A Hole In The Sky

dusk SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“There’s a hole in the sky,” the child’s voice rose then hushed in part-fear, part-wonder.

“Indeed there is,” his father nodded.

The boy flicked his eyes away from the luminescent heavens just long enough to discern that his father wasn’t joking. He’d half-hoped his father would be, and his chest flooded with something like alarm when it did not seem that he was. What does it mean to have a rent in the ceiling of the universe? Would something fall through it? Would the world cave in like a shattered egg?

“Will it repair?” His voice was small.

The man put down the kindling he’d been arranging in preparation the evening’s fire. He straightened to a stand and leaned a heavy hand on the narrow shoulders of his son. Bird-like, the boy was. Fluttery and slight.

His youngest had always been a bit prone to the dramatic. The first to pick up on a change in atmosphere, the first to be reduced to tears, the first to wail at even the smallest prickling. Also the first to smile a welcome, the first to notice a green leaf peeking out of the frozen ground, the first to note the song of birds or a task well done.

He worried about such a skinless child, walking a life that did not always refrain from brushing far too crassly against tenderness. There were plenty of those who had repeatedly pressed him to be firmer with the youngster. To “toughen up the boy into a man” or “teach him how to grow a thicker skin.”

“How would I change the stripes upon a tiger?” he’d find himself replying. “Can I will a doe to become a lion?”

He could not bring himself to pain the boy as means to scar him into roughness. The child was made to be whomever he was made to be, and all a father could do was try to shepherd him toward maturity. Such as when taking the boy on this father-son hunting journey.

He squeezed his son’s shoulder and the boy raised a frightened face to meet his eyes.

“The sky will repair, Son,” he said, “though it may not go back to what it was before. For nothing can. It will move on — from day to night to cold to warmth to wind to storm. It will tear holes in clouds for sun to stream through. It will shred them to no shade. It will sew the threads together to again cover the sun. It is all as it is and all as it should become.”

The boy nodded. He swallowed down the tears that threatened, and tried to still the tremulous vibration of the world inside his mind.

“Now, as the sky does what it can,” the man handed his son a water-skin. “Let us do what we must. If you will fetch water, I will light the fire in tonight’s hearth.”

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

Not Here!

KeithKreates253

Photo: Keith Channing

 

They had everything.

The Papa Chair. The Mama blanket. The two Cub chairs. The inner tubes: one small, one large. Even tin cans emptied to serve as sand pails in the refilled beach’s rectangle.

What a perfect day!

The lake awaited, wet and cool. The silty mud. The pebbles, the weeds to wade across or pull.

They swam. They flipped. They raced. They flopped.

The hours passed. The contents of the picnic basket made their tummies nice and full.

They rested till the water once more called.

Then one cub disappeared.

“Nicko!” they yelled, frantic with the possibility of the awfulness that might unfold.

“One moment!” the junior responded from the direction of the small structure. “I’m not done.”

Relief was quickly replaced by wonder only to be followed by surprise and whiff of horror.

“Nicko??!!?” the Mama dashed across the small beach to stop what was already well set into motion. “That’s not an outhouse! It’s my changing room! Go in the bushes! Not here!”

 

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #253

 

 

 

Upstaged

 

The lights seemed brighter than usual that night. The music louder than remembered. The movements blurred. The words slurred. The heels on the wood rung jackhammers in his head.

He clenched his teeth and dug his nails into the worn velvet of his seat to keep from squirming.

She’d worked so hard for this.

The years of training. The months of practice. The weeks of rehearsals. The days of excited anxiety as the premiere neared. The long awaited curtain calls.

He was not going to let his daughter’s performance be upstaged by a migraine. Or a stroke. Or an aneurysm.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Wait For The Light

Photo prompt: Dale Rogerson

 

“Can we go to the playground, Mama?”

The woman stroked the small forehead to compose herself and smiled into the over-bright eyes. “It is the middle of the night, Cara.”

“Can I see?”

The woman tucked the blankets under the child and lifted her. The bundle in her arms felt devastatingly like the infant Cara had been a handful of winters ago, and heartbreakingly almost as light again. She turned so her daughter faced the window.

“It’s dark,” the girl sighed. “I’m tired, Mama. Maybe I wait for the light?”

“Yes, Cara,” the mother whispered. “We wait for the light.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Valentine’s Vice

tara-meinczinger-MMHbgY8qFFo-unsplash

Photo: Tara Meinczinger on Unsplash

 

“Where’s Valentine?”

I peered into the other room. “Lollygagging.”

“Again?! I thought I told him to give up that nonsense. He’s way too old for this kind of foolishness. I’ll douse him with cold water!”

“He’s not osculating, Mama.”

“Stop being a Peeping Tom …” Pause. Sigh. Flick of the hand. “What’s he doing, then?”

“Just dawdling.”

“With whom?”

“His phone …”

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Lollygag in 60 words

 

 

Common Good

fire AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

“What are you grateful for, Mama?” the girl asked, head bent over her slate.

“I’m grateful for fire,” the mother said.

“For fire?” the child paused, somewhat dismayed. Perhaps she thought she’d rise up to the top of gratitude instead. Perhaps because her foot, where an amber had landed and left a painful blister, was not particularly appreciative of flames. Perhaps because fire-related chores of breaking kindling and cleaning out the ashes needed doing before she could go out to play.

“Yes,” the woman smiled, one hand stirring the oats even as a foot rocked the cradle which held the girl’s new brother. “Because without fire there will be no breakfast, no tea, no warm bath. Without it there would be no hearth, no place to get out from the damp, nowhere to warm your hands. Without it there would be no pots, no pans, no knife, no shovel, no kettle, no cake, no bread.”

Speaking of the last, the woman rose to rake the coals and make room for the dutch oven before shoveling a heaping mound of glowing red atop the lid, so the sourdough loaf could bake. She could feel the girl’s eyes on her, reassessing what she’d been privileged to always take for granted. What the mother knew could not.

“It is the common that we often forget to be grateful for,” the mother added, her lilting voice directed at the infant, who’d began to fuss, as her words matched the pace of her resumed cradle rocking: “Air to breathe, water to drink, flour for bread, cloth and fleece, a garden and field, to grow our food in.

“And,” she tugged fondly on a ringlet by her daughter’s chin, “having the common things all tended to, gives us the comfort in which to appreciate the more obvious gifts we cherish … like you, and little David, and your Pa.”

“And Gwendoline,” the girl reminded, eyes flicking to the swaddled corn-doll that she liked to tend.

“And Gwendoline,” the mother grinned. She peeked at the letters on the child’s slate. “And children who do their chores, as you will need to as soon as your S and W here receive a bit of mend.”

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Common

 

 

I’ll Be The Quiver

annie-spratt-t3IYuQZRDNE-unsplash

Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

I’ll be the quiver

For the arrows

You don’t yet know

How to hold.

I’ll guard the darts

The barbs

The jagged

Points,

Safe within the

Burnished leather

Of my years,

Till you grow enough

To be the quiver

For your own

Sharpened spears.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: quiver

 

Grounded

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“Where did you find it?”

The boy’s face reflected his struggle: to tell the truth would be to admit he’d been doing what he oughtn’t, but to withhold the truth could mean that what needs to happen, won’t.

The woman waited. Integrity was best cultivated by one’s own appreciation of the internal equilibrium that is restored by accepting the inherent benefit of right versus wrong, and not by shaming or attempting to compel it via fear of punishment.

She knew, of course, that he’d been out of bed, and on a night when he’d already been grounded for breaking his sister’s carpentry project. All the more reason, she thought, to let him find a place to dig himself out of a hole of misdemeanors.

Some children tended to break rules all the time. Her son did not. Or at least not without what one could usually understand as good reason. That the nine-year-old had refused to say why he’d demolished Liz’s contraption, and that he did not argue when he’d been sent to his room, told her there was already more to the story than what he was willing to tell her.

The moment lingered. She let it stretch.

“Outside,” he said. He lifted his eyes to her, having crossed the Rubicon.

Displeased as she was that he broke curfew, she was proud of him for finding the courage to admit it.

“I see,” she nodded and raised an eyebrow in direction of his cupped hands.

“I had to save it.” Timidity was gone now that truth was set in motion. “Liz said she was going to put it in her new cage and keep it. But it is not a pet, and it is hurt and it cannot fly and something was going to come and eat it.”

The boy’s eyes were bright with tears of righteous defiance. “I don’t care if you ground me till I’m, like, a hundred. He needed help!”

The bird wriggled clumsily in the boy’s palms and the child’s young face crumbled in uncertainty. “But … um … before you send me to my room for forever, can you please please drive me to the vet?”

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto prompt

 

 

Day Trip

Photo prompt: Sandra Cook

 

The day dawned gray and there was threat of rain, but she wasn’t going to be deterred by a bit of dirty weather.

She dressed him in his powder blue slicker and packed a bag with this and that. She weighed the idea of leaving the cumbersome stroller, but at three, though the boy liked walking, he lacked endurance for it.

“We going to see Papa?” he asked as the train rolled into the station.

She hesitated. She was loath to lie to him.

“Not the one you know,” she answered finally. “Though he may become it. We shall see.”

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Glacial Undertones

Glacier AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

He will carve mountains

For them.

Slow but steady

In his pressure.

Relentless

In the calculated cold of his

Convictions,

That curl like tight fists

Under an unquestioning love.

He has carved himself

In the process,

Into valleys of sacrifice.

Carved them, too,

Into mirror images

To reflect the truths he holds.

He will carve mountains

For them,

Heavy-handed and doggedly

Protective.

Glacial with volcanic undertones.

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Glacial in 66 words