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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June drabbles - 30

“I hate them,” he shouted, flinging his shoes across the room.
“Why?” asked his mother.
“Nobody wears white shoes. They stink.”
“But they look so nice.”
“They don’t. They’re horrible.”

The shoes stayed hid in a closet as the season passed. Then the boy’s mother told him to tidy his room.

“Where’s your nice white shoes?” she asked him later.
“I dunno. Must have got mixed up with all that junk I was throwing out.”

An orphan searched the dump for food. White shoes that he found in a bag kept his feet from getting cut, and that was good.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June drabbles - 29

“February made him shiver with every paper he delivered.” Not just the weather—too dark to care—nor the news—to dark to read. Not the gray and empty streets, nor even the fact that Christmas seemed another year away.

February made him shiver with memory’s fingers on his spine; that February morning when a pile of rags by the road began to cry. Dropping his bike, with a “Bless me.” Baby arms and legs were stirring under the cloth. Shivering child.

February made him shiver in the park, covered with newsprint for warmth, till the cops moved him on.

First line taken from American Pie, by Don McLean

Monday, June 28, 2010

June drabbles - 28

“D’you wanna know a secret?”
“Yeah.”
“Katie was kissing Tom behind the shed.”
“Are they still there?”
“Let’s go and see.”

“D’you wanna know a secret?”
“Sure.”
“I know you were in love with Tom before.”
“Don’t say a word.”

“I wondered. Have you heard?”
“Heard what.”
“Tom’s going off to war.”
“Whatever for?”

“They say Tom’s hurt and coming home.
I guess he hasn’t got a place to stay.”

“I used to have a thing for him,” said Kate.
“I always knew.”
“But you don’t mind.”
“I love him too.
Take care of my big brother please
For me.”

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June drabbles - 27

He remembered gas, yellow shading to red as he closed his eyes against pain. He imagined Dante’s circles of hell invading Flanders fields. It seemed appropriate. Flesh burned, lungs, eyes, all agonized, all crying death’s refrain.

He remembered waking in the hospital room where a starch-faced nurse declared him lucky as he labored for air.

“You’ll have to work outdoors in future,” said the doctor. War was done. So today he lay in warm summer sun, scents of flowers tickling his nose, blue clouds growing wings over his eyes. The world shaded to red again while heaven bade him rise.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

June drabbles - 26

“I've seen the light,” said Jen.

Mike looked up, his knees crunched under the desk, arms hugging the wall. “I thought I asked you to switch it off.”

“Yeah, but you’ve not seen...”

“Don’t want to neither.”

Rain dripped, sea-water sipping the shore. Their dead tree melted in the heat. “It’s beautiful Mike.”

“I’m sure it is, but the world was beautiful too, once upon a time.”

“So what?” asked Jen.

“So turn off the light and save some energy. Maybe one day the world’ll be lovely again.”

“Like me?”

Mike hugged her tight and they turned out the light.

Friday, June 25, 2010

June drabbles - 25

He’s typing words on a page, and letters fly with glorious rage, keyboard to screen--his muse surely hitting the high notes, as fingers perform a percussion of clattering dreams.

And coffee’s bitter brew steeps sensuously, its scented veil trailing across his eyes.

When he looks at the screen the notes of the muse fall flat. Did he mean to write that? Family life intervenes on his story’s stage, with kids demanding, “Daddy, play with me.”

The page is gray, the keyboard stone, and finger-ends are wearied skin and bone.

Save chapter; start another? No. Author and muse together groan.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June drabbles - 24

“One for me; one for you.” Eric shared out the treats. “Two for me; two for you.” And little brother seemed confused. “Three for me; three for you.” Hungry brother made a grab. “Four for me.”

“Not fair!” And Dad came running.

Eric assured his father he knew how to share. “Jordan’s going through a phase. Not a problem. No worries, Dad.” And he counted again. “One for me, one for you; two for me, two for you…”

But Jordan’s pile increased by ones while Eric’s gained three four and five.

“The rich get richer, Dad. A boy’s gotta learn.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June drabbles - 23

“Hogwash,” said the American.

The Brit looked round at streets and litter, searching for a pig perhaps in a barrel of water. He reached for the wallet that lurked in his inside pocket. Perhaps the stranger hoped he’d give him cash to buy a hog and wash it.

The American, wise to concealed weapons permits and their flaws, promptly pulled out a gun. Luckily the bullet missed the Brit, embedding itself in a wall, where it pinned a fruit-fly that nobody mourned.

“Hogwash,” said the American, but the Brit turned sadly away. He still maintained his belief in gun control.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June drabbles - 22

“As Mark Twain said, ‘The less I know about a subject the more confidence I have.’ So that’s the key you see, that ushers in the power.”

“Yeah well, just apply that power to this washing machine if you will.”

“Poor ugly thing.”

“Didn’t ask you to kiss it.”

Dan, knowing marginally more about machines than his wife, undid the screws and found, “Here’s your problem. Pennies’n lint.”

“But there's a trap to catch things.” She looked round the room. He’d left the trap in the sink when he loaded the machine. Not knowing, she guessed, and filled with confidence.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June drabbles - 21

Okay, I know the World Cup's not even nearly finished, but this is what came to mind.

The pitch is empty, football done, the cup awarded to the team that won, and now one lonely boy stands guard, watching the setting sun. He reaches for the orb as if a ball, throws it and runs.

Sure-footed, dribbles down the pitch, eyes floodlit with his fun. But, fouled in the box, he falls like a pretzel to the ground. No sound, but empty air draws breath. Child looks for the ref then smiles, finds the spot, takes the shot.

The pitch is empty, sun gone down. A father’s son bows low to the cheering crowd before going home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June drabbles - 20

Sleep is his Achilles’ Heel. Catch him when he’s tired enough and promises break. Keep an eye on the child. Play after work and smile. Keep every promise and never let anyone down. Super-Dad, except when Achilles starts snoring again.

Incy Wincy’s climbing the water-spout. Dad runs his eight-legged spider hands with fingers that tickle his son. Crossed thumbs are eyes. Cross-eyed spider in the bath-tub. Spider on the wall.

“Read,” says the child so he picks up a book, turns a page and tries to speak.

“Incy wincy retreated and bumped his head.”

“Dad! That’s not what it said.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

June drabbles - 19

Alice was pale and frail, ice-blue eyes, corn-silk hair, her baby wail as thin as winter’s wind. Jessica was more like fire, red-haired, green-eyed, with a voice like thunder’s chaos burning trees. Summer and winter, their friends called them, and nobody knew which girl would grow up first.

Alice met Dan on a clear ice-cold dawn, pale clouds puffing high through waves of a bright blue sky. But thunderstorms and Jessica punched them apart.

Still Alice’s heart was wisely grown. She watched the seasons patiently, sits now by Dan's warm fire in spring while Jessica, autumn cold, stays lonely outside.

Friday, June 18, 2010

June drabbles - 18

The last time he saw her she walked backwards away, slim body swaying, hair like mist round her face. He cries for her. Some memories never fade.

The last time he saw her she gazed with tears of love lingering in her eyes. But her father told her no and she couldn’t disobey. She stepped away.

The last time he saw her the truck barreled into her body and flung her aside in a red mist of pain. He turned his back because her father swore he mustn’t touch her.

Memories find him still wishing he’d stayed by her side.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

June drabbles - 17

Dear Dad. Pretty bowl. And the fish was delicious.
Dear Mimi. That wasn’t for eating.
Dear Dad. Beg pardon.
Dear Mimi. Pardon granted. Don’t do it again.

Dear Dad. The fish in the fridge was truly delicious.
Dear Mimi. That was our dinner.
Dear Dad. Yes. I ate it.
Dear Mimi. Ours. Not yours.

Dear Dad. The fish on the barbecue is smelling really great.
Dear Mimi. Not for you. Plastic fish, catnip-flavored, by your food.
Dear Dad. Just you wait.
Dear Mimi. Hmm.

Dear Dad. That fish on the barbeque was delicious.
Dear Mimi. Bad cat.
Dear Dad. Miaow!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

June drabbles - 16

It was after he lost his job that his closed his eyes. Why look at a sky that’s too far away to reach? Why look at trees that won’t offer shade, or flowers that refuse to bloom? Why look at grass that only grows ever fatter on your lost labors? Or at streams that flow to unavailable dreams?

Why look at friends and family who mourn your guilt and sigh in sad despair at your failing skill?

But the raincloud caught him unawares. The sun peeked round its corner to warm his smile. Then he found himself tripping over miracles.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June drabbles - 15

They stood round the counter drinking wine, discussing beer. “Porters are good.” One listed all the local brews while the other compared them with nationals, a language of their own. Then strangers arrived and talked of smooth and smoky, spicy and strong. They meant the wine; it has its own words too. They drink. I drive.

Wine-tasting tour; of course, they insulted my driving all the way. You could get an elephant into that gap, or a train, but I’m okay.

We ended at a farm with fresh-roasted coffee as well as wine. Another language, and it’s mine this time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June drabbles - 14

We gather round the dining table; Mum with her tight dark curls at one end, then me and my brothers, then Dad. I’m hoping my older brother won’t start a row. He and Dad always argue politics over fish’n chips on Saturdays, but this is Sunday and we’ve been to church.

Coffee’s hot in the tall green pot, elegant, smooth-lined, smooth-scented with the warmth of hot milk. Dad pours into tiny cups. He mixed instant with the real stuff once when we ran short; a heresy worse than religion or politics.

The sun shines, shading my memories coffee-brown and sweet.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June drabbles - 13

Vegas: A cheap place to stay, and cheap food; that’s what friends said. So there they were, driving in night’s false dark, following maps, following the car in front, with too many signs and distractions to figure the way.

And there they were at an “interesting” hotel, searching for food to eat at an “interesting” buffet.

“Don’t touch,” they exclaimed to the kids as they passed flashing beacons, moved zombie-like to enticing sounds. “Stay behind the line.”

At least they could set them free in the restaurant, where they wandered, mazed’n dazed and overfed, till the youngest one threw up.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June drabbles - 12

Danny’s wife cared for the kids, helped them in the bathroom, taught them not to get their… bits… stuck in the zipper. That sort of thing. She cooked and cleaned, mended the knob on the cooker, taught the dog not to bite.

Danny’s wife put the right cheese in his lunchbox, right drinks in the fridge, right cushion on his chair. She gave him the right flavored medicine when he was ill and drove him to work.

Danny’s wife sometimes thought she had five sons instead of four, till Danny closed the bedroom door.

“Love you,” he said, and more.

Friday, June 11, 2010

June drabbles - 11

“You be careful out there among those English,” the elders said. They sent him to the city in hopes he’d come back. But the train’s twin lines led from past to future world, heading for freedom.

In the cafe, a girl pressed her face to matched white lines, her life chained to cost. The dancer lost his job and worked his way toward poverty. The waitress sold her freedom to feed her child.

“You be careful out there,” they’d said. So the young man came back, wearing independence like a cloak that floated free on the fresh air of home.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June drabbles - 10

They’re called life’s storms, those days when waves desert the shore, churn up and down instead. High on her shelf she watched herself—flailing, drowning, wed to uncertainty. Her husband didn’t ask about her day—just, “Did you remember this; get that done?” She answered, “I will,” then, filled with resentment, failed to offer support.

“It’s not his fault, nor mine,” she knew, their son leaving soon; the sun—skies turning gray like summer’s last cloak falling with the spring. Life’s storms are just the passing of time and laughter comes again; glad just to know they're sharing the boat.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June drabbles - 9

Silent, dark, moody, sad; life colored by anger unseen… The mother looked down at her sleeping child, fair hair on pillow of green—grass-shaded for life. How she wished he would rise.

In the dark of night, the boy ran away, her son dressed all in black. The mother feared for him; feared someone might run him over unseen; feared after he phoned that she might hit someone else in her hurry to find him.

Then he found music, an old guitar, un-played since the mother’s own gloomy silence and dark.

Now he’s writing songs and playing in the band.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

June drabbles - 8

All they want is the facts: Age—newborn; height—long; weight—heavy; eyes—gray; hair—black, then baby-fuzz balding, then fair; temperament—sweet (till the terrible twos, threes, fours, teenagerhood); and smile—delightful.

Just the facts, they say. Fill the form: Age—twenty-one; height—taller than Mom; weight—heavier; eyes—gray; hair—dark (usually, though sometimes fair or gray or the color of the day); temperament—mostly kind, generally quiet; experience—college office, college jobs, college degree…

Just the facts: His mother loves him, now, then and forever, and really isn’t quite sure how he got from there to here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

June drabbles - 7

The house was very quiet when we got home. The dog lay on her mat looking pregnant, which was medically impossible. We assumed she was striking a pose, offended at our absence, and I headed into the kitchen to get her food.

Strange. She didn’t follow me.

It was our son who spotted the banana skin on the floor. We wondered if the dog had raided the waste-bin in our absence. But no signs of trouble there.

Then my husband went to get an apple from the fruit bowl. “Where’s the fruit bowl gone?” he asked.

Not pregnant. Oh no.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June drabbles - 6

Glory was the favorite one—Lucy’s best and only friend. Too old to lay, the speckled duck wandered the yard with nothing to defend. No threatening squawks over buried treasure, she’d measure the little girl’s footsteps with her own, then rest by her seat. In the evenings the duck stood guard at the gate to wait, laughing her foolish quack as Lucy came back, school’s hardships done.

Christmas dinner was good that year despite the war: home-grown vegetables, dark sauce, and fresh-laid eggs enriching the stuffing and dessert. Glory to God! But none for Lucy now. She’s given up meat.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June drabbles - 5

They sat round the camp-fire, Dan rolling toothpicks round his mouth while Jesse rolled laughing on the ground.

“What?” asked Dan.

Jess told him about their game of Simons Says. “Petie Graham got something out his pocket to pick his teeth but it was a stick-insect.”

“Picked his teeth with an insect?”

“Just its leg.”

Dan tossed the toothpick to the ground.

“What you boys doing?” asked Mom and Jess replied, “Just drinking tea and speaking trivialities,” while the toothpick walked away.

“Well, that’s enough. Sleep now.”

The insect returned to its box, leading the puzzled children back to bed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

June drabbles - 4

“You’re like Nancy Drew in some mystery contest,” said Emily, drawing easy analogies. Cassie was sixteen, fair-haired, outspoken, wildly independent and very determined.

“Don’t call me a Nancy,” Cassie complained. “And I’m no Patsy either.” She rescued a small white key from beneath a chair. “Now, let’s open that safe.”

Nearby a hidden statue smoked, unseen by either child. Great-grandfather knew Cass would never take her mother’s necklace if he gave it her, but clues and mystery were sure to win the day.

“It’s beautiful,” Cassie gasped in awe.

“And it’s yours.” He stepped round the statue, nodded and smiled.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June drabbles - 3

Smoke turned the station to black and white, gray figures drifting and buildings hovering like ghosts about to disappear. And a whistle blew.

The small boy sucked his thumb, kicked his feet, and lost a shoe. The approaching train could have been a monster rushing from barren wastes. But when Dad’s told you to sit, you stay in place.

Brakes sighed. Wheels screeched. Black and white turned smoky gray. Then Dad’s long arm lifted the boy into the air. “You almost got left behind,” he cried. And the boy just wriggled his wristd till he could suck his thumb again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June drabbles - 2

“Two, four, six, eight; who do we appreciate?”

“United” was the answer you were meant to shout. United; they’d appreciate united.

Then “One, two, three and a quarter; who do we want to slaughter?”

The answer to that one was “City.”

United wore red, and City wore blue—ManU the good guys; City ever bad, or so she thought.

The trouble was, they're just words; she never understood which one was which. One Catholic team, one Protestant; one appreciated, the other one set for slaughter.

“Two, four, six, eight...”

“What comes next little sister?”

Oh brother, how Lizzy hated eight.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June drabbles - 1

Warm and sweet, thick’n heavy, the air is treacle and bubbles release their childhood scents from the pan; jam butties for lunch. “Peanut butter’n jelly,” says the voice in her head, but what have peanuts got to do with fruit?

“If you fall in the jelly you’ll be in a jam,” chants the memory of children and books. “But Mum, what’s jelly got to do with jam?”—American books that couldn’t even spell “colour.”

Ah, but Sheila’s American now, spells “color,” eats “Jello” at parties…

and stirs the pot of memories, warm and sweet; jam butties tomorrow, flavored with love.