Microfiction: A portrait

This is for my own prompt. It came out at exactly 200 words.

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The elderly gentleman stood ramrod-straight, hands clasped behind his back, heels perfectly aligned. A military training lasted forever. He admired the portrait in the shop, turned it over, looking for a price tag.

Fine-looking children. The thought popped into his head without warning and he shook it out again.

A finely executed work. He corrected himself and turned his head, searching for the owner. The eyes of the little girl in the portrait followed him. Her brother had nothing in his head; that was clear. A perfectly ordinary child. But the girl…He frowned.

Wrenching his attention from the painted gaze of the child, he walked stiffly through the shop, and asked, almost angrily, the price of the painting.

“The children? Not mine to sell, I’m afraid. The heirs are picking it up tomorrow.”

“The heirs?”

The question was out before he could call it back. He guessed. Didn’t want a reminder.

“The Rosenthal family. It was stolen. Nazi loot. You know, usual story. Kids went to the gas chamber, poor little sods.”

Reluctantly, the elderly gentleman took a last look at the painting.

She knew, he thought, recognizing at last what he saw in the child’s eyes. It was pity.

Childhood

The Daily Post prompt is: childhood.

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In the growing shadows of my thoughts,

Where trees would sing and ring and spread so high,

And wonder lie in pebble-glinting pools,

There is still a place of laughter far away.

 

Receding into vague, forgetful mists,

The past is overlaid with myriad cares,

The child I was plays silently today,

In the growing shadows of my thoughts.

 

Forest glades encircled by the world,

No longer secret gardens tucked away,

The magic gone from falcon-hunting woods,

Where trees would sing and ring and spread so high.

 

Sunbeams slid through summer dancing leaves,

Dappling and rippling the silver running stream,

Blackbird day would follow fox-quick night,

And wonder lie in pebble-glinting pools.

 

Though shadows crowd the brightness and the the joy,

And silence fills the glades where foxes played,

Childhood glows, a gem, beneath a glass:

There is still a place of laughter far away.

Child talk

The Secret Keeper’s writing prompt included these words. The triolet was almost effortless. Imagine what I’m preoccupied with these days?

CHILD | TALK | HOME | TIME | PLAY

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Child talk echoes, on playroom wall

Chattering, light, bewitching, fay.

When did you all grow up so tall?

Child talk echoes on playroom wall,

Every bedtime around nightfall,

This home is emptier today.

Child talk echoes on playroom wall,

Chattering light, bewitching, fay.

NaPoWriMo: Sharp fragments

Penultimate day of the challenge is about memories. Here’s a string of the firmly anchored images that people who know better tell me are pure imagination.

Photo ©Böhringer friedrich

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The liner sailing the ocean,

green waves high as houses

and me in my mother’s arms,

salt spray in my baby face.

The big tree in the garden,

struck by lightning,

flaring like a torch.

The red UFO

flashing silently in the sunlight

across the old railway bridge

where children laughed.

No cars on the road.

Only I saw it.

Granddad dandling me on his knee.

His ghost perhaps.

The figure bending over me in the night

in a room that had been my nursery

until the next baby took my place.

Too small to be toddling,

no words yet to scream.

Memories or ghosts of them?

Unreal,

tied not in time and space

but to the silver strings

of the unattainable stars.

Microfiction: Black out

This piece was written for Margo Roby’s Tuesday poem tryouts. The theme, Lights Out, is electricity outage, power cuts to us Europeans. Yes, I know, it isn’t a poem. I misread that bit. However, this is what the prompt inspired, poetry or not.

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Nothing seemed to trouble the calm flow of existence in those far off days of childhood. There was snow in the winter, sunshine in the summer, plants grew and bees hummed. School was a steady, necessary evil, and the future stretched no further than the weekend. Time flowed slowly, at walking pace, or at its fastest, the speed of an old red bus. There were grandparents, scones on Sundays, Mass and family visits.

Then something called the Three Day Week struck and Dad was at home at funny times of day, the menus changed and there was rarely any meat in them. But the most momentous change was ‘the power cut’. We had night then, real night, black and velvety. And stars. I loved those winter nights of black out, with the open fire and candles indoors. Outdoors, the world was full of the brilliance of the big stars, and the fainter flickering lights of the Milky Way. There were gas balls or ball lightning or UFOs that floated up the dark lane before disappearing into the glittering blackness, and a family of foxes grew brave enough to come and play on the starlit lawn.

The night became a beautiful, mysterious place, and I learned that Orion cartwheeled across the sky each night, a guardian angel, watching over the house on the hill. I sit here, in another house, far away from that childhood hill, while Orion still watches and waits. And I still follow the ballet of the stars, each night bringing me closer to piercing the mystery of what lies at the end of the dance.

Flash fiction: Crocodiles

A short story for Ronovan’s Friday Fiction prompt.

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The two grown ups were leaning on the rail, looking down into the river. Nat peered through the wrought iron of the bridge parapet; his interest caught more by the water as it swirled around the stone piers than by what his parents were saying.

“There just isn’t the money.” His father often said things like that.

“We can’t go on like this,” his mother said. “This isn’t living. It’s surviving.”

“The car’s on it’s last too, you know.”

“No holiday, the spare bedroom’s still not finished, and now the car!”

“At least we won’t be needing the bedroom.”

His mother sighed. A dramatic sigh that Nat didn’t believe for a minute. “Who can afford kids these days?”

Nat’s ears pricked up. This was when they usually started arguing about when they were going to give him a little brother or sister. Not that they ever did. Nat would have liked to have someone to talk to, someone who listened to what he had to say. He looked up. His parents were both staring into the water. Maybe they’d seen the piece of tree that looked like a crocodile too.

“Sometimes…” His mother sighed again. “I really think it might just be easier…”

“Tempting, isn’t it?” his father said. “Drowning’s not a pleasant way to go, though.”

Nat reached through the fancy ironwork and opened his hand. He pressed his face close to watch the pebble hit the water. His mother sucked in her breath.

“Stop that!” His father’s voice was hard. Like the pebble.

He looked up in surprise. He had stopped. He only had one pebble. He glanced down; the pebble was gone. Not even a ripple marked the spot. The river flowed on and on, over the place, thick, muddy ropes of water, carrying the trees that looked like crocodiles. The voices picked up again, lower, murmuring. He didn’t listen. The crocodile slid by, joined by a stag with great antlers. And a cloud of gulls were settling, riding down the river on the back of the crocodile and perched in the stag’s antlers.

The river rolled down to the ocean, Nat knew that. The crocodile, the stag and the gulls were all going down to the beach. On the riverbank, a pair of magpies were shouting at something. And in a tree that bent low over the water a little bird was singing, so sweetly. He listened and smiled. The sky was full of cloud faces, and all he wanted was to ride on a crocodile with the gulls, down to the sea. He didn’t wonder if his parents would want to come with him. He knew the answer.

 

Market

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Passing through the market
Allez! Allez! Allez!
Arms laden with the heavy odours
Of peach and melon
Pêches blanches, melons
Paper bag of luxuriant deep red cherries
Ah non! C’est français ça!
Harvesting the summer
Sucré! Sucré! Sucré!
I pushed my way past
Balancing wooden cageots colour-stamped
Spilling Spain and Morocco
Onto groaning stalls
When the smell of the sea
Swelled like a cool wave
Heaving over boxes of chinking cockles,
Bright shells creamy foam-white
Wicker baskets mussel-brimming
Colours of deep water, violet, dark amethyst.
Whelks and shrimps
Yellow-green, rose pink
Palourdes, pétoncles
Gleam with the silver,
Dimpled light of shallow water,
Coquilles Saint-Jacques,
Langouste, ecrevisses, crabes

The velvet brown, olive green
Of anenome fringed rock pools,
All piled about with the deep green odorous
Strands of kelp, saltwater slick.
And my heart caught in my throat
With an unexpected sob
As the sea breeze tugged at my hair
Crying with the yearning voice of the gulls
For the tall cliffs
The sleek sand
And jewelled pools of my childhood.