A Point Of View

green-gate CrispinaKemp

 

“He’d left it that way on purpose,” the late owner’s grandson pointed.

Sarah regarded the old fence with its mossy stains. Bushes crowded near and the trees grew so close they’d soon be integrated into the fence. A thorny climber threatened to lock the gate from within, and she wondered how many times it or its predecessors had done so, how many times it had been gently pruned to keep the portal functioning.

“For a trellis?” she bent her knees to peek out through the slats on the ladder-like bit of fencing adjacent to the gate. The front of the property was fenced in stone. Only this portion in the rear was wooden. She almost liked it better. In her mind’s eye she saw roses. Or sweet peas. Or jasmine.

“For a view.”

She glanced up.

“Old blood feud with the neighbors.” The man explained. “But he loved their daughter.”

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Not Just Anywhere

Photo prompt: © Ted Strutz

 

They found the photo in his wallet. No address on its back. No date.

“This could be anywhere,” Deena said.

Neal sighed. He hadn’t seen Dad for years. The reclusive elder had been an aloof parent, and while Neal had yearned for more connection, it always took so much work … with scarce actual return.

“I know where it is.” Aunt Leah fingered the yellowed photograph. “It’s the Mendelsons’ house. I always suspected he and Meir had a thing. Such secret it had to be.”

She sighed and shook her head. “Such a shame. To have to hide love this way.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

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

 

 

4T

max-headroom CrispinaKemp

 

Luke eyed the sign ahead.

“I won’t be allowed in,” he sighed.

Sarah scrunched her forehead. “Maybe they won’t notice?”

Luke raised an eyebrow. He was 6’8″.

Of course they would notice. It was a stupid thing to say. She blushed. “I’m sorry, Luke. I mean, it’s just so unfair!”

He nodded. Such rules often were. Still many tended to accept, even embrace, ‘patriotic regulations’ … until caprice hit close to home. Or in his case, on the way back to it.

He had pooh-poohed the risk. What folly.

He wouldn’t be allowed into the City. Even though he’d been born and raised and lived there. Had committed no crime. He was banished. They’d expel him if he were still home.

The militia could shoot him on sight. Neighbors would be expected to report his presence. As of that morning, anyone above 6’6″ feet was considered a 4T security risk – Too Tall To Trust.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

Soul Archeology

vista SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

They were literally walking on the bones of ancient past.

The bones of actual ancients, too, if you want to be exact about it.

He contemplated telling Liz then decided she was more likely to be spooked than awed by the notion. So he let the soles of his trekking boots crunch wordless greetings with each step, and he set his mind to wonder, radar-style, about the centuries he could not see and so few even knew about, yet lay here for every person to experience. Literally. Through the mounds. These monuments to earlier.

It was an odd thing. History.

Will others one day tread upon the remnants of his, and will any ever stop to wonder about the life he’d lived, the vistas his eyes had feasted on, the memories he’d placed into the air with every exhalation?

If so, what would they think, and how did he feel about the possibility?

Not great, he realized. Especially if those future humans would by then have skills for viewing molecules of thoughts or the equivalent … His mind, unearthed, would be a bit like having archeologists come across a buried midden: plenty of data, but far from being the end one would wish presented for scrutiny.

He shuddered. More from shame than worry.

“These are man-made,” Liz noted from behind. The path was narrow and they could only walk single-file.

He nodded, unsure whether she had misinterpreted his reaction or — as she sometimes could be — was eerily on point.

“I wonder if they had intended for anyone to walk on these,” Liz added.

He stopped. There was something in her voice. A fullness.

He turned to her. Her cheeks were wet. Her eyes were red. How long has she been crying?

Her lips turned up at what she must have seen in his expression. “I’m fine, Shawn,” she breathed. “It is just that there’s a sense of spirit pushing like a memory-foam against my feet …”

His own eyes filled and he shook his head, surprised at the emotion.

“See?”

“I do,” he nodded, reached for her hand.

The fields below them stretched wide and green to the horizon. The air sighed with the scents of grass and rain and years and sun.

“This place,” he braved, “it makes me want to be a better man.”

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

 

Not You. Not Here.

markus-spiske-QozzJpFZ2lg-unsplash

Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

You are not welcome.

Here.

Or anyplace that we hold

Dear.

You are unwelcome

Here.

Because you lack

The right color

Or veneer

Or gender

Or conviction,

And because you have far too much

Proclivity toward

Fear.

You are not welcome.

Here.

Though if you come,

Subservient,

Kowtowing

To us

Year by lingering

Year,

We might allow you

To remain

As long as you

Humbly

Adhere,

To our need to aggrandize

Our wrongs,

And as long as you

Declare you will

Never rise

Above a state that

Holds us as

Premier.

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all who fight ingrained injustice, racism, hate, brutality, and the historical realities of too many who bolster themselves by believing they are somehow ‘premier.’ For the record, there is nothing ‘supreme’ about anyone who claims ‘supremacy.’ There never was.

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Unwelcome in 91 words

 

 

A Key To The Heart

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

The last thing she believed was that her great-grandmother’s words had been literal.

The old woman was prone to tall tales, lore and fairies, rumors and gossip, odd potions and odder notions. There were always layers of meaning. Lessons. Some ancient moral to decipher. A hidden understanding.

As a young child, Patricia was fascinated by Gramma Gee. She would spend hours dreaming about the meaning of the words of mystery from the wizened woman who had more wrinkles than skin and whose spine bent halfway parallel to the ground.

But by the time she turned an adolescent, Patricia found the elder’s cryptic talk to be boring, dated, and annoying. She only went to visit to assuage her mother’s guilt, and even then did so without enthusiasm and for the briefest stay.

When Mom died at the end of a long illness while Gramma Gee continued living, Patricia — then a college student — stopped visiting altogether. She’d convinced herself that the old woman in the cheerless room in the old people’s home was senile and would not know the difference, but in her heart’s heart she knew that she was angry. Every day the ancient lived felt like one stolen from her mother.

Patricia wondered if her mom had felt that way after Nana died. The sudden death that bled Nana’s life into her brain had left Mom bereft and lonely. Patricia was not quite four years old at the time.

It did not seem fair. Two holes bracketed by a woman so old there could not have been a good enough reason for her to still live.

Then, on Patricia’s twenty-sixth birthday, Gramma Gee breathed her last. She’d just turned ninety-five.

She left Patricia everything: Two tattered suitcases of documents, moth-eaten blankets in a trunk that could have come out of a horror movie, a box of knickknacks, and a four-leaf clover key wrapped in a piece of leather in the shape of a heart.

“There is a key to the heart, and you can use it.”

Patricia had heard Gramma Gee say this phrase more times than she cared to remember. She’d thought it romantic at some point, then irritating.

But was it more than an expression? And if so, a key to what?

The attorney who was the executor of Gramma Gee’s meager estate was no help. A harried man with droopy spectacles and droopier hair, he had not much to tell her. “It could be in the documents,” he said, nicotine-stained fingers fidgeting for her to sign the papers on his desk and let him go handle some other oldster’s odds and ends. “I believe there’s a deed among the documents. To some house in the old country. I don’t expect it to still be standing. Most are not.”

It was mostly not.

But a section was, and part of a stair sticking out of broken walls. And the owner of the bed and breakfast nearby had a small tractor and a strong son he could lend. When they cleared away the rotten beams and tumbled stones and mounds of weeds, there was an intact part of ancient wall revealed, and more steps.

And at the end of those, a closed door. Set with a heart-shaped lock.

She had the key.

And she could use it.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge

 

Slip From Grip

british-library-atIgjLlFryg-unsplash

Enslaved persons cutting sugar cane on the Island of Antigua, 1823, (The British Library)

 

 

She fed them well so

They would

Sleep,

And silently

She gave the slip,

To all she knew

Yet did not sweep

Away the bite

Of whip.

She fled,

So the child in

Her belly’s keep,

Would not writhe, helpless,

In another person’s

Grip.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: slip

(Note: Dedicated to all who suffered and still suffer under the yoke of injustice, discrimination, racism, and pretense. We can do better than this. We must do better than this.)

 

 

 

 

Teaching Without Telling

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

If only she could get there …

The mist and tears obscured her view, but she trod on, insistent and desperate for the safety of the circle. It had saved her ancestors. It had become a thing of lore.

But if the magic still held, she would be helped. The spirits that guarded the stones would weave protection over her. Bar the weapons. Shun the anger. Ward off those who wanted to do harm.

She tripped twice, the cold air breathing malice on her nape. She fought the urge to curl upon the damp ground and give up. She gathered up her tattered courage and wrapped the threads of memories around her shoulders. The incantations of her grandmother, sang softly into the cauldron, stirring soup and stories, teaching without telling, showing without spelling out what was forbidden to be known.

In the darkening damp she mumbled some forgotten fragments. “Help me, Nana,” she sobbed when her knees skinned on a stone and her breath caught.

“Rise, Child,” she thought she heard. She wanted to believe.

She rose. She stumbled on.

If only she could get there, she would be saved. The spirits will protect her in the mists of old.

The pitchforks. The firebrands. The mobs in their lust and calls for blood in smoke? They would not be able to see her. Not once she crossed into the circle. Once there, she would be scooped up, sheltered, danger gone.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto

 

 

Central Park, New York City

May NYC2 NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

Where waters tide

‘Round canyons

Carved by time

And ice,

Other canyons

Rise

Man-made

To tickle skies.

 

Where greenery

Respite to

Millions

Provides,

Sleep memories

Of others

Who used to there

Reside.

 

Where footfalls mask

The horns of cars

And rustles hold

More sway,

There breathes the city

That like me

Many call home

Today.

 

 

 

For the dVerse challenge: take me with you