Remotely Social

Heidi House AtaraKatz

Photo: Atara Katz

 

She’d have preferred to not have even as much contact with others as the job required, but the alternatives were worse, and she couldn’t argue with the benefits:

A roof over her head.

Supplies.

A stipend for the necessaries.

The most-days-solitude.

Granted, there were days when she could feel the walls press close around her and the vistas felt airless. She’d scan the horizon, then, wondering when someone would stop by that she could talk to. Vulnerable in her need, her fingers would reach for the radio, yearning to hear a voice that was not her own, and she’d make some excuse about checking the weather or changing the date of the next airdrop.

And yet she could not wait to end the conversation – if that was what one could call the brief exchange with the dispatch to arrange a fly-by or a stop-drop of supplies – so the last of the vowels could evaporate into the quiet.

Human contact suffocated her.

Its lack bore holes into her soul.

It was untenable, and all she could do is try and find some semblance of balance between loneliness and overwhelm.

There were no roads to the respite cabin, only footpaths, or for those who braved the crosswind, a rocky field in which to try and land a chopper. The nearest town was a hard three-days trek through the mountains.

Once in a while she’d see a shepherd who’d misread a storm and sought shelter. Sometimes another ranger would stop in during an upkeep task, to resupply or send an update to headquarters. Those were hardy, silent persons like herself, who welcomed a warm bowl of soup, a place to dry their clothes, and a break from the wind, but needed little in the way of clucking.

The trekkers, for whom the respite cabin was intended, thankfully limited themselves to the brief season when the weather was most forgiving. Her outpost was stationed on what was a remote route even for the most intrepid hikers, and yet some evenings in midsummer the small cabin would be bursting at the seams with chatter and the smell of unwashed feet, damp shoes, and giddy overconfidence. The bunks slept eight. To have even three occupied felt to her like eighty.

The trekkers would all leave in early morning, bellies full of oats and faces flushed with sleep, and she would not know if their eagerness was for the day’s exertions or to get to where they could safely gossip about the agonies of trying to wrest a word out of the reticent resident ranger.

She’d grow skinless by the time fall brought with it a piercing cold and the relief of rarer human sightings.

It would be weeks into winter before her fingers reached for the radio, pining to hear another person’s word.

So she was not prepared for the knock that came, an hour into night in early winter.

There was no storm. No ranger’s late arrival. No shepherd.

Just a youth. Half-frozen and her belly swollen, and in her eyes a look that pleaded urgent need even as it warned to keep a distance.

It could have been herself.

Fifteen years back.

 

 

 

For the SoCS prompt: Social

 

 

Emperor’s New Clothes

the-emperors-new-clothes-3-coloring-page

Nata Silina at Supercoloring.com

 

“I expect loyalty,” he stated.

A silence followed.

Shock or perhaps because

There was

No honorable way to respond.

 

“I need loyalty,” he repeated

With the implication clear:

You bend the knee

Or you are gone,

Swear fealty to the man

Or you’re a traitor

And an enemy to be scorned.

“You will always get honesty from me,”

Came the measured return.

“That’s what I want,” twisted the retort,

“An honest loyalty.”

 

As if there was such thing

As honest loyalty

To one who deemed acceptable

Only what offers

Praise and supplication,

And allows no room

For truth,

Let alone for the calling out of

The Emperor’s bare bottom

Of the barrel

Governing

Or his disregard for honor

As he dons repeated sets of

Non-existent,

Yet much lauded by him,

‘New Clothes.’

 

 

Note: As it happens, the book I’m reading and which was right by my elbow as I read the prompt … is “The Mueller Report” (w/ commentary by the Washington Post; page 296 of the book, page 35 of volume II in the report).  … And the rest, well, is history. And what will be …? We shall yet see.

For Linda Gill’s SoCS: open book, point, write

 

Let The Silence

people-2590606_1920

Photo by Pixabay

 

Let the silence

Become

The song.

Let the stillness

Move

The throng.

Let the quiet

Speak

For wrong.

Let the tacit

Hold

Its own.

Let the silence

Become

The song.

 

 

 

For Linda G Hill’s SoCS prompt

 

Rosie Rhymes

Ring-a-ring-a-roses KateGreenway MotherGooseNurseryRhymes 1881

Kate Greenway, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes 1881

 

“Ring-a-ring-a-roses; A pocket full of posies; Hush-hush, Hush-hush; We’re all tumbled down!”

“She can play like this for hours,” Mary sighed.

Alice gazed at the child, who with arms spread wide to the sides, continued to spin about the garden’s green, dipping a curtsy at the final line before going back again to the first. Her pitch was perfect and her voice was sweet, but the bouncy ringlets and pinafore over a knee-high calico dress only highlighted the oddity.

It was adorable when Rosie was six years old. The girl was nearly thirteen.

“How’s Rosie’s schooling coming along?” Alice tried.

Mary’s smile faltered for a second before a placid screen unfurled over her face. “Just fine,” she breathed. “It’s coming along just fine, dear. Did you try the rose-petal marmalade? Mrs. Hannah outdid herself this year.”

It is like watching a wind-up toy, Alice thought. She never could get her sister to speak candidly about the child. None of them could. They all knew much was wrong, yet it was nigh impossible to discuss it. There’d been some concerns before the accident, of course, though Rosie had been very young then and much was explained away as the idiosyncrasies of an only child with an active imagination.

Then the accident happened and it was as if Mary had stopped the clock. On her own life as well as Rosie’s. The child seemed content enough, delayed and mostly mute outside of singing as she was. But how much did any of them know about the child’s true reality and potential, and how much was her mother’s doing, impeding her growth?

“Ring-a-ring-a-roses …”

Rosie’s singing rang in Alice’s ears and suddenly she could not stand it any longer.

“Mary,” she pressed, “I know this expert …”

Her sister raised a delicate hand. “We have all we need, Alice.”

Alice shook her head. “No, you don’t. I love you, and I know you love Rosie dearly, but she’ll be a woman soon … and she can’t stay six forever. Let me get the both of you some help. It’s not about trying to force her to do what she cannot, if she cannot … I mean, I know she’s a little …” her sister’s eyes stopped her. Brittle. Angry. Warning.

“… I … I can see she seems happy,” Alice inhaled and paused, hoping for a relenting crack in her sister’s eyes.

There was none.

“Indeed she is happy,” Mary clipped. “And we shall keep it this way, shall we?” She turned her head a tad, so that her eyes rested partially on the closed wing of the manor where the stone would forever be a bit dark, and partially on the child she’d frozen in time. The sweet girl who did not need to know more than what she’d known the day before she had tipped a candle onto paper and accidentally, fatally, set fire to her father’s study. “Now, about that marmalade!”

 

 

 

For the SoCS prompt: Rhymes with rosy

 

Evidently

neonbrand-395901-unsplash wrongway

Photo: neonbrand on upsplash

 

Evidently,

There are those who think the will of men should rule over the will of women.

Evidently,

There are those who’d see a rapist as less deserving of punishment than the one who stopped the ongoing impact of that rape.

Evidently,

There are many who claim that their own interpretation of God should be forced onto all others, regardless.

Evidently,

There are those who do not see how that endangers the very premise of religious freedom, and with it, their own access to choice.

Evidently,

There are those who hark for days when girls and women were a property that men could do whatever they desired with, regardless of whether girls and women had agreed.

Evidently,

There are those who push their personal beliefs as science, while ignoring and denying facts that do not fit the narrative they’d allow as acceptable to perceive.

Evidently,

There are those who’d abandon, ignore, punish, and vilify already living children while pretending to cherish those who aren’t yet born.

Evidently,

There are those who value power over choice and silencing over voice.

Evidently,

There are those who’d put people to death even as they claim all life is precious.

Evidently,

There are still many who do not see and many who refuse to even try.

And so … evidently,

There’s much still needed to be done in this time of religious extremism in its push to diminish rights, undo progress, and force radicalization.

Much to do:

To keep theocracy from overtaking true religious and personal freedom;

To liberate distortions of what some claim is pro-life but is in fact just anti-choice;

To help the lost see that support of life respects and encompasses the living and does not, selectively, ‘defend’ only the unborn;

To dispel outdated views of women as unable or unworthy of autonomy over their own bodies, health, and futures;

To protect the lives of women and girls from the intrusion, disrespect, disregard, and dismissal of value, that criminalizing of choice does.

Because …

Evidently,

There is much still needong to be done.

To ensure choice is protected

So lives, too, can.

 

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS prompt: Adverb

 

It Ain’t TMI, Little Guy

outhouse-door-1544645_1920

Photo: Pixabay

 

“My face gets all red,” he noted.

“Oh?” I didn’t know where he was going with this little tidbit of self-disclosure, but oftentimes neutral responses worked the best for those.

“Yeah,” he nodded. His hands continued to manipulate a small figurine: twisting, bending, spinning the head around.

I offered a box with a some accessories: a chair, a bike, a car, a bath, a bed, a backpack.

He raised his eyes without really looking at me, and returned his attention to the object in his hands. He wasn’t exactly aggressive as he was persistent. I found myself wondering when he’ll realize the head could come off.

“My face gets all red,” he repeated. “I watched.”

“Hmm?” I responded.

“Yeah.” He looked up, this time meeting my eyes in part-challenge, part-fascination. “In the mirror. Did you know I have ropes in my neck?”

He touched the sides of his neck, then grimaced and twisted his face and torso into a representation of intense muscle tension. Strain or fury or struggle or all.

“See?” he grunted.

The veins in his neck bulged and a small tributary pulsed at his temple, sprouting a delicate delta underneath the almost transparent skin.

“Yes, I do see.”

“It’s what happens every time,” he sighed as he relaxed his face and shoulders. Fierceness gone. Vulnerable.

“It’s what happens, when?” I had some inkling as to what he was describing but I wasn’t fully sure … and not assuming was often the right thing to do, anyhow. Especially with children who’d had so little opportunity to question or discuss or explain or inquire or straighten worries out. This little guy had had almost none, and for a boy who talked with almost no one, it was progress that he could speak about himself at all.

His eyes sought mine and the rising pink in his cheeks competed with the retreating redness from his earlier maneuver. He bent the figurine to sitting position, to a stand, to sitting again.

“When I go,” he muttered. “You know, when I … um … have to, uh, push the poo out.”

“Oh,” I noted blandly. “In the bathroom?”

The boy nodded. The blush spread down to below his chin.

“I think most people strain when they poo. It can make their faces red.”

His eyes widened at that, or perhaps also at my matter-of-fact discussion of matters too many in society render embarrassing even though these are naught but normal body-functions.

“Did you look, too?” he tried.

“At my face? You mean, when I use the bathroom?”

He bit his lower lip and nodded, balancing a tightrope of shame and disclosure and curiosity and possibly worry. Perhaps all. Perhaps more.

“I can’t say I have, but it is just what happens when people move their bowels. It is normal to strain or push a little.”

He thought about it. Continued to play with the figurine in his hands.

I wrestled with whether to say anymore. I wanted to reassure him but also wanted to know if it was hurting him to go to the bathroom, so I would know whether there was a problem that needs to be checked. I wanted to know if anything changed recently … if something happened … Heavens knows plenty had in the past, even if I did not know exactly what. Was this him just being more aware of his own body, or was it an attempt to speak of other things … of other kinds of red-faced strain he might’ve seen? Was it both?

I breathed.

He didn’t look distressed. Then again, Toy-figurine Man had lost his head a few times.

Another moment passed.

“Yeah, Dara does it, too.” He stated, asked.

The new infant at his foster home.

I nodded encouragement.

“Sometimes her face gets really red and funny and then Mama Molly changes her.” He looked at me, shame and blush seeming to recede. “You can smell it,” he giggled, testing.

“I bet,” I smiled.

“It stinks,” he took himself into full-out-laugh zone now. “Mama Molly says Dara’s poo stinks to infinity and beyond.”

I grinned. Mama Molly was a keeper. “Poo sure can.”

“Mine does!” he chortled.

Toy-figurine Man got his head back. Kept it on. Got put onto his bike and taken around the table and into the box.

“So,” the boy raised his chin in the direction of his folder and the games on the chair next to me. “Can we start?”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Strain

 

Falling Skies

Falling sky NaamaYehuda

Photo: Na’ama Yehuda

 

The skies aren’t falling

About our ears

In a squall

Of rain,

Nor in white flakes

That slough off

Of clouds

Again.

 

These skies are falling,

Bit by bit,

In tears

Orphaned

By pain,

And lost in hollows

Fed by

Hate

That’s allowed to

Remain.

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS prompt: Fall from the sky

 

 

Expert Explanation

folded newspapers

Photo: Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I’ve been expecting

The expert explication

And the

Expedient expelling

Of expired exploration

That often follows,

Quite expressively,

In the wake of expletives

And exposed exposition

By those wishing to expunge

Their exploits

From any experience

Of expiation.

 

For Linda’s SoCS prompt: xp

 

 

Lip Service

assorted hanged clothes near white light bulb

Photo: Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

 

“Oh, but you will love this!” the seller gushed, her purple tipped pixie cut bobbing in time with the movement of her thumbs on the screen.

“Do you really think so?” the matronly woman twirled tentatively in front of the mirror, unaware that the saleswoman hadn’t even raised her head.

“Absolutely!”

“I’m worried the color is too bright,” the woman fretted and patted down frizzy wisps of hair long past the time for touching up. She smoothed the folds of the dress over her midriff. “Also, I don’t know about the pattern. Don’t you think it is too young for me?”

The saleswoman paused in her staccato typing long enough to glance at her customer. She stilled a yawn. Less than an hour before she could close, return the piles of discarded tried-on clothing to their hangers, and be free from the need to constantly reassure strangers that they looked better than they did or could.

“This color is all the rage,” the seller noted in the half-petulant, half-coercive tone she’d found tended to move her less assertive customers into feeling that to not buy the item would somehow mean they were backwards, dated, or wasting her time.

A long moment passed. More preening from the customer.

“It does not really work with my coloring,” the woman frowned. “Or is this just the lighting here?”

Not much would work with your coloring, the seller swallowed a retort. “It is all about the right combinations,” she said instead. She plastered on a smile, put her phone down, opened a jewelry box, and pulled out a small black tube.

“Here, let me,” she added, twisting an orange mass out of the bottom part of the tube and reaching for the woman’s chin. “All you need is the right lipstick.”

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS challenge: Lip

 

 

Soul Searching

NewZealand InbarAsif

Photo: Inbar Asif

 

Would you sell your soul

To sorrow?

Would you reap

Hate’s awful gain?

Would you let go of

Tomorrow

So false power

Rise again?

 

Will your heart see

All humanity?

What will you allow,

Sustain?

Will your soles

Feed earth

Or hollow

Out it’s wealth

To drain?

 

Will you leave

Your soul abandoned?

Will you let your spirit

Die?

Or will you hold on

To the morrow

In a world

For you

And I?

 

 

For the SoCS prompt: Soul/sole