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

 

 

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

 

By Heart And Hand

desert pool AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

There is water

For the thirsty

Even

In the desert,

Where heart and hand

Were put to work

With foresight of what

Must be done,

To hold

What would otherwise

Be lost

To shifting sands

And blazing sun.

 

 

 

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Manmade

 

 

Blue Earth

Blue Earth NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

On this Earth Day

As we are all

One,

Cooped in

Holding on,

Blue around the fingertips

Blue around the lips,

Blue in oceans, and

In the reflections of the deep,

Blue in sorrow

Blue as sky lift

Dark sapphire

To the reified aqua

Of hope.

May we rise

Like the sun,

And not forget how

We can

Help each other

Cope.

 

 

For Terri’s SundayStills: Earth

 

 

The Big Scale

scale SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

In the big scale

Of things

Where watershed moments

Froth and fall in

Flush forward,

Each of us but a dot

Drenched in mist

Hoping life

Flows without

A fast-forward.

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Scale

 

Ain’t Got Much Of

FF RogerBultot

Photo prompt: Roger Bultot

 

“She keeps the shelves half-empty.”

I turned at the voice. A gnarled hand leaned heavily on a carved stick. The man’s chest was almost parallel to the stained cement floor.

I crouched so I could make eye-contact yet spare him the strain of lifting his head. He smiled. For such an ossified body, his expression was remarkably lively.

“My wife,” he raised an eyebrow at the display. “I’d space the boxes, but she says that what people think we ain’t got much of, reminds them of the empty spaces in their own pantries and how there’s always room for more.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

 

A Place For Peace

A place for peace NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

She found a spot

Inside herself

That fed the spring

Of peace

She’d always known

Was there.

 

 

 

For Sunday Stills: Peace (also, Happy Birthday, Terri!)

 

 

Too Steep To Stand

farmhouse stairs SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

Up steep stairs

Of old, new places

He is reaching up

Hand over hand.

Bravely mastering

The gaps that make it,

Way too frightening

To stand.

Up he goes,

A little hero,

Climbing life’s thrilling

Demand.

In his moment of

Adventure,

Oblivious

To just how well we

Understand.

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Steep

 

 

Take A Side

sideways benches NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

It does not always work to take

A seat

Head on.

Sometimes the best way

Is

To come at it

As if you’d really meant to move

Along.

 

 

 

For Cee’s Black&White Photo Challenge: Side of things

 

 

Light Ahead

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

After weeks of gray and thistles and ceaseless wind that scraped her raw, there was light.

She could scarcely believe it at first.

The cloud cover had been so complete for so long that she’d began wondering if there was even a real sun still behind it. The revolutions of soupy daylight and inky nights felt equally murky as every step became oppressive. She had waking dreams of being lost inside a massive warehouse, a mouse in a maze, endlessly seeking an exit yet seeing none.

She wondered whether there was still use in trying. She was oh so tired.

Now there was a break. The sky spawned a cavity and the leaden heavens began to dissipate. She could discern a layer of ease in the distance.

And light, streaming like caressing fingers ahead. Showing the way home.

 

 

 

Note: Dedicated to the all-too-many who are staggering through their personal wilderness, caught in the molasses of gloom, and thinking of giving up — keep on, hold on. There’s light ahead, and we’re leaving it on for you.

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge