The Thread of Ancient Memories

“What’s that sound?” Cari’s eyes widened.

William took a kind of pleasure in knowing something his granddaughter did not, this child of the city, this child of gleaming buildings and pavement and subway trains. “Woodland chorus frogs.” He paused, listening. “Grey tree frogs. Spring peepers.” He watched her looking around and felt himself filled with love for a child he barely knew. “Look there.” He pointed to a rotting log where a line of turtles sunned themselves before slipping into the water at their approach.

Cari’s yellow boots were smeared with mud. The hem of the dress she’d insisted upon wearing was black. She’d lost the ribbon he’d tied into her hair after breakfast. “You look just like your momma, when she was a kid.” Continue reading

In Her Wake

They fed each other cured walnuts she’d gathered from the woods last fall, breaking the hard exterior beneath the blows of a hammer stolen from her father’s toolbox and prying out their broken hearts with a pick.

Hand in hand, they walked the pristine lawn, dull blades of grass succumbing to their bare and tender feet. “Look.” He pointed.

She stopped and paused where the mower blades had scraped away the rough roots of the oak tree, two hundred years old, according to local lore, and struck by lightening twice. There was a gap in the trunk, where she used to secret her treasures: Notes from old boyfriends. A journal she needed to hide from her brother. Cash for the time she considered running away. Now, she stuck her hand in the gap and withdrew a plastic bag.

“What’s that?”

She turned and stuffed the bag in her pocket. “Nothing.” She stared at the roots of the tree, imagining the blades of the mower endlessly chasing after themselves, head over heels until they stumbled upon a knot of wood and choked and had to back up and take a new path.

“I love you,” he said.

She reached a hand in her pocket. Felt for the familiar bag, pressed her thumb against the shape, tracing the thin hollow circle again and again.

She had stumbled. “I love someone else.”

She turned and walked again towards home, leaving neatly trimmed blades of grass and a weeping root in her wake.

 

~

This was written for this week’s Studio30+ prompt.

 

 

Truths Untrue

Again, the children called for me to join them. “Come, Eva,” they urged, patting their dirty hands against my skin, pale and unfreckled.

“I cannot.” I shook my head to emphasize the point I had made every day, as if that would finally convince them of the truth of my words. But children, being children, are full of the possibilities inherent in impossibility.

Innocence is beauty. Continue reading

Leaving only Vapor

“I had just come to accept that my life would be extraordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.”

He sat up and stared. No, he has no name. Don’t bother asking, I already did. He prefers anonymity. Anyway, he sat up, shoved the cat from his lap. “Extraordinary, how?” He took a sip of the tea he’d requested, tea I’d had to order from China. Pu-erh something or other, aged in the skin of an orange. He drank four cups each time he came, sitting elegantly upon the sofa he’d convinced me to put on my credit card, paying it off fifty bucks at a time so that he could rest his brittle bones upon a soft leather seat.

“Oh…” I reached into the plastic sleeve and grabbed another Thin Mint. Yes, he preferred the tin from Harrods, but he’d polished them off last month and I hadn’t yet gotten around to placing a new order, despite his persistent reminders. “Well, perhaps extraordinary is too strong of a word.”

“I see.” Another sip of the tea. A resigned sigh as he reached for a cookie.

“My socks, for instance.” Continue reading

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

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