Archive for the ‘Indie Ink’ Category

Sticks and Stones

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

The below is in response to the Indie Ink Writing Challenge. This week, I was challenged by T with the prompt, “sticks and stones.” For the same, I challenged Bewildered Bug, with the prompt, “road trip.”

 

 

It’s a rod, I suppose. Purposeful, erect, unbending, secured in flesh, knotted in spine. It knows what it wants, even when I don’t, and so it stays. It glimmers like a Christmas tree, and sulks like stone in a cave; every time I smell its copper blood.

 

At night it calls me. Beckons as white-dressed girls jumping fences, dripping knives, blinding sun spinning close. I hear its heart music, an eons-old drum, from somewhere else in another time. An insistent beat each of us feel pulling our skin, and flooding our guts. You know, it says, you know. Listen to me.

 

I taste it too. Bitter almonds that erase my soul, bring necessary death. Then lilacs on my tongue, and stars in my throat. I’m once again alive and beating, bursting with tales of desert stumbles and black holes.

 

It’s like that.

 

It doesn’t matter who I am or who you are, the rod burrows and roots; grows slick with tears, and births and deaths and songs from sirens and rolling seas on fire.
It tells you where to go and what to do. A witch whispering, an angel plucking her harp.

 

I won’t lie. It will drag you to the fence and push you over, it will look under rocks, it will beat on the drum. Forever calling you back home and away again down uneven paths.

 

So bring your sticks, and bring your stones. Throw them on its fire, let it burn them to ash and fill you with smoke. What remains is the rod.
You’ve always known that much is true.

 

Put your ear to the door.

 

It’s the beggar that knocks.

 

Listen, listen.

 

Eight Hundred

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

It’s IndieInk Writing Challenge day once more. It dawned bright this morning, and I suddenly remembered the challenge Michael at Innocents and Accidents, Hints and Allegations issued to me this week. It was, simply, “Eight hundred.”

 

I pick up my glass. Again. For the eight hundredth time. I finish it quickly and re-fill. The day stretched long and I crave a hard stop. I carry it with me, the glass, because it’s too hard to put it down. I carry it with me, all of it.

 

Too hard.

 

“Just stop,” he tells me.

 

“It’s not that easy.” I say back.

 

Because somewhere, long ago, before I was born even, it stopped being a choice. There’s genetic wires connecting me to other glass filler-uppers, to those that carried their solace, to grandpas begging grandsons to stop at the corner bar for a shooter. The grandson was 10. He wasn’t saved from the corner bar; his future still sits in front of a smoky mirror, toasting to life.

 

My dad. Always toasting to life.

 

It’s irony. Cheering what robs you of clarity and connection and emotion. Life.

 

“Just stop,” he tells me.

 

I pick up my glass.

 

Eight hundred and one.

 

The Walking Dead

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It’s IndieInk Writing Challenge day! This one comes from Miss Ash, who prompted a quote from the book Little Bee:

I could not stop talking because now I had started my story, it wanted to be finished. We cannot choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us.”

 

And so I begin:

 

I must have been about five when my dad took him in. Yes, five. It was 1973. His wife left him a few weeks prior, and so had his liver. Even at my age, I knew he was dying. But that’s what my dad did: took in the dying. I grew accustomed to cots placed in the kitchen, leaden with the weight of those fighting their last days. It wasn’t the smell that was the worst, it was the knowing. I wouldn’t see Barbara again or Em or Jane. Or I would, and that was the worst.

 

When my dad brought my uncle home to die on the yellow scratchy couch in our basement, I turned my head. But I never could help looking back. And there it was: gray skin, muddy eyes, grimaced lips. He waved. I waved back. I didn’t like to go in the basement after that.

 

Of course I had to. To bring glasses of water, bites of toast, boxes of tissue. His hands often reached for mine, they were cold, but I tolerated his grasp. I remember looking at my young plump hands resting in his crepe paper palm, and I shiver. Some memories you wish you could squeeze out like toothpaste from the tube and wash down the drain. “He doesn’t have long,” my dad told me.

 

I hoped he was right.

 

I see him next in the VA hospital. He tries to take my hands one last time. I say no, or at least I meant to. An adult now, I see how these things can happen.

 

After he died, I visited my cousin in the home she once shared with my aunt and the man with the crepe paper hands. She was cleaning out his things. Rattling bottles of vodka, crumbling notebooks, an old signet ring. A small spider scurried out of a box and scrambled over her hand. Noticing my revulsion, she told me, “I used to be afraid of them too. But now I just let let them crawl over me and I’m not so scared.”

 

I was only five. But I knew what she meant.

 

Null and Void

Monday, February 28th, 2011

It’s IndieInk Writing Challenge time again. This one comes from Zoey Jane, who issued a doozy of a prompt, which was:

You know that an asteroid – The asteroid – is coming for Earth. It’s been verified by all of the scientists and reported, first on Twitter, and then on reputable news networks (none of them Fox or CNN News, don’t worry). Unfortunately, Bruce Willis is absorbed in jazz and Ben Affleck is (not surprisingly) crying like a little girl while Jennifer Garner pointlessly packs the family up for a trip to the park. She’s a hands-on mom, you see. So Earth is screwed.

“You’ve got more than 12, but less than 24 hours until it wipes out everything. What happens in them?

 

*********

 

I don’t remember the day everyone left. Someone tapped my knee, took my hand and patted it over a bag of bread, some apples, and a few bars I assume were granola. After that, vacuum emptiness, different and the same as what filled me every moment of every day. And although I was decidedly, nakedly alone — and preferred it that way, I noted the absence of touch, of taste, of reverberation thrumming in my chest, giving me indication that someone somewhere was walking by or talking or living. So I continued to sit, thinking dully that soon I’d have the freezing tray put in my lap, or the tiny pills tucked into my mouth, or the careless hands rubbing sponges over my numb face, my arms, whatever was left of my body.

 

I still sit here.

 

************

 

I’m thinking this, only thinking it. I no longer hear or see or care. “Can I see some ID please?” I clearly remember saying it. Last words I ever spoke. Then: nothing. And here I was. Still nothing.

 

************

 

I had two little girls once. After I lost the ability to be a person, they left me, along with their father. Behind my eyes, I still see the downy fluff of their hair, the tootsie roll toes, the needing look that said I mattered.

I had two little girls once.

And a husband.

And a life.

 

************

 

“Can I see some ID please?”

I was a doctor. It was my job to heal and soothe and resuscitate. A kitten. Just a kitten limping in from the road. A broken leg, maybe? A burred paw? I don’t know. I’ll never know. The owner followed behind. “Can I see some ID please?” There was a blast, wasn’t there? Some kind of explosion.

I wonder about the kitten.

 

************

 

I beckon to silly, easier memories. The way cream softened my coffee, the first summer jump in a blue pool, pounding rain on asphalt. Chasing after ice cream trucks, double piercing my ears with a needle sanitized by fire, a once-attended frat party. I turn away more consequential images. My children, my children…

Remember, remember.

It’s no use, it’s no use.

 

************

 

We lay in a covers-tossed bed, the four of us. Entangled in each other. I burrow my nose in my girls’ hair, lock feet with my husband. There is nothing better than this. Nothing better. There is nothing.

 

************

 

I hadn’t eaten for awhile. Days? Maybe hours. I imagine the wrapper from the granola bar crinkling, making that plastic cellophane sound. I open it best I can. I throw it down.
There is no water.

 

************

 

I don’t think I sleep. Every second feels like sleep, but not in the best sense of the word. I sit here. Just sit here.

I don’t suppose I miss anyone.

I see the kitten. The children. The feet. The red space behind my eyes. The explosion.

And that’s how it makes its presence known. A memory of fire. Of knowing it was coming before it did. The sense that I’m not alone. The reverberation remember? But it’s not a person walking down the hall, or music, or words spoken. It’s deep, thick, bass, pounding. Like a train rolling down railroad ties, a concert gathering steam as notes swell from speakers deliciously assaulting your heart, a plane far off in the distance but flying fast. Something’s coming, something’s coming.

 

************

 

There is nothing.

 

************

 

First Time A Blessing, Second Time A Miracle

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The below is born from an IndieInk Writing Challenge issued to me by my challenger, Becky.
Every week, as part of IndieInk’s “game,” participants will be randomly challenged by their peers with a writing prompt. Becky’s prompt for me this week was:
“They say there’s a first time for everything. Write about something that offers more than one first time.”

 

(Note for my PROMPTuesdayers: PROMPTuesday will show up here on Wednesday.)

 

I watched my mom die. Held her ice hands, heard her gasps, stroked her head, told her to go. I stood at her bedside for several long minutes afterward and finally, convinced there was no more, turned to tell her brothers and sisters, who slept in rooms just down the hall from where my mom no longer existed. It was November 10, 1997. 4AM.

 

Moments like that are indelible. Etched forever whether you like it or not. For all your days, you’ll see it. The gray skin, red toenails on white feet, parchment eyes, blue nightgown. You tell yourself it’s all right, you want these final images. Still, in your quiet moments you wish them away. Maybe if I had a voice to go with them, a last goodbye in her own words, something my spirit remembers and not my head. But we didn’t talk in those diminishing days. I’d lost her to the morphine and the body closing down a week before she passed.

 

She was my mom.

 

I watched her die.

 

The last thing I remember her saying as we looked out the bay window is how she wanted to be a bird, free to circle above it all; how she’d come to visit me, after it was all done.

 

At my wedding four years later, one lone bird looped above me as I walked down the aisle. I didn’t see it. Everyone else did. I wanted to cry; I wanted my bird.

 

*******************

 

I’d met Rebecca through ElderHelp in 2002, about a year after I married. She was 87, a painter, a writer, a mosaic of soul and grace. We’d visit and talk every Sunday. I was all she had; her son died in 1940 of pneumonia; she became a mom to me.

 

She told me all her stories. Of a little baby boy who she never came to know, of four husbands, of sickness and redemption through Christian Science. She read to me, and asked me to share my stories — the ones I’d never heard myself say out loud. I was someone else when I was with her — my one true self.

 

I counted six years with her, filled with acceptance, gentle nudging, mutual silence, simple understanding. Then one October morning, I went to visit and learned she had broken her ankle and was in the hospital. Of course she tried to call me, but never left a message. Too many lost days after that silent voice mail, I ran to the medical center and stayed with her. It was just a broken ankle, but still.

 

But still. Those things happen, and turn into other things. Pneumonia, convalescence, infection, more convalescence. A month later, I sat at the foot of her hospital bed. I knew what was coming. I’d been there before.

 

I begged her see. I begged. Let me stay, I pleaded. Let me stay. I still have you for today. I hear your voice. Talk to me. Let me stay.

 

But she sent me out of the room. I’m enduring, she told me. Let me endure.

 

I left as she wished. Even though I knew it was coming.

 

Not twelve hours later, I returned. Rebecca had died seconds before. I lay my head on her chest. I wanted to hear something, anything. Let me stay.

 

I looked at the clock on the wall in front of us. I knew what was coming, what I’d see.

 

November 10. 4AM.

 

I had my bird.