Microfiction #writephoto: A lonely child

This short story is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt

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The child stood on tiptoe to peer through the leaded panes, breathed on a diamond and drew a smiley face in the moisture. It was cold outside, and not much warmer inside. She shivered. The room was high and bare, like most of the castle rooms, but this was even barer than most and tiny, much higher than it was wide. There was nothing in it except a wooden chest pushed against a wall.

Perhaps because it was the only object in the room, perhaps because of some other attraction, the child approached and ran her fingers over the carved flowers and birds.

It’s a girl’s box, she thought, full of some girl’s things.

Pushing with both hands, she raised the lid. Cold air rushed out and around her, lifting the fine locks of hair about her face. With a sharp cry, she let the lid drop and backed up to the window and the light.

Her hair brushed the stone sill and she felt the cold touch of water on her neck. She cried out again and held out her hands to her mother who was hurrying across the silent stone flags.

“It’s nothing, silly,” her mother said, soothingly, glancing at the little puddles on the narrow ledge, “just a bit of rain water.”

But it isn’t raining.

She held her mother’s hand tightly, but only that hand was warm. Everything else was cold, and she felt unutterably sad. She turned in the doorway to look back at the lonely room, the box and the face drawn in the window glass. The smile had trickled and the eyes had run, and she heard, quite distinctly, the sound of weeping.

O child of mine

For the dverse open night, Grace has posted a hommage to W.B. Yeats by Auden. I am going to post this poem, inspired indirectly by Yeats’ poems to his children.

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O child of mine, I hear you sigh

And murmur in your sleep at night,

While in the trees the white owls cry,

And white wings flutter out of sight.

I hear you murmur in your sleep,

In dreams that take you far from here,

Where children never have to weep,

Where children never have to fear.

I’d wrap you in a gown of silk

And strew with rowan berries red

Your bedsheets, white as morning milk,

To keep away the fears you dread.

I cannot keep you, now you’re grown,

Safe with red berries, child of mine,

All your dreams with white owls flown,

And crystal water turned to wine.

Dispersed the magic rainbow arc,

Gone, berry bright and salmon leap,

So from the incense-clouded dark,

Your heart safe in my hands I’ll keep.

Microfiction challenge #6:The child

The theme word this week is

loneliness

The image, by Else Berg could prompt a new chapter in your ongoing story or it could be a completely new one. If you really can’t see how it could fit into the story you have imagined, put it on hiatus. The real challenge would, of course, be to make the story take a turn that does fit this image in. There’s tremendous pathos in the painting, the child surrounded by toys, yet with such sadness in his eyes. I know my children hated being put in a pen and spent most of their time in it trying to climb out or tunnel under it. Could that be the explanation, or is there some more profound unhappiness?  Looking forward to seeing what you make of this one.

As usual, please post the link to your story in the comments before next Thursday. Happy writing!

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Microfiction: Goodbye

I’ve just finished round #1 of edits, so to celebrate, I looked at Ronovan’s Friday Fiction prompt. It looked like a good one. Short fiction using at least two of the following words:

Burn, Weave, Cabin, Silver, Hush, Light

I did it. A micro-microfiction of hardly any words. Unfortunately it was a prompt from three months ago. Never mind. the old ones work just as well.

Image©Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

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Comet burned through the night, leaving a trail of silver light. The town slept, but the last child left awake watched through the darkness and the hushed trees bowing solemnly in the dark wind and waved to the celestial body carrying a friend home.

“Goodbye, Bingo.”

In the silver garden the moon and the comet light shone on the fresh turned earth where a dog would no longer play, and made a river of diamonds of childish teardrops.

Flash fiction: The attic

A short story written for Margo Roby’s photo prompt

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We’d visited all of the house except the attic. We’d admired the old beams, run our fingers through the soot around the fireplaces, picked at the flaking paintwork and prodded the woodwormy window frames. We smiled inwardly. Nothing serious. Cosmetic. We loved the house. The estate agent turned in the doorway, the eager light in his eyes betraying his hopes that we’d be signing without too much fuss. I too turned for one last look at the kitchen, the homely beams, the red tiles on the floor, the small wooden door in the corner, and I hesitated, the warm feeling faltering.

“The attic. We ought really to visit it, you know.”

The estate agent had opened that door briefly, pushed his overfed bulk into the narrow opening and declared.

“No, that staircase really is too rickety.” He backed out, a determined smile plastered across his face. “Next time, maybe. No electric light up there. The beams are perfectly sound. There’s a certificate in the file. Nothing to worry about from the roof either. It had a thorough revision two years ago. In the file.” He smiled again without warmth, and they’d moved on to visit the other rooms.

“I’d like to see.”

The estate agent began to bluster, which made me even more adamant. As a species they have a bad press, and I wouldn’t trust this one as far as I could throw him, which, given his girth, was not far.

Tom caught my eye. “I brought a flashlight for emergencies,” he said, producing it from his pocket like the piece of evidence that clinched the case.

The estate agent sighed and opened the door with an obvious bad grace. He led the way, grumbling about the dust, the ominous creaks, the broken handrail. At the top another door. Behind, the light was pale, thin. One dusty window let in light that I had the distinct impression came from another time. The day we had left was sunny, cheerful. The attic was full of winter.

The estate agent stomped about on the boards, his shoes leaving prints. He stomped, chuntered, broke the silence that had hung like cobwebs for how long?

“How long did you say the house has been empty?”

“Not long. The owners moved out in the spring.”

Tom flashed light into the dim corners. I rubbed a hole in the grime of the window. The garden was there, but I couldn’t see the flowers. I was certain I’d seen a clump of hydrangeas by the wall, a splash of dawn sky colour. I frowned, shivering. It was cold in the attic though outside the sun was warm. The estate agent carried on stamping his feet and slapping his hands together. It was almost as if he was trying to make as much noise as possible. Tom’s flashlight lingered on an old pram with a mouldering doll sitting inside. The pram was a relic from a bygone age. The fabric of the doll’s dress and the lining of the pram were the colour of dust, fragile, and trembling on the brink of becoming dust like the rest of the attic. I listened to the papery rustling behind the estate agent’s elephantine blunderings, the patter of voices.

“They didn’t come up here often, did they?” Tom let the light wander right to the back where the roof was lowest and the shadows deepest. A bed, a child’s bed. He started towards it. I grabbed his arm. The air was so cold. The estate agent was shuffling nervously by the stairs. Maybe he could hear them too, the voices.

“They never came up here,” I said.

Tom looked at me and I could see that he understood too. Something touched the back of my neck.

“Let’s go,” I said. “Please.”

The air moved and the rags that hung over the window fluttered. The thin light dimmed. The estate agent’s bulk disappeared surprisingly quickly, and the sound of his steps hurrying across the room came up from the kitchen.

I turned and peered one last time into the darkness of the farthest wall beneath the eaves. The shadows stirred, laboriously, and Tom pushed me down, away, and pulled the door shut behind him. The rickety stairs shook and shuddered, and the voices whispered,

Please,

Please,

Please.

Outside, the sunshine that dried the damp tears on my face beamed down on the sky blue and pink flowers of hydrangeas by the wall.

 

Microfiction: Ginger

I wrote this short piece in response to something I read on Sacha Black’s blog, a sort of mass movement to write about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not an easy or straightforward concept; it sometimes changes between the giving and the accepting. It isn’t an automatic solution to grief either, as I tried to show in this story.

(please imagine the image of the dead ginger cat that I have but decided not to post).

 

Ginger was dead. Betty wasn’t allowed to touch the broken body. She wanted to wipe away the blood smears but she was afraid of hurting the cat even more. Her father had scraped him onto an old towel and they were going to bury him in the garden. Betty watched as her father dug the hole, but more than her father, she watched the towel and the paw sticking out with the delicate pink pads. They looked so perfect and alive. She crouched down and reached out a finger to touch them, one after the other. Still soft and a bit spongy. But cold.

Mr Ritchie across the road had run over Ginger while he was backing out of his garage. He’d said sorry. He’d gone now, off to the supermarket as if nothing had happened. But he’d said sorry. Betty ought to have forgiven him because that’s what you did when people said they were sorry. But if he was sorry, why didn’t he cry like she had done? Why had he gone off to Tesco thinking about cornflakes and soap powder?

She must have been glowering because her father stopped digging and came over to give her a hug.

“It wasn’t his fault, you know. He just didn’t see Ginger in the driveway. He was very sorry about it.”

Betty said nothing. Mr Ritchie was sorry, but not sorry enough. People who are sorry enough don’t do the things that would make them sorry. She looked at the towel and the very slight hump that the squashed cat made inside it. She looked at the beautiful pink pads and she sobbed. Mr Ritchie was sorry. But Ginger was still dead.

Last rose blooms

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The last rose blooms

On slender stem stripped bare by the wind.

Like the last child

Flourishing in the failing shelter of the old parent tree.

Slight head bows

So little weight on the old branch

So sweet the scent

So bright the red in the dim light.

The old tree sighs and bends in the gusting wind

And the rose sheds its perfume

Suave and soothing

As dark winter falls.

Lost childhood

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Take my hand and hold it tight
As you used to do when you were small
And trusted me to keep you safe
On the woodland path where the trees grow tall.
Take my hand and walk with me
To the place you loved where the long grass grows
And you’d thread your daisies ’neath the trees
Where the river glides and the west wind blows
Take my hand and talk to me
The child who prattled endlessly
But now is grown and forgets she knew
The song the moon sings to the sea.

50 word micro fiction contest

The writing prompt for Elizabeth Frattaroli’s monthly contest is to write a story in fifty words.
Anyone can enter the contest. Look on Elizabeth’s blog here.

This is my entry.

Sleepover

She took the dog out early as the first thunder growled, grumbling about the youngest who, as usual, wasn’t answering her phone. Kids. Never think their parents might worry. She stopped. In the gutter. Case smashed. With that cheery sticker on the back. The sky darkened; the heavens opened.