Friday, September 28, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Idea Number Thirty



Prompt: She dodged a falling beam, determined to save every last child

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Idea Number Twenty-Five



Prompt: The sword whistled through the air narrowly missing my outstretched arm

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Idea Number Twenty-Three


Prompt: He whirled across the stage without caring what his brother thought of him

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Idea Number Eighteen


Prompt: I stared in disbelief. They had said the last one died over a century ago.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Idea Number Twelve: Results

This entry courtesy of Lux Lush--open to feedback


I followed him into the dimly lit kitchen, barely sitting down across from him before he was waving a bottle at me. 


"Drink?"


Not really in the mood until I knew what this was about, I nodded anyway. Saying no would clearly have been lost on him as he was already filling up two glasses. Double hits and no rocks equalled smooth sailing, but Scotch had a bite I never liked to swallow this late in the night.

"What's going on, buddy boy?" I questioned as he shoved a glass in my direction.

With a shaky hand, he lifted the other glass to his lips and motioned for me to do the same.

I raised my glass as he rambled out a gruff “In a minute.“ But, if a minute was needed, it was for his nerves. The liqour seemed to disappear down his gullet in a flash.

Maybe I would need the drink after all.

I took a sip, waiting for the revelation.

Why offer me the top-shelf stuff if not to soften the blow that accompanied a hard confession of the tongue? Or was I misreading this whole moment, and the frenzied but stone-cold sober look he‘d given me the second after I knocked on his door?

No. Sherlock to my Watson, we read each other like books, and tonight I was thumbing the pages of an all too familiar chapter. After twenty-odd years, this wasn't the first time he had been on edge in my presence.

"I...I..." he stammered, staring at the empty glass in his hand as if it held the words he'd now lost. 

I took another sip, feeling as though I should have thrown it all down the hatch and silently slid the glass over for another go. If he was speechless - this wasn‘t good. No wonder the bottle was close to empty. Ever the optimist, my old friend was obviously drowning in some sorrow or trying to drown out the buzzing of an old demon of regret.

"Christ," he uttered, throwing his glass at the wall behind me. "I shoulda known what's dead and buried never stays buried. Only sure thing is the dead stay dead, but even the secrets that go with them don't always stick to the grave."

I felt my stomach knot and twist at the mention of the dead, and without hesitation, reached for the bottle of Scotch.

Filling my glass to the brim, there was no fooling around now. I didn't think, didn't breathe, just chugged and let the booze burn.

I knew what had him anxious and would soon have me right there with him.

"Morgan?" My voice but a whisper, saying the name I thought we'd never speak of again.

"Morgan..." he confirmed in a tone so low I just made it out over the pulsing in my head.

Silence enveloped us as our eyes locked across the table.

That name was long dead and buried between us... or at least we both thought it had been.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Idea Number Nine


Prompt: I pulled the loose brick from the wall and discovered an old key

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Idea Number Six: Results


Prompt: No one else seemed to see what was really happening on the movie screen.

This entry courtesy of Timothy Forry

I pulled my sweat soaked tee shirt away from my chest.  It snapped back wetly. It was the second shirt I’d gone through in the past three hours. If you’ve never lived on the top floor of a six-floor walk-up in New York City in the summer, without air conditioning; you don’t know what hot is. I peeled the shirt off and tossed it to the floor. I looked out my bedroom window.  The pulsing lights of the Cineplex and  thoughts of a cool, dark movie theater beckoned to me. I had to get out of the apartment.
I picked my green Whirled Peas tee shirt off  the floor. It smelled a little funky, but at least it was dry. I slipped it over my head and opened the bedroom door quietly. I peered out. My dad’s recliner was in sight. His right arm hung lazily off the side, a sure sign that he’d fallen asleep in front of the TV. I tip-toed to the front door and let myself out. As soon as I entered the stairway, I was hit with the strong smell of curry wafting up from a neighbor’s apartment. It made the thick air harder to breathe as it stung the inside of my nose. I used my fingers to pinch my nostrils closed. I descended the stairs, two at a time, racing by the offending neighbor’s door.
In no time at all I made it to the bottom floor. I pushed through the two sets of doors and exited to the busy city sidewalk. I cut through the parade of passersby, narrowly avoiding a direct collision with the drunk homeless guy that had claimed my street as his territory. In the heat, he reeked even worse than usual. He smelled like rotten onions, dried pee and liquor. He should wear a sign that says “Extremely Flammable.” I have nothing against the guy, he even smiles at me sometimes with the few teeth he has left.
I bolted across the street and into the theater lobby. I didn’t have any money, as usual. I hung out just inside theater doors and surveyed the crowd. I saw a group of older girls and guys lining up to hand over their tickets. I casually walked up behind them, then ducked to the side. I’m really small and tend to get overlooked. As the group moved forward, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no other employees were watching. Fortunately it was a busy night and all the workers were engaged with paying moviegoers.
I ducked the rope and stayed with the group as they headed to their designated theater. I hadn’t looked at the movie times, so I had no idea where we’d end up. We passed by a sci-fi movie I really wanted to see, then an action flick. I cringed as I figured out that the crew was going to see Lost in the Park, a romantic comedy. Not wanting to miss out on a single minute of free cool air, I swallowed my disappointment and filed into the theater. I sat near the back, away from the crowd, and propped my feet up on the seat in front of me. I leaned back with my arms crossed behind my head, waiting for the movie to start.
About forty-five minutes into the movie, I admitted to myself that it was actually funny. It was about a nerdy guy who posted his studly roommate’s profile pic on his own dating site profile. He starts chatting with a girl, who, the audience finds out, did the same thing. They keep making plans to meet in the park, but they’re both looking for the wrong people. They end up talking, not realizing that they are actually both the right people.
As I watched their second meeting, this time at the Bethesda fountain, the woman walked along the rim. Her heel snapped and she toppled into the water. The nerdy guy reached in to help her but fell in, too. That’s when I saw someone, clearly not meant to be in the movie, running up a pathway toward the fountain. Her shirt was torn and face smudged. She looked terrified. Not far behind her, a man chased her. He gained on her. I saw a flash of light glint off of a knife in his hands.
I sat up straight in my seat and gazed around the theater. Everyone was laughing at the couple in the fountain. No one else seemed to see what was really happening on the movie screen.
The terrified woman had fallen down, right next to the happy couple splashing in the fountain. I gripped the arm of my seat. How could no one else see this? A scream caught in my throat as I watched the man with the knife raise his hand in the air. I couldn’t look. I turned my face away.
It can’t be real. It was the heat. Maybe I was dehydrated, and hallucinating?
I turned my gaze back to the screen. My empty stomach heaved as I saw the river of blood flowing from the woman’s chest. The man was still hunched over her. 
I was the only one who saw it.
Then, the murderer looked directly at me and smiled menacingly.
I yelped, slapping a hand over my mouth. I bolted out of the theater, through the lobby and onto the street without stopping. The heat and humidity hit me like a wall. Taking a deep breath took great effort. I managed it, then looked down the street before running to the safety of my apartment building. I fished the key out of my pocket, unlocked the door then flew up the stairs, into my apartment. I didn’t care if I woke my dad. I raced to my room and slammed the door shut behind me. I fell against the back of the door, breathing heavily. I needed to tell somebody about this.  Someone who wouldn’t think I had lost my mind.
I stumbled to my desk and woke up my laptop. I scanned my friends list to see if anyone was online. I scrolled down and sighed, slightly relieved, as I noticed the green light beside ChuckWhiz, aka, my friend Charlie. He knew all sorts of things about weird, paranormal events. I typed:
Dude, you’ll never believe what just happened to me.
My own message stared back at me, the cursor blinked irritatingly.
After a few minutes, Charlie responded.
Hit me later. I’m freaking out. I just saw a woman get stabbed in Central Park.




Friday, July 13, 2012

Idea Number Six


Prompt: No one else seemed to see what was really happening on the movie screen

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Idea Number Five: Results

Prompt: The sauce didn't taste quite right.

This entry courtesy of Timothy Forry

The sauce didn’t taste quite right.

I knew it. Mom was finally trying to poison us.


I glanced around the table, trying to gauge if anyone else realized we were about to die.

Dad slurped a pile of spaghetti through his lips and swallowed without chewing, then went right for a second forkful. He ate so fast I don’t think he tasted anything at all. Eating that much poison at one time, he was sure to be the first to go.

Shauna just twirled the spaghetti around on her fork, not eating. She slouched in her chair with her long black hair covering half her face. She was having what Mom called, “a teen moment.” Well, she timed her mood swing perfectly, at least she’d survive dinner.

I looked over at mom. I tried to keep a straight face so she wouldn’t suspect that I knew her plan to do us in. She hadn’t touched her spaghetti. She was still eating the salad. Maybe she thought we would all be dead by the time she finished it. She caught me looking at her.

“Don’t you like the spaghetti sauce, honey?” She asked me. “It’s a new recipe.”

I’ll bet it was.

I tried to be cheerful, “It’s great!”

Okay, maybe I overdid it.

She smiled at me anyway, then went back to picking the onions out of the salad. She says she doesn’t like them, but I know it’s really because they make her farty.

I pushed the pasta around on my plate, examining the sauce. It was chunkier than what she used to make.

I had read once that dogs could smell if food had been poisoned. I reached out my foot to see if Doofus, our dog (I named him), was close by. He let out a quiet whine as the tip of my sneaker tapped his back. I heard him shift under the table. I looked down out of the corner of my eye. I could see his black nose just peeking out, next to the leg of my chair.

I glanced up quickly to make sure no one was watching and pushed a clump of sauce onto the floor. It landed with a quiet splat, just in front of Doofus’ nose. I saw him inch closer to it, his nostrils moved in and out, then his tongue shot out of his mouth. The glob of sauce disappeared. He snorted, then inched forward. He looked up at me expectantly.

Traitor, I thought.


 
 
 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Idea Number Four: Results


Prompt:  I stared at the pile of hair on the floor 


Courtesty of Timothy Forry

“You don’t have to go through with this.”

We locked eyes in the mirror.

“I want to do this, Sam. “ Alice said to me.

As if to reinforce this, she tightened the towel around her neck with one hand.

The scissors felt cold against my palm.  I lifted a lock of her silky, chestnut hair.  I opened the scissor blades and placed them on either side of the lock, close to her scalp.  The muscles in my hand twitched.  I couldn’t get them to work.

She reached behind the chair with her free hand and found my knee.  She gave it a reassuring squeeze.

I took a deep breath.  I wasn’t sure if she understood just how much this meant to me.

Snip!

She screamed.

I jumped back, startled.  My heart beat so hard I could hear the blood rushing through my veins.  I looked at her in the mirror to make sure I hadn’t accidentally sliced off her ear.

 She was laughing at me. 

“Don’t do that!  I could have cut you.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”  Alice wiggled in the chair, cleared her throat and composed her face.  “You just look way too serious.”

“Would it help if I made the ‘Blue Steel’ face?”  I squinted my eyes slightly and sucked in my cheeks like Ben Stiller in Zoolander, our favorite pick-me-up movie.

Alice guffawed, followed by a snort.

“Oh, that’s much better.”  She reached up and touched the patch of shortened hair.  “Now keep going, before you chicken out.”

The next snip was difficult, too, but then it got easier after each lock of hair fluttered to the bare wood floor.  I worked slowly, admiring the sheen and silken texture.  Alice had always taken pride in her hair.  I wanted to treat it with respect.  Treat her with respect. 

I had never doubted that she would be here for me, the same as I would do for her, but I was shocked when she told me:

If you have to lose all of your hair, so do I.  And I’ll keep it that way until you’re better.

I had worked my way around her entire head.  Uneven clumps stuck up everywhere.  There was one last, long bit of wavy hair hanging down her back.  I held onto the end and snipped it off, close to the skin.  Before I let it fall, Alice stopped me.

“Wait.  Give that to me.”

I surrendered the tress.  She stood up, shook the towel onto the floor after wiping her neck, then left the room.

I stared at the pile of hair on the floor.  It was the result of 15 years of growing; almost as long as Alice and I have been friends.  That hair had seen Alice go through a divorce, a string of lackluster relationships, a failed business venture, a miscarriage, and the death of her father.  I felt my eyes welling up.

“Oh, no.  Don’t start that again.”  Alice came back into the room.  The lock of hair dangled from her fingers, a pink bow tied around the end.

I smiled at her.  I explained what I'd been thinking.

“Oh, yeah, it’s seen some bad times.  But, it also saw the birth of Lacey, that amazing trip we took to Italy, your wedding day with Robbie.  That’s what this lock of hair is.” She held it up.  “The good memories.”

Alice always had a way of seeing the bright side.  No matter what.

She plucked the towel from floor and wrapped it around her neck and sat back down.  She picked the electric razor off of the table and held it up in the air, waving it at me.

“Okay, finish this.” She said.  “I want to rock this look out on the town tonight.  We are soooo going for margaritas.”

"All right.  You got it."

I took the clippers from her and took another look at her.  The short hair really let her blue eyes shine.  Her face always glowed, not matter how long or short her hair was. 

She winked at me as I flicked the “on” button.

Better.  I already felt better.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Idea Number Three: Results


Prompt: The snake curled itself around my arm and hissed softly in my ear.

This entry courtesy of Timothy Forry


I pushed the curtain aside and looked out into the audience.  The crowd was small for a Saturday afternoon.  It used to be that every chair would be filled, standing room only.  Today, only ten chairs were occupied.  I noticed a man with a bored look on his face sitting next to a young boy who seemed more interested in the electronic device in his hand than watching a sideshow attraction at a circus.  An elderly couple sat in the front row.  They were holding hands.  Occasionally they would look at one another and smile, as if they were reliving a shared memory.    None of the other patrons were remarkable.  Most likely they just paid the two dollars to come inside the tent to escape the hot August sun.

I looked at my watch.  Only ten more minutes.  When I took the stage I would become Veleno, the Snake Charmer.   I’d played the role for forty years.  When I first started, the crowds would look on in awe.  Little girls would scream as Rini, my python, curled her smooth body around my leg, then my torso until her oblong head peeked up over my shoulder.  Now that anyone could walk into a pet store and buy a boa constrictor or python; my act seemed tame.

I let the curtain close and turned around.  Rini stared at me.  She knew what I was capable of. 

I really am a snake charmer.  Not just a snake wrangler, like most other circus side-shows. 

I first discovered the ability when I was very young.  I might have been four, maybe five years old.  I grew in Nebraska on a large farm in the middle of nowhere.  There were no other houses near mine.  From the front porch of my family’s farmhouse, wheat fields and cornfields stretched out to the horizon. 

One day, my oldest brother was chasing me through the dirt in front of our house.  He liked to beat me.  I didn’t like to be beaten.

I bolted for the cornfield.  It was July, the corn was already up past my head.  The sharp-edge leaves cut at my cheeks as I ran.  My face was stinging.  I kept running, even though my brother no longer chased me.  I had never run into the cornfield and didn’t know about the old well.    My vision was blurry, I was crying from the pain of the cuts.  I didn’t see the broken boards covering the old well.  I remember falling, then sliding.  The sun disappeared.

When I came to a stop it was dark.  I looked up.  There was only a pinpoint of light.  I heard a drip, drip sound of water from somewhere below.  I was terrified to move.

But then, a song formed in my head.    I didn’t know where it came from.  It was not a song I ever heard.  I began to hum it. 

Before long, I began to hear sounds coming from all around me, like someone running their hand over rough wood.  My eyes, adjusting to the dim surroundings began to see movement.  I looked above me, the walls seemed to be moving.  I felt something wrap around my wrist and squeeze.  I was jerked upward.  I was being lifted out of the well, inch by inch.  As I got closer to the opening of the well I could see snakes linked head to tail, slithering their way up the steep side of the well, pulling me to safety. 

I had never told anyone.  Never showed anyone the full extent of what I could do.  Just enough to get a job with a traveling circus.

It was time.  I pressed the “play” button on the stereo backstage, then burst through the curtains.  The elderly couple jumped, startled.  The little boy looked up from his electronic device for a second, then went back to pushing buttons with his thumbs.  His father looked straight ahead without reaction.

I raised my hands above my head.  I heard Rini slithering on the stage behind me.  The elderly woman gasped.  Rini slid past the inside of my left foot, then encircled my leg, climbing up.  She had gotten so big.  Her body was almost as thick as my thighs.  Her body wound around my torso, she gave me a quick squeeze, like a hug, or a reminder that she could kill me if she wanted.

The snake curled itself around my arm and hissed softly in my ear.

I knew what she wanted me to do.

No, I thought.

Rini paused, leveling her face directly in front of me.  Someone in the audience gasped.  I felt a smile forming at the edge of my mouth.  Without thought of the consequences, I began to hum.
After nearly twenty notes of the song, I heard someone scream from the outside of the tent.  Then another.  The sides of the tent fluttered as I heard people running by.  The audience members looked around at one another.  Someone in the back stood up and rushed to the exit.  He pushed the tent flap aside and I could the movement of legs, people fleeing.

Then the snakes came.  They slithered under the sides of the tent, winding their way between the chairs.  The little boy screamed, lifting his feet off the floor, dropping his device.  He grabbed onto his father’s arm.

Soon, the whole floor of the tent was a writhing mass of serpents.  I stopped humming.  The snakes raised their heads, they had formed a semicircle at the foot of the stage.  I turned my head and gazed at them.  I smiled. 

When I started humming again, the snakes moved as one, like a giant sheet of scales and tails.  Their collective mass enveloped me.  I felt my feet leave the floor.  I was riding a wave of snakes.  They plowed through the tent wall, breaking into the sun.

I just kept humming.  I didn’t care who saw or heard.  I was free and I wouldn’t  hide my gift any longer.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Idea Number Three



Prompt: The snake curled itself around my arm and softly hissed in my ear

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Idea Number Two: Results

Prompt:: I will never show anyone what I keep in the box beneath my bed.


Responses:


Courtesy of Nathan Burgoine


“We’re going to be late for the bus,” Derek called, ducking back into the bedroom. “You know how I feel about being...” 

Kenny sat on the bed, slender shoulders curled forward, staring down at the open box. 

“...late.” The word died on Derek’s lips.

Kenny held up the book. “What is this?”

Derek swallowed.

“This book,” Kenny said. “These papers... The... is this an iPad?” He held up the tablet. “Is it for one of your stories or something?“

Derek closed his eyes.

“Don’t do that,” Kenny said. “You only do that when you’re going to lie.”

“Kenny...”

“Open your eyes.”

Derek did.

“I’m on this,” Kenny said. He’d turned on the tablet. “And I’m in this book.” He was turning the pages of the textbook now, frowning at it. He scowled as he flipped forward, then backward again.

“It’s page fifty-six.”

Kenny looked up. His eyes were wet. Worried. Afraid.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

Derek stepped toward the bed. Kenny shrank back.

“Why would you write that?”

Derek shook his head. His throat was aching, and he had to blink quickly. This shouldn’t have happened. How stupid was he? “I didn’t write it. It was written...” He shook his head. “I didn’t write it.”

“That was the night we met,” Derek said. He looked down again, and found page fifty-six. “There’s a picture of me. Right here. And it says... It says that the night we met, the two men who assaulted me left me quadriplegic. And then, apparently, before I could continue my ‘pioneering work on the B.C. Offshore Wind Turbine Project’ I died of complications from a spinal infection.” 

Kenny’s eyes rose. Not worried now. Not afraid. Angry. “In your story, not only do I apparently get the job offer tomorrow, I’m a big hit right up until the point where I die. But that isn’t sad enough, right? I apparently need to be paralyzed before you do it?”

“Kenny...”

“What is the point of this?” he snapped. The cover of the book mocked Derek. Pioneers of Energy. “The iPad, the newspapers... Why did you have them made? Is this a joke? Because it’s a sick joke and it’s not at all funny.” Tears were spilling down his cheeks now. “I... I think I should go...” He rose, and slid off the bed. He was so slim, so graceful, even in this. 

“No!” Derek’s heart was thundering in his chest. He reached out for Kenny, but the slender man dodged his hand. But he paused. “I can explain. I can. I just... How did you even..?”

“You talk in your sleep,” Kenny said. “It was adorable.” He shivered. “Then you kept saying... ‘I will never show anyone what I keep in the box beneath my bed.’ Every night since I first stayed over.” He sighed. “I looked. I’m human. There was nothing there, but you had that rug under the bed and this morning, while you were in the shower, I just... looked under it. Loose boards, the box...” He held up the newspapers. “These are all stories about people dying. Cancer, murders, accidents... They’re all fake. What is wrong with you?”

The last words were the hardest yet. Not angry now. Disgusted. Kenny threw the pages onto the bed.

There was no protocol for this. Derek had had the rules drilled into him so hard he heard them like a constant mantra in his head – and apparently spoke them in his sleep. It wasn’t like he could ask for help. His next opportunity for recursion was months away...

Kenny was staring at him. Derek breathed. In. Out.

He was going to get in so much trouble for this.

“They’ll call and offer you the job on Monday. You accept – and this time there won’t be any delay for your rehabilitation. You’re whipcrack smart, Kenny. You’re going to do amazing things for the energy industry. Better than you would have been able to do the way it would have been.”

Kenny crossed his arms over his bare chest. Derek could see the gooseflesh as Kenny considered the words. Tried to digest them. Considered them – just for a second – at face value.

“All these other people,” Kenny said, jerking his chin toward the newspapers on the bed. “Who are they?”

“Candidates,” Derek said. “For a change for the better.”

“How..?” Kenny shook his head. “This is insane. Impossible.”

“They would have broken you. I showed up to make it different.” Derek watched as Kenny remembered that evening. Remembered how Derek had – in Kenny’s own words – ‘come out of nowhere just at the right time.’

“And then you seduced me, because..?” Kenny’s eyebrows rose high on his face.

Derek blushed.

“I take it that wasn’t part of the plan,” Kenny said. 

Derek shook his head. “No. I’m supposed to be a complete recluse and stay away from people, other than... Other than the candidates.”

“So that’s why you said you were a writer?”

“It’s a credible cover.”

“Why me?” Kenny said.

“Because you had so much more to offer than you’d given.” Derek paused, considering. “This project... My group... We’re building something better.” He looked at Kenny. “And all the quanta show the world is better with you.”

“If that’s a line, it’s pretty much the best line.” Kenny bit his lip. “Like, ever.”

“It’s not a line.” Derek smiled. “It’s the truth.”

“Okay, see, that’s even sexier. God! I thought you were too built to be a writer. Are you like some sort of soldier?” His eyes brightened. “Oh! Is your name really Derek? Are you sure it’s not Kyle?”

Derek frowned. “What?”

“Not big on movies where you’re from, eh?” Kenny frowned. “Or, I guess, when you’re from is more correct.”

“Are you okay?” Derek asked.

“I just found out I was supposed to die. You may have to give me a few more minutes.” He flinched when he realized what he’d just said.

“That’s my job,” Derek smiled.

“Okay, seriously... That’s an even better line.”



________________________________________________________


Courtesy of Timothy Forry



I lifted her skinny, atrophied legs with one hand and felt beneath her bottom with the other.

“You’re wet.  Why didn’t you call someone?”

She turned her head and looked at me with rheumy eyes.  Stringy grey hair surrounded her sagging, wrinkled face.  She hissed at me.

“I urinated on myself.  It’s what we do.  Old people and babies.”

“Well, now I have to wash you, change your clothes, and bedding.  There’s a button by your bed, Ms. Kirchner.  All you have to do is press it and someone will come.”

I reached beneath her back and legs.  I lifted her off the bed.  She couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds.

“Don’t ‘Ms. Kirchner,’ me.  You can call me Roberta.  We’re not in school anymore.”

I recoiled as I set her down in the wheelchair.  She never let on that she remembered me.  Her moments of clarity were further and further apart, but were usually reserved for a distant past; from long before she became a teacher, even.

She let out a dry, wheezing laugh.  She scrunched up her eyes, staring at me.

“I don’t remember your name, but I do remember that you thought the Battle of Hastings took place in 1225.”

She cackled at me, pounding the arm of the wheelchair.  Apparently, this was hilarious to her.  I felt my face flush, embarrassed.  I ripped the pink comforter and white sheets from the bed and tossed them to the floor in one angry motion.

“1066.” I said.  “1225 was the year the Magna Carta went into effect.”

That shut her up.  For a few seconds.

“Someone got through to you, James.”

“That’s not my name,” I sighed.  “It’s Greg.”

I walked around her and gripped the handles of the wheelchair to take her to the bathroom to get her cleaned up and grab a fresh gown from her closet.  She turned around in the chair and looked up at me.  She smiled.  It was the smile that she reserved for someone in her past, not for me.  She had slipped back in time.

“James, I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Me, too,” I responded, playing along.

She reached up behind her head and caressed my hand.  Part of me felt guilty for leading her on, but I knew she would forget this moment in a few minutes.

“Your secret is safe, James.  I’ll never show anyone what I keep in the box beneath my bed.”

I turned the wheelchair around and backed into the bathroom.  Now, I was really curious about who James was and what secret she was keeping for him.  In all likelihood I would never find out.  All of her worldly possessions were in this tiny room at Cedar Hills Nursing Home.  There was a clock with different types of birds pictured for every hour.  In a few minutes it would be nine o’clock and we would hear the call of the goldfinch.  There were five ceramic bells on the window sill that she had collected during her travels.  The small book case beside her nightstand held history books and photo albums.  Other than that, she had a scant amount of clothing in her closet.  I had never seen any sort of box in her room.
           
“So, everything is safe?’  I asked as I reached over to the silver knobs to turn on the water in the bathtub.  I held my hand under the water to test the temperature, and then faced her.  She wore a quizzical expression.

“Everything?” She asked. 

Then, as if a giant eraser had appeared from the air and wiped the chalkboard clean, Roberta’s eyes glazed over and became vacant.  Her chin fell to her chest.  She muttered.

“I’m wet.  Get me the nurse.”





Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Idea Number Two

Photo by Paul Brighton

I will never show anyone what I keep in the box beneath my bed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Idea Number One: Results


Yesterday's prompt: I chanted the words mother taught me

This entry courtesy of Nathan Burgoine


I hadn’t intended this escape to be quite so... So...

Well, real. 

I’d never guessed my mother meant things quite so literally.

The butterflies were a bit much, upon reflection. I’d just liked painting them, and felt that the first one or two hadn’t been my best work, so I’d done one more, and then another, and then one more after that. The sky in my painting had been full of them.

The sky that was now above my head.

I lay back on the grass – it was very soft, which I put down to the watercolours. I was glad I hadn’t gone with acrylics today. Watching the butterflies swoop above me, I could spot the first ones I’d painted – their wings only had two colours, rather than the six I’d managed to pull out of simple swipes of my finest paintbrush in the later versions that filled the sky.

Even with a deep breath there were no smells. The little yellow flowers scattered through the grass didn’t have any scent, which I suppose meant...

Something.

One of the butterflies landed on the back of my hand. Raising my arm, I watched the colours flash along the wings, smiling. A rainbow, from red to purple, banded from the body of the insect to the tips of its long, curled antennae. It was pretty, though it bordered on a riot of colours.

My smile faded. I’d overheard my mother on the phone, talking to my grandmother. It wasn’t long after dad left, and I hadn’t meant to overhear. I’d been creeping home after a dumpster drop.

“He’s got the touch of the fey about him,” my mother said. I hadn’t needed anyone to tell me who they were talking about. I’d frozen against the doorway, not wanting to breathe.

“I don’t think that’ll help,” my mother said. My grandmother wanted to help me? Help me how? Be less... fey? 

“Fine, fine,” my mother sounded exasperated – not uncommon when talking to my grandmother. Dad always said grandma was full of silly superstitions. I listened to her repeat something back to my grandmother, a rhyme, and then – carefully – I opened the front door to our apartment again.

“Mom,” I called out. “I’m home!”

“I have to go,” she’d said.

I supposed it showed. I couldn’t help it. I just wasn’t really like the other boys, and when it came down to it, I didn’t want to be. I liked my pencils and paintbrushes, charcoal and pastels, and if maybe sometimes the other kids were awful and my only real friends were Amy and Zoe, well, that wasn’t a bad thing. And they loved my drawings.

“Draw me without braces,” Zoe had asked. “Draw me pretty.”

“You are pretty,” I said, but I drew her. When I’d finished, Zoe had looked at the picture of her – older, taller, with long hair instead of the short hair she always wore, a beautiful smile showing no gaps, no crooked teeth – and had been surprised at the glasses I’d given her.

“I look wonderful,” she’d said, and her eyes had filled with tears. She’d kissed me on the forehead. Neither of us had brought it up again, not even that summer when she’d been told she needed glasses.

“It’s a good escape,” Amy told me, looking at my drawings one evening when she’d found me a little bruised and a little dirty from a trip to the dumpster at the hands of Joel and the other grade eleven boys. “Just don’t forget to come up for air.” I’d been drawing a hillside, a butterfly – one of my first butterflies – and it had made me feel better.

I rolled my head to the left, and the butterfly flew from my hand. There was nothing for as long as I could see other than the rolling green hills and the misty mountains in the distance. The geography wasn’t exactly possible, but I’d not been going for realism with the painting. It was warm, though, and the sun was yellow and bright.

I’d painted it that way.

It hadn’t just been paintings, though, if I was being honest with himself. And it seemed to me that lying in an impossible field while a cloud of rainbow butterflies swirled above my head was the perfect time to be honest with myself.

Mom hadn’t meant I was gay. I was gay, yeah, but she hadn’t meant that. 

If I wrote someone’s name down and put a star around it, they got luckier. If I drew a portrait of someone the way I thought they could be, that was how they ended up – though I wasn’t entirely sure which way the causality worked there. I’d done that stupid cartoon of Joel getting hit in the face by a soccer ball, and the next day there was a big black eye on Joel’s face.

I looked at my hands.

Touch of the fey.

So maybe painting a doorway standing in the middle of the field of rainbow butterflies hadn’t been such a great idea. I’d been painting since I’d crawled out of the dumpster – again. When I’d gone through my bedroom door for some milk, I’d ended up here instead.
Which was pretty freaking awesome. Except...

Except I was still thirsty. 

I sat up, sending a flurry of rainbow coloured wings into the air. The thing was, there wasn’t a door on this side of the painting. I thought for a moment, remembering mom on the phone. How that night she’d come into my room, and we’d talked like I was a kid again, rather than a teenager. She’d told me a story, some sing-song rhyme...

I chanted the words mother taught me.

“What hands have done, hands can undo; nothing’s hopeless where hands can make true.”
I was in the kitchen. I took a deep breath, and got some milk. My fingers were already itching for a pencil.

I had an idea for a new drawing. Tomorrow. I’d draw tomorrow.

A better one.


______________________________________________________________

This entry courtesy of Timothy Forry


I chanted the words mother taught me. 

The violet remained brown and wilted in the terracotta pot.

I slumped against the cool iron railing and looked out on the sidewalk below.  A mother and daughter passed by holding hands.  The little girl looked up at her mother with bright blue eyes and a smear of ice cream across her cheek.  She giggled.  Her mother laughed in return and added a dot of vanilla to her daughter’s nose.  The girl squealed in delight.  I forced myself to look across the street.  I wanted to knock the ice cream out of their hands.  I knew the words to make it happen.

Mother taught me to never cause harm.

It didn’t matter.  I lost the magic when the world lost her.

When she left me.

I kicked the pot over.  It shattered on the metal grate floor of the fire escape.  The soil sifted through the holes, small shards from the pot fell to the sidewalk below.  The roots of the violet dangled like tiny paralyzed legs.  Someone down below yelled, “Watch it!  You could kill somebody!”

I didn’t look to see who it was.  My vision  blurred, tears burned my cheeks.  I dove through the open window of the apartment, rolling onto the floor.  I stood up and waded through the dirty laundry, unopened mail and bundled blankets that littered the floor, desperate to reach the book case against the far wall. 

I scanned the rows of leather bound books that told of our family history, the velvet bound books of spells and potions; until I finally landed on the book I was looking for: The only book that mattered anymore.

I pulled the scrapbook down from the shelf.  It was the kind you can buy at any stationery store, bound in pink and yellow striped paper-covered boards.  The word “Scrapbook” sprawled across the cover in jaunty script.

I flipped through the pages roughly, tearing at the edges until I found what I was looking for.  Seeing the lock of my mother’s bright orange hair took all of my strength away.  I collapsed on the edge of the metal and glass coffee table.  The lock of hair easily pulled away from the page.

I rubbed this last bit of Mother against my lips.  I whispered the vivification chant over and over into the lock of hair.  I tensed every muscle trying to force the magic to come back to me.  I pulled the hair away from my mouth and clenched it in my fist.  I closed my eyes so tightly I thought I would never open them again. 

Then I felt it, like silk falling over every inch of my skin; hair standing on end, like after rubbing a balloon against your head.  My chest welled up with more air than it could handle.
It was her.  It was mother.  She came back for me.

I opened my eyes and let the lock of hair slip through my fingers; caressed by every strand.  I peered around the apartment.  I ran to the kitchen, the bathroom, to my room.  I stopped in the hallway, surrounded by photographs of us and every member of our family.  I stared at the doorframe of Mother’s bedroom, my heart pounding. 

“Mom?” I whispered.

My voice echoed against the wall.  From outside, I heard a neighbor jingling keys. 

I forced myself to walk forward.  I closed my eyes as my hand touched the doorway.  Part of me knew she would be there.  Mother would be standing in front of the mirror taming her wild hair.  She would be wearing her long white nightgown, the one with small, pink needlepoint roses sewn around the bottom hem and the end of the sleeves.   I took a deep breath expecting to be enveloped in the scent of the lavender perfume she always wore.

But I wasn’t. 

I opened my eyes.  The room was just the same.  The same as she had left it on the day she didn’t come home.

I shook out my hands, whipped my head back and forth, trying to deflect disappointment. 

Of course it didn’t work, I told myself. 

The magic is gone.

Defeated, I backed out of her room.

I remembered breaking the potted violet.  I grabbed a broom and plastic bag from the hallway closet and trudged back through the living room.  I cleared a path as I went, piling up the laundry to take down to the washing machine later. 

I straightened myself up as I arrived at the window. I looked at the fire escape.  My mouth opened, my knees buckled, the broom and bag fell from my hand.

I had never seen so many violets.