2.6.2015 Journal Prompt

Photo by Mikhael Subotzky
Photo by Mikhael Subotzky

February 6, 2015: If you listen…

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3 thoughts on “2.6.2015 Journal Prompt

  1. Mama says she’s happy with her lot and why wouldn’t she be? Sure, there could be more money coming into the house, she says, enough such as she didn’t have to go without some days so the family could eat. Sure, she says, it’d be nice to wear fine dresses such as you can see in the window of Lipton’s store; and it’d be a good month if she didn’t have to pawn her wedding ring before the end of it to pay this bill or that. But all in all, mama says, she’s happy and love is all you need she says.

    ‘Course I snort and I tell her as how for me it’ll be different.

    Mama laughs and she says she hopes it will be. Yes, by heaven, she hopes it will be different for me. God and Jesus bless you with a different life, she says, but from the way that she says it I know she don’t think the same as her words.

    Pa drains the liquor in his glass and he looks straight ahead, like he’s not even there. Used to be he’d take me on his knee and he’d stroke my hair and he’d say I could have anything in this whole world, anything at all. All I had to do was name it and he’d get it for me. Now he don’t say shit and he don’t even look at me.

    Mama says she’s happy on account of being loved. She says Pa loves her same as he always has. They been sweathearts since school, since mama was a slip of a girl and pretty in a rainbow-coloured cotton skirt, and papa wore shoes so shiny you could see the world reflected in ‘em and a suit sharp as knives. There’s a picture of ‘em someplace and they look smart as new paint and their faces all lit up. I look at that picture sometimes and I see less and less of mama and pa in it.

    And anayways, pa don’t love mama like she thinks he does. He’s seeing a woman lives up by Tripper’s bar. She wears her clothes too tight and her hair is bleached as white as the hair of angels. She says her name’s Marilyn, but really it’s Rosie. Pa’s seeing her most Saturday nights and he’s seeing her without her clothes and he’s calling her Marilyn like she’s not right there beside him, and he’s fucking her two or three times in the one night. And mama don’t even know.

    And the Mother of Jesus loves her too, mama says. And bless her bleeding heart, she says, and she crosses herself and looks up at the picture on the wall, picture of a white woman swathed in blue and white cloth, and her heart showing bright blood-red and ringed in flecks of gold. And I reckon as it’s a odd thing to think the mother of Jesus loves you when life’s so hard. I don’t understand what kind of love that is.

    Sam says I’m just too hard on my mama. Sam lives next door and he says most every night how he loves me to the moon and the stars and back again. And he says how he thinks I’m pretty as peaches and he kisses me soft and sweet and he touches under my clothes and his hands are warm as puppies or kittens. And mama loves Sam, and she says that’s because she sees something of pa in Sam and her face is all doughy and dewy when she says it.

    I stamp my feet and I tell mama that Sam is different, and mama just laughs like she knows more than she’d ever say. And I hate her then, with all my being I hate her, and I almost tell her about pa and Marilyn, for spite I almost tell her. And Sam can see me holding it back, and he leans into me and he quietly says ‘to the moon and the stars and back again’ and being so close I can smell how clean he is and I can see there ain’t a mark on his white shirt, nor a crease in his suit, nor a smear on the shine of his shoes.

    And mama just laughs again and that plum makes me cross as crickets.

  2. Uncle Ariel comes by the house most every Sunday. He ain’t really an uncle, not really family, but he’s been coming so long it’s like he is. He brings beef or goat wrapped in old cloth, and a sack of vegetables and some rice. He makes a loud gift of these things to mama. Then mama sends me outside with the baby Yuniel and she says I have to stay away till she calls me back.

    Mama thinks I don’t know. She thinks I’m a little girl still, and my head full of church thoughts and church goodness. But I understand. When uncle Ariel says everything has a price, I understand what he’s saying.

    Used to be I thought Uncle Ariel was a saint in ord’nary clothes. He never missed a Sunday back then and he called me pretty and he said as how I was just like mama when she was a girl or I was like the Madonna. He said my papa would be proud and he said papa was surely up in heaven looking down on me and smiling alla time.

    Uncle Ariel brings cloth sometimes, white like clouds or angels; or yellow like the sun or green like new-sprouting grass. He gives it to mama so she can make dresses for her and for me. Church dresses they is at first and then everyday. Uncle Ariel wants to see us in ‘em when they is new-made and me and mama dance around the kitchen to show ‘em off.

    He leaves money most Sundays, too. Just a little. Enough for us to get by now that papa’s gone. And I remember Uncle Ariel saying one time how you don’t get nothing in this world for free. Mam says I have to kiss Uncle Ariel to say thank you for the cloth and for the beef and the goat and the vegetables and for the small money that he leaves.

    And most every Sunday for three years, all the Sundays since papa passed, mama sends me outside to the yard and she says I’m to mind the chickens till she calls me back, or I’ve to play with the baby Yuniel and not to disturb Uncle Ariel and mama. And she thinks I don’t know. She turns the radio up loud so there’s brassy music hanging in the air, but I hear ‘em underneath the music, and I hear ‘em blowing air like horses or driven cows, and mama sighing and saying Uncle Ariel’s name over and over. And I know what they’re about.

    After, I can smell Uncle Ariel on mama’s skin and she looks different, like she’s carrying a bad secret wrapped up inside her clothes. And Uncle Ariel looks like he’s just won the lottery and he’s grinning so you can see his teeth and he’s singing sometimes, along with something playing on the radio, or he’s saying again how everything has a price and how you get nothing for free in this world, and saying how I am pretty like my mama. And I have to pour him a drink and go kiss him to show how grateful we are for all that he is to us.

    And I swear the kisses are a little longer these days and wet, and once he touched my diddies, just briefly and so as mama didn’t see, and he said my name soft as whisper, playing with it in his mouth. And later, when mama was putting the baby Yuniel down to sleep, he pressed a silver coin into my hand and he said that was for letting him touch my diddies and he winked and he promised me there’d be more than silver in my hand one day. And he said that day would be soon enough.

    Uncle Ariel don’t call me Madonna no more.

  3. We was just sitting around same as any other day. Mam was feeding baby Cal, holding him to her breast and Cal sucking like a pig. And pa was so far in drink he’d lost the few words he had and he was staring into the air. And me, well I was talking ‘bout everything and nothing. Prattling, mam’d say. It was a Sunday and I could hear the church bells ringing, calling us to prayer.

    Time was, we’d dress up in Sunday white and we’d all of us trip out to St Anthony’s church. He’s the patron saint of lost things, St Anthony, and we went to church hoping to find something there. A blessing perhaps, or a prayer to make things good or better. And we’d sing our hearts out, our faces lifted up to God, and we’d all of us feel good after.

    Now we don’t none of us go to church. Not even though the bells ringing is a call to us all. And I’m saying stuff ‘bout that, ‘bout how it was to dress up special and to sing with all the voice we had. My words is all blown smoke on account of the camel cigarette I’m smoking and mam is waving her hand in the air in front of baby Cal so he don’t breathe in the smoke and start coughing.

    Mam says maybe we should go to church the next Sunday and it’d be like a day out and we could dress up like before. Pa snorts and he pours more liquor from the bottle into his glass. Pa used to shave on Sundays, that I recall, and he’d scrub up nice, and he wore a clean shirt with a tie and the same suit he got married in. And he smelled nice, too.

    Now he don’t do nothing ‘cept piss his days away. And me and mam we run ‘bout after him like he’s the lord god almighty. We cook for him and fetch for him and do the lord knows what for him and he just grows fat and lazy and stupid. I say a prayer some days, to the picture on the wall of Madonna of the Sacred Heart, and I pray for a miracle and I pray for St Anthony to find our pa and bring him back to us.

    Then pa ups and says he wants toast, right out of the drunken blue, and he says he wants it now. Mam shoos me through to the kitchen. She knows better not to delay. I cut two slices of bread and I put them under the grill. I’m cursing pa when I do it and maybe I’m cursing the Madonna and her unveiled heart, too.

    It ain’t much of a miracle when it comes and I almost miss it. But when I take the toasted bread out from under the grill, and I make ready to spread the butter over it thick the way pa likes it, and honey too, well, then something catches my eye. There on the bread is a picture of the mother of Christ. I swear it. A little blurry, but there, held like a sepia washed virgin.

    Pa starts shouting for his toast and he thumps his glass on the table and he swears and blows air like a well ridden horse. But I tell him he’ll have to wait, cos we have a miracle to deal with.

    The priest comes when he hears, near as soon as the newspapers and the tv cameras. Pa sits in his chair and he’s wearing his shirt by this time, and his tie, and the suit that he got married in. And mam and me, we’s wearing our Sunday dresses and we’s brushed our hair a hundred times. My dress is a little tight and it nips at my waist for spite, but I don’t mind the small suffering.

    The priest says we are blessed and he touches the toasted bread like it is a holy relic. For a week or two we are famous and we charge the neighbours to look on our miracle. Then someone says it’s just a cheat and they say that we fixed the toast so it would look like the virgin. And someone else starts producing toasted bread that looks just like ours. And soon enough our miracle is lost to us again and pa takes off his tie and his shirt and he calls for a glass to drink out of. And mam says, same as she always says, how we could go to St Anthony’s church next Sunday and it’d be like a day out, and Cal is sucking like an ill-fed pig at her breast, and I’m blowing smoke words into the Sunday air once more.

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