Square One

st-olaves-mill CrispinaKemp

 

“You’ll have to climb up there to fix it,” Shelly’s voice made clear he did not think the climbing or the fixing would do any good.

Bertie sighed. It was none of it ever simple. Not with Shelly. Not with him.

Mama prophesied it when his brother was born wrinkled, whimpering, and without a dad.

“You’ll have to watch out for him,” she’d announced to four-year-old Bertie. “You’re his older brother now.”

Then mama, too, was gone, and left them with their uncle and their scowling aunt, who did not need two more butts to wipe or wallop, and Bertie had his work cut out for him. Then, and now.

Shelly couldn’t help being pessimistic. At least Bertie had had some years of motherly love.

“It’ll work,” Bertie promised, climbed.

The windmill spun. Lights came on. Then the new cable caught and tore and they were back to square one.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Time’s Tread

worn-steps SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She could swear the old house breathed at night. That the walls spoke.

It was the age of things, she thought.

She’d ask, but the next door neighbors gave off a distinct air of distance and her mother was too occupied with damp ceilings, leaky pipes, and bone-dry bank account. There were questions one did not bring up unless adults were in the right mindset, which was rare enough during calm times, let alone through times of grown-up strife.

So Sally kept her own counsel on the matter of whispers between bricks and words in languages that sounded just a step to the side of comprehensible. It had scared her at first to hear them, but when she set her heart to listen she came to realize that there was no malice in the voices. Or none that raised the hair on the back of her neck, which had to be good enough.

After some time, Sally thought of them as friends.

She had few besides.

A moldy suitcase in the attic spoke of travel and held the faint smells of smoke and grime and sweat. There were some clothes still in it: Petticoats holey with moth and yellowed with time; a faded dress that might have been dark blue or purple at the time; a pair of shoes with buttons, the leather wrinkled like the face of Grandam in her casket; some papers in ink-spotted writing that mice or something else gnawed on; a locket.

She fretted about the latter. She wanted to open it. She shuddered at the thought. She dared herself to do so. Hefted it. Stared at the latch. Could not bring herself to undo it. This felt more personal than the split drawers in the suitcase, with the faint brownish stains on them.

She left the locket closed. But she did find herself drawn to hold it. Dreamed of wearing it. Of the dark blue dress. Of bonnets and petticoats.

One morning, when no other dreams found space and her nights became filled with whispers, she decided to wear the locket on her necklace. The small, intricately carved metal heart felt cool against her chest. She hid it underneath her shirt.

Sally could hear her mother arguing on the phone with yet another contractor, voice shrill as she tried but could not quite keep desperate frustration out of her voice. Sally tiptoed down from the attic to the landing and slipped quietly out of the house to sit upon the stoop. The damp chilled her bottom, seeping through the fabric of her pants. She shuddered.

And it was no longer pants she wore, but skirts, dark blue, cascading around her knees and covering the indentation in the steps. Ancient, those.

The door of the adjoining house opened, and a butler poked his head, complete with white gloves and pocket watch.

“Good Morning, Miss Grenadine,” he bowed slightly in her direction.

She smiled, entranced by how neither her lips nor her eyes were her own.

“It will be a sunny one, once the mist burns off,” he said.

She nodded and plucked a petal off of her skirts. She did not quite trust her voice.

The butler bent to pick a newspaper off the stoop, tipped his head in her direction, and closed the door.

Her hand reached for the locket, which was hanging over ruffles and a row of tiny buttons. It felt warm.

“The longer you sit the further you will travel.”

She turned her head to the sound but saw no one. A crow perched on a stone across the next door’s stoop, beady eyes regarding her with something between expectation and reproach.

The bird did not open its beak but the words unfurled clearly in her mind. “Some things are better left unopened.”

The locket.

The crow nodded, reading her mind. “But that does not mean keeping your eyes shut.”

She did not understand.

“Listen. Watch. Observe. Live on.”

Riddles. Crows were known for riddles. She shook her head and looked down at her knees to see a woolen skirt, knit stockings, an apron. Her arms in sleeves.

“Visit the past, but don’t forget to leave your own steps on the stairs,” the winged messenger noted, bobbed its head. Flew on.

“Sally?” Her mother’s voice sliced through the air.

She blinked.

The crow was gone. Her legs in sneakers on the step. The stairs the same.

She rose and eyed the door, the bowed indentation in the stones that led to it. Walked down to the pavement, turned, and pressed her feet into the tread.

She climbed. Making a path for someone from another time.

“Coming, Mom!”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’ WritePhoto

 

 

Gone Swimming

Photo prompt © Jean L. Hays

 

She spent the day swimming, buoyed by the swell and fall of waves, kissed by the spray of salt, caressed by playful bursts of wind as silvery bodies and slick flippers dipped and slid and spun beside her.

The sun warmed the top of her head, then the tip of her nose and the crests of her knees as she turned to rest and float and face it.

It was like living in a dream.

And it was. A dream.

The stained glass in the open door a portal to what was. The ventilator sighed. She could no longer swim.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

By Design

aditya-wardhana-2Tnr1FMHy2g-unsplash

Photo by Aditya Wardhana on Unsplash

 

Perhaps it is, really,

By design

Where we are born

And how we live

And how and when and why

We die.

 

Perhaps it is

By fate,

That we can love

And we can laugh

And dream

And struggle to let go

Of hate.

 

Perhaps we’re each

A stitch

In the tapestry

Of an overarching

Plan,

(That we do

Or do not

Understand).

 

Yet still the truth

Remains,

That our strength is

Bound to fail at

The weakest

Thread.

And that we each have a

Part in

Whether we

Mend

Or shred

The possibilities

Ahead.

 

 

 

For RDP Sunday: Design

And just for fun, also for Terri’s Sunday Stills: Yellow

 

The Twins

syd-wachs-ws8XXuc-i_4-unsplash

Photo: Syd Wachs on Unsplash

 

They are twins but

They are not one

Being.

Identical, so many call them,

Breathless with

Duplicated magic.

But underneath the outward

Appearance

They are

Anything but.

Individually

Tempered

By the nuanced

Realities of who they

Really are.

 

 

 
For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Nuance in 38 words

 

 

Red Moon Riding

niklas-priddat-kqJJqamhZMg-unsplash

Photo: Niklas Priddat on Unsplash

 

She let the shudder travel from the roots of her hair to the nape of her neck and down her spine to the place where the calving of her body started. The skin on the small of her back awoke. She sighed.

It wasn’t the chill in the air that had her trembling, even though the breeze could explain the raised goosebumps on her skin. It was the vista that had shaken her. And the memories it sought.

Oh, this was a different place. A different time. Yet somehow these still were the same sky where a red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills spreading below it. Transporting her. The earth roiled under a tapestry of dark and starlight, of shade and voids and hidden stars. Her breath drowned in wonder and sorrow: for lost beginnings, for hopes come dawn.

 

 

 

Prosery Prompt: “a red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills” (Carl Sandburg’s Jazz Fantasia)

For the dVerse Prosery challenge

A Thicker Thread

cubed-nut CrispinaKemp

 

“They left it here for a reason.”

Barbra rolled her eyes. There was hardly a thing Robin would not make a story of. “Okay, I’ll play. Who did and what for?”

Robin approached the holed-out structure with something like reverence. The round openings were just large enough for small children to wriggle through and climb and sit on with legs dangling. She had, when young, though she hadn’t seen many playing on it recently. Perhaps it meant the time was nearing.

“The fuamhairean had,” she said. “The giants left it but they will come back.”

“And supposing they exist, what could possibly be their reason to deposit it here?”

Robin sighed. Barbra wasn’t a believer. She wasn’t expected to understand. Still, it was important to explain. “It is a bead for their necklace. Their string tore. They’re waiting for the elves to weave them a thicker thread. It takes years.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

* fuamhairean – “giants” in Scots Gaelic

 

 

When It Leaves

shimmer SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“What is that thing?”

Melanie squinted against the glare. Shrugged. “A microscope with duck feet.”

Tony frowned. His sister was easily the most annoying person to ever occupy the Earth. Well, after James. James was worse.

The boy stole a look behind him as if expecting James to manifest, even though he knew that the youth was many miles away. You just didn’t know. With James.

Melanie rested her chin on her knees, hummed under her breath, and played imaginary piano with her toes, watching the sand swish around her soles. She was hungry. She wondered what they’ll have for dinner. She lifted her head to glance around. The beach was slowly emptying but it was too early to check the bins.

And anyway, it was Tony’s turn.

She couldn’t keep doing everything for him. He was never gonna learn.

Her stomach growled and she sighed and squinted again at the odd shape on the sand. “Yep,” she pursed her lips. “Definitely a microscope with duck legs.”

Tony made that sound in his throat that she knew meant he was distressed but didn’t want to show it. She ignored him. He had to toughen up.

The quiet between them lingered. It felt stretchy. Like a taught rubber band wound over a finger. Melanie stared. That thing didn’t move.

“It’s an alien,” Tony finally said.

Melanie nodded. Could be.

Tony breathed. “I wonder where the spaceship is.”

“Yeah.” Melanie sat up, suddenly intrigued. “And I wonder when it leaves. You think that if we ask, it would agree to take us with?”

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Special Delivery

the-gate JeanLHays

Photo prompt: Jean L. Hays

 

The car honked twice then twice again before the tires crunched on gravel and the vehicle left in a puff of midday dust.

She smiled.

She could always count on Henry.

There was a time when he could ring her bell. When she could offer him a glass of lemonade.

Not now, so close to her transplant date.

She waited a moment before venturing to the gate, and smiled again when she saw he’d taken the card she’d left. She knew he’d made a special trip.

He brought the birthday cake from her daughter, still cold, wrapped in fancy tape.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Revisiting

Revisiting NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

She could still hear

The sound of children.

The thunk of balls

Against the chain link fence

Where the big kids

Played.

The smell of dust

From the yard

By the old concrete

Stage.

See the tiny kiosk

Near the gate,

And the ancient seller

Who was always

There.

Feel the coolness of

The main building

As you walked in from

The bottom of the outside

Stairs.

The smell of paint

And cardboard.

The metal-legged

Chairs.

And the hopeful

Cacophony

Of children on recorders

In the music room

Elsewhere.

 

Oh, she knew that

The yard was empty.

No hubbub actually

Filled the evening

Air.

Still the decades tumbled

As memory bloomed,

Transporting

Now to then

With an unexpected

Flare.

So much has

Stayed

The same,

Even as so much has

Changed

In her.

 

 

 

For the dVerse poetry challenge

Note: This photo was taken last year in my elementary school, which I had occasion to visit one early evening after not seeing the place for decades. It was a magical, if complicated, revisiting.