Keeper of the Chandeliers

 

As chores went, this was her favorite.

Granted, she made sure to keep her face flat and convey just enough tremulousness to allow it to be seen as challenging. Her superiors liked giving her challenges that needed overcoming. Especially when those could be served along with mundane duties.

She wasn’t supposed to have any, so she hid her preference. Yet inside her she rejoiced every time she was assigned the task. She was expected to approach every detail with utmost diligence, no matter the dexterity required. And at any height. Even on a rickety ladder.

Others trembled doing this, too, but hers was with pleasure, not fear. It felt like flying. She took her time, and the results were pleasing enough to be noticed. Or perhaps it was the added bonus of not having candle-wax drip onto one’s head mid-prayer.

Because before long she was made Keeper of the Chandeliers.

 

 

For Crispina’s Crimson Creative Challenge

 

 

 

The Key

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Photo: Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

 

It was the key that would change everything.

He only found it because Cooper, ever disobedient, had slipped the leash and ran off the trail and into the thick of the woods. Again.

Deena thought his walks in the forest were cruel.

“It is his breed’s nature to hunt scents,” she’d inevitably complain about the leash, ruining what calm there was to be had in an afternoon walk. “How can you chain him to you when he’s meant to run where his nose leads?”

In Leigh’s view, walking the canine on paved sidewalks where there was no loam or crushed insects or chipmunk poo for Cooper to breathe, was actually far crueler. And so, like they often did when it came to disagreements, they ended up taking the easier way out by splitting the walks between them.

Deena would walk Cooper in the mornings in the neighborhood, where the most the dog could sniff was garbage cans and the occasional fellow leashed-pooch’s butt. Leigh walked him after work, and almost always in the direction of the woods, where in some ways they were both of them at home and both straining against some kind of leash.

It wasn’t perfect and sometimes it was lonely, but he preferred it that way. Quieter. With none of Deena’s nattering about minutia that he found excruciatingly boring to listen to and only slightly less indecent to ignore.

Not that he’d say that to her. Life was better when some observations were kept to oneself.

Like about keys …

He’d been running after Cooper when he tripped on an exposed root. A stream of words he’d learned while serving on a Navy ship spilled out of his mouth, when a shape manifested on the leaf-strewn forest floor. And it was as if a switch flipped and turned his mouth dumb.

He swallowed but there was nothing. His body shuddered with the memories of how quickly a mouth can turn devoid of moisture. That, too, he’d learned while serving on the ship.

He shook it off to make the involuntary shaking into an act of volition. Still his heart whooshed in his ears as he took a knee to the wet ground and reached for the key.

He didn’t know how long he remained frozen, fingers hovering without actually touching the bit of metal. Long enough for Cooper to return to investigate. Because the next thing  Leigh was aware of was Cooper’s wet nose, sniffing at the object of his master’s interest, licking Leigh’s fingers, breathing on his cheek.

“Move,” Leigh nudged the canine gently out of the way.

And Cooper, for once respectful without bribery, obeyed, and stretched with head on paws, his tongue dangling and his long body smeared with something Leigh noted to himself in passing would need scrubbing off with soap before being allowed back indoors.

“It’s the key, Cooper,” Leigh whispered. He was awed. He was aghast. “But how?”

It’s been eight years, five months, and two days since he’d lost it. On a different continent, in what felt a different world, in the middle of a battle, and not two hours after he’d sworn to his dying best friend that he would guard it with his life and bring it home to the fiance Mark had left behind.

“It was to be my wedding gift to Deena,” Mark had gasped, fighting for every breath. “She doesn’t know about it. I was waiting to tell her. It’s the key to my safe.”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Key

 

Fortified

 

They’d fortified the ceiling.

So they said.

The old structure needed periodical reinforcing.

So they said.

The thickness of the walls supported their claims. The deeply recessed windows. The heavy coats of paint on ancient plaster.

‘Twas all a ruse. Of course.

The false ceiling hid a warren of crawl-spaces and narrow hiding places. A stream of escaped slaves was followed by a flood of those fleeing Nazi persecution and thereafter a steady trickle of modern-day refugees.

The ceiling hid them all. Young and old. Broken and defiant. Desperate and bewildered. Men and women and the all-too-heartbreaking child.

Some stayed a night. Others for longer sheltering. Hilda had stayed the longest. A girl on arrival, she was almost a woman at war’s end. She emerged educated. In silence. In stealth. In compassion.

She became the guardian of those who followed.

Fortified with hope of one day needing it no more.

 

 

 

For the Crimson’s Creative Challenge

Note: Dedicated to all the heroes who — often at tremendous risk to themselves — had managed to shelter the needy, the desperate, the voiceless, and the vulnerable during times of injustice, persecution, violence, horror, and hate. To all who do so still. May we one day need to do so no more.

 

Unspoken

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Photo: Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

 

He couldn’t bring himself to tell her.

Instead he left breadcrumbs. Glowing pebbles on a midnight road.

Receipts. ‘Forgotten’ notes. His boots in the garage, muddy though the yard was not.

Liminal clues in hope she ask him where he goes …

Refugees sheltering in the woods.

Perhaps she already knows.

The mud this morning on her shoes.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Challenge: Liminal in 57 words

 

 

Unspoken

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Photo: Rosalind Chang on Unsplash

 

It was a thing they would not utter. Ineffable. In their home, at least.

So much that it baffled them to see how others in their own homes — and often without a moment’s hesitation — did.

To them it felt impossible. Dangerous … though they wouldn’t dream admitting fear or conflict.

Those, too, were taboo. As was to contradict.

Their parents’ word was law. Speak “No”, and you would certainly be whipped.

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: ineffable in 70 words

 

Memory Lane

Aharonson NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

Down memory lane

Where small feet

Came to learn,

And the stories

Of pain and resistance

Remain,

Where the concepts

Of secret and magic

A house may

Contain,

Filled my mind with

Both worry

And wonder

Again

And again.

 

 

Note: The photo (taken in 2008) is of the fence and alleyway hugging the perimeter of an estate in my childhood town where science, historical espionage, ‘betrayal by pigeon’, capture, torture, hidden tunnels, and suicide were all shared in pretty graphic detail with primary school children during school-tours of the location (complete with yellowed photos, blood stains, personal effects, pistol, tunnel in the bathroom and all). The museum hosted children from all around, but us local kids held the place (which was and still is located right near the town’s center), in a combination of fascination, awe, horror, and perhaps a sprinkle of pride for a perceived association with the courage and tragedy of a local heroine. Though I don’t think they tell this to kids quite the same way these days, the stories and memories remain.

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Back Catalog

 

Heidi’s Hideout

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/Heidihaus_in_Maienfeld.jpg

Photo:  commons.wikimedia.org

 

It was the last place she thought anyone would look for her.

Or the first. Depends.

If they knew the story of her grandmother, after whom she was named, then they’d surely make a beeline to the cottage. But most people did not know. Or forgot. And she herself hadn’t been particularly good at telling the story that as a child had made her feel bland and timid in comparison to her grandmother’s girlhood bravery and independence, and as an adult made her feel as if she was seeking to gain attention by association and not merit.

So when people asked: “Heidi, like the girl in the story?” she would just nod or shrug or at the most say, “perhaps, eh?”

She let her heritage become a secret.

Perhaps that will end up allowing her fresh air, away from everyone’s demands, at her great-great-grandpa’s ancient yet secluded Maienfeld house.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Maienfeld, Switzerland

 

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

 

Radium Springs Roulette

radium springs ga casino pc

 

“Well then,” Mom exclaimed.

She was going over Poppa’s papers while I boxed seemingly endless books.

I looked up. There was an album in her lap, black pages empty but for an old postcard.

“He denied it when I’d said he’d taken me there,” Mom whispered. “I was young and believed him, but my heart knew all the same.”

I shook my head. Poppa was as straight-laced as they came.

“He gambled,” she explained. “A salesman meant frequent traveling. He used it to hide visits to casinos.”

She fingered the card. “Radium Springs Casino. I knew I hadn’t dreamed this place. The deep blue water wove tightly with the wheel.”

I gazed at the memento. At my mom.

“I was not-yet-four,” she sighed. “Thomas was just born and Dad took me to ‘work’ so Mom could rest. He played the roulette. … Perhaps his keeping of the card was another gamble.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Radium Springs, GA

 

The One Thing


PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

 

“It’s the one thing I want.”

His siblings’ squabbling over their late mother’s items woke memories he preferred to not revisit. He wondered if not leaving a will was her way to continue their jockeying for her perceived affections even after she was gone.

Linda fixed her suspicious gaze on him. “Why?”

He shrugged to feign indifference. “I find the carvings interesting, and,” he pointed at his black clothing, “it’s kind of Goth.”

He wasn’t going to tell them about the hidden compartments. Or their contents. Grandpa had shown him. “Black sheep need help, Son. In case of hard times.”

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers