A Square of Cotton Against a Wound

At a loss at what to do with Phillip Jackson Levitt, the family had secreted cameras in every room, save the kitchen: Phillip, being a genteel man, had every meal brought to him upon a silver platter with a single red rose in a crystal vase.

They flew in Doctor Marcel Archambault from Connecticut. Discretion could be bought.

They settled him into a blue wingback chair, pressed a glass of California wine into his hand. Laura held up the remote and stabbed at it with her thumb.

A bedroom. The man Phillip in his bed, asleep. A crystal vase on the nightstand. A single red rose. Continue reading

No Words

I study the photograph, pressing my fingers gently upon the flat shiny surface, willing it to tell me its story. Was this the aunt who used to part the heads of chickens from their bodies with a blow from a sharp and shiny axe? The aunt who delighted in telling my mother tales of the headless chicken zipping round the farmyard until she could catch it and suspend it, feet first, from the clothesline, while sightless eyes looked on in astonishment and beak jaws flapped in protest?

I flip the picture over.

No words are written there. Continue reading

What Feels Wrong

We find the old man facedown on the beach. Thin legs, wrinkled and pale, stretch like twigs from the ends of his tattered pants. His shirt bunches around his shoulders.

“He wears the mark.” My companion points. My companion. My match.

Not my wife. Not my lover. Not even my best friend. Lucy was assigned to me by the king.

In third grade, just before we graduated, we sat at our wooden desks and took our final test. The teacher told us to respond to the questions honestly, that that no answer was wrong. We knew better. That morning, our parents had peppered us with answers. Correct answers. “You love routine,” my mother said, as she scrubbed behind my ears.

“Brussels sprouts,” my father whispered, glancing at the cameras before secreting a pinch of forbidden sugar into my gruel.

“Shakespeare.” My mother.

“No, the Bible,” my father corrected.

“Duty.”

“Respect.”

“Kingdom.” Continue reading

Invisible Line

Your wounded eyes inform me that by speaking truths untold, I have crossed that invisible line that separates me from you. I step back to reunite us; betray myself to renew your smile: “That wasn’t what I meant.”

~

This was written for this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge in which we were to write a 38-word story ending with the line, “That wasn’t what I meant.”

 

About the Stage

The trains stopped running that day. Ice on the pantographs, those arms that reach to touch overhead wires and conduct 700 volts into the cars.

Not today.

Temple University to Suburban Station. A twelve-minute ride.

Not today.

He’d asked her to meet him at Love Park at noon. She’d agreed, with the caveat that he not be late.

She liked to be in control.

When she was three, her father built a raised wooden platform in the family garage. He lined the walls with mirrors and lights, displacing the Taurus and the rusting Skyhawk they’d inherited from her grandmother. He disgorged the messiness of their livesshovels and rakes and gallons of dried paint beneath a blue tarponto the lawn which browned and muddied. Continue reading

Beginnings

It begins with sound. One tiny sound, rather the idea of a sound, dripped into her brain with an innocent plop that splashes and jostles and causes all other notions to be washed from the center, bouncing back and forth against each other, a jumbling blur of ideas, none of them good, now that they’ve been blended in this strange, unfortunate way.

All that remains is the painfully sharp clarity of the one round drop of Thought that shreds her concentration.

Can you see it? Can you see it sliding through her brain, hitching a ride into her spine, across her right shoulder and into her arm? She can feel the weight of it, the responsibility of it, that one tiny Thought, traveling into her hand, reaching out.

This Thought. This Thought has completely overtaken her.

But Thought will claim its innocence: Something else is at fault. In this world of passing the buck, of it’s not my fault-ing, perhaps Thought has a point: Perhaps it begins further back.

Scent, then. A thin memory carried on blameless, invisible air through the house, on and up the creaky wooden stairs. Scent whispers to her.

She must respond.

She stands and heads down the stairs where her son stands dropping cookies from the tip of a silver spoon. He puts them in the oven where they will spread and grow into round drops of ideas and pretty glistening memories of which she will eat too many before heading upstairs to try and sort out her Thoughts.

~

This was written for a prompt at The Blogging Lounge, hosted by Ariana Browning. The prompt was begins with.

And, yes, I did make cookies (chocolate chip) the other day and, yes, they are calling to me. Doing my best to ignore them. Hang on…

A Fiery Kind of Red

The weather has broken and the whole world seems to know about it. Kids disgorged from dirty school busses leap over puddles, whooping with joy. Billy Miller wears his hood over his head, but leaves the rest of the coat hanging behind him like a shadow. Kayla Driesden sports pink running shorts, her winter-bleached legs blending in with the snow piled on the sidewalk, so if you squint your eyes just so you can almost convince yourself that Kayla strides on invisible legs.

And here comes Stuart Mason now, just in time. He walks down the street, afternoon cup of decaf clutched in his hand. He sits on the peeling park bench, watching the kids, enjoying their sudden sunny moods. The air is full of a near-hilarity, brought on by the thirty-degree change in temperature. Now, the kids aren’t looking for snow days.

They want baseball.

Continue reading

Come Back Kid

I never could cotton to to my third granddaughter. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, or thinking at the minimal. Downright cruel of me, not to love a child whose veins course with my blood. Even ruder to admit to it. Stab your accusational fingers at me all you want but hear my tale first.

They called her Dakota, of all names, even though the family hailed from Pittsburgh. The momma, my son’s latest wife Bev, had people from Rapid City. Bev was into that generational stuff, going back in time, looking at old documents, unfolding private letters long-forgot, fouling the air with their dusty secrets. Spooked me fair out of my pelt, that child did, what with them cold staring eyes and the whitest skin a person ever could have. Dakota’s skin weren’t porcelain. No. It was translucent, so translucent, I could see the veins spidering across her arms and her eyelids.

Continue reading