when anyone came. Pretended to hate each other. Endured each other’s fake bullying that so amused their captors.

But in the silent moments they sat close, back-pressed-through-chain-to-back. Their ‘caretakers’ warehoused them like animals, but the children’s defiance held: they remembered they were siblings.

 

 

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Secret Service

Photo prompt © Roger Bultot

 

“We used to go in through that side door,” Mama said.

I stared at the narrow wooden portal. “Because you are a girl?” I knew that Jewish traditions relegated women to a separate area in the synagogue, sometimes a designated entrance.

“No,” Mama’s voice shook and I reached for her hand. Her tears surprised me.

She seemed reluctant to cross the street. I couldn’t blame her. The building looked forbiddingly cold, sealed shut.

“No,” she repeated, a note of defiance in her eyes. “So no one knew services were held. They’d have come for us if we were found out.”

 

 

 

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Simon’s Snack

Photo prompt: © Ronda Del Boccio

 

“Peach jelly and olives?! Are you serious?”

“As a heart attack.”

Jack shuddered. This may well be the end result.

Jill’s pasta sauce concoction reminded him of “after-school snack” on days his mother had to work late and the school-bus would drop him off at his uncle’s house. Uncle Simon would have a tall glass of bluish milk waiting, alongside a dish of crackers topped with lemon-lime marmalade and loaded with sardines.

The mere thought of Jill’s recipe gave him the runs.

Good. Saved by the throne.

“Sorry, Hon. I must’ve caught something at work. I better have plain toast.”

 

 

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Note: Dedicated to my cousin Noam, who reportedly loved sardines-and-jelly sandwiches. I remember being horrified by the very idea and saddened that he would never enjoy them again. Four years my senior, he died at war, just weeks past his nineteenth birthday. We miss you, Noam (sandwiches and all)!

 

Empty Promises

Photo prompt: © Fatima Fakier Deria

 

He came down to find the kitchen cold. The coffee machine bereft of beans, the range orphaned of the pan that sizzled on it every morning as far back as he could recall. His lunch boxes waited on the table, naked in their transparent emptiness.

He was sure that the vacant orange juice glass was put on them just to spite.

He never believed her that she’d up and leave if he kept ‘forgetting’ her papers. He never thought she’d have anyplace else to go. But there he was. Alone. The servant that had been a fixture for him, gone.

 

 

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Momma Jean

Photo Prompt: © Jean L. Hays

 

“Don’t you go spendin’ no money!” Momma Jean announced.

In a whirlwind of industrious determination, she began rummaging through shoe boxes and ancient suitcases, closets, and plastic bags, flinging this or that onto the table.

I didn’t dare to offer help. Once Momma Jean got like this, it was best to keep out of the way.

“Now!” She finally straightened, hair askew and dust-bunnies clinging to the edge of her house-dress. My inveterate neighbor was out of breath and in her element. “You tell me what that costume look like, and I make it for you. You win first prize.”

 

 

 

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Lost Halos

Photo prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

She’d been surprised to find out there was property overseas. Grandma raised her, yet no word was ever said about it.

“You should go,” Abe said. “Check it out. See about selling.”

She took Daniel with her. Heritage for him. Distraction from grief for her.

The small apartment above the Shuk was dank and cramped. Her grandmother had bought it decades earlier. Investment in the Holy Land.

“We couldn’t pay much,” the ancient tenant said, tears and wariness in her eyes, blue numbers on her arm. “She was an angel. Kept saying we were doing the mitzvah on her behalf.”

 

 

 

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The Bag

Photo prompt: © Ted Strutz

 

She stopped by to check on her elderly neighbor and saw a bulging bag on the curb. Odd. Trash-collection was two days away. Ethel could get ticketed.

She grabbed the bag. The thing was heavy! How did the ancient women lug this? She carried it up the path to the door.

“Ethel?” she knocked. “It’s Belinda.”

Silence. Was Ethel sleeping? Belinda knocked again. Waited. Rang the bell. Used her key.

There was no one home. All personal effects gone.

Heart pounding, Belinda rushed to untie the bag.

A mess of photos spilled out, scattering Ethel’s life to the ground.

 

 

 

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The Memo

Photo prompt © Dale Rogerson

 

“What are these things?” Kyle pointed.

“What things?” Patty barely glanced up from the tablecloth she was wrestling for the birthday party. Forecast said “mild and pleasant” but the breeze apparently hadn’t gotten the memo.

“These,” Kyle insisted.

She sighed. Looked. Frowned. The contraptions hadn’t been there last night. Some modern art nonsense?

“Hold this,” she gave Kyle control of the tablecloth’s edges.

It looked like an assembly of pipes, but the closer she got, the less she wanted to go nearer. She checked her watch. Where was everyone?

“Mama!”

She spun at his shriek. A lumbering pipe-man had Kyle.

 

 

 

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