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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August drabbles - 31

New (5)

New... A new girl’s helping feed the homeless today. Her mother ladles food onto plates while child bounds between tables offering smiles with the water-jug; and strangers smile back.

“She’s a princess.” “She’s an angel,” they say, and mother says, “She’s mine.”

A gap-toothed, string-haired guest in ragged garb smells of gutters and sinks. “Why d’you do this?” he asks the girl. “Why d’you care?”

“You ’mind me of my Granddaddy,” she replies, then picks a jacket up from a box. “Granddad don’t wear this anymore. D’you think it’d fit?”

The stranger smiles, hope renewed by a little girl’s gift.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August drabbles - 30

New (4)
New... Yes, it was new... Love and friendship are always new.

Matt rescued Tom from the gathering of homeless round the fire. Jen rescued Em from the loneliness of despair at losing him. The lost were found and the jacket hung old and forgotten, its promises kept.

Grandparents stood at the baptismal font, Matt and Jen with smiles on their faces. God-parents stood beside them, Emily and Tom, renewed and brave. Linda held the tiny babe. Her husband held her hand. And the pastor promised God’s care like a comfortable jacket, old and forgotten, secret and strong, and always new.

August drabbles - 29

New (3)
New... Yes, it was new... And it was smart. And the sleeves were the right length.
It helped him get a job, then an apartment, an address and a phone number. Till one day, dressed in his new, old jacket, Matt was ready to revisit his past.

“I still love you Jen,” he said to his wife at the door. “And I’m clean and sober and I work, and I earn my own keep.”

She didn’t trust him. But she let him see Linda again... And he walked proudly beside his daughter at her wedding, in his new, old jacket.

August drabbles - 28

New (2)
New... Yes. The coat was new.

“You’ll wear your new suit won’t you Tom?”
“No. I’m saving it.”
“For what?”
“Alice’s wedding.”
“But she’s only thirteen!”

At sixteen, Tom’s god-daughter was beautiful. At nineteen she was sick. At twenty-one she was dead and Tom wore the suit to her funeral.

Alice’s father gave Tom a parcel tied with ribbon afterwards; all the letters he’d written to his god-daughter through the years: “She’d want you to have them.” But Tom couldn’t look. He clutched them tight in fists and stuffed his hands into his pockets.

Then he threw the suit away.

August drabbles - 27

New (1)
New... Yes. It was new... The coat was new, last worn by a stranger who left it in a dumpster.

Left it why? He didn't care. Notes on paper scrunched in the pockets might have said, but they were too hard to read. They would feed a fire tonight though and keep him warm... Start the New Year warm.

Friends let Matt nearer the flames because he offered fuel. Then one of them insisted on reading the notes, letters to a dying friend. Their hearts were warmed while the coals burned dim and they started the New Year with love.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August drabbles - 26

My Oregon - 5 - Oregon Green
The green of forest and meadow define this state, with shades touched gold, touched blue, or rainbow-hued in fields of blooms:

The blue of water and white-capped waves like clouds fighting to escape:

And the mist, unfinished painting of the Gorge, brush-strokes still fading, changing before your eyes:

A road that climbs through forest deep, up rocks of silvered gray to water-falls to leap infinity:

And a dry, desert land where I seek a lost angel, green lichen wings and robes of red, leached elements on rock…

Not lost, for sacred legions float the breeze and ever guard this Oregon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August drabbles - 25

My Oregon - 4 - Remembering Blue
After my first summer’s failure I hooked up the hose. Bright rainbows promised flowers, or gold. And I kept the dripping water from the siding with a chipped, cracked cup.

Blue skies deep and wide as the Oregon ocean poured comfort down on me. And yellow dandelions winked up from brittle brown grass.

Why plant more colors asked the summer sun. Why pour more water asked the river and sea. And lacking a green thumb I knew no answers, but rainbow bliss and a soft and soothing spray at the end of a day.

Forget-me-nots heralded the next year’s spring.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August drabbles - 24

My Oregon - 3 Orb of Gold
That first winter, a single rose survived through wind and rain. Frost rimed the ground and tinged the petals brown, but still the last bloom’s yellow sun quivered, round and perfect and pure, at the end of a forgotten stem that I’d failed to trim.

The base of the tree was a tangle of knotted wood, all the vines leading left, not right, as if something were blocking the way underneath. Something buried. Some secret nourishment that fed my secret rose.

I could have dug for treasure, but instead I enjoyed the flower’s sweet summer scent on winter’s frozen wind.

August drabbles - 23

My Oregon - 2 Pretty in Pink
The bushes I planted my first year here were dead by the end of the season. I hadn’t realized Oregon summers would be so hot and dry. After all my labors only brittle twigs remained. I crushed it unseen while pulling weeds.

Now six years on, six long hot summers, six droughts, and I’m weeding again; dandelion suns, daisies like bridal veils webbing the grass, and something dusty purple—or borrowed or blue.

But the tiny pink flowers that trickle from pale woody stems are surely not weeds. Those bushes I planted my first year here bloom again, forever new.

August drabbles - 22

My Oregon - 1 - Tangerine Moon
I’d never seen the man in the moon till we moved to Oregon. I knew he was there of course; I’d seen pictures. But I thought maybe others had eyes more skilled, or imaginations more free. Then a friend said, “Look at the moon,” and I saw—the whole of his face, eyes, nose and mouth. Truly, a man watching from Oregon’s moon!

Later that night, when hot summer’s sun turned to wind and rain in the midnight hour, an orange moon from the pumpkin patch was spying over me. I wondered then, what other mysteries hide in this countryside.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August drabbles - 21

Puppet Master (5 - the Secret)

Seasons changed and fortunes grew. Alisha’s parents recovered their gold, and nobody knew why Alisha lay growing sicker alone in her room. For a deadly secret was killing the maid, a truth she’d told to none but the lantern that lightened her evening shade. “I love him.” She had loved and he was gone.

After many long years a boat came to shore, its master grown weary and old. He carried a lantern, came knocking at Alisha’s door.

Alisha brought her lantern too, and both the lights spoke truth to lonely hearts. “I love you Alisha.” “I love you Mark.”

Friday, August 20, 2010

August drabbles - 20

The Puppet Master (5 - Magic Lantern)

Meanwhile, at sea, the rejected suitor gazed into the haze. “I loved her so,” he thought, wondering why she’d turned him down. He remembered her frown, her nervousness, and hoped she’d changed her mind.

As darkness fell he lit the lantern, studied finances and routes, and saw her face.

“I love you,” she declared, the voice so real. “I love you.” He wished it was how she might really feel.

Then he turned out the light, no money left for oil. He loved the girl. He loved his boat. But if wind and hope didn’t change he’d lose them both.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August drabbles - 19

Puppet Master (4 - Welcome Gift)

“I’ll see her if I like,” cried the poet, and behind him his footman waited bearing gifts.
“What’s in the box?” the father asked, but the poet was calling, loudly now, “Annalea!”
She hurried downstairs, her older sister eagerly trailing behind. “Mike, Mike,” she cried.
“Will you marry me?”
“Yes!” shouted Annalea, though neither parent seemed able to agree.
The footman carried the box inside and showed all the treasures it bore, documents, deeds and promise notes.
“Not quite a starving poet,” said Mike, “but I wanted to be sure you loved me for myself.”
“Then all’s well,” said Dad.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August drabbles - 18

Puppet Master (3 - Unexpected Visitor)

She dreamed a tall handsome stranger who’d take her away. They’d sail the evening tide, under skies like silk with the breeze like milk and honey. He’d lead her to his bridal couch and lie beside her there.

“Oh Alisha.” Her sister laughed at her. “With your luck there’d be a hurricane and the couch would be all that survived.”

A knock at the door brought shouts. “I’ll see her if I like!”

“It’s Mike,” cried Annalea. Little sister dreamed of a small ragged poet who turned her whole life standing on its head. “Most unsuitable indeed,” her parents said.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August drabbles - 17

Puppet Master (2 - desert days)

“How dare you refuse him,” her father exclaimed.
“How dare you embarrass us,” Mother complained.
“How dare you try to make me marry for money.”

They all agreed, money’s not everything, but its lack was surely going to be everything lost. “He’s such a nice man,” Mother said. And “You’d soon learn to love him if you tried.”

“What if he don’t love me?”

He’d sailed away on the tide for fourteen days. A fortnight without him, Alisha thought; a fortnight for him without her. “Time will tell how he loves,” she told her journal then, her wellspring of dreams.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August drabbles - 16

Puppet Master (1 - puppets)

“Father pulls the strings and we dance,” shouted Alisha. But she wasn’t dancing now. She trounced into a corner of her room, hurling books till the shelf stood bare. Neither reading nor dancing. Her sister waited for quiet to follow storm.

“It’s just his way, Ali,” she said. “You should give your fiancĂ© a chance.” But Alisha had no desire to entertain marriage just to salvage her father’s business. Bad enough she’d used to wonder if clamoring suitors were after her money. Knowing her father was after theirs instead—it was the last straw.

And then the last book fell.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August drabbles - 15

Guardian Angel (6 – Reflection)

He reached for his phone in the back of the cab, and caught sight of his reflection. Not a bus-driver after all; he’d been a business-man, black coat, wide hat and pin-striped suit. He’d ridden yellow cabs to work, yelled into phones on tangled wires, bought flowers for his wife.

Emily—he remembered now; red lipstick and the ribbon in her hair. He remembered smiles, laughter, love; and her funeral, dressed in black.

He remembered yellow-haired Sally too, child and woman, the voice on the phone.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he said. “No problem. Coming home,” paid the driver, and forgot.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August drabbles - 14

Guardian Angel (5 – Sometimes)

Sometimes he watched her vacuuming while he wandered in the vacuum of his mind. He wondered could the switch be repaired that had taken his memories away.

Sometimes he watched and saw her mother, alive in the past for a while. He didn’t miss the present or future, but remembered her pregnant.

Sometimes he cried that he couldn’t thank her for things he’d mostly forgotten—the ungratefulness of life, after all his living, to hide itself away.

And sometimes, as he watched, he remembered he existed. Sunlight shone from her smile and he knew, “Whoever you are, I love you.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

August drabbles - 13

Guardian Angel (4 – Angel)

She was his angel when memory strayed, his guardian of the railroad tracks who always brought him back. And life was a train that had somehow jumped the rails.

He wasn’t sure how he got here, which strings he’d plucked, or how his paths had played. Somehow his bags had come unpacked, his luck betrayed, but the angel cast away fear.

She was his future, or his past, and she was dear.
“Sweet lass.”
“Here Dad.”

And a red case in the corner reminds; did he find her? Love? Or she might be his child.

She was his angel anyway.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August drabbles - 12

Guardian Angel (3 – Baby Steps)

The car drew up. “Hi Dad.” Such a pretty young woman was taking his arm. “Come on,” the pretty young woman said. “We’re going home. You’re okay now.” But he didn’t feel okay.

“Who?” he asked.

“I’m your daughter, Sally.” So he tried to put memory to the name. “Here we go. Baby steps.”

One foot moved out in front of the other, pulling his body forwards towards a car door. He remembered you have to bend to sit down. Baby steps, like a children’s game.

“Emily?” he asked.
“No, Sally.”
“Where are the children?”
“Let’s get you home Dad.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August drabbles - 11

Guardian Angel (2 – Memory)

He remembered how he’d met her—or maybe her mother. She had a red suitcase and a scarf round her head. Was he a cabbie? Did he stop?

He remembered the engine’s thudding, heavy roar, and the whoosh of doors. Bus-driver, maybe. She’d been waiting with a single bag holding the secrets of her life.

“Where to?”
“I guess I’m heading that way.”

At the end of the line he took her out to dinner, then home to Mom. And then?

Sally was coming to take him home somewhere, but he must have left his memories in the cab.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August drabbles - 10

Guardian Angel (1 Cab)

The phone rang as soon as he got out the cab. He wanted to leave it behind, but knew the cabbie would notice.

“Sir, your phone?”
“No, not mine. It must be somebody else’s.”
“I’m sure...”
“No. I have to go.”

Then the driver would stretch across the seat to answer the call. Sally would describe the face of the missing, coat, hat, gloves; learn where he was.

Meanwhile, he wasn’t even sure of who he was; that was rather the point. But Sally—he pictured a sweet-natured child—that’s not right—she would always be there to rescue him.

Monday, August 9, 2010

August drabbles - 9

New Beginnings (5)

She’d written the words so long ago, black ink on pages turned gray, her rage bound up in careful curves of cursed calligraphy. Reading them now etched deeper lines into her aching memory, bleeding drips of the past.

Cassie had done as she was told again—too pliant, too ready for others to know the way. But now the silver of water, greening of leaf, and rose-bud streaks of dawn across the sky had shown her more.

Memories aren’t black and white, and tears aren’t always pain. Tomorrow waits in rainbow sprinklers where children play their games.

Tomorrow and today.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August drabbles - 8

New Beginnings (4)

Husband and baby were waking to the sound of the alarm. And dawn was a new shoot rising from the seeds of the past.

Cassie slid through the door and hurried upstairs, daylight glinting from the notebook she’d carried with her to tomorrow and back. No one knew she’d been gone.

On the wall, a picture of her family looked down, good, bad, and in-between. Truth is we’re all of us in-between, Cassie thought, not black and white, but shaded with all that potential to hurt and heal. Then she lifted her wailing infant to the healing of her breast.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

August drabbles - 7

New Beginnings (3)

Summer’s leaves had grown dry and brown. Cassie brushed them from her face as she walked under trees, through the park, towards the streets and houses and her home. One small bud was spring in the race to season’s end—one touch of vibrant sunlit green—one branch of tomorrow’s promise awakening today.

“Tomorrow is now,” Cassie said to herself, rebellion in her heart. “I’ll forgive who I chose. I’ll forget what I will. I’ll write my own rules and color outside the lines.” Her counselor saw right and wrong writ large in black and white, but Cassie chose rainbows.

Friday, August 6, 2010

August drabbles - 6

New Beginnings (2)

Pale fingers of pink trembled on the edges of clouds as Cassie walked to the park. The streets were empty canvas waiting for a child to crayon cars. The city sounds were an engine waiting to start.

Cassie made her way to the stone-sided bridge, overlooking the graceful arches of sleeping swans. She stood over water, folding paper, bending this way and back, decisions to be made. And then she released the plane to the motionless air.

“Tomorrow is another day,” she’d written. And now today’s first sunlight blazed against the airplane’s wing, white on black, as it flew away.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August drabbles - 5

New Beginnings (1)

The night air was heavy and Cassie’s husband was stirring in his sleep. The baby’s sucking sounds from the cradle reassured Cass that he was still breathing. But she wasn’t so confident of her own breaths. Ragged sobs brought forth old tales retold, old miseries relived. “Write it down,” her counselor demanded, but what if Cassie didn’t want to set it down in black and white? “You never learned to rebel Cassie. You’re too pliant.” Should she be pliant now?

She angled herself at the desk so the gray of dawn would light her hand. “Tomorrow is another day.” Today…

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

August drabbles - 4

Sad Clown (4)

One day Jimmy and Sarah were walking in the city. The streets weren’t paved with golden bricks. The music wasn’t divine. The bright colors were just street-lamps and signs and not precious jewels.

Jimmy bent down to comfort a little boy. “What’s wrong?” Jimmy asked.

“My sister laughed at me.”

“Sisters do that.”

The boy pointed at Sara. “Is she your sister?” he asked.

“No,” said Jimmy. “She’s the girl I’m going to marry.”

Then Jimmy’s mask slipped, secrets unwarily revealed. But there were no sad-clown tears on his cheeks underneath. Suddenly the future was a doorway opening to heaven.

August drabbles - 3

Sad Clown (3)

The girl who loved Jimmy saw the world in gold. She imagined kissing him under a silken sky, watching the river deepen to black while lights painted the city streets like heaven. She imagined Jimmy’s hands parting her robe and touching the golden sheen of her satin skin.

Sometimes Jimmy liked to look through his girlfriend’s mask and see her perfect world. Then he and she could be the only ones who knew what was really there. Till the mask slipped and the gray of winter’s stone and frozen mockery showed through.

Sometimes Jimmy wished the world was really gold.

August drabbles - 2

Sad Clown (2)

When Jimmy grew older he had so many masks—sweet little brother that’s always playing tricks, sweet comforting friend that lends a listening ear, sweet serious student that knows professors’ picks, sweet cheerful grandson, always sure to appear.

Jimmy’s masks were painted with smiles—strange because he’d decided long ago that being happy was too much effort. But the sad-face mask that he wore on his own didn’t make him feel any better. He’d learned that tears are pretend as well, and forgotten what was real.

When Jimmy grew up he remembered the crying clown and punched his big sister.

August drabbles - 1

Sad Clown (1)

Jimmy was going to be the clown. He had a smile wider than the gap between his teeth, but his sister said everyone would laugh.

“They’re supposed to laugh,” said Jimmy.

“Yes, but they’ll laugh because you look silly.”

“Do not.”

“Do so.”

And his smile faded.

“Oh dear,” said the make-up lady when she saw Jimmy. “If you’re going to look so sad young man, we’ll have to make you into a crying clown. Just don’t shed any real tears, or the make-up will run.”

Jimmy remembered her advice. Looking sad’s okay, but you have to pretend it’s pretend.