Solitaire

 

He didn’t think much of the place at first. A chance to put his head down at night under more than just the stars or rain or ice. A plot of land to grow some food on. A space to store the crops and foraged goods that would hold him through those seasons when there was far less available that required far more effort to find.

The paperwork bequeathed him the abandoned croft and several boggy acres around it. The right to hunt and fish. The responsibility to repair and maintain the stone walls and the property, now a historical site, without altering the landscape.

“No villas, no mansions. No golf courses,” the solicitor had stated, only half in jest.

“No worries,” he’d answered.

All he ever needed was a room, a roof, a hearth.

And solitude.

For sanity.

Crowds made his belly flutter and his ears ring and his feet fidget with an ache for fleeing. The chatter made him cringe. The swift ticking of clocks made his heart skip some if its own beats.

The open spaces slowed his panic.

Calmed the bickering voices that would otherwise ricochet between his ears.

He built. He farmed. He slept. He woke. He walked.

He didn’t think much of the place at first. Then the old house became a home, the plot of land became his gem, and the hills became both fort and fortitude.

His very spirit soothed.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge – Welcome back, Sue, we missed you!

(Photo credit: Sue Vincent)

 

Tested

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Photo: Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash

 

Perhaps they did not know when it would come, or what it would require to what end. But they had to know they’d face the crucible that will reveal a moral fiber, if they had one.

They’d have to choose then: good or bad, peace or harm, truth or falsehood.

It would appear an easy choice, to go for better judgment. And yet they had so tangled themselves in the net of lies, that extrication meant losses they weren’t quite prepared to reap. Not when they hoped for revenue from crouching behind flags of insurrection.

They capitulated.

Dark history, revisited.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Crucible in 100 words

 

 

Back In Time

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Photo: Ronan Furuta on Unsplash

 

After years of failure, ridicule, he was finally ready.

To find out the truth. About himself. About where he’d come from. Where he would’ve belonged.

He turned the dial. Held his breath. Grasped the handles. Stepped on the lever.

The world spun.

Time thumped.

A banshee screamed in his ear. Perhaps the wind. Perhaps his own voice.

When vertigo subsided, he swallowed bile. Inhaled. Opened his eyes.

A man in furs crouched near him. Spear in hand.

Boron’s heart flooded with relief and delight.

He knew it!

He was, down to his DNA, a troglodyte.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Troglodyte in 95 words

 

The Present

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(Photo: Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash)

 

She was shaking when I entered the room. Hands wringing, lips trembling, her eyes a shade of numb I had rarely seen.

Mary had called me. She had come to check on her and bring a midday repast. Mother being too proud to ask for help, even though her legs no longer held her sturdily or long enough to cook herself a decent meal.

Appearance and stoicism were Mother’s barometers of standing.

Socially and otherwise.

Not that you’d know it from her mascaraed cheeks.

She pointed to the antique book I had gifted her the previous evening. 

I understand, therefore I’ll live,” was scribbled in the cover. “R.B. 1941

Mother pressed a notepad on me. Scribbled on it were the same words. Same letters. An older hand.

“I forgot,” she whispered, caressing her initials. “But reading what I have just written, I now believe.”

 

 

Prompt quote: “Reading what I have just written, I now believe.” (Afterward by Louise Gluck)

For the dVerse prosery challenge

 

Compliance

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(Photo: Isaac Holmgren on Unsplash)

 

When all was said and done,

There was no question

Of whether or when

Or why,

She would be expected

To abide by all

The rules they had

Intended to

Apply.

The law was set.

The outcome clear.

She was to follow

And adhere.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille poetry challenge: abide

 

All Color Gone

 

They will not be coming home.

She paced the few steps from her door to the deck’s edge and back again. She gazed up at the washed out sky. Watched as the shadows encroached on the small lawn to blanket the rocks in the graying garden. Her breath was heavy in her chest.

They will not be coming home.

With every blink, the hues were fading. Taking with them memories of laughter, of pitter-patter, of wet wool and hot cocoa steaming by the fire.

The telegram emblazoned in her mind.

The boys will not be coming home.

All color gone.

 

 

Note: Dedicated to all those who knew and know such loss.

Photo prompt: © Sarah Potter

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Not Much Sweeter

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There was not much sweeter than Grandpa Gulliver’s honey. Then again, there was not much that was sweeter than honey. Berries, perhaps, in their short season. Or maple syrup, when they found it. But there were not many maples left anymore, and those she knew of were not particularly generous with their sap now that they had to parse energy for growing.

But there was Grandpa Gulliver’s honey. The slow pouring amber liquid of deliciousness. As valuable and as glorious as gold. The warmth of happy in her mouth.

Grandpa Gulliver had built Hive Homes for the bees. Tiny mansions of industry where workers and queens could shelter from the rain under eaves that shed the snow and cut the wind.

She used to watch the ins-and-outs for hours. The buzz. The promise.

Now they stood desolate.

No bees. No Grandpa Gulliver.

Who knew they’d all be taken, sweetness gone?

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

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

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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