Vengeance

This is the piece of short fiction (which wasn’t chosen for publication) I wrote for the Ekphrastic challenge, the prompt painting After the Storm, by Istvan Farkas. I love the colours in this, purple and green together is among my favourite combinations.

Vengeance

The heavens opened five minutes after the Abbé left the presbytery. A real summer storm, short lived, but violent, driving rain and wind that thrashed green branches. The only shelter was at the top of the hill where the road wound beneath a spinney of oak trees. Someone was already there, a raggedy woman. The Abbé’s nostrils pinched in distaste and he nodded curtly. Clutching his useless umbrella, he turned his back on the woman and gazed firmly out across the heaving landscape.

“You’ll be late for your lunch if this keeps up,” the woman said. “Who is it this Sunday? Lefebvre? Fabre? Meunier?” Her voice was steady as the rain, and the Abbé heard insolence in it. He would not taint himself by replying. “He keeps a good table, Meunier, so I hear. And with the son a courtier at Bordeaux, the wine cellar’s bound to be good too.” The Abbé shuffled, and his stomach rumbled inopportunely. “But they’ll all feed you well. Any of those people. People worth traipsing the countryside in the rain for.” A malcontent, a starveling. The Abbé closed his ears. The wind howled and he heard the crack of thunder. “Not like poor folk. They’d not get you away from your warm fire. Not poor folk who have nothing to pay for a Mass with.” Bitter and envious. “You’d not stir yourself for them, not even if their bairns were dying.” He heard a catch in the steady stream of words. He had no idea who the woman was, but he had nothing to reproach himself with. The clouds hung black, swollen. “You’d think a man of God would have a bit of compassion though, wouldn’t you? Make an exception. A prayer wouldn’t have taken long, would it? It wasn’t the bairn’s fault that her mother had nothing to give.” The sob was unmistakeable now. “If she’d had the money, she’d have given it to the doctor. She might have still had a bairn now, not just a mound of fresh-turned earth outside the cemetery.” The Abbé cast his eyes at the sky, looking, not for spiritual guidance but for a let-up in the storm. “If there was any justice…”

The woman’s voice petered out, and the Abbé found his at last. “Do you dare threaten a priest of the Church?”

She stared through him. Her eyes were sunken, famished. She laughed, a dry, hoarse laugh that ended in a cough. “There is no justice, not here, not from men. But we all die, one day. I’d bear that in mind, Abbé Collet, if I were you.”

She pulled her shawl tight around her throat and, head bent, hurried out into the rain, back towards the village. The Abbé’s eyes narrowed and burned with what he was not allowed to call hatred. There was a time when the Church had been allowed to deal with witches like that. He glanced at the sky, looking for approval perhaps. Thunder growled and a flash of lightning winked at him from over the church tower.

He wondered what that wink signified later, in the last few agonising moments as he choked on a fishbone from Meunier’s otherwise excellent sea bass.

The stories we weave

Coming back on the north wind
to green shivering spring chill
dandelion-yellowed dappled and daisied.

Coming back from an antique time
bull-bronze blood and poppy-red
threaded with incantations
that blazed in torchlight to tympana
and the eerie fluting of the pipes.

Coming back leaving behind
dead children their wooden toys
and the brilliant brittle olive-groved light
of blue islands and baked clay.

Restless night

Last night, for the first two hours after taking a pain killer, I dipped in and out of half-sleep, woken by the same imperative repeated over and over—don’t forget two threads of the story, the two characters in a boat, the other two on the mountain, remember how the threads pull together.

Two hours of this anxiety that I might forget the vital elements of the plot of the story plagued me before I woke completely, the pain too bad to sleep and the anxiety still there.

on the water

a boat with swan’s wings

dream-journey

But what is the story? Not one that I am writing. Who are the two people in the boat? What is their relationship with the two climbing the mountain? I wish I knew. Perhaps it is a story waiting to be written, the voice urging me to remember, the voice of what we call the Muse.

And what if I were to write the two wandering threads?

snow

wreathes the mountain

swan’s wings

#writephoto: Earthward

Not a story to accompany Sue’s photo, just idle thoughts.

Screen Shot 2019-09-05 at 17.05.58.png

When down is the only way open, you follow the drifting leaves, down and down steps slippery with rain and fallen leaves, until the earth closes above your head, and the leaves become the smell of earth and leaf mould. Where the light ends and the dark begins might be safety, and it might be the start of a greater danger.

When down is the only way, and behind is a mass grey as thundercloud pushing you on, you follow the leaves, slip down with the rain and descend one step at a time, pretending this is a dream and not a nightmare.

Yet taking the downward stair into the dark is as valid as walking up to the light. Earth enfolds and protects, tunnelled with homes and sanctuaries, out of the wind and the cold and the fear of discovery, and here, where roots dig and plants and trees begin, is silence, the peace and calm of the great earth.

Here, at the beginning of things, is the place to learn and cherish what will grow, to cast away our fear of mystery, so when we follow the winding path beneath root and stone, and out the other side into the daylight, our eyes will be open. We will see the whole world as layers of one great living entity, all beauty, all goodness, not ours to meddle with or discard, to use and destroy, but to keep whole and integral, the silence of tree roots tangled with the silence of clouds.

 

Solace

I love the prompt, but it’s late and I’m tired so I shall probably come back and have another go at this tomorrow. Here’s a first attempt anyway, for the dverse prosery prompt.

 

It started at school, the taunts, the pokes in the back, the sly foot stuck out when I walked to my desk, the books tipped on the floor. All I ever wanted was to be like everyone else, to have a shiny new bike, the same way of speaking, a house with neat curtains and begonias in gaudy ranks in the garden. Instead I had a clatter of brothers and sisters, an old house with no curtains on the windows, apple trees and rabbit hutches in the garden.

I used to dream of being Prime Minister, or a super hero, or fighting poachers on a nature reserve in Kenya. I dreamt that people finally stopped laughing, prodding and poking and looked at me in awe. But the world is dark and unkind, and dreams never come true.

Then I dreamt I was the moon.

On striving

 

Wringing the last drops out of life

in search of a silver stream of happiness,

squeezing the juice from a ripe peach

hoping the sweetness will last,

we glean the scraps looking for gold.

Only those who want little,

whose desires are rounded by a trail of trinkets

will sigh and let seep into their blood

the red ink of sunset.

Wanting something words cannot say,

I grub and delve among dark roots,

while overhead, the dancing sky-flowers

call wistfully and race

over the edge of oblivion

without me.

Salamanders

A quickie for the NaPoWriMo prompt referring to an art form other than writing. The woman in the August Macke painting looks uncannily familiar.

575px-'Woman_Writing'_by_August_Macke,_1910.jpg

If I could paint

a painter I’d be

but these things are decided

when fingers are still stubby tools

for grubbing in the dirt after earthworms and beetles,

forced to shape themselves to uncompromising ivory keys

to grip skinny slippery pencils

and form symbols of another’s creation.

If I could

I would

but paint is a river

an ocean too glorious and uncontrollable

too close to the rolling weaving

water and wind-swept tableau

of another’s creation.

Words instead tumble and trickle

salamanders from a volcanic pit

to be captured and shaped

before they scuttle back into their secret caves

pinned to a page where they glow

immortalised.

That’s the theory anyway.