Family History

When he knew he was dying, family history became important to my father. Or maybe I just started listening, trapping his stories on tape so that I could later revisit them. Dad reminded me that the black lantern in my office was my great-grandfather’s, who used it to light the way to the barn. Dad told about his father deciding whether it was a payroll week or a grocery week. He gave me the recipe for milk toast. I often think of my father’s stories. And I think of the stories I lost like butterflies flitting away when Dad died.

 

This was written in response to the Hundred Word Challenge at Thin Spiral Notebook.

In the Telling Time

We queue beneath the sheltered path, trying to avoid the rain. A child in front of me holds her ration basket with both hands. The line moves forward. A person is dismissed. The girl is summoned. She hands me her basket.

“Tell me child, what colors the rain?”

In a voice clear as love she says, “yesterday’s bomb.”

The child, shot once, falls to the ground as I approach.

“Why is the rain grey today?”

“Volcanic activity.”

The leader nods, dismissing me. As I return to the barracks, the rain blisters my face. Only then do I mourn my daughter.

 

This was written for The 100 Word Challenge. The word was telling.

Wild Mushrooms

“Money isn’t gonna’ buy you a thing. It’s for the uneducatated, those who don’t understand the new ways of the world. They rush around like chickens, gathering up piles of cash. Before they get it stuffed beneath their mattresses, half the value disappears.”

Grandmother handed me a mushroom, harvested from the woods. “Eat, child. It’s nourishment.”

Was that the truth, or did Grandmother need one less mouth to feed?

Home for spring break before this madness started, I had no idea. My education had not prepared me for this. I took the mushroom. I was hungry. And so I ate.

 

This was written for the prompt at The Thin Spiral Notebook. 100 words about money.

On Bike Racks and Their Installation

 

I wish I could live more confidently
boldly
knowing all is well and will be well.

Instead I inhabit my small square of life
tentatively
always looking in the rearview mirror,

afraid that the bikes will fall off and clatter on macadam,
bouncing
once, the way I saw it happen on the way to Maine.

Is this lack of confidence or is it responsibility?

In this age of selfies, I no longer understand the difference.

 

View from an Elliptical

My eyes are drawn through the gym’s windows by sudden movement in the sky. An arrowhead of geese – a trio of them – pierces the drizzle, cutting the sky on the bias: southwest. The geese land at the edge of an impromptu lake – a gathering of rainfall, runoff from the abundance of water. These temperatures…all this water…This cannot be right for January.

The geese laugh at their good fortune to have so little distance to travel this year.

I continue on the elliptical, logging more miles, working hard at nothing, standing in place and heading nowhere at all.

 

This was written for this week’s 100 word challenge at Thin Spiral Notebook.

Cold

“It’s the cold what converts water to ice.” Billie points to the branch where drops of frozen water cling. “The cold claims the water from itself. Turns it hard and swollen.”

“Like Momma’s heart?”

Billie frowns at her granddaughter. “Bitty child oughtn’t worry about the weight of your momma’s heart.” She breaks off a nub of ice. “Press it in your palm. The warmth will melt it.”

Were it so easy to melt the heart of her daughter, the mother of this child standing before her. Is she destined herself to pass time frozen in time? “Press it tight, child.”

This was written for this week’s #100wordchallenge at The Thin Spiral Notebook.

 

Key

I wish I knew the story behind the oversized silver key, found in a box of treasures my father pointed me to as he lay dying. Three numbers – 3, 3, 4 – are unequally spaced upon the key’s face. There’s a hole at the top, to accommodated a key ring.

Why did my father keep the key? What meaning did it hold? What memories are locked inside? I’ll never know: Without memory, without context, the key is merely a key, not a storyteller.

And yet, I hold onto it, a reminder of all the stories I neglected to hear.

 

This post was written in response to the Hundred Word Challenge.

Microburst

Parked outside my front door are two city trucks, hazard lights flashing. Three or four yellow-vested men stare into the naked branches of a sweet gum tree and the limb that dangles dangerously overhead. A neighbor kibitzes with the workers as they ponder how to extract the limb before it falls on someone’s head. A woman stops to talk while her dog sniffs beneath the trees. I drink my coffee and watch this impromptu scene gathering before me.

The limb is a remnant of the storm that ripped across town last September, a microburst, the meteorologists called it, which, according to the fireman I’d asked, is basically a tornado turned on its side, flying, tumbleweed-style, just above the treetops. Three months on, we still talk about that storm, contractors enumerating how many roofs they’ve repaired, homeowners counting their blessings about the tree that sliced neatly across two yards and tore down a fence but didn’t hit anyone’s house. There are stacks of split logs in endless backyards. Here and there are crooked stumps. And in the woods, trees are stretched across the ground as if merely resting.

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Final Bow

Candleflame flickers. It bends to the right,
taking a bow before righting itself,
as if someone has just passed

before it. But she sits here alone,
the candle lit in memory of her father,
gone now these nine long months:
the time it takes to grow a child.

She sits and writes and streams NPR
to catch up on the news,
waiting for her family to return to her–
from work, from school, from a pickup game of street soccer–

Dinner is ready: burgers and potatoes. Roasted Brussels sprouts and,
for dessert, the three cupcakes the neighbor brought
for her birthday.

After dinner, they quarter the cupcakes,
decide which one they like best,
the chocolate, the spice, the angelfood cake,
except for her son who eats without tasting
before hurrying back outside to his game.

The dishes are cleared, the table wiped.
She puts on the kettle and blows out the candle,
the memory of her father leafstains on the sidewalk.