Tag Archives: loss

After The War Part 3: A Rustling

Still life with fruit (with scorpion and frog) by Walter Crane This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
Still life with fruit (with scorpion and frog)
by Walter Crane
This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

Based on the prompt on Today’s Author: “When the wind blew a certain way, it brought a scent that reminded him of his grandmother’s house.”

When the wind blew a certain way, it brought a scent that reminded her of her grandmother’s house. She had to stay on task but being back in this village so many years later, she could not help turn head. If she walked a little upwind, she was sure she would find the old houses in gardens with their tiny stalls lined up on dusty streets along the railroad.

The first time she spent the night at her grandmother’s house, she was woken up by the train passing by, shaking the whole house like a cradle. She was surprised to see her father still fast asleep.

While staring up at the ceiling, watching the shadow of the train pass by right through her room, she thought about her father’s childhood. He had mentioned a few times how he would run around bare foot, back in the days when he could not pronounce his “r”s. She imagined her own authoritative dad, had she known the word, she would have used charismatic, asking his “mothav” for “bvead” with “buttev” and “sugav”. She giggled.

Her silent laughter froze in mid-air. She sensed motion, the sound of rustling at the window by her bed, a presence. Her heart started thumping, filling the room louder than the train that had just passed. If only her father would wake up. He would know how to deal with it. He would take care of the “presence”.

Instead he inhaled loudly with a touch of snotty snore sitting on his nostrils. The rustling stopped. A second later, she heard it again, too close for her to lie still in her bed. It was touching her, brushing against her hair. She got up screaming. Her father woke up with an instinct to protect his offspring, turned the lights on and grabbed his daughter in a matter of seconds, throwing a threatening glare at the enemy.

In her father’s arms, she shut her eyes, trembling. When her father did not move, she opened her eyes to face the enemy… on the floor. Staring back at them, too afraid to move, except for its chin swelling regularly, was a frog. All this commotion, fear and anxiety was only for… a frog.

Her father let her go. Cranky that his sleep had been interrupted, he told her frogs were all over the place in this town. She could not be so jumpy, away from the protective high concrete walls of the big city. This was one of the safest places they could be, so she better go back to sleep.

After the speech, he caught the frog and set it free through the same window it had gotten in.

A soft touch on her shoulder brought her back to the present. It was time for lunch. She washed the soil off her hands and followed the rest of the volunteers into the food tent.

For lunch, they were serving a root dish she had only eaten at her grandmother’s house before. It was a dish specific to this area, a meal that required tradition in the execution.

Years ago, for dinner, her grandmother had cooked the root that only the locals knew where to find, how to cut and how to cook. The smell of the dish was still lingering in all the rooms long after they had sat in the common room, sharing fruits and eating the corn her grandmother had popped in her special pan.

When she went to bed, the root smell had mixed with popcorn, comforting her to sleep. She opened her eyes only slightly now when the train passed, and let it rock her to sleep with its regular “tuddum, tuddum” lullaby on the rails.

She still found rustling by the window somewhat distressing, but had gotten used to the animals she could not easily find in the city. If it was not a frog, it was a dog; if not, a cat, a sheep or once, even the neighbor’s donkey that had made its way out of the stall.

So when there was some rustling by the window, she did not make much of it. She closed her eyes and let her body waft into slumber in the arms of root and corn…

A hand suddenly grabbed her shoulder. For a split second she took it for her father’s but it was much harsher, and a lot less loving.

“Get down on the floor!” Her father woke up with fear in his eyes, staring beggingly at the man holding his daughter.

She heard thumping and her father painfully screaming, begging for his daughter to be left free while she was locked in an empty room.

Soon, her grandparents’ voices joined the choir of painful begging in between blunt thumps and fierce orders.

She hid under the bed. She expected her father to chase those men away any second, to open the door and hold her, to make everything right, turn everything back to the way they were a few hours ago, eating fruits and popcorn with her grandparents in a root smelling house, where the greatest disturbance was animals gone astray.

This was the last time she saw her father, her grandparents and the house itself. The same night, various other houses were attacked with most people either dragged away into anonymity or killed on the spot.

A greater part of the village was damaged first by the civil war and then by the bombings of origins too obscure and tangled to figure out.

She was dragged from one camp to another on trains and trucks until she was left at the porch of an old woman who took care of a small collection of orphans in her little home as if they were her own.

Now, a grown woman, she was back at this village of her childhood she could not recognize anymore, building a new town from scratch for the a little girl to live in safety with her family, in a house that would be smelling roots only her people could cook while the train scheduled to run again soon rocked their home in peace and only harmless animals slowly approached her window.

Word Count: 1030

One Step

Two Women by Egon Schiele The author died in 1918, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 90 years or less.
Two Women by Egon Schiele
The author died in 1918, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 90 years or less.

Tipsy Lit: Prompted: Risky Business   ·

For this week’s prompt, the theme is taking a big risk….

Adrenaline tickling my body, I crossed from one landing to the other. My ecstatic screams subsided only when I reached the other side.

It was Jeima’s turn. Others were teasing her. She had let her turn pass a few times, and watched many of us walk on the thin rail to the other roof, probably telling herself it was not a big deal, that it was one straight step she had to take after another. Had she not, so many times before, practised walking on a straight line on the pavement, pretending to be walking up in the air, with everyone watching and marveling at her courage from below, their eyes reduced to thin lines with the sun shining just above her?

Sometimes we played the acrobat game together, imagining we were world famous artists, walking on ropes above all city chaos, defying gravity, smiling and shining with the confidence we gathered from the inaudible applause below our feet shaking buildings with its intensity. Brunette Rebellion, the name we had chosen for ourselves, rebelled against gravity and fear!

I saw her, with her arms already lifted, balancing her weight, although she had not yet taken a step towards the edge of the roof. She seemed tense, much more different from her jolly, mocking self in our games.

I looked all the way down, focusing on the half of my foot resting emptily on the nothingness between the roof top and the grey pavement 7 floors below.

I imagined the one slight moment when I would push my foot forward and place it on the emptiness. It was as if I could keep walking to the other side where Jeima was still waltzing one foot forward one foot backward, trying to find the courage for the big adventure. It was as if all would unravel like in cartoons, where the character does not fall until it notices it has exhausted the cliff and is standing over a huge gap.

I wondered what difference it would make, my landing on the pavement and never getting up. I wondered what would change for the tiny people rushing in between tall chaotic buildings…

I wondered how my parents would feel and what would change for my friends, whether they would ever come back to this rooftop and carry on with their daring games.

A dress with dark hair rustling and dancing against gravity passed through the corner of my eye, followed by a thump.

And I received the answers to my questions.

People on the streets without a second to waste would quickly gather and stand still around my body. My parents would lose all motion in their body, maybe to go back to a time when they could hold me from climbing up to the roof top.

My friends would never visit the rooftop again, and the fun teasing would be diminished to an unbreakable silence.

I know all this, because it all happened when Jeima stepped quietly away from the cliff.

Word Count: 502

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Fresh Dirt

Women Riding a Donkey by Modesto Teixidor y Torres This work is in the public domain in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 80 years or less.
Women Riding a Donkey by Modesto Teixidor y Torres
This work is in the public domain in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 80 years or less.
Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge:
Fifty-Word Inspiration: This week, find inspiration in fifty words. Use a fellow blogger’s response to a previous challenge, “Fifty,” as a springboard for this week’s post.

I saw fresh dirt and made a move to touch it.

I saw the hand underneath and tried to hold it.

I heard his voice and responded.

Then silence followed and I was left with no hand to hold or voice to listen to. He was gone, I was left behind…

Wordcount: 50, pure luck!

My first go at ultra flash fiction.

After the War Part 2: She was a good mother

Madame Augustine Roulin With Baby by Van Gogh The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Madame Augustine Roulin With Baby
by Van Gogh
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On a sunny day, on my way to the shop, I passed by the garden I admired for the lavish green it enclosed. On that day, amidst the leaves and trees, there were sorrowful faces. After so many years, the three orphans were once again gathered under the same roof. Yet this time the woman who had gathered them was in a wooden box they were carrying towards a pit in between the shrubs.

Years ago, the woman in the box had taken them in one by one and offered them a home. Now, after a long time, they were together, thanks to her.

Of the three orphans, especially the girl had left an impact on my memory. I remember clearly the day she was brought to the old woman’s house. Her large dark eyes were shining with fear on her tiny face where tears had made pathways through dried up blotches on her cheeks… on the cheeks that had known nothing but caresses until that day. She looked tired and small in worn out dusty clothes.

I probably remember her so well because of her mother.

Years ago, her mother came to my shop with red puffy eyes. I had seen her around a few times but never had a chance to start a conversation. My shop had been a popular spot the townspeople liked to frequent. They were eager to spend their newly acquired wealth on goods they had never seen before.

Once the war broke out, my customers dwindled. So did the supplies delivered to my shop and I was left with considerable time to listen to stories.

On one such day, she entered my shop with swollen eyes. I asked her if she would like to sit down. She responded with tears and her story that had brought her there. She poured out the string of events one after another with the insatiability of those who are overwhelmed by an accumulation of experiences they cannot quite make out what to do with. She needed to hear them herself by speaking them out loud.

Thus, she began talking. She had moved from her family’s home where she had spent her whole life to our town a few months ago with her husband whom she had met only a month before their wedding. At her new dwelling, in between the alien surroundings, she had to learn to share everything, from her food to her bed, with a complete stranger. So to learn, she watched. She watched this man until all terrifying strangeness about him became a source of comfort. She observed him up to the point where a new life in a new town did not appear so daunting as long as he was present.

Then, a few days ago her husband had left to join the fight and she had lost the only person she knew in this town she had moved to for his sake.

From that day on, I became her confidante for the next three years. I was there when she received news from the front. I held her hand when she found out her home town had been hit by a deadly attack. I was by her side when she came to the realization that she would not be receiving any news from the front anymore. I reassured her as gunfire approached closer day by day.

I was also there when she found out she was going to be a mother. I witnessed her joy when despite everything, she told me about her dreams and hopes for the little bean growing in her.

At a moment when she had no one left, she was eager to embrace her child, to reformulate her existence and grow roots strong enough to hold them upright whatever may strike their little family. I knew, in spite of the war, the dirt, the destruction of everything good, she was ready for her child. Despite the ugliness of fast approaching blood thirst, she wanted to bring her baby up to be aware of others, thoughtful, sensitive and with belief in a safe future.

I knew she was ready to give everything for her little child. I knew it from the way she wrapped her little baby’s hands around her fingers. I knew it from the way she considered tomorrow, and from the way she thought about years to come. I knew it from the way she held her child when her house was destroyed in an air raid and from the way she was holding her little girl when the bullet hit her. I knew it from her dried blood on her daughter’s face when the little girl was rescued from under her lifeless body.

Now, looking at the young strong woman’s sad face in the garden, standing by the grave of another who brought her up to adulthood, I cannot help but think of that friend who felt strongest holding her little daughter.

Word Count: 824

After the War Part 1: Love in a Pizza Slice

Painting by: PeterKraayvanger Source: http://pixabay.com/en/watercolour-painting-summer-flowers-75123/
Painting by: PeterKraayvanger
Source: http://pixabay.com/en/watercolour-painting-summer-flowers-75123/

Her wrinkled hands skillfully whisked the little bit of flour with ground oatmeal and water to prepare the dough for the pizza. We were three kids left at her care, each with the same expectation expressed in a different ingredient.

“I want onions!”

“I prefer carrots!”

“I like beetroot!”

All of us had chosen a different vegetable she grew in the tiny patch on what was left of her once voluptuous garden.

If she mixed all ingredients, none of us would eat anything that day and we would be hungrily whining around her until bedtime.

Were she to choose only one of the ingredients, the other two would definitely sulk complaining they were not loved enough to get the pizza of their choice.

Thus, carefully measuring with a ruler, she divided the dough into three parts, forming the Mercedes logo on the round baking tray.

She meticulously added the exact same amount of each topping, making sure to use the same measuring bowl so that none could have any reason to protest.

The baking tray holding three different ingredients on one pizza was delivered from the oven to the table we had gathered around. The smell of freshly baked dough wafted through the house after so many months watering our mouths and raising a pitch higher the rumbling in our tummies. As soon as we impatiently bit our slices of pizza, our tongues burnt and we were happier than ever.

In a time when rations were hard to get hold of, with the little she could produce, she had created a pizza with ingredients we were free to choose from. With that pizza, she had made us feel equally loved and very much valued by paying particular attention to our choices. Most important of all, by letting us know that despite everything, there was someone to answer our needs, to ensure that our share was duly noted and provided for, she had made us feel secure.

Many years later, I went back to the house. I put a scarf around my head and followed the two middle aged orphans I had shared a patch of my childhood with out of the old house where each of us had eaten a small slice of the thin bread while shards flew through the broken windows and bullets wheezed nearby.

Walking behind the wooden box, I stared at the once barren garden I used to watch with my child’s eyes. New colorful vegetable patches had been added over the years and trees had grown thick and strong yielding fruits under quiet sunny skies. In the middle of the lush foliage, while they lay the white cloth wrapped around her at the bottom of the freshly dug pit, all I could think was a yearning for a potato pizza with the aroma of onions and beetroots mixing in between every bite.

Word Count: 477

Sand, Sea and …

“Let’s go, come on! It’s just one weekend and we both need a break!”

He did not need to say much to convince me. It was April, winter was just over, the city was still cool, and the sombreness of the muddy days was still hovering over the streets.

I needed to get away from everything. From my job, the seriousness of all the files endlessly piling up and deadlines that had somehow managed to get hold of my life. I felt boring and flat like the city I lived in. So, I said: “Why not?”

Thus, off we drove to the warmer southern coast.

When I was a kid, my parents used to take me to tiny solitary beaches hidden between rocky entrances. In those remote pieces of saved land, I lay drying on a towel on the sand with the sun warming my back while water found its way down my skin. As the smell of the sun-dried towel dug its way into my memory, I listened to the humming of the earth under me. I listened to small creatures tunneling their way in the sand, building kingdoms, reigning the underworld. I followed tiny grains of sand all the way to the line where the water brushed over the flattened shore. I listened to the rustle of the waves. I listened to the power of water to give and take, as waves moved to and fro.

Watching the world from such a close angle at such a quiet spot made me also realize how inescapably lonely I was. My parents were there on the beach with me, but they were somewhere else, on another land. While I saw the sand grains or heard the force of the water, they were watching a different world from mine. Thus, I accepted a reticent existence to be shared with no other.

Until I met him.

He, too, was quiet like I. Bit by bit, with words unuttered, from shy sparkles in each other’s eyes, a slight touch, a breath let out in silence, we grew closer. Little by little, we allowed each other in. We allowed ourselves to be discovered by the other. In silent whispers, we spoke and we shared our existence.

We shared nights and days together; meals at the dinner table and chocolate in bed, wine from the bottle and tea under the blanket. We shared our thoughts and aspirations, our likes and dislikes, our passions and fears. We grew tomatoes and shopped for chairs. We grew on each other, internalized one another…

So, when he suggested a trip to the seaside, I knew my answer. We both needed to be away from the solid cement of the city to recalibrate our gentle harmony.

Thus, we boarded our car and drove southward towards sunnier days.

We found a nice quiet beach, just like the ones my parents used to take me. We soaked ourselves in the sea water, until all city gloom was cleansed from our bodies, and swung our weights on the cool soft waves till we felt as light as a feather.

When I lay on my towel, and watched the sand, this time, the grains took me to him, at the line of the water brushing the sand. This time, the sound of the earth and water, blended with his soft strokes on the water. This time, my world was not solitary. I had him to marvel at the grandiosity of the sea and the complicated beetle realm with me. I had another pair of eyes and ears to absorb the surroundings with me.

Lying on the towel, I watched him, enter the water, and peacefully, I closed my eyes.

When I woke up, I listened to his steps on the sand and followed with my ears his actions. I heard him behind me, drying with his towel. I turned around, smiling. I saw his towel, disarrayed on the sand. He was not there.

I looked at the open water, searched for his head bobbing over the surface. I examined the sea, not to miss him in between the waves, and reflections of dimming light. I watched carefully, to see him appear from a deep dive, or come back from a long swimming venture.

I waited to catch sight of him in the sea and over the land. I searched him in between waves and rocks. I looked for him until I could see nothing in utter darkness. Finally, I returned, once again, utterly solitary in existence.

In time, I came to accept, with quiet trepidation, that nature, whose power I deferred to, whose processes I admired and sought to find equilibrium in, had fumbled up the joy I had found in another. The waves offered me company in my loneliness, but took away the break I had taken from my isolated existence.

Sometimes, in between the streets, on my way to work, buying tomatoes at a store or on the window of a furniture store, I catch a glimpse of him. Momentarily, the loneliness is lifted until it sinks in again and I am reminded, nature gives and takes at its own will, and we can only watch and accept it.

Written in response to “Weekly Writing Challenge: Threes”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/writing-challenge-threes/

The Waiting

He looked at the clock on the wall. A toilet flushed upstairs. With his eyes, he followed the water flowing through the pipes in the walls. She used to hate this sound. She would say: “We are living in their sewage!” To him, it was relaxing like the sound of waves. However, now the sound of the water only reminded him of the emptiness of the house, with every drop resonating in the hollow rooms squeezed in between the walls.

He looked at her shoes. The pair of shoes she had worn every single day of the last ten years. They were torn at the edges. One of them had a hole on the sole that she had tried to cover with a piece of felt. She loved those shoes. It was part of her daily routine to polish them every evening. The more her shoes shined, the greater the dignity she emanated as she walked.

Being presentable and clean was of utmost importance to her. That is why no one dared to say anything when her vision deteriorated and she could no longer detect the stains on her shoes. Bits of blotches began to accumulate on everything she used to clean. Cleanliness, her signature, began to wear off as the smell of dust and old wooden furniture grew.

The dishes also carried the impact of her weakened eyesight. Bits of grease appeared on the rims of the plates. Whenever he ran his hands on the once smooth china, he would feel the grease forming bumps here and there. Yet, he never uttered a word to her about it. He knew she needed to believe in her abilities as a home maker. As long as no one made a remark about dirt lingering on the kitchen counter, there was peace in the house. As long as she kept the house running, they were reassured that they could carry on.

The fact was that things had not been going quite smoothly but he did not care. The only thing that mattered to him was that they were making it through the day together. One would find what the other had lost. One would remember what the other forgot. One would provide what the other could not.

In the last couple of years, however, what each could do had diminished, and they had learned to live with less. They had been shopping lighter since neither had the strength to carry heavy bags. With their bones losing their mass, high shelf tops were no longer among the parts of the home they visited often. Many photographs and letters placed on top shelves years ago had become parts of their lives rarely remembered, forgotten among papers turned yellow.

The clock rang eleven o’clock. He boiled an egg for lunch and sat to eat it with tomatoes and bread. He did not have much appetite anymore. He did not know much about cooking anyway, with her having taken care of meals ever since they had moved into their first home together.

During lunch, he had a look at the newspaper. He did not read about the country politics anymore. Politics, he deemed, were for those who still had the energy to believe in seeing the outcomes of changes. Nor was he interested in classified ads. They were for people eager to make a fresh start with a new car or a new apartment. He read third page news about lonely old people vandalized in their homes by young drug addicts for silverware in cupboards. He always checked the weather report to decide whether to put on another cardigan and of course he loved crosswords.

Until four o’clock, he did the crosswords. At four, he got up from his sofa, of which the seat had sunk under years of weight, and placed his dinner on the stove. He looked up at the clock on the wall. With each minute the minute move of the handles echoed in the house. The shoes of his late wife were by the door, shining under the dust with the polish she had last applied. The toilet flushed upstairs, and he watched the water flow through the walls.

 And he waited…