The Constitutional

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“He never would’ve been out there without his hat.”

Elizabeth shook her head in suppressed exasperation. Of course her mother would find fault.

The older woman perched on the edge of the folding chair that Elizabeth and the fresh-faced health-carer had dragged over for her. The flickering episodes of weakness and disorientation had grown more frequent since Grandfather died. Perhaps it had been the shock of finding him, as her mother had, slumped against the edge of the bathtub. Perhaps it had been the letting go that followed endless years of caring for an increasingly ailing parent. Perhaps it was her mother taking on the role of family invalid.

The doctors certainly did not seem to know.

Or know the difference.

Not that Elizabeth could not understand the wish to let go. She could. Very much so.

Caring for her increasingly moody mother gave her a taste of what it had to have been like for her mother to endure the constant worry over and never-ending bitterness of a man who could no longer do what had sustained him. The amicable if somewhat taciturn grandfather had turned into a fussy, verbally cruel, bed-bound tyrant. Her mother’s father had to have become insufferable.

A little like her mother was becoming.

“They should’ve made a hat. It’s all wrong without a hat.” Her mother scowled.

The figure on the hill leaned into the wind. Impossibly lithe and utterly determined, it embodied how Elizabeth the young child had known him. As far back as she could remember, Grandfather never missed a day of what he’d called his “constitutional.” Rain or shine or wind or hail or mist or blazing sun, her grandfather would leave on his solitary afternoon walk, returning — like clockwork — when the sun had disappeared behind the hill.

Elizabeth would wait for him, her child’s body pressed against the stone fence that bordered the estate, and watch his shadow edge on home, his walking stick as part of him as any limb could be. At some point his tweed pants would materialize at the bottom of the shadow, and in another step or two the rest of him would unveil into certainty.

By the time he’d reach the gate, his windblown face would hold a smile for her. He’d nod a welcome, compensating with it for the long wait, for the yearning that he’d take her along (he never did, nor had he taken any of his children before that), and for the fluttery worry that perhaps the shadowed figure was not Grandfather at all, but in fact an elf or ghost or some trickster’s apparition.

She gazed at the silhouette on the hill, its stride frozen forever in the time before a stroke changed everything.

Hat or not, this was how he’d want to be remembered.

“He’d stuff the hat in his pocket when the wind was high,” she whispered, her voice full of sudden sorrow. “He’d pull it out and put it on a step before he reached the gate.”

Her mother’s mouth opened in preparation for automatic argument, but then the wrinkled corners turned down as a quiver shook her chin.

“He did,” her voice a child’s in elder’s clothing. “It is exactly what he’d do.”

Elizabeth squeezed her mother’s shoulder and the older woman placed a trembling hand over her daughter’s.

“It is perfect, then,” her mother murmured. “I’d forgotten. Take me home, Lizzy. Let us allow him his constitutional in peace, now that he can once more go about it.”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

Sun Set

Sun set AtaraKatz

Photo: A.Katz

 

As the sun’s last light

Paints mountains

Red,

May worry find a safe

For stashing

Dread:

That morning might

Not come

Again,

That homes might turn

From hope

To strain,

And children’s cries

Will sound

In pens,

As they wake

More memories

Of pain.

 

 

 

For dVerse Quadrille Challenge: Sun

 

Keepsake

Photo prompt: http://mrg.bz/n22FGA 

 

He kept it all these years.

A memento of sorts. Something to remember things by. A penance, perhaps. Or a tribute. Sometimes he wasn’t sure which one it was. Or both.

Some nights he’d leave their bed, her light breath highlighting the heaviness that had kept him from sleeping, and walk to the garage just to look at it. To remind himself of what is real and what was possible and what should never once again take place.

Even if it could.

It was the only lie he’d ever told her, though in truth it had led to many more lies — of omission, of deflection, of withholding aspects of himself he could not let her know about. Not ever.

Or did he someplace hope to one day let her know?

For why else would he keep it?

Sometimes he thought that his refusal to do away with it was his way of warning. Himself. To not allow himself to fall into an illusion of what he was not. Perhaps a warning to her, too, to read between the lines of what he couldn’t tell her.

Of the damage he could do. Even in accident. To the ones he’d loved.

 

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge

 

Not Disappointed

john-westrock-766541-unsplash

Cape Disappointment (Photo: John Westrock on Upsplash)

 

The damp timbers creaked under her feet as she wondered if the fog would lift. She half-hoped it would not.

She was still small and timorous when her uncle had brought her here for the first time. “And you won’t be disappointed,” he had laughed, the lines about his eyes creasing in merriment.

It was only later that she understood his joke. It still made her smile.

Indeed, she loved Cape Disappointment. Even in the fog. Perhaps especially in the fog, in its unique magic. She’d read that almost a third of a year’s hours are spent in fog on the headland, masking rivers, hugging sand.

A gust of wind dripped cold into her collar and she laughed. Her uncle used to shake a branch onto her. This felt like a gift.

“You were right, Uncle,” she wiped a tear. “This place did not disappoint. Neither did you. Not once.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Cape Disappointment, Washington, USA

 

 

Endless Harmony

a solitary figure on a beach against a wide ocean.

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She’d never have believed the vastness had she not been there to see it.

In person.

On the edge of endlessness.

The breath of eons crashing at her feet.

The spray of ancient rhythms that had been there

All along.

Through war and storm and hope and flood and cold and warm and days like this when no one but herself was there to witness it.

She’d never have believed the power that it held, contained within each curl of wave, in every roll of whitecap licking sand.

It filled her.

With awe and ache and gnawing yearning to something that went beyond her words and into thoughts unformed, or perhaps ones made of memories in utero: the hiss, the beat, the drums of hearts.

And this.

Another memory

To merge into

In endless harmony.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto (2nd week)

 

Learned Limbo

brown wooden desk table

Photo: Stephen Paris on Pexels.com

 

It has long lain

In limbo,

All voices ebbed

Into dust.

As silent letters

On chalkboard,

Watch the desks

Left to rust.

At one time

Children chanted,

Poems rose

Learned by heart.

But they’d grown

And time hastened.

School-house days

Did not last.

Now it sits,

Heart quite emptied,

And still waits

For the past.

 

 

For the dVerse Challenge: Limbo

 

Tea For One

Reena Saxena

Photo Credit: Reena Saxena

 

It will be tea for one. Again.

She boiled the water in the pot they’d gotten on their honeymoon in Venice, and she spread the tablecloth he’d always said reminded him of his grandma’s parlor (and had always added “in the best way possible” when she’d frown).

She rearranged the mismatched chairs left from the two sets they’d combined when they moved in together, but then returned the plaid one so it rested half-turned to the table and half-facing the radio. Like old times. Like the many evenings when she’d mend some this or that or mark her students’ lessons, while he’d lean forward onto one palm and watch her from the corner of his eye even as his attention was on his favorite broadcast.

“I have eight favorites,” he’d often chuckle. “One for each day of the week and two on Sunday.”

“But none as favorite as you,” he’d always add, just because he knew it pleased her to be reminded that she mattered more …

 

She turned the burner off when the kettle wailed, a lone wolf in the night. She spooned some of the good tea into the teapot, and poured the water on the leaves to let it steep, then capped the pot and dressed it with the cozy she’d made from his favorite sweater when it had too many holes to patch and too much love to throw away.

“You don’t toss away much,” he’d tease her, and they both knew it was both compliment and understanding. They’d grown with little and later had even less, so she had learned to not let go of things too easily.

“I do keep you around, don’t I?” she’d tease back … some days only half in jest for how he’d manage to so exasperate her. Muddy shoes inside the house and socks that never quite made it into the hamper, and an infuriating tendency to not recall the milk or pay the mortgage. Never mind remembering her birthday or their anniversary.

Or the time he’d strayed from vows … and bore a hole into her heart that never fully mended.

She’d forgiven him for that. Of sort. Or as much as anyone can a betrayal. For she’d come to understand it was based less on his disrespect of her as it was on his embedded insecurities. He’d cried in shame when he’d confessed his indiscretion and she’d ended up comforting him, feeling both tender and resentful.

He’d bought her the tea caddie after that. The hand-carved thing of beauty had cost a ridiculous amount and did little to improve upon the one they’d had already … other than in how it served as a reminder for the cost of pain and of his commitment to penance.

 

She passed a finger over the caddie’s rounded top and felt each curve like a canyon of memories in her heart. When she’d fallen ill after their failed attempt at parenting, and the bills kept mounting, he’d almost sold his beloved radio to make payments. Yet he’d refused to discuss letting go of the caddie.

“It is worth a small fortune,” she had tried.

“And that is exactly why it is befitting of you that it stay,” he had replied.

 

She sighed and sat and poured the tea into her cup and watched the steam cloud the glass as the fluid rose like unabated sorrow.

It was their anniversary. The third since he’d left her, this time to where no tea caddie and no amount of tears could remedy.

“Do not hasten to follow,” he’d begged her promise when they both knew it was time. “Go on and live for me.”

Perhaps she wouldn’t have promised had she known quite how bereft she would be without him. Yet she had given him her word, and she was not about to introduce betrayal into the fabric they had so labored to repair.

It will be tea for one, again. Today.

 

 

For the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge

 

Tomorrow’s Memory

Photo: Adam Ickes

 

“They do not remember who they are.”

The old man’s voice was somber without judgment. A skill born of patience shaped by the combined weights of history and time.

“It is why I brought them here.”

The elder regarded his visitor. His dark eyes pools of wisdom deeper than the lines upon his skin.

A silence stretched.

“They will not find it in this place,” Sorrowful Skies said finally.

Disappointment filled the woman’s face.

“They will sleep in the lodge tonight,” he added. “Tomorrow, they will walk like their ancestors. In bare feet on breathing land. Then they will remember.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

A House’s Prayer

Abandoned Bodey State Park PhilipCoons

Photo: Philip Coons

 

Empty window

Recalls

Days of voice,

Filled up halls.

Rocking chair

Holds the space

For creaky floors

Under pace.

Tattered curtains

Still long

For a hand

To belong.

The old house

Holds its breath.

When time spins

Back again,

They will come back.

Amen.

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Anticipation

 

Transition

transformed NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

Life to hatch

Life to stall

As a change

Transforms all.

While new wings

Rise and fall,

Will it a ‘before’

Recall?

 

 

For the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Changeable