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Monday, May 31, 2010

May drabbles - 31

Oregon summer: sun like warmed honey dripping, sweet bees humming, and students lying in drying grass with straw-blond hair like feathers strewn around.

“Your turn Em!”

“If you say so.” Thunk! Though cross-bows weren’t her scene.

“Doesn’t time fly like an arrow?” said Tray, remembering translations from their English class that day. Then clouds hid the sun, moved away, drifted past while friendships grew like Oregon trees and Emily’s child was born.

Plastic arrows with red sucker tips, orange guns, scholarships and war.

The arrow’s path was tortuous. Tray’s son bled dark on foreign soil and time pierced Emily’s heart.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May drabbles - 30

Older brother, ever practical, wanted to try the self-drive cars. We only had twenty pence between us though, so we rode the carousel. He chose a two-seater truck with gear lever and steering wheel. Younger brother rode the clown and I sat in the fire engine.

When the music started the carousel spun like a gilded cage, its bars protecting us from the outside world. David steered his car, Alan drove his clown, and I rang my bell.

Today the chimes ring out from bells in the steeple. Older brother's crying. And younger brother drove a Humvee across an IED.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

May drabbles - 29

Old letters, wrapped in ribbon, stored in a box, and lost in the furthest reaches of the attic...

“Angela, what are you doing up there?” her mother called from below. But Angela, squatting in cobwebs and dust, was slowly untying the threads and letting them go.

Hidden words; hidden trust. The letters, all marked “return to sender,” included a faded photograph. She heard footsteps on the stair.

“I was going to tell you,” her mother said.

“Tell me what?”

“Tell you who you are.”

The letters were the story of Angela’s life, told by parents who wished they’d been there.

Friday, May 28, 2010

May drabbles - 28

When Mom died; that’s when the trouble started, though perhaps it had always been there. Tom grew older while his Dad grew young, until the friend that was fun and forgetful and silly had all but disappeared: Sad and fretful and angry; bad and wetting the bed; mad and setting his son’s life on end.

“Milk in fridge. Switch off cooker.” Mom’s old tradition of notes left round the house acquired new meaning now that Dad couldn’t read.

Tom stared at the number and agreed, he needed help. But could he ask? Love and trouble; memories; it’s hard letting go.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May drabbles - 27

It’s been so long since she went out. Sunlight filters through threadbare curtains to hover over her bed. If she moves the dust will fly like Tinkerbell.

It’s been so long since she opened the fridge—so long since she heard its hum, so long since she ate. But no-one has visited and nobody cared. Except for Tinkerbell.

Today the sun is brighter and today she feels light. Legions of angels rise with her from the bed. Together they walk the corridor of broken tiles, tread crumbled stairs and drift through cobwebbed windows over the door. And today she’s free.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May drabbles - 26

The wind was howling, curtainless windows blanketed with snow. White lace faded to yellow in candle-light, almost beautiful, almost frost. The old lady at the table sat with knees together, politely tucked away, hands tearing crumbs from the last loaf of bread as she lifted them slowly to her mouth.

Many settlers died that winter.

Young hikers in bright modern parkas and boots ran to the cabin with glee. “Here it is! Just like in the photograph. Grandpa left Grandma behind and he never made it back, never forgave himself.”

Then they buried her bones, eating sandwiches over the grave.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May drabbles - 25

They were shouting, crowding, racing to the dock, and the ship that would be their rescue. But Tom met Dave, who’d been sick, and they stumbled aside. Suddenly the press of bodies grew still; sirens sounding; the gangplank drawn up.

“No!” came the strangled cry of those left behind.

“We’ll be back,” shouted the sailors, but they never returned.

Gunmen poured from the shelter of trees, planes burning land and sea with bullets and flame, and the saving ship went down.

Lesser of two evils after all, being taken captive. But Dave died. Tom named his first-born son for him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

May drabbles - 24

My Granddad was a lad when soldiers fought in Africa. Then friends dropped, caught in trenches; he got gassed. The English streets popped afterwards to shrapnel’s burning swell, and then… and then…

When I was old enough to know, the fighting lived next-door. Sinn Fein fought city dwellers; horses fell. Small children swore they’d battle on, till night and day and war turned all to hell.

The focus moves. They’re dying still; they were and always will. And death cries shrill and haunting on the hills forevermore.

God save us, save our soldiers, save the Queen. Say, can you see?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May drabbles - 23

"Write about a dusty typewriter and a half-finished letter," said the teacher.

Sally's typewriter was in the back of her closet, tucked against the wall. Dust was the detritus of years. And the letter was one she'd started to her brother long ago.

"Dear Sam, Take care. Take care," it said. They’d been the only words her fingers could write.

Now she typed them sadly into her computer, "Take care," hearing bombs and the sound of guns, and her mother's broken wail at the open door.

Sam's half-finished letter rested in his effects, "Dear Sally, Take care;" his typewriter destroyed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May drabbles - 22

“We shall fight them on the beaches.”

“Who?” I asked, but Grandpa was dreaming again, reciting remembered lines from Churchill and war.

“We shall fight…”

“Stop it Tom,” my grandmother said. “You’ll have the kids at it again.” But we weren’t arguing just then. We were glued to Grandpa’s words, hoping today he might tell us something more. I was anyway.

Dave spun a banana like a helicopter blade. “Wrong war,” said Dad.

Then: “What did you do Dad?”

My father’s face grayed helplessly. Dave really should have known. Dad never talked of war, and Grandpa only remembered the speeches.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May drabbles - 21

The grandson flew his plastic plane into the potatoes.

“You’re making mess,” Grandma said. But Grandpa just told him he needed to put his undercarriage down. He talked about the plane in the war that landed without wheels, spilling oil on the ground. Then he told of the prisoner who’d died when they cut off his head, spilling blood.

The boy looked down where gravy overflowed.

“You’re scaring him,” Grandma said. But Grandpa called it a blessing that he’d been taken prisoner then. People who flew planes didn’t live very long.

“Thank you God,” said the boy. His grandparents agreed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May drabbles - 20

Once, in the trenches, a bullet whistled by his ear. Sepia pictures of the past filled his eyes, as he threw himself to the ground.

In the next war, an air raid caught him outside. Shrapnel screamed over his shoulder to fall hotly smoldering at his feet. History flickered in black and white images with radio commentary.

In the end, his world was a video prepared by his children. The breath of a kiss touched his cheek as his breathing stilled, as electronics fell silent. Then the bright-colored photo of his long-lost wife came to life and welcomed him home.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May drabbles - 19

I remember silence: sent to my room for misdeeds as a child; college dorm, desk piled with books; worlds outside a window where voices played; nursery dreaming, sleeping breaths; a house filled with chores and meals to be made; feet that clatter, chattering voices that vanish out the door; pattering paws that patter here no more.

I remember silence’s old acquaintanceship. And when the furnace roars, and squirrels skip and jest across the yard, I wish my Meg were here to pester me.

I’ve put away the water-dish, the dog-bed, cleaned the paw-prints where she fed…

And I've remembered silence.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May drabbles - 18

Katie found it hard learning to tell time.

“Look at the numbers,” her mother would say. “Clockwise. The hand goes from one to two…” But Katie didn’t see why the hands couldn’t turn the other way—why “before” always had to be so inexorably different from “after.”

Her grandfather gave her his watch when she was seven—silver, finely engraved, and labeled with Roman numerals. But they buried him today, the late great astrophysicist.

Katie watches her children play, and turns the metal hands back year by year… till two seven-year-olds stand, building castles to the stars, seventy-seven years ago.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May drabbles - 17

It’s like archeology, thought Cassie, digging through the layers of a life. On top were postcards from a recent vacation, older letters underneath, and down in the depths the fractured treasures of years forgotten and gone: Grandma’s memory box.

Dust drifted in the cold attic air, making her sneeze. Easier to throw it all out. Just forget and move on.

But she sliced her finger, paper-cut bleeding on the page, then wrapped a Kleenex over it like a Band-Aid on the past.

Archeology takes the details apart. But Cassie was digging through memories so she could put them back together.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May drabbles - 16

Every word was a promise when the children were small. Every “Maybe,” “We’ll see,” “We’ll have to ask your Dad.” Every “I’ll try,” or “I’ll do my best.” And even every “No,” misheard as “Yes.”

“But Mommy, you promised!”

Their father was big on promises too. Phone-calls forgotten, floors un-swept, jobs she never applied for, all were pledges un-kept. The empty milk-carton in the fridge was proof she could never be trusted.

In weary work and jobs unfinished, unstarted, she longed for sleep. “But I have promises to keep,” said the voice in her head as hope freed her heart.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May drabbles - 15

Love was always a possibility. Pigs could fly if they grew wings, or if the air grew thick like glue to hold them.

The glue of promises kept her at his side though love seemed lost—glue of memory, of commitment, or fear of change.

On Mother’s Day the family took her to brunch, which was nice, but she still had to clean. They gave her gifts and her husband placed the tiny box in her hand.

“Like your heart,” he said, as she gazed at the necklace inside. “A jewel. Delicate. Please say it’s not broken.”

And she smiled.

Friday, May 14, 2010

May drabbles - 14

They laughed at her at school—hair the wrong color, dress the wrong style, her name too hard to pronounce.

They laughed at her at home—too small to stand up to her brothers, too weak to be any use, too quiet to count.

The trees laughed in the forest, and the sprites by the pool. Ravens mocked, and spiders bound her in webs of mediocrity.

“I’m lonely,” she cried, and the breeze caressed her cheeks. Feathers of grass-seed soothed her fears. Dawn’s chorus filled her ears with mother-love and shared its joy.

When someone cares it’s easier to laugh.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May drabbles - 13

“Can you see me now?” asks the little boy. “Mommy, can you see?” It’s simple—she can see him, or he can be hidden—what more could there be?

The mother looks at the images in her mind—sleeping child, crying child, playing child, trying child. She hears him laugh but half of her’s still trying to soothe his tears, till the next time.

Bubbles float in the air round his head, each carrying its fraction of his life. Bright faces smile.

“Can you see me now?”

“Yes son.” She sees a thousand of him there, and loves them all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May drabbles - 12

Blue sky; blue sea; slipping under and free, with water's bubbles sounding in her ears: Blue was Megan's peaceful place, where she retreated, where the world resolved itself; a few square feet of ocean, fish and weed, breathing the seeds of silence.

Red was pain, haze fogging dreams, bringing the present thrashing to the surface, splashing, scared. "This is destiny. Relax," said the voice in her head. And red turned black, dark dread, as if it would all be futile in the end.

Then a cry, and blue calm water mending ease. They laid her newborn babe between her knees.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May drabbles - 11

They pose for the photo: Grandma in her armchair wrapped in a shawl, she who never knitted at all; Mother behind, stands firm and tall, hoping baby won’t cry and the kettle won’t boil; Daughter sits, back straight and shoulders back, while Baby, little new-born fourth-generation, sucks her fist and threatens to squall.

Father, or is he Grandfather now, clicks the shutter. Son-in-law says, “What do I do when the kettle makes a noise?” Brother shuts the kitchen door, hiding the mess safe inside, because it’s Mother’s Day and there’s pictures to take.

Grandma falls asleep and Mother brews tea.

Monday, May 10, 2010

May drabbles - 10

“Have you ever wondered?” the old woman said, lying in bed, inspecting pills and water-glass.

“Wondered what Mom?” Her daughter cleared the plate, reminding her with her look, “don’t forget the second tablet and drink plenty of water while you’re taking it. And mark it in your book.” “Wondered what?” she asked.

The little boy peeked through the door. “Say goodnight to Grandma,” said Mom, “then off to bed young man and no dawdling. You do as you’re told.”

“Have you ever wondered how you tell them what to do, and then you’re old and it’s them that’s telling you?”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

May drabbles - 9

She mended fingers and knees when they were hurt, her touch cleaner than Band-Aid, warmer than cream, banishing screams.

She mended wounded spirits were hopes were dashed, her confidence enough to re-inspire with hope that lasts.

She mended broken hearts as friendships passed, her own heart ever wounded ever hiding its own pain.

She mended suffering souls when love grew hard. She put the pieces back again and proved her children worthy of her care.

She was their mother. She was always there until she wasn’t. And then they mended, tended her, pronounced their mother loved and worth their care.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May drabbles - 8

The record player hid silently in its cupboard. But today Janet tugged finger-printed glass to run her fingers over serried ranks of discs still standing to attention.

“Those were the days.”

“Yeah, right Mom.”

“Well, they were.” But the music was gone.

Janet’s daughter clicked the mouse on another choice as it scrolled on her computer. She tapped her fingers to ragged sound and bent her head to studies. Meanwhile Janet continued to clean, ears filled with memories, waist circled lightly with arms still holding tight, his breath brushing her smile.

If only he’d lived as long as the song.

Friday, May 7, 2010

May drabbles - 7

“The drums; the drums,” he wrote. “The natives are restless.”

The drums were humming traffic; the natives his family, that long hot summer before they were engaged. Then they married. Their children had saucepans and ladles; wind-up monkeys with tambourines; plastic drum-sets, then a real one in the garage.

Their daughter loved the note.

Father died and the only drum remaining was a mother’s beating heart. It thumped and slowed, to the rhythm of time running out, to the gathering of those awaiting her beyond the veil. The heartbeat slowed till one long note remained. She calls the music love.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May drabbles - 6

When he was young, Tom’s life waited to sprout like a field of grain. Jen said hers was more like a patchwork quilt with the pattern unformed. They fell in love.

As seasons passed, Tom sowed and planned the patchwork of his farm, marking the days by the patterns of sky. Jen’s design was home and family, shapes of their lives falling into place and filling with heedless joy.

When Jen got ill, the fields contracted down to a single seed. The children wrapped their mother in a patchwork of quilts, and time was a teardrop in an inky sky.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May drabbles - 5

The wall was made of wind-worn blocks of stone, some standing safe and others tumbled down. Their solid squareness gave a sense of purpose to the shape, a certainty that other hands besides the wind and rain and fate worked here.

The mother climbed, her shoulders stooped, a boulder slung in her arms. She chipped and cut, fitting the new square block into a gap. Then another stone fell.

Meanwhile a small ghost watched from a corner of the room, fingers drifting, words to tell. The carving on the floor declared, “Born 1801; died 1802; I’ll never let you go.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May drabbles - 4

Dan liked new inventions. His watch wound itself with the movement of his hand, and stopped the day he died. Silent, motionless, it sat like an empty reminder on the shelf. Dan’s widow turned her eyes toward the relic on her wrist, worn leather, ancient band, a wedding gift. She’d baked and busied and bothered and breathed all these years, keeping her own watch wound. But time comes around and love survives. Weary eyes measured the click and turn; weary hands stirred. Fingers coiled the spring again in readiness for day. Dan liked inventions. Marge enjoyed the kiss of memory.

Monday, May 3, 2010

May drabbles - 3

These weren’t pearls. Gran’s pearls were creamy pale, and her wisdom like a candle in the wind. But this was Gran’s black and white necklace with separate strands that Jen liked to twist and tie between her hands. Gran wore them with the white dress for weddings and black for funerals. And Jen dressed in them secretly, sneaking peeks in Gran’s bedroom mirror.

At Gran’s funeral, “Can I borrow them?” she asked and was given them to keep. So now she wears them with white and black, twisting the threads of joy and sorrow together like wisdom in the wind.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May drabbles - 2

They look at me and all they see is something old, thrown away, and forgotten. A child’s blue shoe. Who cares what tale I’ll tell?

“Something old, something new.” That’s what they say. “Something borrowed, something blue.”

I was new the first time he wore me, the day they met. He climbed a tree – see the scuff-marks; then he fell, and never needed shoes again. She took my partner home and hid it away.

Don’t look at me today. Look at the other shoe now – old, borrowed and blue while the two of them bind lives with love into one.

May drabbles - 1

Endless possibilities were music to his ears—boundless vistas of mountain and valley, hopes and fears that spread the future before him. If he opened his eyes, lights would flash; crowds would roar; but the music was more. Let the clouds take his troubles. Let the songs of his wounded heart pour over his tears.

He shrugged off friends; their comfort was too kind and too unreal. But the concert lifted his spirits and set him free. The beat revived. The vistas awoke. He survived. He did open his eyes.

Endless possibilities were the song that soared in his soul.