3.23.2015 Journal Prompt

Photo by Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Photo by Manuel Alvarez Bravo

March 23, 2015: In spite of everything…

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2 thoughts on “3.23.2015 Journal Prompt

  1. The night was cool and a wind was blowing rain against the windows. Somewhere outside a door or a gate was banging and the dark pressed at the house like a cat when it rubs itself against your legs and it only does that when it wants something. The space beside me in the bed was cold and empty, but that was not so unusual. I thought of Karol and I worried for him then, as I had worried for him a hundred times before. But he was always late home at the weekends. He drank too much at Knajpa with Marek and Milosz and after so much drink the road home was ever a little longer.

    I got up and went down stairs without switching on any lights. I stepped on tiptoe but there was no reason for this, except at the bottom of the stairs the bare flagstone floor would be cold. I kept one hand on the wall so that I knew where I was. Some nights there was falling moonlight to see by and the inside of the house all grey and blue dark, but tonight there was no moon.

    I stood in the kitchen and listened to the night. I could still hear the gate banging and the wind heavy against the house and the house groaning in complaint. And underneath all that a smaller sound, like water when it runs away, and a smaller sound still, like a slap if a slap could be made small as a mouse or a bug.

    I tried the light switch but the dark was stubborn. The power lines must be down again. It happens. I felt my fumbling way to the cupboard in the kitchen and fetched out a candle and a box of matches.

    The dark shifted some and shadows lurched and danced in the yellow light. I looked about me, as though I was a stranger in my own kitchen, which I was. The table seemed to move and the chairs with it and woodpile by the stove. Everything smelled the same, the air filled with pine and the smell of baked bread and eggs fried in oil. But nothing looked as it should in candlelight – nothing ever does.

    Then I saw it. In the middle of the flagstone floor. Like a small silver tear or cut in the stone, and it flipped head over heels like a circus gymnast, though it never found its feet, flipping and flipping. A wide eyed minnow it was, of the kind I once caught in a net, scooped from the river when I was a child and I put it in a jam jar so I could watch it swimming in small circles till the water stilled. Only, this was a fish out of water and it was breathless on my kitchen floor.

    I watched it, not sure if it was real or something I was imagining. When it was still and might be dead, I bent down to look more closely at the small fish. It was beautiful. I reached for it, peeled it from the floor as I might peel a sticking plaster from a cut that I feared had not yet healed, peeled it slow and careful. Then I took it to the sink and I filled a teacup from the tap and lowered the fish into the water.

    It lay on the surface, still and staring. It did not kick or flick its tail or twist and turn into life. It was a dead fish laid on the water. I did not know if it was a sign, but I crossed myself in case and I thought of Karol again and the long and twisting way home and the river a little swollen for the rain falling outside and the wind blowing hard as the bull when it pushes against the barn door. And I was worried again.

  2. They came round the houses, knocking on the doors like politicians during election time. And they smiled like politicians, too, which is not like really smiling at all; and they shook our hands like men do at funerals, and they said that they were sorry. It was bad news, they said.

    Da thanked them for calling and he nodded and said he understood, and he said thank you again and closed the door – firmly, just like he did with the men who came selling carpet brushes or clothes pegs.

    Da called us together and he reported on what the men at the door had said. It was something about the weather and the river rising faster than it should and we were to leave our homes just in case. When da told us, his voice was all hissing through his teeth, like he was telling us a bad thing. Like he did when Lindy had told him a lie and he’d caught her out.

    It was the rain as was the problem is what he told us. It’d been raining steady for days. Mam said it‘d never rained like that here before, not unless you went back to the Bible and the story of Noah. She said we should get to our knees and pray for forgiveness of our sins and for the sins of the godless.

    Mam was always saying how prayer was the answer and she was always blaming the godless. Thing is, I think I was maybe one of the godless, though I never said. I prayed when mam told me to and I sang church songs when I was busy and I read the stories in the Bible – though I didn’t read them for the same reasons as mam, because inside I did not believe in god.

    And now the rain had come. In buckets. Raining cats and dogs, mam said, but that was just an expression she used.

    Mam read the story of Noah over and over and we all of us clasped our hands together and we muttered prayer-words like we’d been taught. Even da prayed and da did not always go to church on a Sunday and he sometimes swore oaths that were profane, which mam says means is against god. I think I was like my da in that.

    The men at the door were right about the river. I’d watched it rising for the past two days. It was a great rushing thing now, where before it was slow and slippy. And the home-field was already sodden and here and there were pools of water and in one there was even a fish, a thin silver-dart minnow that looked lost. Then the river was just too big for its boots and everywhere was water.

    Da said as how we should carry the things from downstairs to the rooms above. Everything, he said. All the chairs and the sofa, and the carpets, too. And he filled hessian bags with sand and he piled them against the doors, back and front and side, and he shut all the windows, and he said a little praying couldn’t do no harm.

    We were on our knees in the kitchen when it started. I could hear water, the small sound of sucking and slurping, like Lindy drinking through a straw and mam tapping the table against the noise that Lindy made. And my knees were suddenly wet and all the lights in the house went out. Da said that we should go upstairs and to our beds.

    I lay awake a while, listening to the rain falling against the roof tiles, and I thought of the story of Noah, trying to make sense of the story if there was no god in it. And I wondered if da was not a little mad for saying to the men at the door that he was intent on staying, mad as Noah building his ark in a dry place.

    And when I slept at last, there were silver-dart minnows looking lost in all my dreams and my bed was a boat and still it was raining.

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