Good Enough

PHOTO PROMPT © J.S. Brand

 

“Do you really think you can do it?”

I nodded into my coffee but my heart fluttered an I-don’t-know.

“You’ll ruin the whole thing.” Stacey stuffed the last bite of bagel in her mouth and grabbed her bag, leaving me the clean up. How symbolic.

I rinsed the pot and the grounds swirled like time into the sink.

My eyes gazed out the window. We hadn’t touched Dad’s stuff. The almost-finished totem. His tools.

“You’re good at this,” he’d once said.

His praise had sustained me, but was I good enough to complete the carving that now he never would?

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

First Anniversary


 

He was coming home for the first time since and I wasn’t sure what to do with the mixture of emotions swirling in me.

Trepidation. Hope. Regret. Grief. … And woven between them the pleading thread that it will magically make it as if nothing had happened. For I wanted — oh, so wanted — to undo what could not be undone …

Nothing subdued the anxiety, so I just stood by the window and waited. For days now anything I touched and every room I’d entered was seen through his soon-to-come eyes: the new cover on the sofa, the oval mirror at the entryway that had replaced the one I’d broken in a fist of pain, the small rocking-chair just where it had always been. This window.

And the steps. The wretched spot where Ella’s head had hit so hard when she fell that the stair’s edge chipped.

“You should’ve watched her,” was all he’d said at the morgue. Or since.

Twelve months ago today.

 

 

(Wordcount: 162)

For the FFfAW writing challenge

 

Sail Away

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

 

It was taking so long.

His uncle had instructed him to not leave the hall till he returned. He knew better than to defy the order.

He circled the room and looked at the paintings. He imagined conversations among sailors on the merchant ships, between soldiers on the frigates. He polished the marble counter with his sleeve. When he tired, he sat against a lamppost and pretended it was a smokestack.

The hall echoed emptiness.

He was getting cold. He was growing hungry. He needed to pee.

Only when night fell did he finally cry.

His uncle had sailed away.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

Rawson Rise

Rawson Lake Photo by Jack Ng

Rawson Lake; photo: Jack Ng

 

It was their last day by the lake. The weather was perfect and the air was so crisp it squeaked. She inhaled deeply, savoring every moment. By that time tomorrow she’d be stuck in rush-hour traffic.

“See?” he pointed. “Even wood can’t keep its head above water at some point.”

She snuck a hand into his and squeezed. She wished she could give him sips of this place during what was to come. She wished she could tell him this round wouldn’t be as difficult as the ones before. That this one would work. She didn’t know if to hope or fear it being the last. It shattered her that she no longer knew what he hoped for.

She gathered the light around her, kissed his baldness, and rose to stand.

“For now, my love, let’s float.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Rawson Lake Canada

 

Unbeknownst

bare InbarAsif

Photo: Inbar Asif

 

Unbeknownst

To anyone

Pain stripped her bare

Inside her mind.

She put on a brave face

And smiled

So no one see

What hid behind.

But how I pray

She understands

She’s not alone:

Hope’s here to find.

 

 

 

Merriam-Webster’s word for June 6, 2018:

Unbeknownst

This post continues the blogging challenge in which Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, serves as inspiration a-la the “Daily Prompt.”

Want to join me? Feel free to link to this post on your blog, and/or post a link to your blogpost in the comment section below so others can enjoy it, too. Poetry, photography, short stories, anecdotes: Go for it!

For more visibility, tag your post with #WordOfDayNY, so your post can be searchable.

“Follow” me if you want to receive future prompts, or just pop in when you’re looking for inspiration. Here’s to the fun of writing and our ever-evolving blogging community!

 

 

 

 

The Lost Quartet

fishbowl

 

 

He reached into his pocket and rummaged around. “I’ve brought something to show you,” he said, eyes searching mine. “But it’s a secret …”

“Oh?” I offered.

“Well, sort of,” he shrugged as an uncertain smile worked its way into his cheeks. “I took them to school … but I didn’t tell anyone … because we’re not allowed to … The teacher woulda’ taken them away and other kids maybe woulda’ told her or asked to see them and then she’d know …”

I hiked my eyes up and nodded my expectation.

The grin grew but it still held a sheen of sad.

He pulled his fist out of his pocket and turned it so the back of his hand rested on the table, then ceremoniously uncurled his fingers.

Four grains of rice in tiny vials, strung onto a keychain ring.

“They have names on them,” he said reverently.

I squinted and reached for a magnifying glass. Handed him one.

Our heads met over the small nest of palm and he mouthed the words, more sigh than voice.  “Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum.”

A quartet recently eaten not by a giant smelling the blood of an English man but by a feline with a swishing tail who had knocked the fishbowl over and left not one golden scale behind.

 

 

For The Daily Post

The Blanket

diaryofaquilter

photo: diaryofaquilter.com

 

He took it with him everywhere: School, the doctor’s office, the park, the car, the dinner table. He carried it in hand, in the backpack, over his shoulder. It was to him a cape, a comfort, a memory of tucking in, a constancy.

It’s always been there. He couldn’t remember a time before.

Well-worn, oft-washed, much-handled.

His blanket.

Never out of sight.

He’d sit before the washing machine and watch it spinning, floppy, in a foamy sea. Later he’d guard the dryer as the blanket tumbled, already impatient to come back warm and scented into his arms.

He’d place it at the ready on the bathroom stepstool to guard him as he washed. A sentinel over his pajamas.

It waited right under the chair at mealtime, in temporary exile from his lap after his argument that the blanket could make an excellent napkin had failed.

Even at school, where he wasn’t allowed to hold it, he’d leave a small blanket-ear peeking out of his cubby; to remind him it was there, with him, waiting for the end of the school-day.

It was a coat of heart, a shroud of courage, a cover against storms of any kind.

It was almost part of him. His blanket.

Then the fire came. He was carried half-in-sleep and heavy-headed, by a man whose giant shadow painted wall-monsters against the orange flicker and the swirling smoke.

There was more flicker outside: blue and red and white and blinding. Shouts and calls and creaks and cries and movement. Yellow coats, red truck, bright door, funny mask.

And no blanket.

It was gone. To Blanket Heaven.

A spark in the sky now. A spot of cloud. A star.

Lost along with Curious George and Teddy Ben and his dinosaur car.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

 

 

 

“A Bandaid for my heart”

She asked me if I knew about dying.

I said I knew it hurt when someone we love died.

She nodded and fiddled with the pencil, poked the tip against her finger, poked again. Again.

I wondered if she was trying to make the hurting take a form she understood through the pinprick of a just-sharpened pencil. I gently put my hand on hers.

She looked up at me, thankfully without embarrassment or worry of judgment. Feelings weren’t easy for this child, whose very early years were filled with much that couldn’t be expressed and had no wording. Her grandfather passed away right before her birth and a hue of grief lingered many months, adding to her mother’s post-partum depression. Her mother has recovered since, and the home was generally caring, but unspoken early patterns of if-you-are-quiet-you-won’t-overwhelm-mom and waiting for another’s space to open so you can have your needs met still played out often. The girl, not yet ten, was more likely to attend to others’ feelings than her own; more likely to dismiss her anguish to not distress others.

I smiled at her and she smiled back shyly. Her eyes glistened and she sniffed.

“My dad told you?”

“Your mom did.”

Her eyes flew to mine, surprised at being thought of. She took another breath. Tears slid down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie.” I handed her a tissue and snuck a bit of extra affection into the gesture. Just because. She noticed. Smiled the sad smile again.

Her great-grandmother died two nights before. Her father’s grandmother was a fixture in the child’s life. A rock. The one who filled the gaps, stepped in, held, held on. An elder in the best sense of the word. There was a love there that spanned generations. A special bond with this child.

It was a gentle death, the mother said. Doctors believed the grandma had passed away peacefully in her sleep. No pain. No long decline. That was a blessing, but for the child this loss still hollowed.

“I didn’t get to say goodbye,” she whispered.

“I know. I’m sorry.” I moved a strand of hair off her cheek. “You can still say it. Maybe not in the way you’d have wanted, but still …”

“Yeah,” she sniffed. Dismissed. Reconsidered. Looked up. “How?”

“Any way you can think of, almost.”

She pondered. “Dad said she can hear me. In my dreams. In my thoughts.” Her eyes probed. She wanted to believe it.

“I believe that’s possible, yes.”

“How?”

“I don’t know exactly. I just feel it. In my heart. About people I love and passed away. It feels right to me that we are still connected, that in some way they can hear me.”

Her eyes overflowed again but her face softened. “I think I’ll talk to her. Tonight, maybe. You know, just me and her.”

I nodded, smiled.

She sighed. Drew in a shuddering breath. Sighed again.

“I miss her,” she whispered. “It hurts. I wish I had a Bandaid for my heart.”

hands-and-heart

 

Half-Angel

What do you do with a grieving child?

You listen. You hold. You listen some more.

You offer tissues, you offer a hug. You answer lots of questions.

You nod. You tell stories. You honor the small memories told.

You come up with suggestions–or rather, embellish on those that the little one has.

You produce boxes (“too little”, “too big”, “too not-good”, “I don’t like it”, “okay, this one …”), find padding and ribbons and stickers, along with a few extra hugs.

You write what’s requested. Erase the letter that did not look perfect. Write it again. Erase. Write once more. You understand that it has to be just-so.

You provide blank paper and crayons, markers, highlighters, scissors. Play dough.

You oblige to search Google for questions your answers were not good enough, and come across five hundred other interesting things that lead to more questions. Distraction is good medicine, too.

You write down a protocol for ceremony, number the steps, change the order.

You make a headstone from tongue depressors and card stock. Give another hug.

You write the name of the departed. Erase it because it did not come out perfectly. Write. Erase. Write once more.

You draw a picture and told it “doesn’t even look like him.”

You are saved by a photo from the bowels of phone memory–a snapshot of happier times.

You give more hugs. Another tissue.

You stay with. You listen. You know that no small loss is small. That no one is truly replaceable, that loss is confusing and brings along with it the worry of losses far bigger and questions too scary for words. You don’t go where the child does not take you. You comfort, you understand.

What do you do with a grieving child?

You listen. You hug.

You promise not to forget.

You tuck the drawing in the folder (“but be careful”) to keep it safe.

And you use a tissue yourself, when the child wonders aloud if dead fish get to have wings and continues to answer himself:  “Yeah, because they have fins, so Benny was already half-angel.”

beta fish