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.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Land Of Water

joshua-gobin-1TnaUrrcm88-unsplash

Photo: Guyana, by Joshua Gobin on Unsplash

 

“Have we always been here?”

“‘Always’ is a long-winded word,” Papa’s melodic voice told me a story was coming. “Some people lived here before our ancestors. Some had come after we’d already been here. The land and the water were here before any humans had come. The word ‘always’ does not mean one thing.”

“Moses said we’re not from here. That we were brought here as slaves.”

“Are you a slave?”

“No, Papa.”

“Are you here?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“You and I are Guyana born. Have you worked this land, swam in the Essequibo, witnessed Kiaeteur Falls, walked the savanna, ate manioc?”

“I have.”

“So you have your answer, Son. We’re all children of land and water. All born of wombs filled with water, all depend on water, and will one day become rain and go over the falls. Your ancestors got here. You’re here. Where else would you be from?”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Guyana, South America

 

 

Memory Lane

Aharonson NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

Down memory lane

Where small feet

Came to learn,

And the stories

Of pain and resistance

Remain,

Where the concepts

Of secret and magic

A house may

Contain,

Filled my mind with

Both worry

And wonder

Again

And again.

 

 

Note: The photo (taken in 2008) is of the fence and alleyway hugging the perimeter of an estate in my childhood town where science, historical espionage, ‘betrayal by pigeon’, capture, torture, hidden tunnels, and suicide were all shared in pretty graphic detail with primary school children during school-tours of the location (complete with yellowed photos, blood stains, personal effects, pistol, tunnel in the bathroom and all). The museum hosted children from all around, but us local kids held the place (which was and still is located right near the town’s center), in a combination of fascination, awe, horror, and perhaps a sprinkle of pride for a perceived association with the courage and tragedy of a local heroine. Though I don’t think they tell this to kids quite the same way these days, the stories and memories remain.

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Back Catalog

 

Just Be Careful

https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/55a53ce21b0000f61028035c.jpeg?ops=scalefit_960_noupscale

Photo: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/march-on-washington_n_3825167

 

I knew she was going to D.C. for the 50-year-anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington. She’d been in the original one. And on the Freedom Rides. I was so proud of her. I also couldn’t sleep. I wanted her to go. I just couldn’t rid myself of a nagging worry-worm.

“Just be careful,” I texted.

“XO,” she replied hours later.

I watched the march and President Obama’s speech on TV, a lump in my throat for the path and possibility of this country. I scanned for her in the crowd, echoes of concern in my mind, hoped she wasn’t hurting.

“I’m fine,” she said two days later, “just don’t be alarmed when you see me. I tripped when I got off the bus in D.C. Broke my wrist.”

Apparently she’d wrapped a scarf around her arm and marched. Then traveled many hours home before seeing a doctor. True to form.

 

Adding this clip from that day which stands the test of time in its relevance:

 

 

Note: True story from August 28, 2013.

For What Pegman Saw: Washington D.C.

 

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.

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

They Live In You

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Luanda, Angola; by Jorje sa Pinheiro

 

“Why is the top of that mountain rusty?” he asked.

His grandmother’s hand tightened gently around his wrist, then released it, almost in apology.

“For your ancestors,” she said.

He looked at her, uncomprehending. She had a way of speaking without saying everything she meant or with saying more than she meant and then cloaking it so it was still a tangle of implied meanings. He didn’t always know which it was. Or both. Her lined face was held up in what looked more like grief than awe.

“Grandma?” he asked.

“This rust is the mountain holding up the iron bled by your great-grandfather’s chains and the chains of those before him, and before, so many generations that the rust of those shackles rose up. It is the blood of the mountain and like the blood in your veins, it is them. They live in it. They live in you.

 

 

 

For the What Pegman Saw challenge: Angola

 

Pharaohsaurus

Pharaohsaurus NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

“It looks like a pharaoh,” the boy commented.

“Hmm …” the girl leaned her elbows on the display case to take a photo. Dinosaurs weren’t Pharaohs, but her little brother was obsessed with anything Egyptian, so it was easier to agree. Took long enough to drag him out of that wing of the museum and into what she really wanted to see.

“Do you think the pharaohs saw one of these and it gave them the idea?”

She sighed. “There were no dinosaurs left at the time of pharaohs.”

“It’s not what I meant!” His nudge made her take a photo of a piece of plaster instead of the fossil bones. “Maybe they found something like this one.”

“Stop it!” She hissed. They’d be told to leave if they fought.

“Sorry.” He was, only sort of. “Is it called a ‘pharaohsaurus’?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Well, it should!”

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Museum in 147 words

 

 

The Whey Weigher’s Way

A girl churning butter, three-quarter length, facing front, looking away to left, wearing a low-necked dress, apron, and small frilled cap over short curls; after Mercier.  Mezzotint

Photo: The British Museum #2010,7081.1712

 

Tis the Whey Weigher’s way

To weigh

The whey

As she goes

About her day

Sifting curds

Through woven trays.

 

You can stay

If you may

To watch the way

She weighs her whey

In pots and jugs

Of rounded

Clay.

 

And though so many

Will downplay

The lowly whey

As throw away,

She knows it is

Quite fair to say

That whey is worthy

Of more sway

And should more than

Earn it’s pay.

 

 

(I had WAY too much fun with this today! 🙂 )

For the SoCS writing prompt: way/weigh/whey

 

 

New York Marvel

NYPL IngeVandormael

Photo: Inge Vandormael

 

Marble walls in carved glory

Hold

A marvel,

Home

For words

No longer

Kept

Small

But shared

With all.

 

 

Note: This fantastic photo was taken by my talented friend Inge Vandormael, at the New York Public Library building on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Click here for some of history.

For Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: M or N

 

Faith in Stones

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They none of them could explain when it had been built or how it had been done. The standing stones were magic enough, but the slab of solid rock perching above their heads against the laws of order and human power — it went beyond what anyone understood.

Even The Sage did not know.

And she knew everything there was to learn and some of what could not be taught yet she ascertained anyhow.

“Though I heard say …” The Sage stretched the words as every child and many an adult leaned into her speaking. It was the mid-of-day that followed the longest morning. A time of pause and story. “… that it could have been the Angel Bird.”

The elder’s wisps of hair haloed her face. The oval itself was shadowed by the relative darkness under the stone overhang.

A child shifted in his mother’s lap. An errant toddler was reprimanded. A baby’s wail was quieted by its mother’s nipple. The people settled.

The Sage lifted her chin and many eyes followed. Soot and marks of time tanned the gray expanse above.

“In her beak, the Angel Bird can carry many men into the sea. Her wings can mask the stars so fishers lose the way back to their hearths. She can lift a whale and place it on the shore to feed the people. She can bring the howling wind. She can ice the river. She can slash the fire in the skies. Yet she can also pluck a clover and carve a snowflake. She can blow a single hair off of an ailing person’s forehead and lead them back to health or to the place-of-no-more-breath. … ” The Sage paused and filled her own lungs with air. “Perhaps the Angel Bird was the one to lift the slab atop the pillars.”

“Can she take it down?”

An admonishing murmur rose. Young voice or not, saying a thing made it. Now the notion hung above them like storm-clouds. Fear thickened the air but to state the worry might make it, too.

The Sage raised her palm but let the silence linger. Her eyes wandered over the cracks and small crevices of the ancient stone.

The questioning child was not to blame. The Sage had wondered similarly herself. Had her thoughts manifested through the young one’s mind? It had been known to happen. Sometimes it was a sign of too-easy a persuasion. At other times it signaled the nascent perceptiveness of a future apprentice.

The girl met The Sage’s eyes with tears brimming at the unfairness of collective condemnation, but stared on, defiant.

The latter then. The Sage allowed a corner of her lip to twitch. She’ll take it on herself to observe the child. In the meantime the girl deserved the response that had chased away many an hour of The Sage’s sleep.

“Indeed the Angel Bird can …”

People gasped. More frowns were directed at the girl, who pulled herself straighter, pushed a mess of tangled hair off her face, and squared her shoulders.

The latter. No question now.

“And she likely will. In time,” The Sage added.

An audible inhale rippled through the group as more and more faces lifted to inspect the heavy ceiling. No longer a taken-for-granted solid refuge, but a slide-between-the-fingers sand.

“All things die,” The Sage pressed on, aware that the answer had become the opportunity for its own story. “It is no curse nor blessing. No different than the change of seasons or the leaves that bud and green and grow and brown and fall. In early summer it may seem that foliage had always been and always will be, and yet we know that time will come when the leaves will die and the branches be laid bare.”

“This is no leaf,” a woman murmured, eyes uneasily on the rock and her body curled over a nursing infant.

Several other women fidgeted and darted glances at the sunny meadow at the shelter’s side.

The Sage sighed. Panic tended to have its fingers intertwined with knowledge. She knew it better than most.

“Life requires faith,” she said. “Every person who ever took shelter under this place of magic — from the first ancestors to the persons sitting here today — accepted that it is not of our doing. Whether by the Angel Bird or a different magic, this marvel means that our people do not suffer in the rain or ice or burning sun. We did not build this. It is our home but we do not own it. The most we can do is ensure we keep it well and are not the ones to destroy it.”

 

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt