The Smallness of Us

There are these moments when I picture myself benevolently aged, a bittersweet smile of the past playing about the crow-footed corners of my eyes.  What I wouldn’t give to have a conversation with her.  The woman who weathered storms.  The woman who brought storms.  

What would she think of me with my self-pity and social angst?  

“Child,” she would say, sipping Zinfandel through her favorite My Little Pony mug a lover from long ago gave to her, “It is not the darkness in the life of an artist that creates art.  It is the hope that the darkness will end that helps the artist create life through art.”

I would cast a side-eyed glance at her, but since we occupy the same mind and body, she would guffaw at me and kiss her teeth as she knocked back another swig.

“It’s just like that story we loved as a girl and would always cry at every time we came back to it.  You know… the one where the guy crashes his plane in the desert and meets the alien boy and he tells him this story about a fox and a rose,” she would prattle on.

“Le Petit Prince,” I’d sigh back.  “Everything that is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“Exactly. Except there are also scars the eye cannot see, but that doesn’t mean we let them pervert our heart,” she’d sagely nod in the annoying way old people do right before she takes another gulp which causes Twilight Sparkle to mock me with her smug smile.  “Like this wine.  The fruit of which is sweet from the vine but fermented can leave a bitter aftertaste both in the mouth and in the actions taken under imbibed persuasion.”  

Adding punctuation to her words, she would put the mug down and lean forward in her chair, donning the doggedness that my mother wore when you knew she was right, when you knew she didn’t bring the storm but was the storm, “We must savor the delicacies of our lives, no matter how bitter.  We must not take for granted the world within the smallness of us.”

In response to Daily Prompt: Savor
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Storm” by Free-Photos (CC0 Public Domain)

The River is a Wily Mistress

Running cattle was a man’s work, and Oscar was just old enough to make his first drive across the ranch.  He couldn’t afford to make a mistake.  Rattlesnakes and coyotes would be the last of his problems if he couldn’t find food and water.  “You have to learn how to read the river like you would read a map.  Like a wily mistress, it holds secrets amongst its banks,” the old man told his son.

Oscar had been given the job of retrieving one of the three hundred and fifty head who wandered off.  He needed to return the heifer to the herd and himself to the team before too long.  Failure to do so would endanger more than one life.  The heifer would give birth soon.  A twelve year old boy, exhausted mother, and newly-birthed calf would make for easy pickings.

They had enough fresh water.  The Colorado ensured they wouldn’t die of dehydration under the Texas sun.  The problem was sustenance.  The horse and heifer had food enough, grazing along the banks, but Oscar’s last meal of a couple of campfire biscuits, quick scratch gravy, and slice of venison jerky was over three days ago.  The pain of hunger was starting to affect his judgement.

He couldn’t afford to stop for long to test the waters, but when the banks of the river had opened up to a wide span of calm water, he would stop briefly to cast his line.  The grasshoppers were enticing enough, but each time he pulled back his line there was an empty hook.

The group traveled on.  Oscar’s weary head dropped low in the saddle as the paint led the way, the heifer on a length of rope trailing behind.  Soon enough, the sun dipped low, streaking reds and orange sherbet along the horizon.  “Red sky by night, sailor’s delight,” Oscar mused.  The boy, his horse, and the wayward heifer bedded down for the night next to an oak along the bank.  The splashing of life just beneath the surface taunted him.

“You’ll be tempted into her wide arms, thinking you’ll find refuge there, but underneath that calm smile of hers are lies.  What you want are the murky shores, gnarled with roots.  It won’t seem right, that in this darkness you’ll find what you’re looking for, but it’s there,” the advice of his father interrupted as Oscar was about to drift off.

His eyes adjusted to the darkness around him.  He felt the roots of the oak curling around him and down into the banks of the river.  Exhaustion and hunger buzzed violently in his mind and hands as he worked to set the hooks at intervals.  The bank line was fixed to a knotted root just below the surface of the water.  “This is it.  Either she embraces me or I embrace our good Lord,” he decided as he cast his line one last time.  No sooner had he sat back against the trunk of the tree than he saw the slack in the line pull taut.  The fresh moonlight across the water betrayed that something was already on the line.

Oscar kicked back on the bank with his hat slung low over his eyes, only the hint of a smile peeked out from underneath the brim.  In a few hours, the trot would writhe with fish.  He would feast in the morning and then return the stray heifer to the herd.  A great catch for a hard day’s work.

In response to Daily Prompt: Fishing
Featured Image: Pixabay – “River” by makar92 (CC0 Public Domain)

Foolhardy Heart

He paced across the porch, hands and fingers splayed out as if he were trying to make the ever-important point as he would in lecture. How frustrating I found myself feeling like the student instead of the work colleague that I was. Abashed and staring down at my drink, I held my breath for what was coming next.

“Don’t you feel it too? I know you do,” he lowered his voice as his pacing came up short and stopped merely inches from me. His body radiated heat that stretched out, curled around me, and closed the remaining distance between our bodies.

My breath stuck in my lungs, and a million thoughts swirled in my mind. Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? Did he really just say what I think he did? Does he know how I feel? How did he know how I felt? I’d been diligent. Friendly when I thought I could handle being close; quiet and withdrawn when I knew the distance could never be spanned.

“I do feel it,” I whispered, my eyes still cast on the ground. A huge weight had been lifted, but something more unsettling had filled its place. My breathing quickened its tempo as I waited for Jeremy’s reply.

He paced away again, his hands exasperatedly splayed out once more. I finally released the breath that had been tearing its way through my chest.

“You know… Amy… I’d have no problem having an affair with you,” he spoke with just a hint of amusement but with all the seriousness of a man who was determined to get what he wanted.

My breath caught once again leaving me breathless as if I had swallowed his words and they’d caught somewhere in my windpipe. Words are not tangible. They have no formal shape. They cast no shadow and bring no light. Hell, I work with words. I shouldn’t fall prey to them.

Panic shone bright in my eyes. I slowly prepared my rebuttal, but for my entire proclivity with words, they had failed me when I needed them most.

“It’s just every time I see you… I want to kiss you,” he said and crossed the distance of the porch in two strides. His hands enclosed my face and wrenched it upwards to meet his. Before any half-hearted protest could escape my lips, his mouth had enclosed over mine with a mingling of desire, desperation, and defiance.

Only the stirring of dust deep inside me registered any change. Was it fear that kept me from responding to the kiss? Surprise that I had the power to elicit this kind of response from a man? The emptiness I’d felt at being alone for the past three years? The understanding that the kiss was a forbidden folly was not lost on me. It’s not the knowledge that I felt nothing that keeps the memory of this moment fresh in my mind, tormenting me. It’s the unspoken acknowledgement that things had irrevocably changed.

In response to Daily Prompt: Folly
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Dried Leaves” by Unsplash (CC0 Public Domain)

All the Times Before

“You’re sweet,” he says.

I’m curled up behind him beneath black light charged, glow-in-the-dark stars, my chest pressed against his back.  We’ve just finished what I could call making love but what I’m sure he would say is doing it.

“I’m glad you think I’m sweet,” I reply.  Then on a second thought, “Do you think I’m too sweet?” I ask.

“No,” he replies.

I wrap my arm around him tighter and lace my fingers through his.  I kiss his shoulders and nuzzle up against his back.

His warmth spreads through me like hot chocolate, and I’m being pulled down deep into sleepy waters. I’m drowned out when I try to say that my sweetness has always been found annoying before.  That I was labeled clingy.  

I try to wait a little before I say this.  Then I question if I should.  Then I question what he means exactly.  Then I question all the times before.

In response to Daily Prompt: Conundrum
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Bed Linens” by Unsplash (CC0 Public Domain)

Monte Cristo

There is nothing.  There is no one.  There is only me.  There are only my words that fill the indomitable silence.  There is only this moment filling the eternal hourglass of moments.  

I can’t remember when I last saw the daylight.  Even though my eyes have adjusted as much as they will, my entire world is a shadow.  The closeness of the dark is a heavy blanket that mutes the smallest sound.  I can’t even know that what I am writing will make it to anyone let alone that if it does it will be legible.  Blood and the dark are friendly conspirators, and they don’t make writing easy.

Crimes against my sex.  This was the judgement passed down.  I’m not even sure what this means.  Before I could seek clarification or even protest the lack of due process, I was passed from sets of hands to sets of hands to the cold recesses of my current predicament.  The door was shut, locked, and that was that.  All that’s left to do is accept the sentence.  If I am guilty, then I am guilty.  I welcome that small comfort of knowledge.  Besides, I have to save my strength to write, not waste it raging about injustice.

When I was a girl, I used to fancy the macabre Poe stories.  Now that I am living one, I see now why Poe wrote about them so often.  It wasn’t all to thrill readers with tales of living entombment and the unending sorrow and pinning of love cut short by death.  It was to share the fear of inevitable and unending solitude.  As if the act of sharing the fear through words took away some of its power.  It didn’t work out for Poe though, and I don’t think it’s going to work out for me.

There is nothing.  There is no one.  There is only me and not much left at that.  There are only the words now I send out as offerings: mellifluous, ineffable, verisimilitude, ephemeral, abide, nubile, quixotic, aplomb, ennui.  I tick them off like the second hand of a watch.  They don’t make the greatest bedfellows, but they do fill the silence.

In response to Daily Prompt: Abide
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Writing” by Ryan McGuire (CC0 Public Domain)

The Beginning in the End

I lie stretched out on the duvet as the morning streamed through the blinds.  The swirling of dust caught in the miniature spotlights of the slats echo the hurricane of thoughts in my mind.  The eye of the storm: today the world would cease to exist, and we all would cease to exist with it.

A slight stirring next to me breaks my thoughts from their dark reverie.  His hand stretches out and brushes the hair from my eyes; his thumb rubbing a space on my cheek before it withdraws back to his side.  

Searching my face, he whispers, “So what would you like to do today?”

The silent understanding of kindred souls passes as an undercurrent between our gaze.  We both know what this day holds.  We don’t need to discuss it.

“How about we start with pancakes?  The King Cake kind we made in February for Shrove Tuesday,” I muse.

“Done and done,” he says.  He swings his legs off the bed, comes around to my side, and kisses me sweetly before he heads off to the kitchen.

We cook the pancakes and devour them with crisp bacon.  A small frown casts a shadow on my face as I look down at the last slice on my plate.

He sits next to me and reads exactly what I am feeling.   “Hey.  You never know.  I bet God is a bacon fan,” he says as he crunches a piece.

As a Catholic, I’m not supposed to doubt.  I’m supposed to unfailingly believe that at the end of this world is another, better world.  Still, I am a natural skeptic, and it’s hard for me even to believe that broccoli is good for you.  

I smile back at him as I shove the last piece of bacon in my mouth. “You’re probably right.”

We spend the afternoon watching the final episodes of season six of Game of Thrones and debating the merits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe versus the pitiful start to the DC Cinematic Universe with Batman v Superman.  He calls up his best friend afterwards to further the debate.

I shout out my two cents from the background while I leave Facebook messages to my family about how much I love them and how much I miss them and that I hope to see them this summer.  I’m pretty sure they know the world is ending too, so it seems pointless to say I would see them soon. But, just in case they don’t humanity is breathing its last, I don’t want to alarm them.  I’d rather they have final moments of love and hope instead of fear and confusion.

I stare out the back window at the cardinals flitting from branch to branch remembering how much my mother loved the red birds in her backyard.  Their comings and goings are a panoply of life that fill me with a sense of peace.

I feel arms wrap around me and he nuzzles his head into the crook of my neck.

“You want to snuggle with me?” he says with a bit of mirth and mischievousness.

“You want to snuggle with me?” I posit the question back to him.

Holding hands we walk back to stretch out on the duvet and watch the evening slip through the slats in the blinds like so much grains of sand through an hourglass.

My head rests on his chest, and I feel the steady rise and fall of his breath and hear his strong heartbeat.  I still don’t understand how it’s all just going to stop rising and falling.  How everything is just going to stop being.

He strokes my hair.  “Do you remember when we were driving to your hometown one of the last times to see your mom before she passed?  You talked about how in the everyday moments of our lives there is a kind majesty.”

“The majesty of the mundane,” I interrupt him.

“That’s right,” he replies.  “Today was majestic.”

And that’s when I know that there is a beginning in the end.  That whatever the end brings, afterlife or darkness, it will be the start of something. Even the darkness has life.  Even the mundane has majesty.

In response to Daily Prompt: Panoply
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Night Sky” by Wikiimages (CC0 Public Domain)

The Crimson Key

Alice cradled her head in her hands and felt the weight of it as if she were Prometheus holding up the sky.  She desperately searched her memory for who had given her the key, but she had been stuck in the cavern for three days.  Everything was fuzzy.  Through red-streaked eyes and a mud-caked face, Alice assessed her surroundings once more.

“Water, check,” her voice eternally bounced off the walls.  She winced at the shrill echo and thought it better to make a mental check list.

Water was abundant, that was given. It seeped off the walls and pooled on the floor in puddles. What about food? With the exception of the scurrying meals on wheels, there wasn’t anything readily available to eat.

The direness of the situation dawned on Alice, and anger rose in her like a tidal wave. With a heave, she threw the ruby key across the cavern.  It skipped and skittered across the glossy stones and came to lay in a pool where its steady pulse of red light served as a warning beacon to the world or to any idiot who would try to acquire it.  

Alice swallowed this burning pill, pushed herself up onto her knees, and hung her head.  Her matted hair fell in clumps around her pixie face.  Slowly she rose and planted one foot, hands folded on her knee in prayer that she have the strength left to pull herself up into humanity.  She took another step forward and found herself standing, head still hung as if in humility.

“Someone… anyone… help me,” she sobbed in resignation.

As Alice still had her head bowed, she did not notice the agency the key had gained.  It’s steady pulse had become frantic. It’s red hue had melted to blue, and it threw icy prisms that danced along the traces of water along the walls and floor.

With a deafening crack that raced around the cavern, the key’s frenetic dance stopped.  Alice whipped her head up, eyes wide, and stared at the doorway which had formed on the cavern floor.  

A small voice emanated from the crimson and cerulean entrance, “We open for the meek, the mild, the humble, the servants.  We are your inheritance if you are deemed worthy.”

Deep within Alice something stirred.  She didn’t know what lay beyond, but she knew what waited for her if she stayed.  With fasciation, trepidation, and hope for salvation, Alice bowed her head and stepped through the door.

In response to Daily Prompt: Echo
Featured Image: Pixabay – “Doors” by Qimono (CC0 Public Domain)