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Saturday, July 31, 2010

July drabbles - 31

The sun shone bright in a clear blue sky. But Tom shivered and sniffled as he waited for his train. He’d caught a cold.

“Global warming,” said his neighbor. “What a stupid idea. It’s global cooling more like. But at least it’s summer now.”

Tom would have argued, any other day, that climate isn’t weather. Instead he sneezed. Then the train arrived. Climate’s not health or argument either—so much hot air.

The sun shone bright in a clear blue sky as Tom made his way into work; Tom the weatherman, predicting summer ahead, while his head-cold tried to hide.

Friday, July 30, 2010

July drabbles - 30

The child screamed. Mom drove the car, with child and screams, and towels to staunch the flow from child’s bleeding lip.

Poor child had fallen from his bike. Poor Mom was distracted. Poor doctor had no idea what approached his door.

The child screamed. The doctor said, “Let’s stitch it.” Then Mom held her breath. She held child’s hand. She held to consciousness by a fading thread.

“It’ll be alright,” she said, repeating herself to the trusting child.

Then, “You’ll be alright,” said the doctor, the stitches all done.

“But where’s Mom?”

She’d waited bravely till now she fainted away.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July drabbles - 29

Mother cooked. Father read. Oldest son set a game up on the bed.

“Can I play?” asked the littlest, hopefullest one.


“Who you playin’ with then.”


“But Si’s gone away.”

Mother stopped cooking and father stopped reading and both rushed in to ask, “Where’s your brother gone?” But nobody knew.

So parents each led a child by the hand while vacationing strangers stared. “Brown eyes. Brown hair. About so high?” They sought him high and low.

A friendly couple were wiping the little boy’s tears. “Your folks’ll soon be here,” they said. “They’ll find you.” And they did.

July drabbles - 28

It was only a tiny mistake; only an insignificant detail that no-one would ever spot in the great scheme of things. The program was the thing. The plan. The dream. The working out of complex algorithms with unending calculation. The fine scholarship that gloriously, finally worked.

It was only such a tiny mistake, measuring units in inches instead of those foreign centimeters. And after all, whoever uses those units? They’re not wanted here.

It was strange how the tiny mistake grew huge, and stranger still how nobody learned the lesson. Tiny things matter. And foreign’s not the same as wrong.

July drabbles - 27

In the halls of the wise and wonderful she felt pretty insignificant. She contributed only one zero to the family tax return, not a whole string of them. She wrote children’s stories illustrated with crayon and pencil, no elaborate parlance there with paintings for palace walls. She even dreamed small, seeking just one iota of recognition, for writing, housework, laboring with kids. Those last ones seeming impossible she was really concentrating on the first.

In corridors of the writing conference she still felt insignificant, till she realized the speaker was just like her and she learned to believe in dreams.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July drabbles - 26

“D’you hear ’bout Matt?” Jen asked. “He’s burning up with fever in hospital.”

“What? Thought he was never sick. Hope we don't catch it.” Tom speeded on his stationary bike. “C'mon. Let’s feel the burn.”

Miles passed. They exercised till Tom called out, “You’re smoking hot.” He so could not say that to her.

Jen fought his arms and shouted, “Get off me.” Then wrestling hands quested too close to camp-fire, grabbed a branch. “Feel that burn Tom.”

“It’s fever talking,” said a quiet voice. Jen woke in a hospital bed, cheeks burning red as she wondered what she’d said.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July drabbles - 25

One moment was all it took, and the future was lost. She crossed the road, smiling at him, then the truck tossed her body away.

One moment; he spent the rest of his years on research. The history of memories, déjà vu, dreams, unknown particles, and mothers who seem to know in advance when their children are going to cry.

(She, of course, would never be a mother. The children she’d’ve bourn with him would never live or die.)

One moment, and he finally got it right, went back and stood by the road. “Don’t run Suzanne!”

“I’m coming Tom.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

July drabbles - 24

They walked the shore, side by side not hand in hand. The aches and pains of old age decreed it was easier to stride alone. She slipped behind while he climbed up the sand. Then she was gone.

If he’d known what was coming he’d have stayed with her. If he’d known, the lure of ocean beyond the crest would never have called. His memories would be waves of love pulsed through their finger-tips, her tiny hand forever held in his.

The children remember their parents walking apart, but Daniel’s heart remembers his bride, and he cries, walks on, alone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

July drabbles - 23

Dad was cooking meat over the fire. Mom piled salad in a bowl, and Jessica toddled the patio handing out plates—paper plates adorned with spiders and grit where she’d dropped them and picked them up again. Nobody minded.

Timmy the long-haired neighbor dog was everywhere at once. His nose poked legs relentlessly. His hot breath poured its doggy scents with puffs like a train going by. And his stomach distended.

“Dad, what have you fed that dog?”

“Nothing,” said Dad. “Not yet.”

Distended stomach distended more. Then Timmy birthed her babes on the patio floor and changed her name.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July drabbles - 22

The sky filled with trailing threads of black as the storm went through; she guessed they were really just specks before her eyes. Clouds roiled and poured their scribbled stain. Trees dripped their tears. Then afterwards the footpaths sighed, sweet incense rising high.

In the morning the path by their garden fence trailed dark threads all its own, thousands of crawling ants scribbling their secret messages. Her husband wanted to spray. She asked, “Can’t we just wash them away with soap.” He said no.

In the evening the doorsteps was covered with specks, dead ants in storms of silent condemnation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July drabbles - 21

She guessed her dad always wanted a boy, so, not to disappoint, she played with railways, shoot-em-ups, and, oddly, a plastic kit that made a tank.

Aliens attacked in her bedroom then she fell against the shelf. Time slowed. Black hole! Hands mired in glue. Gravity blew it. The tank slipped to the floor.

Now for sure her Dad would shout. But instead he got out glue, and gathered pieces: “What goes where?”

She leaned to see, to help. Soon the tank was safely restored to the shelf…. her arms wrapped round a Dad who loved her simply for herself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July drabbles - 20

He didn’t kiss her when they said goodbye. They parted chastely at the door, though she would have welcomed the taste of his lips on hers to strengthen her. Exams today.

She wondered how she was first into the hall, listened for sounds but the door had closed behind, then she heard him cry, “Emma! Tonight!”

It wasn’t a desk after all that wore her name but a mis-shapen monster, lips puckered and bright. Then she woke, night lifting its dark veil. She hoped perhaps he’d kiss her at the door when they said goodbye, to strengthen her. Exams today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

July drabbles - 19

The crowd gathered slowly, tarpaulins staking out their claims with paper taped to grass, lazy dogs refusing to let them pass.

The sun was bright when they started to arrive: infants filled with lightness of day while adults settled back to watch the sky.

Sounds rose up as sun went down till all around was muffled talking, shrieking, shouting, still, and music played. Colors bled from day and all the waving grass turned gray.

And then, as infants began to wail, expectancy dissolving to despair, roars split the air. Twilight was done. Night-time had come. The fireworks display was begun.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July drabbles - 18

“Pink!” said the teacher. He pointed to the map. “Pink! All those parts that are pink belong to us.” He waved his hands. He smiled at the sun that streamed through the window’s dull glass. “And that, Class, is why they say ‘The sun never sets on her Empire.’ Yes, children. It’s pink!”

“Pinko Communist twit,” the little boy insulted his friend. And the world was a different shade these days, the maps redrawn, the old globes gathering dust. The sun rises and sets rust-red and old books lie unread.

The leaders think, “Let’s spread democracy,” but is it pink?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July drabbles - 17

The kindness of strangers welcomed her after so long afraid. And if they’d paid for her, at least they gave her a place to live. Their kindness determined who she loved and married, the names of her kids. Their kindness was the same to animals.

The kindness of strangers welcomed her the day she ran away. They gave her aid and work and freedom too. But their kindness still decreed she still wasn’t quite the same as they, and kept her apart.

The kindness of strangers wasn’t what her children rebelled against—just the way they still called them strange.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July drabbles - 16

One man searches garbage, finds discarded food and drink. One man searches sidewalk gaps for pennies. One man searches strangers’ eyes and asks them for loose change. Another leaves the asking to the dog. One man plays a fiddle, one guitar, one sitar too. Another one sells papers no-one reads. Patiently, they strive to stay alive.

One man studies business forms and vows to clear the streets. One man studies plaintiff’s claims and tries to keep things neat. One man says you’ll make them stay dependant evermore, and patiently despises, won’t revise the law or help, for their own sake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July drabbles - 15

He knew how it worked. You wake up, go to the library, search the computer for job ads, then apply.

Soon he’d be waking up on the street, exchanging ancient papers for yesterday’s news. But today he still has home and family, a suit that’s worn and shiny and smells a bit, a shirt with holes, and hope in his eyes.

A sign at the dry-cleaners’ advertises: “Jobless? Neat your suit for the interview? Free cleaning inside.”

A suit that’s clean, smells fresh and hides the holes! Yay! He got the job. The cleaner got his business. Life goes on.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July drabbles - 14

Local residents are picking up the pieces after a string of mini-earthquakes hit the Pacific Northwest. While scientists struggle to explain the failure of predictive technology, some people are looking elsewhere for answers. Tim Burr was fired by US Timber late last year. He claims to have evidence of emails referring to the creation of mini-tremors to release energy without disaster. “I’m telling you, Big Government and Big Timber made the quakes; think they’re helping and they’re making things worse.” As buildings crumble and ancient trees tumble down, Mr. Burr is taking his theories to Washington. We’ll see what transpires.

July drabbles - 13

Some names are unpronounceable. Suppose they’d called me after t’place I was born. Llanfair PG; Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch if you want the whole thing. Now that would plant a meal in your mouth—you’d have to starve yourself to make room to say it. But no, they called me after my Scottish father’s clan, Clan Colquhuon, except they tell me now it’s spelled Calhoun. Nothing unpronounceable there I guess, but everyone thinks it’s Colin, or Kevin, or Calvin, or Crystal (don’t ask). Call me Crystal and you’ll drive me to drink. Call me Calhoun and I’ll drive you. And that’s a promise.

July drabbles - 12

Through time and space, her voice calls me like a beacon. Daytime and night, her song fills me. But she cannot be mine, nor I be hers.

My men have tied me to the mast and covered up their ears. I wonder if she’s as beautiful as she appears to me? So alluring. So pure.

I see her perfect eyes shed perfect tears and think I’m lost. I’ll leap over the side when they loose my bonds, and swim to her, but at what cost.

Still, memory reminds me of my wife, and here I’ll stay. I’ll wait for love.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July drabbles - 11

Puppy doesn’t like fireworks. Puppy hides, and finds…

Candies rolling under the chair. He stares but they don’t run away and he can’t leave them there, so puppy eats them.

Breadcrumbs rolled from a shelf. They lie quite still so puppy decides to munch on them as well.

Meat-scraps by the fridge smellssweet. Puppy gobbles them too, and a chocolate bar on the table and fruit in the bowl.

“Aw, look how scared he is.” Dad comes back inside, where puppy’s tummy rolls like a football on the ground. Puppy’s fat. Puppy’s round.

“Aw, look how stuffed.”

Poor pup.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July drabbles - 10

Since she’s gone I gaze enviously at people with their dogs on the green. Brown eyes smile, tails wag, and mouths open wide to share fat doggy grins. I struggle to catch the owners’ eye. “May I?” And they frown.

“He’s a bit excitable, see.” “He might jump up.” “He’ll get mud on your skirt.” Do they think I care?

So jump, sweet pup, and roll in my arms and breathe your warm doggy breath all over my face. I miss my Meg and I wonder if you see her in your dreams. Would you tell me if you did?

Friday, July 9, 2010

July drabbles - 9

Silken hair flows over her face, honey-colored and glinting with reflections of fire, like sunset through trees. Her limbs sway as she walks, those long legs so smoothly, so perfectly shaped; the cleft of her flat stomach; the sensuous way she stretches her neck. He watches the play of light on her shoulders, touches his hand to her flesh and lazily strokes. Fingers massage those delicate muscles, rolling her onto her back and she purrs contentedly; her body opens wide, her mouth, its tiny pointed teeth. Sharp ears prick up to a whisper of sound. She turns around. She’s gone.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July drabbles - 8

You could see in his eyes that he wanted one—reclining chair, daddy’s chair, chair of his own. His face kept turning back that way as they walked round the store. He had a sudden urge to sit and “try” putting his feet up. He wasn’t sure, he said, about looking for anything else.

You could see in his eyes that he wanted one, but his words kept saying no. “Not quite the right color; the back’s too tall; the seat’s a bit too low.”

He only wanted a perfect chair but nothing would satisfy him there, or anywhere else.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July drabbles - 7

The meat on the barbeque’s swirling its scented enticement into the air. So rush round the kitchen, Mom. It’s time to prepare:

Baked potatoes; no room on the grill—use the microwave instead;
Baked beans; add your special spice, with a brown sugar bed;
Strawberries, cut’em and wash’em and leave’em to soak—maple syrup on top;
Plus coffee for after.

The meat on the barbeque’s nearly done and dinner’s smelling fine. So rush round the patio, Mom. We need the table set on time.

The meat on the barbeque’s ready. “Isn’t it nice when you don’t have to cook?”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July drabbles - 6

Mother tells him put it down. “Can do it self,” says child.
Father shouts, but “I’m okay.” Child smiles.
Big brother says drop it, but “I’m just as clever as you.”
Big sister… “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Little boy runs with firework in hand. At least it isn’t lit, and he can’t light it.
Mother says, “Come back right now.” And pride comes before a fall.
At least the fall’s a few safe inches from the fire.
Then rocket flies from little boy’s hand and explosions reach for the sky.
At least he’s alive, and he’s okay.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July drabbles - 5

The museum’s dedicated to peaceful resolution of disputes. One half sits in English Camp’s quiet forests; the other half on the prairie of American Camp. San Juan Island’s ownership was in dispute, but the owner of the late lamented pig was displeased and seeking vengeance. Still, the nations stationed soldiers from both armies peacefully, while Kaiser Wilhelm resolved what should be done.

Now the island’s American. A small American boy runs up to the model of an English soldier. He makes pretend karate moves, shoots an imaginary gun, and shouts, “I’m a soldier Mom, I’m killing the enemy.”

Poor Mom.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July drabbles - 4

“He’s bugging me Mom.”
“Tell him to go away.”
“But he won’t.”
“Tell him I said so.”
“He’s not listening Mom.”

Children bug each other and mutter complaints. And bugs buzz round the food and flame, while Mom cooks Independence dinner treats. Eating outside can be such a pain. She wonders why she bothers.

“She’s bugging me Mom.”
“Tell her to go away.”
“But she won’t.”
“Then tell her I said so.”

Still, food smells good, then they gather and sit and eat with vivid smiles. That’s why she bothers.

Sometimes independence is choosing to hang around without going away.

July drabbles - 3

Father pokes the steak on the fire while mother, fingers shaking, offers aid. Meat flicked onto plate, she cuts, says “Wait a while,” then hides away in shadowed smoke. Nobody knows.

The family feasts around the fire. Everyone’s plate is filled. Mouths munch and laugh and talk and ask for more and nobody knows.

They dance round the flames. Too close, child’s tiny feet and hands… too close the hair that swirls… too close, marshmallow held to flame… too close the stick that falls, that sparks, that burns.

No-one knows why, not even she. She’s always been frightened of fire.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July drabbles - 2

I remember November, remember remembering “gunpowder, treason and plot,” shooting our fireworks high in the autumn sky, into clouds, into night. There’s smoke of fire and cold of wind, the crackle of flame and the cackle of children all crying their joy the game. And there’s the “Guy.”

But in summer when evenings are long and the sky stays light way into the night, that’s when American’s light their fire, remembering victorious rebellion while we, in November, remember rebellion that failed to ignite.

We remember and we keep faith with the guy till the day we might need him again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July drabbles - 1

Packing bags still has the same excitement, though childhood’s long since gone. There’s still that feeling of “Mummy, can we really stay out of school.” Still the joy of changing rules. Still the freedom to play! I like packing my bags.

I guess there won’t be fairground rides this time. No tiny cars tied to their tracks. No up-and-down airplanes that let me control the height. No splash-down, fast-down roller-coaster ride. No freedom from gravity, but freedom still. And oh, I like packing my bags.

The open book, the open road, the open ocean calls, and we’re off on vacation!