An Autumn Moment

I knew the truth. Love changes like the seasons: cold rains fall, leaves rot, people leave.

I watched as her finger traced the veins on the backside of the leaf. Her touch, like Braille, feeling each line as if a road on a map. I saw the future, like the beauty surrounding us, disappearing into mist. Yet, I had convinced myself: This is now. It is fine to love someone a little too much.

“What will you do with a leaf?”

“Press it between the pages of a book,” she said.

“Look up.”

The sky was a canopy of stars. The moon hung, ripe, against a backdrop of black and light.

She asked, “Is this not a beautiful night?”

I nodded.

Her eyes glittered gold, “Like a Van Gogh canvas and we’ve stumbled into the scene.”

I slipped her small hand in mine. “Promise.”

“Anything,” she had said.

“When the world turns ugly, you’ll stay beautiful.”

~ excerpt from a scene

Draft One

“when the world turns ugly,…”- source unknown

cliches, quotes, venations, parallel lives

Fiction

   “Could she get a job?” 

     Roy appeared perplexed. “Why would she?”

     Who does he think he is? Stella reached behind and slammed the door shut. It was better this than her raised voice echoing through the reception area. Turning, she walked toward the chair behind his desk. She eased into the leather and crossed her long legs.

     “You need to suggest she get one.”

     Seated in his chair, she felt dangerous, dark, and beautiful. Stella knew this was everything he coveted. For a brief moment, she reigned in all of her defiance and finery. Her manicured fingertips toyed with the tail of silk  draped around her neck. She bit her lip.

A paragraph from a scene titled, Do Right. The setting is a  fictional locale – Ardua Pier- where things happen

Truth lies in a dream.

 

The dull blast of a horn signaled a ship entering port. He listened as waves lapped against the pylons. The high-pitched sound of a woman’s laughter rang from the neighbouring sugar factory.  From a warehouse loft, somewhere high above the hillside, a violin’s music serenaded the stars.

Life is ever-changing, he thought, like the sea: calm and smooth, violent and rough. He yearned for a moment between struggle and triumph, a respite.

The hum of a car’s finely tuned engine interrupted his thoughts. He shivered and turned. Shielding his eyes from the glare of headlights, he watched as Rummy’s Cadillac inched closer to the bridge on the pier.

A View From A Window

dropping into another scene~

 

Roy’s arms reached for her and he whispered to no one. They existed in two worlds. A pane of glass separated him from his reality and Ella. A Sarah Vaughn song lulled his thoughts: ‘Lover Man.’

Meanwhile life went on. He knew this truth. The kids needed new shoes, Jacqueline nagged about a leaking tap, and the garage waited for paint.  

 

In a garden, thirteen blocks across town, Ella paused beside a rose-bush and turned. A gentle wind wrapped itself around her. She imagined a presence, felt a hand warm her waist. A low voice whispered into her ear, “Wish that you were here.” 

Ella turned, no one was there. She went back to her rose.

Across town, Roy rested his forehead against the glass. From outside he heard his daughters’ laughter.  He’d paint the garage for his father in law.

 

Thoughts rammed Roy’s mind. He leaned to rest his forehead  against the kitchen window. The glass cooled the fire that raged through his head.  Reality is here and now.

Reality was the girls’ laughter heard from beyond a sheer pane of glass. What about the children? Roy stood at the window and watched his daughters skip about the yard. Annie darted in and out from behind the weathered garage, her fist balled tight. Hidden within  was found treasure- a smooth stone, a feather, or some lost  bits of nature. Waving her fist, she teased Madeline, tempted her to join in a game of tag- winner take all. Of course, Madeline ignored the bait, choosing instead to pause and wonder at the creature she had discovered crawling along the bark of the cherry tree.

Earlier that morning, Jacqueline had asked, ” The old man wants to know. When are you painting the garage?”

“I’ll paint it on the first sunny day,” he had said.  And why does she always refer to her father as The Old Man?

Here it was. Full sun. The old man had already scraped the cedar boards and replaced the rot. 

There was work to do. Instead, he paused and watched Madeline pick a wriggling caterpillar from the cherry tree and dangle it in front of her nose. Gently, she placed the creature back onto the trunk. Madeline’s cat like eyes followed the caterpillar’s journey until it had roamed beyond reach. Annoyed, she crossed her arms tightly about her chest and lowered her head.

Birds flit everywhere. Robins, chickadees, and swallows glided to rest upon the tree’s branches. Lifting their wings just a bit, each bird let the sun’s warmth kiss their feathers. It was the season of transformation and just as spring announces change, he too, was in flux.

Annie skipped across the lawn like an inbound storm. Her arms reached for the branches of the tree, her fingers batting blossoms. Pure joy shone from her face. “Pink snow, pink snow!” He watched her pick the fallen blossoms from Madeline’s hair.

It was enough to witness Annie’s bewitching charm. She blew kisses to the clouds, danced with ghosts, her arms outstretched as she spun. He worried that her imagination was getting out of hand; she lived in her head.

“You need to reign her in,” he had told Jacqueline. “All this talk of fairies and-“ 

“Leave her be.” “Imagination is a gift.” 

He had watched as Jacqueline resumed her painting. Roses, their petals drooped cloud white, spilled overtop a round, golden vase. This morning, she had added leaves, tucked them in between the buds. He marvelled at her talent. 

“She needs to play with other children-,“ he had said.

Jacqueline froze mid brush stroke. “Enough. There are kids from one end of the block to the other.”  The brush, loaded with bluish paint, dropped to the pallet. Her fingers reached for  a cigarette.

“There’s a private nursery school up the street, ” he said.  “I think- ”

Jacqueline lit her smoke and paused to exhale. “It costs money, Roy. You paying?”

The loaded question she  left hanging in air, suggested that her father was the all time giver, the reason they weren’t renting some basement suite on the east side. Her tone certain; Jacqueline had a limited interest in the opinion of someone who had just married into the family.  

 

It was two years from the date that his second daughter was born. Christened, Madeline Jane, she’d shuddered, chest heaving through her gown, as the priest muttered blessings and sprinkled holy water upon the crown of her smooth, pinkish head.

Earlier this morning, the small family had celebrated her second birthday with a simple cake. They’d laughed as the child smeared vanilla frosting across her lips, watched as her window on the world opened a teensy bit wider.

There were no guests or relatives in attendance. Their families weren’t the close-knit types and the road between his mother and Jacquie had grown longer. It began in  a hospital  nursery, three years earlier, with the birth of Annie. It was once more repeated as his mother inadvertently cast a spell upon the forehead of Madeline Jane.

“That woman. Once again, she has the nerve to tell me, ‘had you a boy, I wouldn’t have come to the hospital for a look-see,’ ” Jacquie fumed. “Bolt the door. I hope she never comes back.”

Miss Birdie

~an excerpt

Bing’s Palace

1963

Birdie unsnapped the clasp of her sequined clutch, reached within the satin folds and pulled out an ebony compact and a tube of lipstick. She appeared oblivious to his insults and her surroundings. Her mister had forgotten her, therefore, she’d remind him.

Snapping open the compact case, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. With stealth precision she traced the outline of her lips, plump with colour. Slowly her steady grasp creamed the center of her lips. As a final touch, she removed a tissue from her clutch and softly kissed it.

Taking one last glance into the mirror, she paused. Satisfied, she clicked the compact shut and returned the items to her clutch. The clasp snapped. She turned and pecked a faint scarlet kiss on Annie’s tender cheek. Birdie might as well have fired a bullet through the floor. The silence at the table was deafening.

The boss growled, “Shouldn’t you go for a walk or something?”

Birdie shook her head and motioned toward the bottle. “Pour me another, Roy,” she murmured.

Roy met her gaze; she winked back. He didn’t understand the boss. Birdie was a class act, easy on the eyes, even owned her own business: a sausage factory. No one knew how she’d ended up in that line of work. It seemed profitable. She was clear title on a home nestled within the west side of the city and a good looker. The boss is a fool, he thought and took a drink. As the bourbon went down and warmed his soul, he knew this: Miss Birdie lit up his dark.

 

 

The corners of the Diamond Club were lit up by the glow of cigar embers. He saw the familiar high rollers mingling in the shadows, highballs sloshing in cut glass. Sexy women wearing rich silks and party attire slipped through the hazy layers of smoke or clung to the arm of a wealthy, married man. Everyone was high on vice.

 

For You

Overhead, dark clouds rip open. Raindrops slip from the car’s windowpane; I watch them disappear. The clouds cover the sky like gauze, softening a wound. Loss festers. Heaven’s tears spill forth as Angels witness an aching sadness that can only be found on earth.

Today I uncrate grief. Yes, I miss you; wish you here, returned to earth. It is true. Sadness shadows me in odd moments. Today the veil of cover hid her from the light. As she snuck up behind me, I sensed your presence. She’s aging. Pulling away. You heard my unspoken words.

We sit to rest. Her words spoken, tossed like rocks, hard hits to the heart,

“This was your father’s favourite place to dine. You enjoyed coming here, too.”

Not today. In that moment, shame surfaces. I rush my mother too much. It stems from a fear of regret, this desire to hurry her, pack up the never- ending stack of fries that she barely touches, drink the brimming coffee placed before her. I steal our time, afraid of growing old too fast, waiting.

As ifsensing my inner thoughts, she fumbles, wraps her lunch and requests a cup to go. It’s enough for today.

We drive along in silence. Rain thrums a pounding rhythm upon the roof of the car. She slowly walks to the front door of her building, turns and waves. I wonder if she cries too. I want to rush to her, hold her frailty, stop time.

You interfered again, set yourself down like stone between us. There are beautiful moments I recall, snapshots in time I cherish. Yet, just to sit with you under the stars one more time would be enough. We could talk.

Today you haunt. Images flash. One repeats for no apparent reason. The stray pointer you snuck into the kitchen; its big eyes shone light from beneath deep, muddy pools. The old blanket you wrapped around the creature’s shivering bones, your concern for  another’s well being. In that moment you taught me compassion. You were kind.

You stood strong in the world. You believed in right and fought for it, demanded it. Your words became my truth, protected me with steadfast might. You taught me to be brave.

You believed in me; said I could be anything I wanted to be. The world I lived in offered opportunity. When I faltered, your words echoed,

“Work hard.”

That was the mantra you spoke. It was called responsibility. Do you recall how, each morning, you left a never- ending list of chores for me to complete? Each evening, I’d hand you the crumpled list, proud to have crossed off each and every item. The following mornings found longer lists waiting on the kitchen table. You taught me to persevere.

If I could bring you home we could talk. My tears, the proof of enduring love.

You sit upon the usual chair. Hyper vigilant, I notice a repetitive twitch of your left thumb as it strokes a finger, sense your anxiety. You avert your gaze, turn your head and look away. This time I call you out.

stone angel
stone angel

Prepare yourself. Pent up words unleash a spoken fury, slice through the thorns and twisted vines that wrap your soul. Unafraid of the tangled silence you grew, I press on to satisfy the wondering that buries me alive with a never- ending grief. That is the legacy you left.

Once satisfied of atonement, I polish you, ask how you came to be so aware of vulnerability; I ask after your youth, your dreams and wishes. There is still a moment of time. Share your regrets.

Please banish your shame. My hand reaches forth and gently takes your palm. I press your knotted fingers to mine as we sit, now in silence. You can leave, rest in peace. Know that you taught me well. I can finish our story, put back the piece you fumbled. It’s called loyalty.

Always loved.