No Country Bumpkin

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Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

 

She was not a country bumpkin

Though she aspired to

Be one.

So she dressed the part

And practiced

How to walk and talk

In twang,

And she hoped to look

Uncultured

To the folk stopping

In store,

So they’d believe

She was

Hardcore.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: bum

 

 

Paused Revolution

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Photo by Adam Cain on Unsplash

 

The sun rose bright

In the horizon

Spilling gold on

Ebbing tide.

They woke with

Tangled limbs still weighted

And lids that wrinkled

In the light.

It dawned to be

The day of changes,

When revolution would be

Put aside.

They’ll find their breath,

And mend their fences.

They’re family now.

They will not

Fight.

 

 

 

For the dVerse Poetics challenge: revolution

 

 

River Run

 

She could not sleep for the excitement.

A dream come true. A lifelong prayer answered.

She lost count of the times they’d gone without, made do with little. They saved. They scrounged. They worked. They sought. They searched. They found.

Only to be turned down. Back onto the merry-go-round.

It was not for sale. It was too old. It was rotten. It was tied up in legal battles. It was too large. Too steeply priced. Too small.

She almost lost hope.

Then this. Beat up and needing some work. Their Goldilocks perfection.

He didn’t want to sell. His late wife’s boat. Her family’s name. Nope.

They begged. They pleaded. They tried to explain.

Finally … he relented. Perhaps they wore him down.

They drew the contract. Argued. Fretted. Signed.

The boat was theirs.

“You must rename her,” he stressed, pen in hand.

Of course.

Tomorrow it will become her River Run.

 

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

 

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

 

Out Of Sorts

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“I thought I’d see better,” she frowned.

“Your thoughts were wrong.”

The matter of fact tone caused her frown to deepen. It really was no way to speak to her, especially given the circumstances.

“Is there nothing you can do?” she rubbed her eyes, squinted, tried to adjust the angle of her head.

“Nothing needs doing,” came the response.

She wondered how it was possible for her to feel anger. Wouldn’t she be beyond all that by now? And yet … there it was. She wanted to strangle something, but there was no way she could manage it. Not that she really would, anyhow … Or, well, maybe …

Almost everything about this new situation was distressing. A bit more sympathy would be nice. And yet there this was, cold as the ghost of Christmas past.

Then again … perhaps it couldn’t be helped.

She wasn’t sure if that made her angrier or made her sad. Perhaps both.

“Is it always going to be this way?” she tried, feeling vulnerable and suddenly quite terrified. Always was such a very very long time!

“Always is a misnomer.”

She wondered if tossing something would make her feel better. She really expected this to be quite different. She certainly believed things would be a lot less cryptic.

She sniffed and was surprised at the sensation. She squinted, almost expecting tears, though of course there were none.

The display around the tree remained as she’d remembered it from the day before, only fuzzier, as if seen through a film, with the pixels all wrong. Not one thing had the borders that it ought to have. The wooden figurines seemed softer, though. That pleased her. And the way she could sense the space between the molecules, see the atoms floating.

How could she see that and yet be unable to manage basic focus?

There was a sort of chuckle in the reply, even though she did not voice the question. That’ll take some getting used to, too. The total lack of privacy.

She sighed and a memory of her first day in college floated to the surface. She didn’t think she’d ever get used to being there, either, at the time. Yet she had, somehow.

Heaven should be easy, after that.

She let her form relax. The angel and the candle merged into the table and with it rose the notion that she could now pass a hand through solids.

The room was blurry. So was her mind. It was not quite unpleasant. She was not quite anxious. Adjusting, more like.

Of course she would feel out of sorts.

After all, it hadn’t even been a full day since she died.

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo challenge

 

 

 

Relative Loudness

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Photo: Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

 

“It’s way too loud!”

Maria smoothed her skirt. Her mother’s sense of what wasn’t “too loud” was limited to washed-out grays, faded pastels, and the kind of drab that would put even a hyperactive child to sleep. “I like it.”

“You can’t possibly think you’ll get the job dressed like this.”

Her mother always went for the jugular.

Maria shrugged. She’d learned the hard way that to show her wounding only meant that more of it was certain to be dished out.

“Don’t come crying to me when someone more professional gets the position,” her mother added.

“Thanks for the support, Mom,” Maria sighed. She grabbed her bag, checked to see that the bus card was in her pocket, and walked out, deliberately ignoring the foyer’s mirror. She’ll give herself a final once over later, against a store’s window or parked car if she needed to. Any reflective surface would be more forgiving than her mother’s eye.

Some days the anger churned inside her like a witch’s noxious brew. A dash of fury, an evil eye of newt, a cup of resentment, a clump of shame, a fistful of sorrow, all stirred with the bone of a dog left to die in the street under a full moon.

“She can’t help it,” Sam, when he was still around, would try to soothe her. He was spared the worst of their mother’s tongue-lashings, being a boy and therefore less intrinsically prone to disappointing her. But he was well aware of how their mother’s wrath was doled onto Maria, and he’d even take blame where he could, knowing he wasn’t likely to be punished for the same misdemeanor, and that he’ll get off lightly when he was. “Mom sees in you everything she wants to be and cannot.”

It was truth. It was also small consolation.

“I can’t help it that she had less opportunity,” Maria would pout in answer. “It’s not my fault she was kept home to raise her siblings and never got to finish school. It’s not my fault she feels unable to try anything, or that Dad liked pointing out how uneducated she was.” And still … more often than not Sam’s reminders of where their mother had learned criticism toward daughters, and of the inordinate amounts she’d had to put up with, did help awaken a measure of empathy.

Some days less than others, though.

And on this particular morning Maria had very little of it to spare.

She’d worked hard to prepare for this job interview, and she’d put much thought into the clothing she selected. The turquoise top and a the splash of magenta in the beaded necklace were meant to put a bit of color in her pale complexion. She coupled that with a dark blue skirt with a banana-yellow belt. A matching silk scarf was tied around the handles of her rather overtired bag. She wore a single turquoise bangle on her wrist, and the dark blue pumps she’d kept for special occasions. Her hair was pulled back from her face behind one ear to reveal a single studded earring, and fell in soft curls over her cheek on the other side.

She thought she looked nice. Till her mother’s acid raised welts of doubt.

A whistle sounded and she turned around fully prepared to frown, only to have her lips turn up when she saw the whistler.

“You look glam!” Her eighty five year old neighbor leaned onto his rake and grinned at her through few remaining teeth. “Big day?”

“Hi Mr. Green,” she smiled back. “Yes. I mean, I hope. Job interview.”

“Ah,” he nodded sagely. “And you sure do look the part! Go get ’em! And don’t you let yourself worry none. Tell them all the good things that you are and can do, and don’t you be shy about it, either. It’s is your time to shine, so you go ahead and speak up as loud as anything. Show them who you are so they not miss the chance to employ you. And swing by on your way back to tell me how it went, will you now?”

She nodded. She did not trust her voice …

But her heart felt warmed and her feet were lighter as she walked toward the bus, every window reflecting rosy cheeks and a sparkle in her eye.

 

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS challenge: Loud

 

 

The Marianna

 

He did it. He’d pared it all down and tucked it all in and stocked her all up.

He was down to one set of waterproofs, two pairs of jeans, three tees, four pairs of socks, five undies, six favorite CDs, seven books.

He was going for eight apples, nine carrots, and ten bananas, but he ate two bananas walking back from the store. So there was that. In any event, there were many other odds and ends he didn’t count but that counted just as much: sleeping bags, towels and dishes and batteries, the manual pump. All the things that would make it home.

For it was going to be. Home. The first he’d ever owned.

This boat: The Marianna.

His little sister had always dreamed of living on one, and her yearning settled in him after she died.

He smiled at the sky. “Welcome aboard, Marianna. Let’s fly.”

 

 

For Crispina’s CCC #53

 

The Birth Of Day

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Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

May the birth of day

Delight you

In the promise

That it brings,

Even with the clear

Potential

For the pulling of

Heart’s strings.

May you know

The hope of

Morning

As it touches

First light’s bliss.

May the good

Outweigh the painful

As tender dawn

To ocean

Kiss.

 

 

For the Sunday Stills challenge: Birthdays

 

The Project

photo by David Meredith

Photo courtesy of David Meredith, photographer

 

“I know we can do it!”

Richard infused his voice with all the pep he could muster.

The house was a dump. He wanted to put a match to it. A tent would be better to live in. The very prospect of what fixing this wreck-of-a-building would entail had him exhausted in advance. He’d fixed homes before: this project would be measured in years, not months or weeks. He could almost see the creepy crawlies inside walls, the rot above the ceiling, the mold under the floors, the who knows what in the rafters.

He hated it already.

Who buys a house sight unseen? What on earth did she expect?

“It’ll be great!” He enthused, his arm protectively around her shoulders.

She’d been so proud to find a house that could fit them all and within their minuscule budget, further shrunken since he’d lost his job. She wanted to surprise him.

He hated seeing her devastation when they arrived at their new home, belongings and kids crammed into one truck.

“The children will learn so many skills,” he stressed. “You’ll see. We’ll go room by room and prioritize.”

“It’s a disaster,” she sniffled. Looked up. Smiled. “And I love you.”

 

 

For Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

 

 

A Stranger’s Eyes

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Photo: Conner Baker on Unsplash

 

Her hand clasped the steering wheel and she fought against the tears that threatened to blur the road ahead.

The wheels whirred over miles and miles of black as the stars spread a rotating canopy over her car. A bug atop a line drawn in the sand, she was. A smidgen on the wide expanse of life under the heavens.

She won’t go back.

She could not allow it.

He had her squelched under his thumb for so long that she did not recognize her own face in the mirror. Her eyes had become a stranger’s.

“There are times,” her mother once said, “when a woman must believe herself. You may think yourself broken, but you will love again the stranger who was your self.”

She’d thought it cryptic at the time, melodramatic.

She understood now. “I’m coming home to myself at last, Mom.”

 

 

 

For the dVerse Prosery prompt: Love after Love in 144 words