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Monthly Archives: April 2014

“She Too, Wonders Why”

 

Umbrellas dot the square, round tables
Surrounded by chairs beneath them.
Beers sit slowly seeping condensation
From their frosted glasses as they’re
Sipped by hipsters too poor to afford
A second and forced to make the first one
Last til last call. Soon the sun will set on
Belmar and the fountain burble will fade
Until morning.

A young girl paints pictures of the flowers.
She sells them to tourists to pay for her education.
She dreams of becoming an architect,
But when her paintings fail to sell,
She grows desperate.
She has a true talent, but it will not be
Noticed by the right people until it is
Too late.
Her body will be found in her dorm
Room bath, the final dollars in
Her checking account used to buy
Not paints but painkillers and vodka.
A tragedy, but lo and behold a collector
Comes along and buys all of
Her paintings of flowers.
The money pays for her funeral and her
Mother and father’s  growing stream of
Antidepressants.

Why didn’t she call home?
Why didn’t she reach out for help from
Her parents?

Maybe only her girlfriend knows,
But no one knows that
She even exists now. The only one
Who ever cared is being buried
A four hour flight away, and the
Family wouldn’t want
Her there anyway, and so
She sits alone in the square,
Sipping a beer from a frosted glass,
Tears slowly rolling down her cheeks
To match the condensation soaking
Her coaster.

She too, wonders why.

“Consequences”

If hell is what I
Must face, then
So be it. Eternal
Damnation is a
Small price for
Love.

 

Originally written 4/27/13.

“Library”

Brightly lit shelves and cheering voices
Of children hearing the call for storytime.
Frazzled researchers sharpening golf pencils
And digging for scraps of paper from their
Hand-written records of family trees.
Lines of the question-filled masses forming
Before the reference desks and the smiling
Librarians, seeing the benefit of their job
With every answer they dispense, every
Mind they help to open, every misconception
They dispel.

Wha? Eleven days? What the hell, April? I’m sorry, everyone. I’ve done all of no writing on here in a week and a half. On the plus side, I wrote something for you at work yesterday.

Yes, I got paid to do this, but only because I was on the clock at the bookstore.

Yes, I got paid to do this, but only because I was on the clock at the bookstore.

 

My boss was in the process of rearranging half of the gift merchandise in the store when I got to work last night, and she handed me the Magnetic Poetry (copyright info here) display. We were switching all of the magnets to a slightly smaller display, so I was instructed to fit all of the demo magnets on the smaller stand. I did as instructed, but I also took the time to craft a short poem for my favorite readers (but don’t worry, you can all read it).

And here’s the text of said poem, just in case you’re having trouble getting that photo to load.

“let me dream of you
and worship like rain
for a rose & love like
a storm above the sea”

“The Casket”

The casket was made of steel, polished and gleaming blue in the June sun. I didn’t know the man inside, but I knew of him. Everyone in town knew about the house where he’d lived for the last forty years. My dad told stories of how, as a teen, he and his friends had dared each other to enter Mr. Walter’s yard, to approach the house, to lift the brass knocker on the door, to steal a sprig of foxglove from the sunken garden. He told me that he’d won almost a hundred dollars over the course of a single summer. I didn’t feel brave enough to tell him that I’d never made it beyond the fence, but I always nodded every time he mentioned some detail of the grounds.

Mr. Walter’s funeral was simple. He was buried in the graveyard a quarter mile outside of town. Pastor Mikalsen came to do the service, and my dad and I were the only mourners, unless you count Zeek, the gravedigger (who only has the job because he lives nearby and owns a backhoe). I guess that’s what happens when you spend most of your life as a hermit, even in a small town. No one wants to come to say goodbye. Dad said he felt obligated after antagonizing the old man for most of his own youth. We didn’t even dress up, since we’d been out working on one of our tractors all morning. Two mourners whose only black attire that afternoon consisted of grease-stained jeans and t-shirts.

I told Dad that I’d walk home after the service was over, and that I wanted to have a little while to think. He gave me an understanding nod and climbed back into the pickup, calling for Pastor Mikalsen and his wife to join us for dinner that evening as he drove away. I watched as the pastor followed him back to town before asking Zeek if he needed a hand. When he waved me off, I wandered the few uneven rows of remaining stones. I’d always loved spending time in the little cemetery, even waking up early on Saturdays in my youth to ride my bike there. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were buried there, and I soon found myself standing before their headstone. Zeek finished piling the last of the dirt on top of Mr. Walter and headed off toward home, the backhoe serving as his transportation for the afternoon, and I was finally alone with my thoughts.

I sat down in front of my great-grandparents’ grave and looked at the dates carved in the dark marble. They’d died less than a year apart, and only a few months after I was born. Dad didn’t talk about them much, and all I really knew was that we lived in their old house. Mom talked about her side of the family even less, though I suspected she had good reason for keeping such things to herself, and never prodded her about it. She might as well have been an orphan for all I actually knew about her relatives. I didn’t mind too much, because it meant a hell of a lot fewer road trips across the country to see them. There are only so many times you can drive across Nebraska before it starts to take a toll on you.

After a few minutes, I stood up and dusted myself off. I made a final round of the cemetery, being careful not to walk on the freshly packed soil where Mr. Walter now resided. I set off down the road for home when inspiration struck, and I started walking the opposite direction. Soon I stood before the towering home the old man had once occupied. Daylight, I mused, made all the difference in approaching the building. Even on a bright afternoon, the place loomed over the grounds. The wrought iron gate where I stood was marked with a massive stylized “W,” itself in turn decorated with an intaglio of ivy. I traced it with my fingers, feeling the textures of the etched metal. With a brief glance over my shoulder, I gave the gate a gentle push until it opened.

That was all it took. I felt a surge of confidence as I slipped into the yard, leaving the open gate behind me. I was in Mr. Walter’s yard. Remembering Dad’s stories, I headed for the back of the house, following the flagstone path that led to the sunken garden. I pulled my phone from my pocket, snapping a few pictures along the way. To say that it was beautiful did no justice to the place. I realized that Mr. Walter must have maintained everything himself until his death, and that he had clearly poured all of his energy into that garden. While the rest of the yard, and the house itself, had fallen into some state of disrepair, the garden was pristine. A jeweled mosaic decorated one of the walls, sapphire, topaz, amethyst, and a half-dozen other stones set in patterns resembling flowers. Ivy grew around it, but had been carefully cleared away from the mosaic itself.

I could have lost myself in thought in that garden, but I had work to do before the light faded. Finding a patch of the famous foxglove, I picked a handful and headed back to the gate. The walk back to the cemetery took only a few minutes. I laid the flowers down at Mr. Walter’s grave, knowing that the chances of anyone else ever doing to same for him were slim. I didn’t know the man in the steel casket beneath my feet, but I knew of him. Everyone in town did, but I wouldn’t forget him. Somebody had to remember the dead, after all. When our houses are torn down, and our gardens are left untended, eventually only memory will remain, though that too will fade.

It was time to go home. The sun was setting, and we had company coming for dinner.

 

 

(This piece was written for a flash fiction challenge hosted by the inimitable Chuck Wendig. We were given ten words, and instructed to pick five of them to include in a 1,000 word short story. I used topaz, orphan, casket, hermit, and foxglove.)