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...


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.